I grew up in Alabama, so the beaches of the Florida panhandle were a favorite travel destination for my family. The fine white sand along the Gulf Coast makes for some of the most beautiful and cleanest beaches in the world, but the area also has lots to offer family travelers beyond a day of sunbathing and sand castle building.
The big beach towns of Destin, Pensacola, and Panama City are perhaps the most well known. But the best Florida panhandle travel experiences can sometimes be found in the less trafficked areas.
Gulf County, Florida – just east of the hustle and bustle of the Panama City area – offers a real such alternative Florida panhandle escape. The county has made a concerted effort not to overbuild, preserving its natural beauty and a quieter pace of life for locals and visitors alike. Best of all – there’s lots to do in Gulf County, especially for families like mine who love the outdoors, nature, and a few adventures with kids along the way.
Gulf County revolves around water, particularly the interconnected waterways of the Gulf of Mexico, St. Joseph Bay, Indian Pass Lagoon, the Gulf County Canal, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Apalachicola Bay. The area also has two freshwater bodies of water: the Dead Lakes and the Chipola River. All this water means easy access to kayaking, fishing, snorkeling, diving, paddleboarding, ecotouring, boating and more.
In addition, the mild weather makes is an excellent travel destination year-round. Peak travel season in Gulf County is actually September to May – not the summer!
Gulf County Family Adventures & Activities
If you’re planning a family vacation to Gulf County, here are a few family-friendly activities to consider that my family is eyeing for our next trip:
Diving and Snorkeling
The warm gulf water makes for a pleasant experience for families who want to see sea life up close on a diving adventure. My husband and are are SCUBA-certified, so adding a dive to our trips is usually a must-do. If we are bringing our 7 year old daughter along, snorkeling is great alternative we can all do together!
Horseback Riding on the Beach
The unspoiled beaches of Gulf County look like the perfect place for a family ride. Local company broke-a-toe has been taking Gulf County visitors on rides there for over two decades. It’s an activity that is offered year-round, so you can participate no matter what time of year works best for a family trip.
Hunt for Turtles
Gulf County is home to a large loggerhead turtle population, particularly around the Cape San Blas area. Nesting season runs from the spring to the fall and guides from the Florida Coastal Conservancy (an organization that works to protect nesting sites) can take families to view some of these nests in a responsible and eco-friendly way. I know my 7 year old budding naturalist would love the chance to see turtles up close and personal on our next visit.
$50 Gift Card Giveaway from Gulf County!
Gulf County is also sponsoring a giveaway for Trips With Tykes readers – a $50 Amex Gift Card! To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment below answering this question:
- Which of the adventures in the Adventure Guide would you/your family enjoy taking part in? And why?
Plus, visit the Gulf County Never Have I Ever Contest page to enter to win a week-long getaway to Gulf County, FL!
Contest Rules & Fine Print:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. A PURCHASE OR PAYMENT OF ANY KIND WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. One winner, chosen at random from all eligible entries received, will receive a $50 AmEx gift card, and will be announced on or about 10 days after end of entry period. Entrants may enter within 21 days of this post going live. Must be a resident of one of the 48 contiguous United States (excl. PR, HI, AK) the age of majority in his or her jurisdiction at time of entry. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Sweepstakes is sponsored by Gulf County.