Our summer Gulf Coast adventure took us to many different beaches, some state parks, others road-side pull offs, but it wasn’t until we hit Pananma City Beach that we were able to find the best snorkeling location.
The man-made rock jetties at St. Andrews State Park made for the perfect child-friendly snorkeling environment, and by the groups of trainee padi-divers that we saw entering the water, it provided an excellent training environment for all ages. It had been years since I donned a mask and snorkel, but while my husband and son ventured further down the beach to fish, my daughter and I dived into the water, chasing the schools of different fish, and floating around others long enough that they would loose their fear and swim around you. The bay itself is pretty shallow and protected from the waves, it is the perfect place to reacquaint yourself and teach your kids how to snorkel.
The State Park itself is a gem on the otherwise over-developed coastal town, offering it’s own ferry trips over to the famous shell-island, where visitors can collect shells and snorkel too. The main beach where we hung out for the day offered outdoor showers to get all that nice white sand off, toilets and a shop for those forgot-to-pack items like sunscreen, drinking water, bait & fishing license (for the anglers in the group). All in all, it was a great park for a great family adventure.($8 car load entry fee, ferry is a separate fee) Be sure to check out the interpretative center by the entrance for the turtle-hatching display!
Things to Know, Before You Go: 1. Florida beach days are blistering, so bring your sunscreen, hat, sun umbrella. 2. Snorkeling can get pretty blistering too- we put on a t-shirt top to protect our backs from extra sun while snorkeling. (Bring extra shirts!) 3. Bring a picnic lunch or leave the park and save your receipt for a later return. Panama City Beach has plenty of restaurant opportunities (the cheaper ones are off the beaches). 4. Snorkeling gear consists of mask, snorkel and fins. (You don’t really need the fins and a lot of the time they just get in the way). If you are new to this, buy an inexpensive mask & snorkel set to have fun with. Walmart & Target have them. I’ve even seen masks in the Dollar Store! 5. Bring plastic sealed bags in the car for your seashell finds- that way they won’t stink up the car. Plus they are great for storing wet swim-suits. 6. Jelly Fish- there are some- small and cute. Don’t touch ’em, they sting!