The Best Beaches in the Florida Panhandle for Families

The Best Beaches in the Florida Panhandle for Families


Are you planning a family vacation to the Florida Panhandle and wondering which beach to choose for the perfect mix of sun, sand, and adventure? Florida boasts some of the most beautiful and family-friendly beaches in the United States, each offering a unique experience that caters to families of all sizes and interests.

From the bustling and vibrant shores of Panama City Beach and Destin to the serene and tranquil settings of Navarre Beach and Grayton Beach State Park, the Panhandle offers a diverse range of destinations. Whether you’re looking to relax on pristine white sands, explore nature trails, engage in water sports, or simply enjoy quality time with your loved ones, you’ll find the perfect spot in this picturesque region.

In this guide, we’ll take you through the best beaches in the Florida Panhandle for families, highlighting the top activities and attractions that make each one special. Discover the hidden gems, bustling beach towns, and everything in between as we explore the ultimate family-friendly beach destinations in the Florida Panhandle. So, pack your bags and get ready for an unforgettable adventure filled with sun, fun, and cherished memories!

The 8 Best Beaches in the Florida Panhandle for Families:

Beach Name Highlights Activities
Panama City Beach Pristine white sands, dolphin tours Boat rides, shopping, state parks
Navarre Beach Laid-back, fewer tourists, family-friendly restaurants Paddleboarding, zoo visits
Grayton Beach State Park 2,000-acre park, serene environment Hiking, beachcombing, wildlife observation
St. George Island Uncrowded, clear waters Kayaking, sea turtle watching, lighthouse visits
Destin Beach Vibrant nightlife, clear waters Water sports, family fun parks, pontoon rentals
Mexico Beach Calm waters, natural beauty Fishing, boating, snorkeling
Cape San Blas Peaceful, horseback riding on the beach Lighthouse tours, state park visits
Pensacola Beach Barrier island, boardwalk Water activities, shopping, dining

Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach is renowned for its pristine white sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters, making it a top choice for families seeking a quintessential beach experience. The beach is expansive, offering ample space for children to play and for families to set up their beach gear without feeling crowded. One of the highlights of Panama City Beach is the wide range of activities available, ensuring that every family member finds something enjoyable to do.

Families can embark on thrilling boat rides to Shell Island, a pristine barrier island accessible only by boat. The island is a haven for shell collectors and those looking to experience a more untouched beach environment. Dolphin tours are another popular activity, where families can see these playful creatures in their natural habitat. The sight of dolphins leaping out of the water is sure to delight both children and adults alike.

Panama City Beach is also home to several state parks that offer a blend of beach and nature experiences. Camp Helen State Park, for instance, provides a unique mix of coastal dunes, freshwater lakes, and historical sites. St. Andrews State Park is another must-visit, offering opportunities for hiking, fishing, and snorkeling. The park’s jetties create calm waters perfect for young swimmers.

Dining and shopping are well-catered for at Pier Park, an outdoor mall featuring a variety of restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. Families can enjoy a meal with a view at one of the many beachfront restaurants or browse through the numerous shops for beachwear and souvenirs. With its blend of natural beauty and family-friendly activities, Panama City Beach is a destination that ensures a memorable family vacation.

Navarre Beach, often dubbed the “best-kept secret in Florida,” offers a serene and laid-back atmosphere ideal for families seeking a more tranquil beach experience. Unlike some of the more crowded beaches in the region, Navarre Beach provides a peaceful setting where families can unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of the Florida Panhandle.

One of the standout features of Navarre Beach is its lack of commercialization. The beach is less developed, which means fewer tourists and a more relaxed vibe. This makes it perfect for families who prefer a quieter environment. The beach itself is stunning, with soft, white sands and clear, emerald-green waters that are perfect for swimming and wading.

