When we think of Florida holidays, we usually picture theme parks and a particular mouse-eared mascot for the state. Yet beyond Walt Disney World and Orlando's city attractions, the Sunshine State boasts immaculate nature spots. And at the northwestern head of Florida lies its crowning glory for natural beauty: the Panhandle.
From state parks with waterfalls to white sand beaches and eclectic seafood dining, discover how you can leave the worries of the world behind in 2023, with this nature guide to the Florida Panhandle...
Laid-back Beach Life
Characterized by sandy white coastlines, crystal clear waters, and most importantly, space, Florida Panhandle beaches have relaxation written all over them. Nicknamed the ‘forgotten coast,’ you can be confident in nabbing a sunbathing spot here.
Our Top Picks
Panama City Beach
Miles of sugary, white sand greets you at Panama City Beach, making it the perfect spot to bask in the sunshine. The area is also one of the top waterfront resorts for Florida Panhandle holidays.
Here, you can explore the hidden gems of the sea with a little scuba diving, indulge in some retail therapy at the Pier Park shopping area, or hop on a water shuttle to the secluded Shell Island, where you may even spot a dolphin or two.
Fort Walton Beach
Jam-packed with nearby attractions, such as museums, parks, and aquariums, as well as calm, emerald waters to laze by, Fort Walton Beach presents something for all the family. Or in other words, Fort Walton Beach offers all the fun of busy hot spots, without the huge crowds.
For any film buffs on board, Seaside offers a little Hollywood history. Used as the backdrop to the 1998 film, The Truman Show, you can literally walk in Jim Carrey’s steps here. But aside from its claim to fame, it’s also one of the most tranquil beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
If you crave that adrenaline-filled buzz, the Florida Panhandle holidays won’t let you down. There are countless Floridian aqua activities to be had here. You can choose to ride those waves on a surfboard, explore your surroundings by kayak, or get your heart pumping on a jet ski. Or perhaps you want to opt for something a tad different – pedal boarding? This unique form of paddle boarding features handlebars and pedals, making it an ideal choice for beginners.
Stunning State Parks
Nothing says a perfect nature retreat quite like an expansive park. Being one of the least developed parts of the Sunshine State, there is an abundance of unspoiled nature to explore. This makes Florida Panhandle holidays a must for the outdoorsy types. So, get ready to lace up those hiking boots…
Our Top Picks
Falling Waters State Park
Home to Florida’s highest waterfall, Falling Waters State Park is a little slice of paradise. Standing at over 70 feet, this geological wonder is certainly something to marvel at. But although many come for this natural phenomenon, this is just a drop in the ocean. The park also encompasses impressive limestone sinkholes, a magical butterfly garden, and well-equipped campsites.
Grayton Beach State Park
Hiking enthusiasts are sure to get their fill at this one. With four miles of coastal forest trails, Grayton Beach State Park is one of the most popular parks in Florida. Not only can you give your muscles a good workout here, but the pristine Grayton Beach also provides one of the most stunning backdrops for that perfect holiday photoshoot – win-win.
Caverns State Park
The only state park in Florida to offer cave tours, Caverns State Park is fun for all the family. Explore thousand-year-old formations as you learn about the cave’s history and early uses. There are also options for kayaking and several hiking trails at the park. However, you will need to keep a close eye on little ones here as there are dark areas and slippery surfaces to be wary of.
Choosing a Florida Panhandle holiday means you will be chomping down on some of the tastiest grub alongside some of the most stunning settings. And what’s a perfect nature retreat without the perfect bite to eat?
Foodies rejoice - this area is famed for its delicious menu of seafood. One restaurant that has diners raving is Harbour Docks. Located in the Destin area, it features a wide range of deliciously fresh offerings. From the Gulf of Mexico right to your table, you’re bound to leave here satisfied.
But not to worry. If seafood doesn’t quite whet your appetite, the Florida Panhandle has a vast selection of places to satisfy all the family. From larger-than-life breakfasts at Andy’s Flour Power Café & Bakery to burgers by the water at Bayou Joe’s Marina & Grill, this part of the Sunshine State has dishes to delight even the fussiest of eaters.
Diverse Wildlife Spotting
Animal enthusiasts will have plenty to look out for on Florida Panhandle holidays. A region dotted with rivers, marshy swamps, and beaches, it’s no wonder it’s prime property for a wide variety of species. From dolphins gliding through the ocean to an array of exotic birds soaring across the skies, there are countless wildlife encounters to be had. And if you’re wanting to get up close and personal with the star of Florida wildlife – the alligator, you may want to take a trip to Gator Country Alligator Park. Here, you can get your hands on baby gators before taking a thrilling airboat swamp ride to try to catch some of the big boys in the wild. And, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a few other wildlife sightings along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, eagles, and herons.
Ready for a nature retreat? Explore our Emerald Coast & Panhandle Holidays 2023 & 2024 - or simply get in touch with our Travel Specialists today.