15 Free and Cheap Things to Do in Panama City Beach

Vacationing on the cheap can be tough, but it’s far from impossible. The key to keeping travel expenses to a minimum? Finding free and low-cost activities to stretch your budget. Plenty of these are available in Panama City Beach, where you can enjoy an affordable vacation free of compromise with help from these attractions:

Public Beaches

white sand beach with a couple walking along the shore line and sandy hills in the background

Nothing makes for a great PCB vacation like the beauty of white sand beaches. Several public access spots are available, so you can soak in the sun free of charge. Most of these are numbered — but not all provide free parking.

Public Beach Access 58 may be your best bet if you need a parking spot. Otherwise, the spots marked 45 and 47 offer remarkable views. If you want to check out the beach with your loyal canine companion by your side, feel free to hit up the dog beach at Pier Park. 

Camp Helen State Park

Located a short drive from Panama City Beach, Camp Helen State Park boasts stunning scenery. Simply pay a few dollars for vehicle admission, and you can enjoy a full day of outdoorsy fun, including everything from birdwatching to beachcombing. 

Shell Island

secluded beach on a sunny day with royal blue skies

An essential for any PCB itinerary, this popular destination provides some of the region’s most picturesque views. Since it can only be accessed by boat, you’ll likely need to pay a shuttle or ferry fee. This is worth every penny, however, as it will grant you access to a full day’s worth of beach-based entertainment. 

Panama City Beach Aquatic Center

water park with big red stairs connected to royal blue colored tube water slide and red tube water slide in the distance

Keep the water park experience affordable at PCB’s aquatic center. This destination is particularly cost-effective for families with young children, as toddler time only costs a few dollars. Stop by for open swim, water aerobics, lap swimming, and more. 

Pier Park

lonely street with big colorful orange, green and white buildings with palm trees in front on a sunny day

As the top shopping and entertainment destination in PCB, Pier Park offers plenty of options for either spending a pretty penny or stretching your vacation budget a bit further. If you prefer a frugal experience, simply browse the various stores, keeping an eye out for sales.

Pier Park regularly hosts special events, so stop by during a holiday or festival — you just might get the opportunity to sample beer or local cuisine on the cheap.

Antique Shopping

While you can find plenty of deals on name-brand items at Pier Park, you’ll also want to set aside an afternoon for browsing the gems within PCB’s many antique shops. Favorites include Treasures, Pieces on the Beach, and the Elegant Endeavors Antique Emporium.

Grand Lagoon Waterfront Farmers Market

Whether you’re craving fresh fruit or simply want to kill an hour or two, you’ll love the selection at the Grand Lagoon Waterfront Farmers Market. This year-round market sells everything from produce to baked goods and even goat milk soap. There, you can find a healthy and affordable alternative to eating out, along with a variety of souvenirs that allow you to support the local small business community.

Conservation Park

wooden walking bridge in between big long trees in a park with recreational buildings in the distance on a sunny day

There’s more to PCB than beach scenery, as you’ll discover while hiking through the beautifully-preserved wetlands at Conservation Park. This vast green space provides one of the most peaceful, nature-filled experiences on the Emerald Coast. 

Panama City Beach Winery

white, red, yellow, blue and purple wine with sample glasses in front at Panama City Beach Winery

Complimentary tastings appeal to the frugal wine lovers who visit the Panama City Beach Winery. During your tasting experience, you’ll discover unique varieties that are difficult to find elsewhere, including kiwi, watermelon, and more. Be sure to budget for at least a bottle or two, which should make for the perfect souvenir or gift.

Gayle’s Trails

two men in tight clothes wearing helmets biking on Gayle's Trail

PCB is underrated as a biking destination, but you’ll quickly realize the appeal of traveling on two wheels when you hit up Gayle’s Trails. Popular among local cyclists, these trails remain in development but have made significant progress in the last few years. Free to the public, they encourage you to get plenty of exercise as you bike from one PCB attraction to the next.

Coconut Creek Family Fun Park

adventure mini-golf park with a giant boat in the back and a statue of a giraffe by the water next to the put hole

Home to multiple mini-golf courses and a vast maze, this park can be surprisingly affordable if you opt for the unlimited package. Under this cost-effective approach, you and your loved ones can enjoy multiple days of mini-golf and maze fun. Better yet, young children play for free.

Goofy Golf

giant purple dinosaur statue stomping with long neck and red eyes on the side a small blue house and painted cracks on the floor

Few tourist attractions match the whimsy and historic appeal of Goofy Golf, which has been a PCB mainstay for over sixty years. This memorable destination serves as both a mini-golf course and giant playground — and its entry fee is one of the lowest along the Emerald Coast. 

Pitt and Sylvan Springs

path leading to stairs into clear water oasis in between trees and rocks at Pitt and Sylvan Spring

Swim among the wildlife as you take in the lush scenery at Pitt and Sylvan Springs. The springs are refreshing on a hot day and can be enjoyed while treading water or hanging out in an inner tube. Many visitors also enjoy kayaking here, although, if you don’t already own a kayak, this option can be pricey. Picnics are just as fun, however, so be sure to pack lunch.

Rock’it Lanes

people bowling at Rock'it Lanes with checkered ceilings and purple painted background with bowling balls and pins

Keep the kids entertained for hours at Rock’it Lanes, which combines all the best indoor recreational activities into one easily accessible location. Early bird pricing keeps bowling affordable on weekdays, while all-day roller skating admission limits your need to pay for multiple activities. Stop by the arcade on Tuesdays for half-price games.

Swampy Jack’s Wongo Adventure

man and woman bumper car racing outside on a race track at Swampy Jack's

If you adore theme parks but aren’t willing to pay steep admission fees, give Swampy Jack’s a try instead. It might be small, but what this park lacks in size, it makes up for with sheer spectacle. Admission is free, with a price-per-ride approach making it easier to keep visits affordable. Control costs by sticking to the spinning coaster and the midway games.

From beaches to theme parks and even wineries, you can find plenty to keep you occupied in Panama City Beach, even when you’re short on cash. Don’t let a small budget limit your vacation fun.