Whether you come to Panama City Beach for a long weekend or a week-long vacation, make sure you take a day to visit the St Andrews State Park.
For just $8 per car ($4 if just one person) or $2 per bicycle, you can explore the sandy white beaches, enjoy the two nature trails and the interpretive exhibit and share a picnic lunch beside the water in one of three picnic areas.
If you are a nature lover, the Heron Pond Trail takes you on a hike through the flatwood pine forest, and past the Turpentine Still. The trail at Gator Lake takes you on a scenic view of Gator Lake, where you will likely get a glimpse of a gator or two.
Bicycling is also a fun way to see the park but make sure you park your bike now and then to walk off the road so you can view the birds and other wildlife at the various points such as Gator Lake and The Buttonwood Marsh Overlook. There is a bike rack at the entrance of the interpretive center so you can go inside and learn more about this beautiful place.
You might prefer to spend your day at the beach, taking in a bit of a different scene than the beach outside your condo. Many areas will remain much less crowded than the more populated Front Beach Road locations. There are showers in each of the day use parking areas to get the sand and salt off before you head back.
If you have little ones, the best beach is at the West Jetty, where the area is more protected from the potentially rough gulf surf. You and your toddler can play in the shallow, calmer water here without as much concern about the rough waves knocking them down. This area is popular amongst young families and might still be a bit crowded in season but probably not more so than the main beaches outside the gates of the park.
St Andrews State Park is located three miles east of Panama City Beach, off State Road 392 (Thomas Drive.) From Highway 98 turn south onto Highway 3031 (Thomas Drive) and follow it to Highway 392. Turn left to enter into the gates of St. Andrews State Park.
For more information about things to do at St Andrews State Park, such as boat rentals and trips to Shell Island, see their website or call 850-233-5140
You might also enjoy Camp Helen State Park.