Panama City Beach Gay Travel
Panama City Beach gay travel advice for where to stay, things to do, gay bars & restaurants.
The Gay Travel Experience: Panama City Beach, Florida
For a relatively small city in the United States, Panama City Beach has a pretty big gay population! There are a few popular gay bars that are even quite full during the winter. The Panama City Beach gay scene is definitely larger in comparison to other beach destinations in the Southern United States like Myrtle Beach.
Panama City Beach is well-known as a spring break destination for many Americans, especially those who live in the south. Panama City is a largely a seasonal tourist destination, with most visitors spending summers here.
I got to know several gay locals in Panama City Beach, and they all definitely have that Southern charm. They were friendly, welcoming and eager to get gay travelers like myself.
In addition to some of the places I visited in Panama City, I’ll also mention some of their recommendations for restaurants and things to do.
Gay Panama City Beach: Where to Stay
Choosing a place to stay in Panama City is fairly easy. As a destination that caters to tourists, there are so many options, too.
The Grand Lagoon area is where you’ll find most of the tourist action. Hotels, bars and restaurants line the shore as well as the main drag of Thomas Drive.
Grand Lagoon Airbnb rentals offer the most space. They’re relatively inexpensive, too. Plus, if you choose a property along the shore, access to pools and hot tubs is commonly included.
Hotels and residences in the Panama City Beach area were heavily damaged by hurricanes in recent years, specifically Hurricane Sally in 2020. With this in mind, be extra judicious while browsing places to stay.
Regardless of whether you choose a hotel or homestay, make sure to check recent reviews, check with the management about possible work happening during your visit and ask for updated photos.
Panama City Beach Gay Travel Experiences
You can’t miss out on some classic mini golf while visiting the state of Florida. With two friends, I spent an afternoon playing at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, which is a pretty fantastic mini golf course. Trust me, I played a ton of mini golf as a kid! There are two separate courses, one being a little more challenging.
Long walks along the shore are lovely year-round. My friends and I always made a point to embrace the lovely sound of crashing waves while walking the beaches before sunset.
St Andrew’s State Park is a gorgeous place to visit along the southern border of Panama City Beach, popular for snorkeling and and beautiful white sand. Take a stroll along the gorgeous St. Andrews Park Pier and keep an eye out for dolphins.
Just across the bay, Shell Island is a popular longer excursion from the main Panama City Beach area. Both locals and tourists frequent this long expanse of undeveloped land, including my gay local friend Isaac who I met while visiting.
Restaurants in Panama City Beach
For a healthy breakfast, smoothie or delicious iced coffee, Finns Barista Bar & Snack Shack is definitely worth a visit. Their breakfast bowls are honestly some of the best I’ve ever had. They have such a charming coffee house vibe and kindhearted staff.
Embrace wing culture of the South with a dinner at Barracuda. They’re a beach-shack themed bar and grill in the Holiday Beach neighborhood. They’ve often got live music.
Firefly is one of the most upscale restaurants in Panama City. They’re a seafood restaurant with a classic feel located in the Shoppes at Edgewater. I didn’t get a chance to visit this spot, but LGBT locals mentioned it’s fantastic.
The Wicked Wheel serves some delicious brisket and other southern comfort foods. The motorcycle theme might seem a little cheesy to you, but I bet their $3 dollar 32-ounce margaritas and “gasoline tea” might just influence you to stop by.
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Panama City Beach Gay Bars
Splash Bar is the most popular Panama City Beach gay bar, and I had a blast! The popular music, the drag performances and the indoor-outdoor vibe makes Splash really stand out.
The crowd at Splash Bar seemed to be mostly LGBT patrons, but some straight locals tend to join as well. I met a Panama City gay local here, who introduced me to a couple of his straight guy friends.
Ms. Newby’s is second Panama City Beach gay nightlife option. It’s not an official gay bar, but all the drag queens and locals come here after the crowd at Splash Bar starts to dwindle. They’re known for their Hunch Punch. It’s pretty lethal!
The strange thing though, is that Ms. Newby’s is technically a liquor store. It’s a two-story liquor store and bar with a roof deck. Toward the end of the night, they close the roof and funnel everyone downstairs into the actual liquor store area.
Don’t get the Ms. Newby’s gay bar mixed up with the confusingly named “Newby’s Too” location. They have the same owner but are different places!
Panama City Beach Travel Tips
Getting an Uber or Lyft might be a little difficult if you’re out partying on the main drag in the evenings. Several Uber drivers mentioned to me in conversation that they specifically avoid working when people are known to be out partying, in an effort to avoid picking up drunk passengers.
Keep the local “Beach Boys” Panama City Beach taxi company handy if you find yourself unable to get a ride with a ride sharing app.
The airport isn’t too close to the main area of Panama City Beach, so consider the roughly 30-minute drive if you’ll be arriving by plane.
While there is certainly a year-round population, many outdoor restaurants and attractions close for the off-season, November to March. I visited in February, and while many things were noticeably closed, it didn’t present much of a problem for me. I was still able to enjoy Panama City’s gay bars and play mini golf!
Florida Gay Rights
Florida is one of the few states in the southeastern U.S. that has made some basic progress related to antidiscrimination laws that help the LGBT community.
While the facts are a bit complicated, Florida essentially has interpreted some more general nondiscrimination laws to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. These are merely interpretations though—explicit LGBT nondiscrimination laws do not exist.
As a Panama City Beach gay traveler, I wouldn’t stress over going about typical tourist activities. People in the southern United States are known to be polite and gentile. Nonetheless, I recommend you always be cognizant of what you say and the way you present yourself, especially in intimate situations.