Families can engage in a variety of activities at Navarre Beach. Paddleboarding is a popular option, offering a fun and gentle way to explore the coastal waters. For those interested in wildlife, a visit to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center is a must. Here, families can learn about the efforts to protect and rehabilitate sea turtles, and even see some of these fascinating creatures up close.

The nearby Gulf Breeze Zoo is another family-friendly attraction, offering a chance to see a variety of animals and enjoy a train ride through the zoo grounds. For dining, Navarre Beach boasts several family-friendly restaurants that serve delicious seafood and offer stunning views of the Gulf of Mexico. The relaxed pace and natural beauty of Navarre Beach make it an excellent choice for a family getaway.

Grayton Beach State Park

Grayton Beach State Park, situated between Panama City Beach and Destin, offers a serene and picturesque escape with its combination of beautiful beach areas and lush coastal forests. The park spans over 2,000 acres and is a haven for families who appreciate both beach and nature experiences. The beach itself is consistently ranked among the most beautiful in the United States, featuring sugar-white sands and clear, emerald waters.

The park is ideal for families who enjoy outdoor activities. Hiking enthusiasts will appreciate the numerous trails that wind through the coastal forest, offering opportunities to see local wildlife and enjoy the natural scenery. The Western Lake, a coastal dune lake within the park, is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. These unique ecosystems provide a different perspective on the coastal environment and are home to a variety of birds and other wildlife.

Beachcombing is a popular activity at Grayton Beach, where families can find an array of shells and other natural treasures washed ashore. The park’s untouched beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it a perfect spot for a relaxing day at the beach. For those interested in cultural experiences, a visit to the nearby town of Grayton Beach is recommended. The town has a quirky, artistic vibe with several galleries, shops, and the famous Red Bar, known for its live music and delicious food.

Grayton Beach State Park offers a blend of adventure and relaxation, making it an excellent destination for families looking to enjoy the natural beauty of the Florida Panhandle. Whether you’re hiking through the forest, paddling on the lake, or simply soaking up the sun on the beach, Grayton Beach State Park provides a memorable and enriching family experience.

St. George Island

St. George Island is a hidden gem in the Florida Panhandle, offering families a perfect blend of serenity and adventure. Known for its uncrowded beaches and crystal-clear waters, this barrier island is a paradise for families looking to escape the hustle and bustle of more commercialized beach destinations. The island’s laid-back atmosphere and natural beauty make it an ideal spot for families with young children and those seeking a quieter beach experience.

One of the main attractions on St. George Island is the St. George Island State Park, which spans nine miles of undeveloped beaches and dunes. Families can enjoy a variety of activities here, including kayaking, fishing, and bird watching. The park’s pristine beaches are perfect for swimming, building sandcastles, and beachcombing for shells. The calm, shallow waters are ideal for young children, providing a safe environment for them to play and explore.

Sea turtle watching is a popular activity on St. George Island, especially during the nesting season from May to October. Families can learn about the conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures and, if lucky, witness hatchlings making their way to the sea. The island also offers excellent opportunities for kayaking, with several launch points and guided tours available. Exploring the island’s waterways and marshes by kayak provides a unique perspective on the local wildlife and natural landscapes.

The St. George Island Lighthouse is another must-visit attraction. Families can climb to the top of the lighthouse for a panoramic view of the island and the surrounding Gulf of Mexico. The lighthouse’s museum offers insights into the island’s history and the role of lighthouses in maritime navigation. With its uncrowded beaches, abundant wildlife, and family-friendly activities, St. George Island is a perfect destination for a peaceful and memorable family vacation.

Destin Beach

Destin Beach is a vibrant and bustling destination known for its stunning clear waters, sugar-white sands, and a plethora of family-friendly activities. Often referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin offers a dynamic mix of outdoor adventures, shopping, dining, and entertainment options that cater to all ages, making it an ideal vacation spot for families.

