Searching for the best family beaches in Florida Panhandle? Don’t worry, there are plenty to choose from!
The Florida Panhandle, a stretch of the Sunshine State that kisses the Gulf of Mexico, is a treasure trove of stunning beaches, each with its unique charm and family-friendly attractions. From the bustling Panama City Beach to the serene St. George Island, there’s a beach for every family’s preference. This guide will take you through the 15 best family beaches in the Florida Panhandle, offering insider tips and insights to help you plan your perfect beach getaway.
As a long-time Florida resident and someone who visits the Panhandle multiple times a year with my family, I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing almost all of these beaches firsthand.
My personal favorite family beaches in the Panhandle are Grayton Beach, Rosemary Beach, and Santa Rosa Beach, but each beach has its unique charm and appeal. We love the Panhandle so much that it has become our go-to destination for family vacations. The combination of beautiful beaches, warm weather, and friendly locals makes it a perfect place for families.
Whether you’re planning your first trip to the Panhandle or you’re a seasoned visitor like me, this guide will provide you with valuable information to help you make the most of your beach vacation. Let’s dive into the 15 best family beaches in Florida Panhandle.
Best Family Beaches in Florida Panhandle
1. Seaside Beach
Seaside Beach, located in South Walton County, is a charming beach town that has become an iconic destination in the Florida Panhandle. Known for its pastel-colored houses and white picket fences, Seaside offers a picturesque setting for a family beach vacation.
The beach itself is pristine, with soft white sand and clear, emerald-green waters. It’s perfect for a day of sunbathing, building sandcastles, or enjoying a picnic with the family. The town offers a variety of dining options, from food trucks to upscale restaurants, ensuring that there’s something for everyone’s taste.
Seaside also offers a variety of family-friendly activities. The Seaside Repertory Theatre hosts regular performances, and there are several art galleries and boutiques to explore. The town is also known for its outdoor amphitheater, which hosts concerts and movies under the stars.
👍 Local Tip: Don’t miss out on the chance to explore the town on a bike. Seaside offers several bike rental shops, and the town’s flat terrain makes it easy for even young kids to navigate. It’s a fun and eco-friendly way to explore the area.
2. Rosemary Beach
Rosemary Beach, located on the eastern end of South Walton County, is a master-planned community that offers a blend of beauty, luxury, and family-friendly amenities. The beach town is known for its West Indies-style architecture, cobblestone streets, and gas lanterns, creating a charming and picturesque setting for a family vacation.
The beach at Rosemary Beach is simply stunning. The sugar-white sand and clear, emerald-green waters create a perfect backdrop for a day of relaxation or fun beach activities. The beach is well-maintained and offers amenities like sunbeds and umbrellas for rent.
Beyond the beach, Rosemary Beach offers a variety of activities for families. The town center is home to a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes, offering something for everyone. The community also has several green spaces and parks, perfect for a family picnic or a game of frisbee.
One of the unique features of Rosemary Beach is its network of pedestrian paths and boardwalks. These paths connect all the homes and amenities in the community, making it easy to explore the area without a car.
👍 Local Tip: Check out the weekly farmers market held in Barrett Square. It’s a great place to sample local produce and artisanal goods. I love getting local honey products, spices, and yummy treats! And it’s just an awesome vibe.
3. Santa Rosa Beach
Santa Rosa Beach is a luxurious beach vacation destination, perfect for families looking for a high-end experience. The beaches are stunning, and the water is crystal clear. Many families choose to rent a beachfront luxury home when staying in the area, adding an extra touch of luxury to their vacation.
One of the unique experiences Santa Rosa Beach offers is a beach bonfire set up by 30a Blaze. The bonfires come with chairs, roasting sticks for s’mores, tiki torches, and more, making for a memorable beach night.
👍 Local Tip: For a unique family experience, have 30a Blaze set up a beach bonfire for your group. It’s a special way to amp up your beach vacation and you’ll make the best memories of having a private bonfire, roasting smores over the campfire listening to the ocean!
4. Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach is a family favorite, offering a balance of lively beach areas and quiet sections. The emerald-green coastline is breathtaking, and the Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and Observation Post offer incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico.
However, Pensacola Beach isn’t just about the beach and the sea. It’s also rich in history. The area is home to Fort Pickens, an active fort during the Civil War, offering tours that transport you back in time.
👍 Local Tip: The Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and Observation Post is a must-visit. Check for updates on its opening hours as it was temporarily closed due to hurricane damage.
5. Perdido Key State Park
Perdido Key State Park is a haven for families seeking a quiet beach area. Located about 14 miles East of Gulf Shores, it’s open for day use from 8 a.m. to sunset. This beach area is perfect for a picnic lunch and a relaxing day with the family.
👍 Local Tip: Perdido Key State Park is a great day trip from Orange Beach or Pensacola. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy a change of scenery.
6. Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a bustling hub of activity. This 27-mile long beach is covered in beautiful sugar-white sand, making it a picturesque location for family photos. The beach is well-kept and filled with families enjoying the sun and surf. But the beach isn’t the only attraction. Panama City Beach is also known as the seafood capital of the south, offering a plethora of dining options for seafood lovers.
When the kids need a break from the sun, Pier Park, PCB’s entertainment, shopping, and dining complex, is the perfect destination. With over 100 stores, several dining options, and a movie theatre, it’s a great place to cool off and have some fun.
👍 Local Tip: Panama City Beach is home to one of the highest concentrations of wild bottlenose dolphins in the world. Don’t miss out on scheduling a dolphin tour for an unforgettable family experience.
7. Navarre Beach
Navarre Beach is a hidden gem, often referred to as the best-kept secret in Florida. This beach town has fewer tourists than other beach towns, offering a laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. The restaurants cater to families, and the welcoming vibe makes every visitor feel at home.
In addition to the beach, there are other nearby attractions ideal for families, like a zoo and a fun place to rent paddle boards.
👍 Local Tip: Navarre Beach is perfect for families who like to venture off the beaten path. Don’t miss out on this super cool night glow paddleboarding experience!
8. Grayton Beach State Park
Grayton Beach State Park, nestled between Panama City Beach and Destin, is a 2,000-acre haven that offers a fantastic beach area and a serene escape from the bustling city life. The park’s cabin rentals provide families with the unique experience of waking up to breathtaking sunrises and winding down with equally stunning sunsets right on the beach.
But the beach isn’t the only attraction at Grayton Beach State Park. The park also boasts 4 miles of trails that wind through the coastal forest and around the dune lake. These trails are perfect for a family hike or a leisurely stroll, offering a chance to explore the local flora and fauna.
👍 Local Tip: Make sure to visit the famous Red Bar while you’re in Grayton Beach. This iconic spot is known for its eclectic decor, delicious food, and live music. It’s not uncommon for famous country artists and singers to make surprise appearances. So, you never know who you might see while enjoying a meal or a drink!
9. St. George Island
St. George Island is a 22-mile barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico that offers uncrowded beaches, making it ideal for families with younger kids. The island is known for its pristine beaches, clear waters, and abundant wildlife.
In the early summer, families can watch nesting sea turtles, a truly magical experience. For the more adventurous, kayaking in the clear waters around the island offers a unique perspective of the area.
👍 Local Tip: The St. George Island Lighthouse is a must-visit. Climb to the top for a panoramic view of the island.
10. Destin Beach
Destin Beach is a family hotspot, offering a range of activities from water sports to fishing. Known for its clear, green waters and white sand beaches, Destin Beach is a paradise for beach lovers.
The area also boasts a vibrant nightlife, with numerous restaurants and bars offering a variety of dining options. For families, the Track Family Fun Park offers go-karts, mini-golf, bumper boats, and more.
👍 Local Tip: One of the must-do activities in Destin is renting a pontoon and heading to Crab Island. This underwater sandbar is a popular spot for locals and tourists. With its shallow, clear waters, it’s a great place for a family outing. You can anchor your pontoon, wade in the water, and enjoy the floating food and drink vendors (the kids will get a kick out of being delivered ice cream by boat).
