State Parks Panama City Beach FL
Away from the hustle and bustle of the main drag of our beach, you can find some peace and quiet in our Florida state parks.
Here, we’ll share our favorite features of each park, from east to west.
Just be back by dinner. All parks close at sunset.
Located three miles east of Panama City Beach, there are tons of activities available for nature lovers here including swimming, snorkeling, hiking, biking, kayaking, wildlife viewing, fishing, boating, paddleboarding and picnics.
There are two hiking trails to choose from. Take a scenic lakeside stroll on the Gator Lake Trail, or enjoy a walk in the woods on the Heron Pond Trail.
If you’re into geocaching (an interactive, high-tech treasure hunt), then St. Andrews State Park is a must-stop.
During the Spring and Summer, boat tours are available from the park to Shell Island.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, they offer campfire circles with a Park Ranger, who shares information about the park history and wildlife.
Frank Brown Park
16200 Panama City Beach Parkway
This place is huge, featuring an Aquatic Center including an Olympic size swimming pool and zero-entry fun pool for the little ones, soccer fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, baseball fields, indoor courts, fishing ponds, trails for hiking and biking, and even a dog park.
Frank Brown Park hosts a variety of live music offerings, from huge festivals like the Gulf Coast Jam on Labor Day weekend to a free summer concert series at Aaron Bessant Park located in Pier Park, directly across the street.
This park is the home base for the city’s Parks & Recreation Department, which oversees a total of more than 200 acres in PCB dedicated to outdoor recreation.
Gayle’s Trails, named for former PCB mayor and city councilwoman Gayle Oberst, start at the back end of the park. They are always abuzz with activity, from walkers and joggers to bikers, and little ones checking out the youth fishing pond. One of Gayle’s Trails syncs up with Conservation Park, less than a 5-minute drive from Frank Brown Park, or a 2.8-mile walk.
Don’t let the Industrial Park you turn into deter you from continuing on. Follow Griffin Road until it dead ends (a little more than a mile back), and the park entrance is immediately to your left.
This place is a hidden gem. One mile back, and you feel like you’re in an entirely different world than the bustling beach. The city of PCB established this park in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
It totals approximately 2,900 acres and has 24+ miles of trails, 2,000+ acres of wetlands and 1.3 miles of boardwalks. The trails are well marked and range in length from 1.7 miles to the longest at 11.2 miles. All trails, with the exception of Walt Oberst Way, are unpaved.
There is a spot for picnics, an outdoor classroom and covered pavilion. There are restrooms, bike racks and a lot for vehicle parking. Bring plenty of water, as there is no drinking water available on the trails. Also, bring your insect repellent.
Camp Helen State Park
23937 Panama City Beach Parkway
Camp Helen appeals to nature lovers and history buffs. In the early 1900s, this naturally beautiful area attracted businessmen to these 183.5 acres, overlooking Lake Powell and the Gulf at the far western edge of Bay County.
The historical district is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and includes nine buildings. It’s an easy walk to visit them all. Important archaeological sites and a Civil War salt works also are located within the park, but haven’t yet been excavated.
Visitors can bike, hike, kayak, canoe, beach comb or swim to explore the area. As you descend down the stairs from the main house (pausing for a quick sit in the rocking chairs), you set out on a soft sand trail the hugs the lake line and winds back along the edge of the park to the Gulf.
The trail is called the Oak Canopy Trail. Maps are available in the Visitor’s center. There are plenty of shady spots to picnic along the way. You can rent a kayak if you want to get out on the water.
There are also wonderful opportunities for bird watching. The area is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, a network of 515 sites spread throughout the state. Binoculars are available in the visitor’s center for avid viewers.
This 180-acre park is bordered by the Gulf on three sides and by Lake Powell, which is one of largest Coastal Dune Lakes in Florida. Few such lakes are found anywhere else in the world.