Want to know where the best beaches in Florida Panhandle are? We’ve got you covered!
Of all the best beaches in Florida, the Panhandle beaches have some of the clearest water and whitest sand, which makes them a popular place for tourists to visit and a great family vacation spot.
The southern side of the Panhandle is set along the Gulf of Mexico, and it’s known for having a classic Southern culture from the accents to the food. This part of Florida is especially renowned for its spectacular beaches.
Sparkling white sands and emerald waters run from Pensacola to Cedar Key and range from quaint fishing villages to popular city strips. Use this as your guide to get to know all about the best beaches in the Florida Panhandle.
Map of Best Florida Panhandle Beaches
Click here to see our map of the best Florida Panhandle Beaches. Here you can see where they all are located along the coast.
Where is the Florida Panhandle?
The northwestern region of the Sunshine State is known as the Florida Panhandle. It’s a long, narrow area that pulls away from the main part of the state, giving it the appearance of a pan’s handle.
How Big is the Florida Panhandle?
The Florida Panhandle is roughly 200 miles long and 100 miles wide. The Panhandle beaches are home to some of the best white sand beaches in Florida.
When is the Best Time to Visit Florida Panhandle Cities & Beaches?
Technically the best time to visit Florida Panhandle beaches is May through October. I personally love May and October. The summer months are really hot, and July is the busiest month.
If you visit in mid-March, you might run into college spring breakers looking to party. I also think the water and weather are a little too cold in March, so this isn’t my favorite time to visit. If you visit from November through February, you will avoid the crowds, but it will be chilly, with highs only in the 60s and lows in the 40s.
1. Pensacola Beach
Nestled on the scenic Santa Rosa Island in Pensacola Beach. It’s commonly called one of the best beaches in the Florida Panhandle, and it’s easy to see why.
The azure waters of the Gulf and the surrounding bay make it a beautiful sight to behold. There are lifeguards on the busier beaches, or you can enjoy a more private experience at the National Seashore.
Often deemed the epicenter of the coast, the views of the seaside here are picture-perfect. The wooden pier is over 1400 feet long, and it’s ideal for a seaside stroll or spending some time fishing.
Beachgoers are always guaranteed to have a grand time swimming, snorkeling, and watching the sunset from these sea breezes swept shores.
2. Perdido Key
Perdido Key is the best beach in the Panhandle for escaping city crowds. The word Perdido translates to ‘lost’ in English, which seems like the perfect name for this hidden gem. This barrier island offers a more remote setting for a tranquil experience that’s ideal for rest and relaxation under the sun.
The rolling white sand dunes and warm waters are like a little slice of paradise. Plus, it’s only four miles south of Flora-Bama.
More than half of Perdido Key falls into federal and state parks. This means the miles of beach wilderness here are protected, pristine, and generally undisturbed. You’re likely to spot several species of sea birds and sea turtles here, as well as a variety of unique shells. With fewer amenities, you’ll want to prepare and pack everything you need before spending the day at this seafront.
3. Crystal Beach
Crystal Beach has long been a popular vacation spot in the Florida Panhandle. It’s famous for adorable pastel-colored beach cottages that line the coast.
It’s located just south of Destin Commons and is home to a few favorite seafood eateries and boutiques. Beaches and umbrellas are available to rent as well, which can make your time on the beach even more comfortable.
In Crystal Beach, there are often quirky local events to attend, like concerts or dog costume contests. They’re renowned for having a particularly hungry underwater population, earning the nickname the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.
It’s not the biggest beach, which actually gives it a more intimate and private feel. It’s best to check the times of the tides before heading over since it can really affect how you set up on the sand for the day.
4. Panama City Beach
Panama City Beach is a coastal metropolis boasting over two dozen miles of sugar white sands. It’s packed with amenities and activities, so you’ll never get bored on these shores. There’s an abundance of nature to explore in the area, with many wild hiking trails. You can also take a ride on the Sky Wheel to enjoy a bird’s eye view of beach life.
Though it was once thought of as a Spring Break destination, today, Panama City is known as more of a family-friendly beach. It’s also renowned as the Wreck Diving Capital of the South, so it’s a favorite spot for discovering the underwater world while scuba diving.
Panama City Beach is full of waterfront resorts, so you can expect quite a cushy stay here. Eating your way through this city is always recommended as well.