11. Mexico Beach
Mexico Beach, located in Bay County, Florida, is a tranquil oasis away from the bustling city life. This serene beach destination is perfect for families looking to relax, unwind, and enjoy the natural beauty of the Florida Panhandle. The beach is known for its calm waters and soft, white sand, making it an ideal spot for sunbathing, building sandcastles, and enjoying leisurely strolls along the shoreline.
For families who love water activities, Mexico Beach offers excellent opportunities for fishing and boating. The Mexico Beach Marina provides boat rentals for families who want to explore the waters at their own pace. For those who prefer guided tours, several charter companies offer fishing trips and dolphin-watching tours.
The town of Mexico Beach itself is charming and welcoming, with a variety of local shops and restaurants that offer a taste of the local culture and cuisine. The laid-back atmosphere and friendly locals make every visitor feel at home.
👍 Local Tip: Visit the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef for an exciting snorkeling experience. It’s home to a variety of marine life, making it a fantastic spot for underwater exploration. Remember to bring your snorkeling gear!
12. Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas, located on the St. Joseph Peninsula, offers a peaceful beach destination, perfect for families looking for a quiet getaway. The beach is known for its calm, clear waters and sugar-white sand, making it safe and enjoyable for kids to swim and play.
One of the unique features of Cape San Blas is the opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach. Several local companies offer guided horseback rides along the shoreline, providing a unique and memorable way to explore the area.
The Cape San Blas Lighthouse is another must-visit attraction. Climb to the top for a panoramic view of the surrounding area, including the pristine beaches and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
The nearby St. Joseph Peninsula State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, bird watching, and fishing. The park is home to a diverse range of wildlife, making it a great place for nature lovers.
👍 Local Tip: Don’t miss out on the opportunity to go scalloping in the seagrass beds off Cape San Blas during the summer scallop season. It’s a fun and rewarding activity that the whole family will enjoy. Remember to check the local regulations and seasons for scalloping before you go.
13. Miramar Beach
Miramar Beach, located in South Walton, is a charming destination that offers a blend of old beach town vibes with modern amenities. This beach is one of the best to visit when staying in or near Destin, FL. The area is known for its emerald-green waters and sugar-white sand, making it a picturesque location for family photos.
Beyond the beach, Miramar offers excellent shopping and dining options. The Silver Sands Premium Outlets and the Destin Commons are popular destinations for families looking for retail therapy. The area also boasts a variety of dining options, from casual beachfront cafes to upscale restaurants.
For the adventurous, Miramar Beach is a hub for water sports. Companies like Wet-N-Wild Watersports offer jet skiing, parasailing, and pontoon boat rentals, providing fun-filled activities for the whole family.
👍 Local Tip: If you’re visiting during the summer, check out the free outdoor movies at the Village of Baytowne Wharf. It’s a fun way to wind down after a day at the beach.
14. Fort Walton Beach
Fort Walton Beach, located near Destin, Florida, is a family-friendly paradise. The pristine white sands and clear waters are perfect for a day of relaxation or snorkeling. The area offers a variety of activities suitable for the whole family, from charter boat rides to fishing.
The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island is a must-visit. It offers public beach access, lots of sand dunes, and a winning trio of shopping, dining, and entertainment. The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, located nearby, is a great place to learn about marine life and see dolphins, sea lions, and turtles up close.
👍 Local Tip: Visit the Indian Temple Mound Museum to learn about the area’s Native American history. It’s a great educational experience for kids.
15. Henderson Beach State Park in Destin
Henderson Beach State Park in Destin offers a more natural Florida experience. The 6,000 feet of natural scenic shoreline is perfect for a family stroll or a play session in the sandy beach playground designed for kids. The park also features a pet-friendly nature trail, allowing you to appreciate the surrounding coastal dune ecosystem.
