Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, is a popular destination for many tourists chasing beautiful beaches and weather. The Florida Panhandle, or northwestern Florida, is home to a stretch of stunning coastline. In this article, we’re going to share the best Florida Panhandle beaches!
Visiting this slice of paradise in the Sunshine State means emerald green coastline with soft, white sand and warm sunshine. There are also activities for every kind of beachgoer, including sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and scuba diving.
Let’s take a look at 15 amazing beaches along the Florida Panhandle, including what to do at the beach and where to stay.
1. Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a popular vacation beach town with 27 miles of scenic white sandy beaches and many activities. Although it’s known as one of the most family-friendly destinations, there’s something for everyone!
One of the best parts about visiting Panama City Beach is that you can head to the shore for the day and have everything you need nearby, including conveniences like showers and restrooms. Many attractions and restaurants are within walking distance.
At the beach, there are so many things to enjoy. Visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, sea-combing, and playing beach volleyball. It’s also an excellent spot to build sandcastles. For a memorable experience, rent boats and cruise along the gulf coast or participate in water adventures with Adventures at Sea.
Close to Panama City Beach, St. Andrews State Park is an incredible nature reserve that offers opportunities for hiking and fishing. Pier Park is also one of the largest shopping and entertainment destinations in the Florida Panhandle.
There are many places to stay in Panama City Beach, from private vacation rentals and hotels to campgrounds and RV parks.
2. Santa Rosa Beach
Situated along the Emerald Coast of Northwest Florida, Santa Rose Beach has so much to offer! It’s one of 16 unique beach neighborhoods in South Walton County. Santa Rosa has even been named as one of the ‘Best Beaches on Earth’ for families by Travel + Leisure.
Santa Rosa Beach is a great place to sunbathe, go paddleboarding, and explore bike paths. There are several waterfront parks, including Kellogg Bayside Park and Cessna Landing. We also found several public beach access points along Santa Rosa Beach.
The community boasts luxurious rentals, multi-million dollar homes, upscale dining, and art galleries. A popular attraction is the 163-acre Eden Gardens State Park, where you can explore and learn history dating back to the 1800s.
Destin is a popular fishing destination conveniently located close to an airport and sits along the Gulf of Mexico in Northwest Florida. Named after a fishing captain in the 1800s, Destin is now an iconic tourist destination.
While some Destin beaches are private, there are several public beach access points along the coast, where you can also find lifeguards on duty. James Lee Beach is our favorite spot as there is plenty of parking, restrooms, showers, and picture-perfect scenery.
Surrounded by the Gulf and the Choctawhatchee Bay, there’s ample coastline to appreciate. Destin visitors enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and fishing. You can also go parasailing, book a dolphin tour, or rent a boat at local watersports companies like this one.
Destin visitors can also see and do many things away from the beach! From waterparks to the bustling Destin Harbor Boardwalk, there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking to spend your vacation in Destin, plenty of accommodation options are available. You can find hotels, vacation rentals, campsites, and resorts.
4. Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach is nestled along one of the Gulf Coast barrier islands, Santa Rosa. This resort community boasts white sandy beaches, emerald-green water, and a lively boardwalk. It’s similar to Destin with more of a natural vibe, ideal for beachgoers looking for less of a city and more relaxation.
Along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, you can find a peaceful beach, shops, eateries, and an amphitheater. You can also rent water sports equipment, chairs, and umbrellas for a fun day out on the water. Visitors like to swim, parasail, sunbathe, and more. Pensacola Beach is also known as one of the best surfing spots on the Florida gulf coast.
At the main Pensacola Beach, you can find lifeguards on duty. If you’re visiting with pets, be sure to check out Pensacola Dog Beach. There’s one on the west and east side of the main beach.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is another popular spot to check out while in Pensacola Beach.
Whether you are looking for a weekend getaway in Florida or a week-long vacation to relax and enjoy the sun, Pensacola Beach has plenty of accommodations to choose from. You can find hotels, campgrounds, vacation rentals, and luxury resorts.
5. Fort Walton Beach
Bordered by other popular beach communities, Fort Walton Beach offers a small-town charm that attracts visitors looking to relax in Florida’s panhandle. It’s located just across from Okaloosa Island and features over 20 miles of fine white sand beaches with stunning waters.