One of the main attractions in Destin is its array of water sports. Families can rent jet skis, go parasailing, or take a thrilling banana boat ride. The clear, emerald-green waters are also perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving, where you can explore the rich marine life and coral reefs. For a more relaxed experience, families can rent a pontoon boat and spend the day at Crab Island, a popular sandbar known for its shallow waters and vibrant social scene. Here, kids can splash around safely while parents enjoy the scenic views and floating food vendors.

Fishing enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities in Destin. The city’s harbor offers numerous charter boats for deep-sea fishing excursions, where families can try their luck at catching a variety of fish, including red snapper, grouper, and amberjack. The HarborWalk Village is a hub of activity, featuring restaurants, shops, and entertainment options. Families can enjoy a meal at one of the waterfront restaurants, browse through the local boutiques, or participate in seasonal events and festivals.

Destin is also home to several family fun parks, such as The Track, which offers go-kart racing, mini-golf, and bumper boats. Big Kahuna’s Water and Adventure Park is another family favorite, featuring water slides, a lazy river, and a wave pool. For those who prefer indoor activities, the Destin History & Fishing Museum provides an educational and interactive experience, showcasing the rich history of the area and its fishing heritage. With its vibrant atmosphere and diverse range of activities, Destin Beach ensures a fun-filled and unforgettable family vacation.

Mexico Beach

Mexico Beach is a tranquil oasis located away from the more bustling areas of the Florida Panhandle, offering a serene and natural setting for families seeking a peaceful beach retreat. Known for its calm waters and unspoiled beauty, Mexico Beach provides a perfect backdrop for relaxation and outdoor activities. The beach’s pristine environment and laid-back vibe make it a favorite among families looking to escape the crowds and enjoy quality time together.

One of the main attractions of Mexico Beach is its excellent fishing opportunities. The beach’s pier is a popular spot for anglers of all ages, where families can try their hand at catching a variety of fish, including redfish, pompano, and Spanish mackerel. For those who prefer deep-sea fishing, several local charters offer guided trips into the Gulf of Mexico. The area’s artificial reefs also provide fantastic opportunities for snorkeling and diving, allowing families to explore the underwater world and its vibrant marine life.

Boating is another popular activity in Mexico Beach. Families can rent boats or kayaks to explore the calm waters and nearby St. Joseph Bay. The bay’s clear waters are ideal for observing marine life, such as dolphins and sea turtles, and for enjoying water sports like paddleboarding and jet skiing. The natural beauty of the area is also perfect for beachcombing, where children can collect shells and other treasures washed ashore.

Mexico Beach is not only about water activities; it also offers a range of family-friendly amenities and attractions. The local parks and picnic areas provide excellent spots for family gatherings and outdoor meals. The town’s relaxed atmosphere extends to its dining options, with several family-owned restaurants offering fresh seafood and other local delicacies. The beach’s sunsets are spectacular, providing a perfect ending to a day filled with fun and relaxation. With its combination of natural beauty and family-oriented activities, Mexico Beach is a hidden gem that promises a memorable and rejuvenating family vacation.

Cape San Blas

Cape San Blas, a tranquil peninsula stretching into the Gulf of Mexico, offers an idyllic retreat for families seeking a peaceful and scenic getaway. Known for its pristine, white sandy beaches and natural beauty, Cape San Blas is the perfect destination for those who want to escape the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed and intimate beach experience. The peninsula is renowned for its spectacular sunsets, clear waters, and an array of outdoor activities that cater to families.

One of the standout features of Cape San Blas is the opportunity for horseback riding on the beach. Several local stables offer guided horseback riding tours along the shoreline, providing a unique and memorable experience for both children and adults. The gentle horses and the breathtaking scenery create an unforgettable adventure that is sure to be a highlight of any family vacation.

The nearby St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park boasts miles of uncrowded beaches, sand dunes, and nature trails, offering ample opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and beachcombing. The park’s waters are ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking, allowing families to explore the diverse marine life and enjoy the calm, shallow waters. The park also offers picnic areas and campgrounds, making it a great spot for a family day trip or an overnight camping adventure.