5. Grayton Beach State Park
Grayton Beach State Park is considered to be one of the prettiest beaches in the country. The soft white sands and crystal clear waters provide an idyllic escape.
There’s a historic village nearby, which makes for a lovely way to spend a lazy day wandering around. It has a funky artistic flair, with oyster shell paved streets lined by old wooden homes.
Within this state park, there’s plenty of outdoor adventure to be had. You can hike, kayak, fish, and cycle around coastal dune lakes and through pine flat woods. It’s certainly a nature lovers paradise. The park itself has 2,000 acres and is set on about a mile of pristine shoreline.
You can even camp out overnight to soak up the surroundings and enjoy one of the most scenic stays in the Panhandle.
6. Henderson Beach State Park
Henderson Beach State Park is a great place to bask in the natural beauty of the Florida Panhandle. This majestic stretch of the Emerald Coast is anchored by rolling 30-foot sand dunes. It’s a preserved part of the landscape, so all of the breathtaking nature is protected. The well-maintained beachfront picnic place is the main draw, so be sure to pack some snacks for the day.
The boardwalk here connects the beach to enchanting nature trails. It’s located in Destin, but it feels like it’s a bit off the beaten path since it’s so often uncrowded. You’ll be able to appreciate some peace and quiet at Henderson Beach in a very idyllic environment. It’s home to the last remnants of coastal scrub in the Panhandle, like live sand oaks and myrtle.
Be aware that there aren’t any lifeguards here, but different colored flags will alert you to the safety of the sea conditions daily.
7. Destin Beach
Destin is often thought of as the original beach destination of the Florida Panhandle. It’s full of restaurants, shops, and a variety of places to stay. Destin definitely one of the busier parts of the coast.
It’s family-friendly and fairly affordable. It is a really good option for spring break in Florida for families. Many of the condos here have private pieces of the beach out front, so unless you opt to stay in one, be sure you know what areas of the waterfront are public.
There are a lot of fun things to do in Destin, mainly including opportunities for fishing. You’ll find state-of-the-art golf courses, an aquarium, and theme parks. It’s a great place to go on a cruise too. You can even spot some dolphins most days. Try a water sport here, such as parasailing. There are many local operators.
Pro-tip, head out to the beach earlier rather than later to stake out your spot and enjoy the natural splendor before the crowds set in.
8. Navarre Beach
Navarre Beach is commonly referred to as Florida’s best-kept secret. A lot of people come here to surf. Whether you’re a pro at hanging ten or a novice wave rider, it’s a great place to grab a board and get out on the water.
It’s famous for being one of the best places to see the Florida Panhandle sunset too. It’s the ideal destination to slow down and soak up all of the unspoiled beauty that the Panhandle has to offer. If you are looking for some of the clearest water beaches in Florida, Navarre Beach is one of the best.
It’s a beach that’s super popular with eco-tourists as it has a lot of sustainably focused places. Be sure to visit the sea turtle center here. The views from the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier are spectacular as well.
If you go a little to the east, it’s usually less crowded, so you can easily find a spot to sunbathe there. Simplicity is the name of the game at this gorgeous Emerald Coast haven.
9. Santa Rosa Beach
It’s universally accepted that Santa Rosa has one of the most stunning shores in the country. The sand is super soft here, and once you throw in some sunshine, a sea breeze, and the warm turquoise waves in, it’s pretty much postcard perfect. The coastline is over three miles long and generally feels pretty secluded.
Hiking, biking, and bird-watching are all popular pastimes. You’ll find all the basic amenities you may need here, and the coastal cottage style homes are never tall enough to spoil the panoramas.
Santa Rosa Beach is home to a unique artists’ colony, as well as many high-end eateries.
10. Fort Walton Beach
Powder-white sands and calm cerulean waters mark Fort Walton. It’s full of family-friendly resorts and attractions. Shore or boat fishing for the big game is always an easily accessible adventure. There are two state-of-the-art golf courses as well if you want to trade the seafront for the links while in town.
Fort Walton is a small city with a population of over 20,000 people. It first came to be in 1861 during the Civil War when soldiers were stationed to protect the Santa Rosa Sound. Today, there’s a bustling downtown and over 30 parks to explore.
The beach offers a boardwalk, a fishing pier, and a playground. Most of the hotels provide easy access to the beautiful beach here, plus they tend to have beautiful outdoor pools. We stayed here on our last trip, and think it deserves a spot on our best beaches in Florida Panhandle list!