Fort Walton is one of the best Florida Panhandle beaches for families looking for fun without all the fuss. Along with vast shorelines perfect for a day by the water, you can find parks, museums, and aquariums.
Don’t let this small city fool you! It’s also home to several golf courses and regular local events.
As for accommodations, there are plenty of places to stay along the beach. You can find many waterfront hotels and some vacation homes, too.
6. Miramar Beach
Although Miramar Beach is often considered one and the same as Destin, it’s its own remarkable destination. The two beaches are just a few miles from one another, so it’s great to check both out if you’re on an extended vacation.
Note: If you prefer amentities, we recommend sticking to Destin, as Miramar is a no-frill destination.
The beach itself is kept incredibly clean, and it’s perfect for swimming, strolling, and sunbathing. Miramar boasts fine white sand and beautiful water like the other amazing Florida Panhandle beaches.
Miramar has many accommodation options, including beachfront homes and cottages, bed and breakfasts, hotels, and campgrounds.
7. Henderson Beach State Park
Between Miramar and Destin Beach is the picturesque Henderson Beach State Park. Considered a hidden gem in the Florida Panhandle, this park offers a magical experience and is well worth a visit!
There’s so much to see and do along this protected strip of the Emerald Coast. Visitors enjoy relaxing, fishing, sunbathing, swimming, and exploring trails. There’s also a one-of-a-kind campground surrounded by nature.
Although Henderson Beach State Park feels like a piece of paradise off the beaten path, it’s just a short drive into Destin, where you can find accommodations, restaurants, and more.
Discovered by Spanish explorers in 1693, Navarre Beach was officially developed in 1884 as a small community of just 40 families. It has since become one of the most beautiful Florida Panhandles beaches. If you enjoy natural simplicity, Navarre Beach is the spot for you!
Visitors appreciate jogging and biking paths, scenic views, and having a picnic lunch on the shore or at a local park. Relax as you enjoy soaking up the sun rays on the captivating beachfront. The Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is also the perfect spot for catching fish, spotting sea turtles, and watching the sunset.
If you have pets, you’ll especially love Navarre Beach, as it’s considered one of the most dog-friendly beaches in the Florida Panhandle.
There are plenty of other attractions worth checking out away from the beach. Navarre Beach is home to a sea turtle conservation center and a special archaeological museum and nature area, Arcadia Mill.
If you’re looking to stay in the area, you can find a couple of accommodations at Navarre Beach. There are also many options on either side of Navarre.
9. Seaside Beach
Grab your swimsuit, a good book, and get ready for ultimate relaxation at Seaside Beach. This charming coastal town offers a mostly private beach that’s situated on the Emerald Coast along the Gulf of Mexico. It’s the ideal destination for those looking for seclusion away from the hustle and bustle of the typical Florida vacation.
This small community feels like a storybook with tranquil beaches, pastel-colored homes, and white picket fences. You can find unmatched idyllic scenery and a quiet atmosphere on the beach. It’s the perfect place to fish, surf, swim, and hunt for seashells.
While Seaside is primarily private, there is also some public beach access. If you want a portion of the shore to yourself, be sure to book a rental with private beach access.
While you won’t find skyrise hotels in Seaside, there are several vacation homes. Around the area, you can enjoy delicious restaurants, a show at the local theater, and renting a boat to take to Crab Island. The opportunities are endless!
10. St. Andrew State Park
Just a few miles east of Panama City Beach is the historic St. Andrew State Park, where you can find five unique ecological landscapes. Shipwrecked during a hurricane in 1929, Theodore Tollefson loved St. Andrew State Park so much that he made it his home for the next 25 years.
Today, visitors go to St. Andrews State Park to discover history, birdwatch, and hang out on the beach. There are tons of opportunities to appreciate nature and get active with swimming, surfing, fishing, and snorkeling. The park also has nature trails for hiking and biking.
If you’re interested in the whole experience, you can camp at the park. There are also hotels, resorts, and rentals nearby.
11. Rosemary Beach
Quickly growing as a top family-friendly destination, Rosemary Beach is also perfect for couples and solo travelers. This laid-back community is filled with cobblestone streets, beautiful beaches, and charming architecture. It’s also a golfer’s paradise. With so much to offer, it’s hard to believe Rosemary is as small as it is.
