Boasting unspoiled natural beauty and family-friendly attractions, visitors who want to explore the laid-back towns and quaint beachside communities in Florida’s Panhandle are in for a treat. Perfect for those looking for a quiet vacation getaway, this area is home to some of Florida’s most picturesque landscapes away from the hoards of tourists. From state parks to up-close encounters with local marine life, these are the best things to do in Florida’s Panhandle.

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Play in the water at St. Andrews State Park St. Andrews State Park
St. Andrews State Park

Play in the water at St. Andrews State Park (Nearby Hotels)

One of the most idyllic places to explore in Florida’s Panhandle is St. Andrews State Park, a beautiful barrier island that is considered a nature lovers paradise. It’s soft, white sand beaches offer an uncrowded shoreline, while the emerald green waters are the perfect place to go swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, kayaking and fishing. Take a water shuttle to Shell Island, where an undeveloped seven-mile stretch of paradise awaits you.

See restored aircraft at National Naval Aviation Museum Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola
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Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola

See restored aircraft at National Naval Aviation Museum (Nearby Hotels)

The world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in Florida, the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola features 150 beautifully restored aircraft. Showcasing the Naval Aviation’s rich history, you can explore exhibits and more than 4,000 artifacts that highlight the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aviation. Experience Flight Simulators, watch a video on the Giant Screen Digital Theater and pick up a unique souvenir at The Flight Deck Store.

Cruise the scenic trails at St. George Island State Park St. George Island State Park
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St. George Island State Park

Cruise the scenic trails at St. George Island State Park (Nearby Hotels)

Head to St. George Island State Park to discover a nature haven nestled against the Gulf of Mexico. A perfect destination for nature lovers and families with kids, you can spend an afternoon here riding a bike along the 17 miles of paved trails, spotting over 300 types of birds along the nature trail or setting up a blanket and soaking up the sunshine on the soft sand. If you want to see the area from a different perspective, take a guided boat tour to spot dolphins frolicking in the water or hop in a kayak for a sunset cruise of the area.

Explore the historic Fort Pickens Cannon at Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach
Credit: Brian S./Yelp
Cannon at Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach

Explore the historic Fort Pickens (Nearby Hotels)

Located in Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens is one of the only forts to remain in the hands of the Union through the Civil War in Florida. Sitting at the end of a long stretch of beach in Pensacola sits the United States military fort, where you’ll find a 19th-century landmark rich in history. Take a stroll through the officer’s and prisoner’s quarters, the mine chambers and the interior gunrooms. Climb atop the cannon, and admire the old brick walls and low arches.

Spot a manatee in Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park Wakulla Springs
Credit: Paul Clark
Wakulla Springs

Spot a manatee in Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park (Nearby Hotels)

Known as a hotspot for manatees seeking refuge in the winter, Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is a picturesque area to explore throughout the area. You’ll find one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world here, with a 6,000-acre park that sits atop a maze of underground caverns. It’s roped off swimming area is great for cooling off, where you can do a cannonball off a two-story tower or relax on the sunbathing platforms.

Admire the camellias in Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park

Admire the camellias in Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park (Nearby Hotels)

A colorful oasis of tranquil gardens, Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park in Tallahassee is a photographer’s dream with its 1,000-acre ornamental garden. The kaleidoscope of colors in the landscape change throughout the year, as the 200 floral varieties put on a beautiful display of camellias and azaleas. Stroll through the secret garden to discover a shimmering reflection pool, ornate fountains and Italianate walled gardens. The park even features a sandy beach where you can go kayaking, canoeing or fishing.

Float in the lazy river at Shipwreck Island Waterpark Shipwreck Island Water Park
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Shipwreck Island Water Park

Float in the lazy river at Shipwreck Island Waterpark (Nearby Hotels)

Located in Panama City, Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a family-friendly attraction that is a perfect escape from Florida’s summertime heat. It’s been operating for over 30 years, testing the courage of thrillseekers with its exciting slides. Venture to the Tree Top Drop to find two slides coming off a 65-foot tall platform that drops into a gripping free fall slide, hop on a floatie and cruise the lazy river, or zip line off a 17th-century sailing ship into a lagoon pool.

Stroll the boardwalk at Tallahassee Museum Nature trail at Tallahassee Museum
Nature trail at Tallahassee Museum

Stroll the boardwalk at Tallahassee Museum (Nearby Hotels)

Head to the Tallahassee Museum to admire its fascinating exhibits, see hands-on demonstrations, and explore its scenic nature trails in 52 acres of untouched wilderness. Nestled next to Lake Bradford, you can even soar through the cypress swamp on a zipline adventure. Watch demonstrations that range from quilting to blacksmithing, then walk through the 1897 Concord School where freed slaves were taught, while the elevated platform offers views of bald eagles, alligators and river otters.

Observe dolphins at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Fort Walton Beach
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Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, Fort Walton Beach

Observe dolphins at Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park (Nearby Hotels)

Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park in Fort Walton Beach has been entertaining marine life enthusiasts since 1955. The historic aquarium offers visitors a chance to observe Atlantic bottlenose dolphins, feed penguins or say hello to spunky sea lions and seals. Kids will delight at the chance to touch stingrays, while a Kids Reptile Safari offers a gentle introduction to wildlife such as turtles, lizards, snakes and alligators.

Go swimming in Grayton Beach State Park Grayton Beach
Credit: goldenticket76
Grayton Beach

Go swimming in Grayton Beach State Park (Nearby Hotels)

An artsy and quirky area full of character, Grayton Beach is lined with boutique shops and art galleries. The area’s biggest highlight is Grayton Beach State Park, one of Florida’s most picturesque beaches that features emerald green waters that are perfect for a swim. Outdoor adventurers can go kayaking on the two rare coastal dune lakes, or hop on a bike to explore the scenic trails.

Explore the caves in Florida Caverns State Park Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna
Florida Caverns State Park, Marianna

Explore the caves in Florida Caverns State Park (Nearby Hotels)

One of the most unique state parks in Florida, the Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna features damp caves loaded with limestone stalagmites and stalactites rising and dripping from its ceilings, which took millions of years to form. Take a tour of the caves, then spend the rest of the afternoon fishing, boating and canoeing at the nearby Blue Hole spring and paddling along the Chipola River.

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