The park offers camping facilities, including RV sites, making it a great option for families looking for an outdoor adventure. The nearby city of Destin offers a variety of dining and shopping options.
👍 Local Tip: The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including a diverse range of bird species. Bring your binoculars and enjoy some bird watching!
16. St. Andrews State Park
Just a few miles from Panama City Beach, St Andrews State Park offers a unique blend of beach and nature. The park boasts a mile-and-a-half of beautiful beach area, a playground, and many other fun activities. It’s a great beach for families who love nature and adventure.
The park offers a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, bird watching, and fishing. The park’s nature trails offer a chance to explore the local flora and fauna.
👍 Local Tip: The park offers shuttle boat services to Shell Island, a natural, undeveloped island that is perfect for a day trip.
17. Crystal Beach in Destin
Crystal Beach in Destin is a dream come true for those who love clear waters and sugar-sand beaches. The area around Crystal Beach has become a sought-after vacation destination, offering a variety of accommodations to suit different budgets and preferences.
The beach is perfect for a day of relaxation, while the nearby Henderson Beach State Park offers opportunities for hiking and wildlife viewing. The Destin Commons and Silver Sands Premium Outlets offer excellent shopping options.
👍 Local Tip: Try out the local seafood at one of the many restaurants in the area. The Destin Harbor has several options offering fresh, locally caught seafood.
Final Thoughts: The Best Family Beaches in Florida Panhandle
There’s a reason why the Florida Panhandle has become my family’s favorite vacation spot. Each visit to this enchanting region brings new adventures, discoveries, and cherished memories. The beaches here are more than just stretches of sand; they are gateways to unique experiences, from the vibrant community life in Seaside to the tranquil beauty of Grayton Beach, my personal favorite.
The Panhandle’s charm lies in its diversity. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful retreat like Cape San Blas, a lively atmosphere like Destin, or a blend of both like Rosemary Beach, you’ll find a beach that feels like it was made just for your family. Each beach, with its unique character and offerings, invites you to create your own unforgettable vacation story.
But the real magic of the Florida Panhandle lies not just in its stunning beaches, but in the moments you’ll share with your family: the laughter as you splash in the clear waters of Crystal Beach, the sense of wonder as you explore the natural beauty of St. Andrews State Park, the shared excitement of finding the perfect souvenir in a local shop at Miramar Beach.
So, pack your bags, load up the sunscreen, and get ready to create your own Panhandle memories. The best family beach in the Florida Panhandle is waiting for you to discover it. Here’s to sunny skies, sandy toes, and the joy of a beach vacation in the Florida Panhandle. Safe travels!
FAQ: Best Family Beaches in Florida Panhandle
Here are some other common questions and answers that we see when looking into the best family beaches in Florida Panhandle!
Is Pensacola Beach better than Fort Walton Beach?
Both Pensacola Beach and Fort Walton Beach have their unique charms, and the “better” beach can depend on your family’s preferences. Pensacola Beach is known for its lively atmosphere, historic sites, and the nearby Pensacola Beach Pier. Fort Walton Beach, on the other hand, offers a more laid-back vibe, with beautiful parks and family-friendly attractions like the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park. Both beaches have beautiful white sand and clear waters.
Which beach has the clearest water in the Florida Panhandle?
While many beaches in the Florida Panhandle boast clear waters, Destin is often praised for having some of the clearest and most vibrant waters in the region. The city’s location on the Emerald Coast lends to its waters’ stunning emerald-green hue.
What beaches are kid-friendly in Destin, Florida?
Destin, Florida, is home to several kid-friendly beaches. Henderson Beach State Park is a popular choice with its wide sandy beach, calm waters, and picnic areas. Crystal Beach is also a great option, known for its clear waters and nearby amenities.
What is the best beach on the Gulf Coast of Florida for families?
There are many family-friendly beaches on the Gulf Coast of Florida, but one stand out is Grayton Beach. With its soft white sand, clear waters, and family-friendly amenities, it’s a great choice for families. The nearby Grayton Beach State Park also offers outdoor activities like hiking and bird watching.