Explore the Great Outdoors: A Guide to Nature and Wildlife in Panama City Beach

dolphins in the water
Aqua Travel Writer

Panama City Beach is home to 27 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, nature preserves, and emerald green waters where you can play and explore. Located along the northwest coast of Florida, PCB is an outdoor lover’s paradise all throughout the year. Whether you want to simply relax outside, view wildlife, or go on an adventure, Panama City Beach is an ideal destination.

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite places to visit in Panama City Beach, as well as some tips and advice for going on a vacation in nature in PCB.

Nature Preserves & Parks Near Aqua Gulf

Being outside is a way of life in Panama City Beach, and there are many nature preserves and parks in the area to find local flora and fauna. 

Camp Helen State Park

Camp Helen State Park is a 180-acre nature preserve that has trails for biking and hiking as well as one of the largest coastal dune lakes in the state, Lake Powell. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Camp Helen State Park is great for fishing, wildlife viewing, swimming, beachcombing, and more.

St. Andrews State Park

Home to 5 distinct ecological landscapes, St. Andrews State Park is a must-visit for nature lovers visiting PCB. Gator Lake is a man-made lake home to a large population of alligators as well as other reptiles and birds. You’ll also find pristine beaches and one of the largest areas of untouched barrier island along the Florida Panhandle. Go kayaking, paddleboarding, boating, picnicking, and more here.

Shell Island

Located just a short boat ride from St. Andrews State Park, Shell Island is an undeveloped barrier island featuring 700 acres of land and 7 miles of undeveloped beaches. This is the place to be if you really want to get away from it all. There are no amenities so you have to pack everything with you and pack everything back out. You can get a charter boat to get here, which run frequently during the summer.

Econfina Creek Recreation Area

The Econfina Creek Recreation Area is a unique park in Florida with 11 natural springs, a 24-mile designated canoeing and paddling trail, more than 120 archaeological sites, and more than 41,000 total acres. This is the perfect destination for adventure travelers who want to hike, paddle, horseback ride, bike, fish, and more.

PCB Beaches

We feel confident saying that everyone who travels to Panama City Beach comes here for the beaches. You will find that Aqua Condos have amazing gulf-front views of sugar white sand beaches.

What do the Beach Warning Flags Mean?

At Panama City Beaches, you’ll notice there are flags that indicate the water conditions each day. Flags are placed along beaches about 1 mile apart from one another. Always use caution in the water and be mindful of how conditions change throughout the day.

  • Red Over Red: Water Closed to Public
  • Red: High Hazard, High Surf, Strong Currents
  • Yellow: Medium Hazard, Moderate Surf & Currents
  • Green: Low Hazard, Calm Conditions
  • Purple: Dangerous Marine Life

Get more information about the Beach Flag Warning System in Panama City Beach. 

Other Beach Rules

  • Dogs are not allowed on PCB Beaches but are allowed on the westside of the Russell-Fields City Pier (signs indicate where dogs are allowed)
  • Fireworks are prohibited on beaches in Panama City Beach
  • Bonfires are allowed on beaches, but you must obtain the proper permits
  • Do not play or walk on the sand dunes, which are a protected and fragile ecosystem
  • Glass bottles are strictly prohibited on PCB beaches
  • Alcohol can be consumed 11 months (except for March) of the year by persons 21 and older
  • Do not disturb sea turtle nests 

Wildlife in Panama City Beach

Between April and November, sea turtles come to the shores of Panama City Beach to nest and lay their eggs. All sea turtles are protected by the US Endangered Species Act and Florida State Law, which makes it illegal to disturb a sea turtles nest or a sea turtle. If you see tracks, leave them as well, and never touch a sea turtle crawling to or from the water. Avoid using lights at night on the beach and never shine a light or take a photo with a flash. 

Keep in mind that fines and imprisonment are possible if rules are not followed to keep sea turtles safe. 

Panama City Beach is also home to a significant population of dolphins. Dolphin tours are the perfect excuse to get out on the water and see some wildlife, and there are plenty of charter tours that offer excursions. Go on a jet-ski dolphin tour, a sunset cruise, or a charter boat. Manatees are also fairly easy to find in the calm, warm waters of Panama City Beach. 

Travelers wanting to learn more about Panama City Beach’s wildlife should plan a visit to Gulf World Marine Park. This educational facility is a rehabilitation and rescue center for marine wildlife including dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, and penguins. The park regularly hosts daily educational shows, interactive programs, and animal encounters.

Plan Your Beach Getaway to Panama City at Aqua Gulf Resort

Ready to get out into the nature of Panama City Beach? Book your Florida vacation at Aqua Gulf Resort for beach access and resort amenities. Browse all of our Panama City Beach condo rentals at Aqua to find the perfect accommodations for your family.