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Thursday, July 15, 2021

Discovering the Best Beaches and Beach Towns in the Florida Panhandle

Where are the best beach towns and beaches in the Florida Panhandle? Well, it depends on what kind of experience you are looking for. Are you looking for family fun, couples retreat, the whitest sand, uncrowded, or a place to relax?

The Emerald Coast, pretty much all of the panhandle, has some of the whitest sand in Florida. Most of the water is a beautiful turquoise, hence "The Emerald Coast". 

Let's get started exploring! (Popular questions answered at end )

Perdido Key

Starting at the western edge of Florida is Perdido Key. It is a barrier island with white sand dunes, turquoise water, and tons of wildlife. Like it's popular neighbor, Gulf Shores (16 miles to the west), the beaches are lined with condos. It is less crowded than Gulf shores and the state parks seem to always only have a few people. 


Pensacola Beach

Beautiful beaches and plenty of nightlife. The Pensacola Beach area is always crowded, but on the far east side is a secret paradise (Navarre Beach). Navarre Beach is one of my favorite beaches in the panhandle. Tons of beautiful white sand, turquoise water, watersports, and restaurants, without the crowds.

Check out:

 Pensacola Beach Activity Guide 


Fort Walton Beach

Fort Walton Beach has nice white sandy beaches and just enough other things to keep you entertained when not at the beach. Great place to relax, but still have things to do.

Check out:

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park

Take a trip into Destin (5 miles to the east) and check out the amazing beaches along the way.



What’s not to love about Destin! It has stunning beaches, restaurants galore, shopping, watersports, and anything else you can think of. It is one of my favorite places in Florida. It is also one of the most crowded places. Be prepared to literally crawl in traffic and give yourself about 45 minutes extra to get anywhere.

Check out:

 Destin Activity Guide 


30A is a 24 mile stretch along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30A, located between Destin and Panama City Beach. This area is amazingly beautiful, especially towards the Alys Beach and Rosemary Beach end. Be prepared to drop some cash if staying in the area and make reservations early. Lodging is limited to mostly upscale condos and homes.

Check out:

Grayton Beach State Park

Aly’s Beach   

Rosemary Beach    

Read more about Rosemary Beach


Panama City Beach

Panama City Beach has a reputation as being a college party town. I have been there many times and I like it. I just don’t go during spring break. Beautiful beaches with plenty to do and see.

Check out:

St. Andrews State Park     


Mexico Beach

Mexico Beach is a small place that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. If you are looking for uncrowded beaches, this is your place. Lodging is minimal and nightlife is almost nonexistent. Long walks on the white sand beaches, shelling, and relaxing are what this small town is all about.

*The area was hit hard by a hurricane in 2018 and is a slowly rebuilding. We loved the Driftwood Inn, which was totally destroyed. I hear they are rebuilding, so keep a watch for it.


Port St Joe

Reaching Port St Joe coming from the west means you have officially found the “Forgotten Coast”. Nature, sand, water, and more nature describe the area. Most lodging consist of beach houses.

Check out:

St. Joseph Peninsula State Park 

Cape San Blas



Apalachicola is small fishing town popular for it’s charming Inns and fresh seafood. It has beautiful waterfront parks, but no beaches. No worries though, St George Island beaches are just a 20-minute drive away.



St George Island

St George Island is reached by about 15 miles of bridges. You know you have found a special place when you hit the end of the main road to the island and see the lighthouse. The island is 22 miles long and one mile across at its widest point. White sand is everywhere and people are few.

Check out:

Saint George Island State Park


Carrabelle is small with limited lodging. The beaches are usually empty and there is little to do other than beach related activities.


The Rest of the Panhandle

Alligator Point, Bald Point State Park, Mashes Sands Beach, Shell Point Beach, and St Marks are at the far east part of the panhandle. The beaches are not pristine and the water is blue with a brownish tint instead of turquoise. These areas are great for tent camping, fishing, and experiencing nature. I saw my first eagle's nest at St. Marks. They are massive!

So, which one do I like best? All the the towns and beaches along the Panhandle coast are unique and each has things I like over the others. But, here is a quick rundown of my thoughts on questions I have been asked.

Where are the pretties beaches?  I hate to answer this one, but Destin. The sand seems to be whiter and the water a deeper turquoise. It is breathtaking to look at!

Which beach towns are best for families? For an overall experience, Destin. The amount of thing to do and places to eat are crazy. This place is great for all ages. (but very crowded)  Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach are also good choices.

Which beaches are less crowded? Any beach east of Panama City Beach. Think about going off season to beaches on the west end. January through March is a little cool, but you will have the place to yourself. 

Where is the best place to find seashells?   Mexico Beach, St Andrews State Park in Panama City Beach, and St George State Park.

Where is the best place to birdwatch?  St Marks

Is Rosemary and Alys beach really that special?  Yes! You will not see and experience anything like it anywhere else in the United States.

Where is the best place to snorkel in the Panhandle? Pensacola and Destin both have a couple of place to snorkel from the beach.

Hope this helps make your trip planning a little easier! 

 Happy & Safe Travels!



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