Explore the beaches, nature trails, dunes and marshes of St. Andrews State Park, a former military reservation that covers more than 1,200 acres (485.6 hectares). Study marine life on a scuba diving expedition, sunbathe on white sands and go wildlife spotting for alligators, deer and wading birds.
A good place to start your visit is at the Environmental Interpretive Center where you can watch the park orientation video and see ecosystem dioramas. There is also a saltwater aquarium and bird egg and seashell collections.
Then familiarize yourself with the local environs by going on a hike. Two trails snake their way through the park. The Heron Pond Trail passes through a pinewood forest, while the Gator Lake Trail has lakeside views and lots of opportunities to glimpse wildlife. Bring a pair of binoculars with you for close-up views of such animals as herons, ibis and alligators.
With more than 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) of beaches, there are plenty of water-based activities to enjoy, including swimming and surfing. Investigate life under the waves on a scuba diving trip or by snorkeling at the rock jetties. Bring your own equipment or rent some from the park’s concession stores. During the summer season, rent a kayak and paddle around the park's Grand Lagoon or across to Shell Island. At this time of year, sea turtles deposit their eggs here.
Anglers have two fishing jetties and piers to choose from. Catches include mackerel, sea trout, blue fish and flounder. For information about fishing licenses, check out the park's official website.
Consider staying overnight in one of the two campgrounds. These host 176 campsites that include such amenities as water, electricity, picnic tables and bathrooms.
St. Andrews State Park is situated 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) east of Panama City. It is open every day and there is an entrance fee. For non-campers, the park closes at sunset. Among its facilities are a shower station for day bathers, two playgrounds and three picnic areas.