Beachgoers can swim, paddleboard, sunbathe, and surf at Rosemary. You can also find pocket parks and green spaces for younger kids and pets along the coast. These are also great spots to relax between trips to the beach.
Enjoy weekly events like the Farmer’s Market and wine socials provide an authentic experience. To explore marine life, be sure to dive in one of Walton County’s reefs or hike one of the several nearby state parks.
If you’re planning to stay in the area, you can find several resorts and hotels near Rosemary.
12. St. George Island
St. George Island is an unspoiled barrier island in Florida that’s known as one of the best beaches in the panhandle and in the US. It’s a serene destination perfect for nature lovers looking for a getaway. Visitors come back year after year to hunt for seashells, sunbathe, and relax.
With 28 miles of emerald coast beaches, a magical 72-foot high lighthouse, and top-notch wildlife viewing, there’s something for everyone on St. George Island. It’s also an excellent spot for anglers to catch some fish.
Close to the beach, many visitors and locals like to visit George Island State Park. This is another great beach destination and also offers campsites.
There are only a few hotels on the island, so most visitors camp or rent one of the cottages or beach houses for their vacation.
Often compared to Cape Cod, Apalachicola is also known as ‘The Forgotten Coast.’ This quaint, southern beach town with a casual vibe. And, if you like oysters, Apalachicola has some of the best in the world! It’s easy to enjoy a peaceful vacation in Apalachicola with delicious food, scenic views, and kind locals.
Enjoy uncrowded fine, white sands at the beach where you can swim, fish, and sunbathe. Nature-lovers also appreciate the Apalachicola River Blueway, a mostly wild waterway filled with distinct wildlife and plants. The river is also a fun spot to go paddleboarding!
Other activities to enjoy in Apalachicola are local events like the annual Seafood Festival every November. Locals and visitors also enjoy exploring Orman Historic State Park and the historic downtown area on Main Street.
If you’re interested in spending the night in Apalachicola, you can find several hotels and vacation rentals in the area.
14. Mexico Beach
Small-town charm, amazing weather, and clear emerald waters easily make Mexico Beach one of the best Florida Panhandle beaches. In contrast to nearby areas, Mexico Beach has remained mostly commercial-property free since its beginning.
Despite falling victim to Hurricane Michael in 2018, Mexico Beach rebuilt itself with the help of citizens and local businesses. Today, it remains a place filled with smiling faces.
The shores of Mexico Beach are unlike any other on this list because of its quartz sands. You can thank this for its brilliantly white sand that feels like you’re walking or relaxing in a true paradise. The crystal clear water doesn’t hurt either!
Sea turtles frequent the area at night, and the water is so gentle that you won’t find lifeguards or warning flags at Mexico Beach. It’s the perfect place if you want to relax and appreciate natural beauty during your vacation.
Mexico Beach also offers opportunities for fishing on the shore and out in the Gulf.
You can easily spend the night in Mexico Beach with several hotels, vacation cottages, and RV parks in the area.
Sandestin is a luxurious golf and beach resort area located in the northwest corner of Florida between Pensacola and Panama City. There’s something for everyone with shopping, dining, golf, and water activities!
Aside from hanging out at white sandy beaches in Sandestin, you can also indulge in upscale shopping, grand dinner cruises, or play 18 holes at a world-renowned golf course.
Many people like to travel to Sandestin for annual events, including a wine festival, Memorial Day celebration, and a July 4th event.
Baytowne Wharf is the main attraction at Sandestin Beach. It’s lined with trendy shops and activities for the family (think laser tag and rope courses). There’s never a dull moment at Baytowne Wharf!
It’s easy to explore Sandestin on a bike (which many accommodations offer complimentary to guests). You can also go deep-sea fishing for an authentic panhandle experience.
Enjoy Florida Panhandle Beaches
The Florida Panhandle is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Whether you’re looking to relax, enjoy water adventures, go fishing, or sunbathe, the opportunities are endless!
We hope you’re inspired to explore Northwest Florida beaches! From the lively Panama City Beach to the peaceful St. George Island, there’s something for everyone on the Emerald Coast.