A few weeks ago the family and I headed down to Panama City Beach, Florida for a nice vacation! We were a little bit worried at first about the weather, but one thing you’ll know and learn about Florida is it changes very quickly! Originally, the forecast had said rain and thunderstorms the entire week. It only rained like crazy on the last day that we were there. It was almost a sign of farewell LOL! The weather was beautiful and the humidity was just enough. It was really nice to get away from the Sacramento dry heat in the triple digits!
I never knew this before, but there is so much to do in Panama City for everyone! This ended up being the perfect family vacation for all of us. There are so many places to go to for beach activities and there is also endless fun for the kids and adults. The highlight of the trip was definitely our helicopter ride! Below I’m going to share everywhere we went, what is entailed and also everywhere we ate! Panama city beach is a must visit!!
On the first day, we arrived at the Hampton Inn & Suites and we were absolutely blown away by the resort. Even though I had been to Florida recently, it had been a while since the rest of the family had and we were all definitely so excited to see the beautiful, white, sandy, crystal clear beaches.
We started by just settling in and doing some exploring around the resort and then had lunch at Schooners. This place had some of the best seafood I have ever had!! It had live music and was also right on the beach so we had the best view and could go walking by the ocean right after eating. If you ever go there for dinner, you get the absolute best sunset ocean view and I hear they even have a ceremonial cannon blast at sunset. How cool!!
After lunch, we went on the Shell Island Adventure Tour. This was a 3-hour trip beginning with a scenic trip through Grand Lagoon arriving at Shell Island. On the way, we spotted some dolphins and once we got to Shell Island we got to enjoy so many fun activities!! We mostly went paddle boarding and the kids especially enjoyed their inflatable trampolines and water slides, but you can also go on catamaran rides, kayaks, and go snorkeling. It was an absolute blast and the whole family had the best time!!
We then got back to our resort and cleaned up before going to dinner at Saltwater Grill. Immediately when you walk in they have this massive panoramic tropical saltwater aquarium. Of course, they also had the most amazing views of the reef where you could actually see different sea creatures in the water. This place was also on par for some of the best seafood and they had the most delicious steaks. Everything was so high quality and ridiculously fresh. They just redid their bar and their cocktails were absolutely delicious. The drinks, the food, the sunset over the ocean and the company all made it the best way to end the night!
After some coffee and a quick breakfast, we ran off to Shipwreck Island Water Park for the day. This place was so much fun and an absolute win for the kids!! We’ve been to quite a few different water parks throughout the years and I truly think this one was amazing! They had everything from crazy fast rollercoaster-type water rides to soothing lazy rivers and wave pools. The kids went nuts at this park and we all had an absolute blast!! I will also say that this water park was very clean and well-kept. At some parks that I’ve been to, you could tell that it was not well managed and the lack of cleanliness of it all really put a damper on the day, but not here!! This place felt fresh and clean and truly was the cherry on top of the whole experience.
After the water park, we had the rest of the afternoon to relax and clean up and then, in the evening, had another delicious dinner this time at Runaway Island. This restaurant was definitely a local hotspot and had such a great homey environment to it. It was definitely the most family friendly place we ate at and had the best comfort foods! The outdoor deck was so beautiful with the beach literally right there. The food was definitely more casual with things like fish tacos, chicken wings, and burgers, but they were so decadent!! It was such a fun environment to close with on an already super fun day!
The next morning began with breakfast at Finns Island Style Grub. This place has that classic tropical island vibe and serves delicious and incredibly fresh tacos, burritos, nachos and a lot more! All their meals are made to order so you know it’s gonna be nice and fresh! Definitely a good start to the day!
Next was my favorite part of the entire trip… the helicopter tour!!! This was an experience I will always remember! To be honest, I was a little nervous at first, but they have some of the best and well-experienced pilots there that I knew everything was going to be okay. Ben flew with Ava and I got to fly with J and Sav! Being able to fly over the beach and see the world below was such a beautiful experience. We literally felt like we were on top of the world. The tours are absolutely amazing and I could not recommend doing them more!! They have all different types ranging from 5 to 36 mile tours with some where they actually take you to places where you can see shipwrecks, dolphins, stingrays and even have one where they take you over shark swimming grounds! 10/10 would absolutely do again.
After the tour, we went back to the resort to relax and spend some time at the beach. For dinner we went to Capt. Anderson’s. This place is among America’s Top 50 restaurants and was even inducted into the Restaurant Hall of Fame in 2005 for their seafood. You can probably guess by that alone that the food here was incredible!! I swear I have never eaten so much seafood than I did on this trip. This place was definitely the fancier of all the places we ate at, but the kids still loved it and had a great time! I mean, no matter the age, everyone would enjoy this food it’s just that good!!
The next morning we had breakfast at Thomas Donuts & Snack Shop. You know I’m all about the aesthetic and this place had it on lock! Everything is super pink and bright and absolutely reflects the food. It just feels like you stepped into a sweet dream. Of course the donuts are a must!! But they also had a bunch of delicious treats as well as things like hot dogs and sandwiches.
We then spent a part of the afternoon shopping at Pier Park. It was so fun to explore the 124 different shops that they have there. I always love finding boutiques and local stores that are unique to the area. It’s just such a scenic location too for an outdoor mall and is right in the heart of the most beautiful beaches.
We then had lunch at Hook’d Pier Bar & Grill. It was the perfect place to relax and grab some delicious food after walking around for so long! You would think we would be over seafood, but I swear I could not get enough of it with how fresh it was there. We were definitely “hook’d” LOL!!
We had a pretty chill afternoon after that and just went back to the resort to again enjoy the beach and relax some more! I firmly stand by vacations where you have activities planned, but also times to relax so you don’t go home feeling like you need a vacation after vacation.
We then headed out to dinner at The Grand Marlin.We definitely felt wined and dined by the end of this meal. I just couldn’t believe that we were actually eating meals from an award-winning chef!! You can definitely tell too by the incredible food that came out of that kitchen! It had such a calming atmosphere to it. Everything from being on the beach to the kind staff. Nothing felt rushed or chaotic. It truly was such a pleasurable experience and, again, some of the best food you can get!!
We closed our vacation with just the most relaxing day and ended with an evening sunset sail on the “Privateer” catamaran. It was a 2 hour cruise on the Grand Lagoon, past the marinas and into the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It was absolutely breathtaking. They played tropical music on the boat and even had complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages for us to enjoy! The sunsets in Florida are some of the most pink sunsets I’ve ever seen. The entire night sky lit up and looked like streams of cotton candy!! As it got cold we all got to huddle close and just be together. No distractions. No complaints. Just the five of us enjoying the calm, clear water and colorful night sky!!
We headed home the next day and I already miss it! I’m glad to be home, but that family trip to Panama City hit different. Everything went off so beautifully. Everyone had such a great time and I honestly hope to go back soon! I hope this post can give some fun ideas for your next family trip. I’m not kidding when I say that every activity, restaurant, and experience was one that I will always remember and desperately want to do again! I feel beyond blessed that we are able to travel once again and that I get to go to these amazing places with my family! I’d love to hear if and where you all have been able to travel to this year and if you’re planning any upcoming trips. I’m always on the look out for a fun new vacation spot!