Lighthouse tours are another popular activity on Cape San Blas. The Cape San Blas Lighthouse, a historic landmark, provides stunning panoramic views of the Gulf of Mexico and the surrounding area. Families can climb the lighthouse’s spiral staircase to the top, where they can take in the breathtaking vistas and learn about the history and significance of the lighthouse.

In addition to its natural attractions, Cape San Blas offers a range of family-friendly amenities, including local shops, restaurants, and rental services for bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards. The peninsula’s laid-back atmosphere and welcoming community make it an ideal destination for families seeking a peaceful and enjoyable beach vacation. Whether you’re horseback riding along the shore, exploring the state park, or simply relaxing on the beach, Cape San Blas provides a serene and beautiful setting for creating lasting family memories.

Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach, located on Santa Rosa Island, is a vibrant and bustling destination known for its stunning emerald-green waters, sugar-white sands, and a lively boardwalk. This barrier island offers a perfect blend of relaxation and excitement, making it an ideal vacation spot for families looking to enjoy a variety of activities and attractions. Pensacola Beach’s family-friendly atmosphere and wide range of amenities ensure that there is something for everyone.

The Pensacola Beach Boardwalk is the heart of the island’s activity, featuring a collection of shops, restaurants, and entertainment options. Families can enjoy a meal at one of the many waterfront eateries, where fresh seafood and kid-friendly menus are readily available. The boardwalk also hosts live music and events, creating a festive and enjoyable atmosphere for visitors of all ages. Kids will love the arcade games and the chance to ride the Ferris wheel, which offers spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico.

Water activities are abundant at Pensacola Beach, providing endless fun for families. The calm, clear waters are perfect for swimming, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Several rental shops along the beach offer equipment for various water sports, making it easy for families to try something new. For those interested in exploring the underwater world, snorkeling and scuba diving trips are available, offering a chance to see colorful fish and coral reefs up close.

Premier Adventure Park is a popular attraction for families, offering go-karting, mini-golf, and a zip line course. The park’s diverse range of activities ensures that children of all ages are entertained. For a more educational experience, a visit to the Pensacola Beach Eco Trail is recommended. This self-guided trail features informative signs about the local wildlife, ecosystems, and historical sites, providing an engaging and educational experience for the whole family.

The Fort Pickens Area, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, is another must-visit attraction. This historic fort offers a glimpse into the area’s military history and provides opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and picnicking. The nearby beaches are less crowded, offering a more tranquil setting for families to enjoy.

With its beautiful beaches, lively boardwalk, and wide range of family-friendly activities, Pensacola Beach is a top destination for families visiting the Florida Panhandle. Whether you’re enjoying water sports, exploring historic sites, or simply relaxing on the beach, Pensacola Beach promises a fun and memorable vacation for the entire family.


The Florida Panhandle is a treasure trove of beautiful beaches and family-friendly destinations, each offering its unique charm and attractions. From the bustling shores of Panama City Beach and Destin Beach to the serene and natural settings of Navarre Beach, Grayton Beach State Park, St. George Island, Mexico Beach, Cape San Blas, and Pensacola Beach, there is something for every family to enjoy. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or a mix of both, the beaches of the Florida Panhandle provide the perfect backdrop for a memorable family vacation.

The region’s diverse range of activities ensures that there is always something new to explore and enjoy. From water sports and wildlife watching to hiking, fishing, and beachcombing, the Florida Panhandle offers endless opportunities for outdoor fun and adventure. The family-friendly amenities, dining options, and welcoming communities further enhance the appeal of these beach destinations, making them ideal for creating lasting memories with your loved ones.

No matter which beach you choose to visit, the Florida Panhandle promises a delightful and enriching experience for families. So pack your bags, gather your loved ones, and head to the Florida Panhandle for an unforgettable beach vacation that will leave you with cherished memories for years to come.

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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