Are you visiting Panama City Beach in the near future? The good news is that you can never run out of exciting outdoors things to do here, including some of Florida’s most beautiful preserves and recreation areas, just a few hours or less from Panama City.
If you are into spending time out in the wild, kayaking or swimming, hiking untouched habitats, viewing rare birds and other native wildlife, hiking, you are in luck when visiting this area!
The Econfina Creek Water Management Area
The Econfina Creek Water Management Area is a 41,000 acre creekfront region offering kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, scenic trails, and seasonal hunting.
Located just 45 minutes from Panama City and managed by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, it’s one of the most scenic outdoor recreational areas in the state, with fern draped limestone rocks, steep canoe trails, spring fed creeks, and shallow, clear lakes.
Econfina Creek is known for its remarkable kayaking and canoe trails, which you can explore with a professional Panama City Beach provider like Coldwater Excursions. Or the Econfina Canoe Livery, a rental provider at the creek, offers a kayak adventure on a self-guided tour with shuttle service.
The upper creek area is considered to be strenuous and should only be attempted by experienced paddlers. Hikers can enjoy exploration on over 27 miles of designated trails throughout the creek that cross wetlands, scenic buffs and uplands.
Throughout your journey, whether hiking or by kayak, you’ll find numerous local bird species including osprey, hawks, bald eagles, kestrels, native plants and blooming wildflowers in the spring and summer, large oak trees and other native species.
The Choctawhatchee River Water Management Area
The Choctawhatchee River Water Management Area offers 57,000 acres of exploration as well as 30 miles of river. Located just a little over an hour from the Panama City area, this is a top destination for hiking, wildlife viewing, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, picnicking and seasonal hunting.
This area is home to the beautiful spring-fed Holmes Creek, a top destination for paddling, snorkeling and diving. It’s particularly stunning to kayak in this area because the springs keep the water almost transparent for much of the year.
Holmes Creek can also be toured with a local Panama City Beach kayak provider or by renting from the Holmes Creek Canoe Livery in Vernon Florida, another convenient self-guided option near The Choctawhatchee River WMA.
The wildlife is abundant here, making it an excellent destination for hiking and wildlife viewing. Some of the wildlife species you might run into during your visit to this preserve include turtles, a variety of fish species including large mouth bass, flat head grey mullet, and blue gill, vultures, owls, hawks, eagles, cardinals, warblers, woodpeckers, heron, mockingbirds, deer, wild turkeys, and more.
The Point Washington State Forest
As one of the closest outdoor preserves to Panama City and PCB, just a 30-40 minute drive away, the Point Washington State Forest offers over 15,250 acres of stunning outdoor attractions and sport opportunities. Some of them include biking, hiking, horseback riding and hunting.
In particular, this area offers over 30 miles of extensive biking and hiking trails, with most of them being a sandy single track surface across four trail systems in the forest. Hikers also find them equally enjoyable and easy to navigate. The trails cross the diverse and scenic terrain, featuring cypress swamps, basin swamps, wet prairie, and wet flatwoods.
Here you can view several native species plants, from wild buckwheat, to figwort, goldenrod, hairy jointweed, and blazing star. Native animal species here include the gopher tortoise, flatwoods salamander, red-headed woodpecker, ground dove, mourning dove, American kestrel and many others.
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And these attractions are close enough to Panama City Beach that you won’t spend much time on the road at all!