Panama City’s Thomas Drive

Panama City Beach has it all for every member of the family. The beauty of the beach draws pleasure seekers year-round, while strips of entertainment deliver, such as Thomas Drive. This area is rich with activities, places to eat, and the sweet smell of the ocean. This beachside drive gives vacationers and locals alike a variety of opportunity for fun in the Florida sun.

panama city beach thomas drive

Jaws Souvenir Shop

There are a number of souvenir shops in Florida, but this one deserves special attention for its unique marketing ideas. To begin, visitors walk through the mouth of a giant shark to enter the shop. Once inside, shoppers are treated to an array of Florida trinkets and souvenirs. This store, however, reaches beyond the basics with a live shark feeding, twice a day. Times are posted, so be sure to plan for the show.

Liza’s Kitchen

This adorable kitchen is perfect for a quick soup, salad, or sandwich lunch. The counter-style restaurant invites diners to belly up for some of Panama City’s best sandwich feasts. The weekends bring relaxing brunch opportunities before crossing the street to the beach. Best known for the focaccia, this family-owned restaurant was built around Liza, the daughter of the founder, and her picture remains as a focal point on the wall.

Rick Seltzer Park

Fans of undeveloped, quiet beaches will love the Rick Seltzer Park. Take the opportunity for environmental education and laid-back nature viewing on 170 feet of gulf front dunes. The whole family will enjoy the interpretive displays, communicating the importance of dunes on the beach.

This beach is free of high-rises, which creates the feeling of an isolated beach in the center of it all. When you need a break from the hustle and bustle, this park is the perfect stop. There are picnic areas, pavilions, restrooms, water access, and a comfortable swimming area available here.

Salt Lick Tavern

Enjoy a laid-back drink and superb food at the Salt Lick Tavern. This hidden gem serves smoked chicken wings, salsa burgers, fish bites, and a full selection of beer and spirits. The friendly bartenders, pool table, and live music make this a go-to adult destination.

Rest inside or out, and participate in Giant Jenga or Corn Hole competitions. Special discounts are often available, including an everyday military discount with identification. Take a moment to relax and enjoy a cool, refreshing drink in the Florida heat.

Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center

The Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center gives families a day of fresh water fun. Enjoy the bumper boats after playing a round of fantasy mini golf. Visit the Kids Kingdom with the little ones, or the Alien Arcade with the teenagers.

Don’t forget to hold onto your lunch on the Max Flight Simulator, where you’ll be transported on the roller coaster from the future. Grab a go-kart and have a race, or team up in a double rider go-kart. Visit the Vertical Accelerator or the SkyFlyer for more thrills in this full-day amusement center, nestled discreetly on Thomas Drive.

Slingshot and Indy Speedway

People flock to this attraction to experience the Slingshot machine, which propels riders into the amazing Florida sky. Traveling at 100 miles per hour, this ride uses powerful springs to send you on the ride of your life. It rests next to the Vomatron, which rotates a 200 foot arm for speeds up to 70 miles per hour. Sit in the capsules and let the ride spin you into dizzying extremes. Save time for the go-karts here, which offers rides to all ages with double go-karts for parent/child pairs.

Sea Screamer Boat Tours

Book a boat tour of Panama City Beach at the Sea Screamer Boat Tours on Thomas Drive. This 73-foot boat provides plenty of space for everyone, sailing through the waters of Shell Island, and past State Park areas. Relax on the 10-mile ride near the gorgeous beaches and on the refreshing ocean water.

The captain and crew review points of interest along the Emerald Coast, as well as the history of Panama City. Enjoy the sunset cruise for a romantic, beautiful seaside experience. You’ll witness dolphins, enjoy nautical tales, relax with themed music, and sail next to some of the world’s most breathtaking beaches.

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not

As you travel down Thomas Drive, you’ll notice the Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum. This world-famous name attracts those seeking the oddest facts from around the world. This museum holds the Odditorium, the 7D Moving Theater, the Marvelous Mirror Maze, and the Impossible LaseRace.

Check out the shrunken heads, a real vampire killing kit, a floating car, hands-on activities, and hard to believe sculptures here. The Moving Theater takes your family on an adventure for all five senses, while the Impossible LaseRace challenges you to avoid the lasers at every turn. The whole family will be able to create Wax Hands while visiting for a takeaway souvenir.

Shell Island

Shell Island is unquestionably one of the top attractions to explore during a vacation to Panama City Beach. No trip here is complete without visiting this fascinating natural wonder at least one time.

This wildlife habitat is strictly protected to keep it beautiful and pristine and offers an incredible haven for swimming, shell hunting and beach going.

As one of the most popular Panama City Beach things to do, you and your group are sure to love the clear blue water, sugary sand, colorful shells, and playful dolphins of Shell Island.

panama city beach things to do

Shell Hunting at Shell Island

Shell Island offers some exciting shell hunting opportunities as the name suggests, but keep in mind that some of the areas that get a lot of foot traffic will have fewer shells. Spend some time scouring the island’s less visited areas to find gems such as conch shells, starfish, sand dollars and more!

Wildlife Viewing at Shell Island

Shell Island has a fascinating amount of local wildlife including dolphins, loggerhead turtles, green sea turtles, ghost crabs, beach mice, nine-banded armadillos, alligators that live in the lake on the island, marsh rabbits, racoons and more.

This small island has an incredible range of species for its size so bring a camera along! There’s a very good chance that you’ll be able to spot bottlenose dolphins from the shore, but go snorkeling or take a dolphin viewing tour to guarantee an interaction with these friendly creatures.

Snorkeling at Shell Island

Snorkeling at Shell Island is very popular and one of the best ways to see the bottlenose dolphins and other ocean wildlife up close. There are shallow snorkeling areas near St. Andrews State Park right across from Shell Island that are ideal for smaller children as well. You can rent snorkeling gear from the Shell Island Shuttle or several other local rental companies.

Getting to Shell Island

The easiest and most convenient way to get to Shell Island is through one of the local ferry services. They offer multiple trips to the island throughout the day. Pack up a cooler with food and drinks, some sunscreen and beach gear, towels and umbrellas and head over to one of the nearby ferries from Dunes of Panama.

The ferries run from around 9:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer, 7 days a week. Service is usually about every 30 minutes or so, and it’s common for people to spend 1 to 4 hours on the island.

Options to get to Shell Island include:

  • The Shell Island Shuttle from St. Andrews Park
  • The PCB Island Express Ferry from Capt. Anderson’s Marina

Dockside parking is available at the marinas where the ferries depart.

Things to Remember When Visiting Shell Island

  • When preparing to visit Shell Island, remember that it is a protected natural wildlife refuge with no concession stands or restroom facilities, so bring everything you’ll need with you and use the restroom right before you leave.
  • You can take any shells with you that you find, but be sure that there are no living inhabitants in them!
  • Take back anything that you bring with you to the island and clean up any garbage.
  • Pets unfortunately are not allowed on Shell Island.

Dunes of Panama offers convenient access to Shell Island

Dunes of Panama is conveniently located near Shell Island and offers you the utmost in luxury and amenities while exploring this incredible natural attraction and so many others that are available to you in the Panama City Beach Area.

This extraordinary barrier island is worth visiting any time of year, so don’t miss it during your next trip to Panama City Beach!

Give us a call today at 1-800-874-2412 or 850-234-8839 or send an email to for more information about the luxurious and comfortable accommodations at Dunes of Panama!