If the beach calls you each day as you’re stuck at your desk at work, it might be time to plan a beach vacation with your family, where you can recharge your batteries and reconnect with your family. This year, why not spend your time at Mexico Beach? This beach is in northwestern Florida on the panhandle with condos overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Panhandle offers a variety of family-friendly beach communities where you can kick back and work on your tan. Here are the best communities to find a vacation rental.

1. Mexico Beach

scuba diver underwater

Surprise your family with a condo on the beach or a family home with attached pool a couple of blocks from the beach in Mexico Beach. Spend your days collecting shells, biking, jet skiing, and boating or take the kids out on Mexico Beach Pier to cast their lines and see who catches the biggest fish. If you are dive certified, the Vamar Shipwreck Site is a popular destination for the underwater crowd to explore and check out the colorful underwater world.

2. Port St. Joe

standing seagulls

Travel south-east to the spot where U.S. Highway 98 and State Road 71 meet in the coastal community of Port St. Joe. While the town itself sits on the Bay, you can travel out to the T.H. Stone Memorial St Joseph Peninsula State Park to enjoy white sandy beaches and sand dunes. Don’t forget your binoculars because this is a popular location for bird watchers. Divers enjoy exploring the underwater world of St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve with its protected sea creatures and beauty.

3. Apalachicola

grasses on the sand dune

A little further southeast of Mexico Beach sits the community of Apalachicola on the Apalachicola Bay. Most of the bay is part of a protected reserve so you and your family can enjoy the natural beauty. Spend your days fishing, boating, or taking an ecotour. Rent a boat for you and the family with a picnic lunch from your vacation rental and spend a day at St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. It’s only accessible by boat but once you arrive it’s worth the effort. The reserve teems with birds and unique flora and fauna that you can find as you explore the sand dunes.

4. Upper Grand Lagoon

jet boat

Drive northwest up Highway 98 to the community of Upper Grand Lagoon to find a vacation rental on Saint Andrew Bay for a vacation filled with boating, kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. Wake up each morning and head over to Andy’s Flour Power, a local diner, to get your day started with a hearty meal or choose Fatty Patty’s Cakes and Cafe. While this is a low-key community, it’s just a short drive to Panama City Beach for a day of amusement parks and shopping.

5. Lower Grand Lagoon

parked boats
Source: Flickr / NatalieMaynor

Drive across the bay and look for a home away from home in Lower Grand Lagoon with Saint Andrew Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Choose a spot closer to the bay or the gulf depending on your preference. No matter where you rent, you can enjoy days filled with boating, parasailing, swimming, kayaking, and getting to know your family again. For shopping, take the car over to Panama City or go golfing at one of the local golf courses.

6. Panama City Beach

water slide

If you and your family love to be in the center of all the fun, then choose a condo on the beach with a view of the Gulf of Mexico. Spend your days walking on the beach or seek fresh water at Shipwreck Island Waterpark with its thrilling water slides. At Gulf World Marine Park, you and your children can swim with the dolphins and get the opportunity to touch and feed them. Although the college students take over the area for spring break, the rest of the year, this area caters to family fun.

7. Pier Park Area

shopping mall seats

Who says you can’t indulge in a little shopping while on a beach vacation? Not us, so we choose the Pier Park area as a hot spot. This area has an outlet mall where you can save big and walk away with all your favorite brands. If you don’t find the perfect item there, then stop by one of the department stores in Pier Park. Stop at a coffee shop for an afternoon pick me up or have dinner at one of the chain restaurants.

8. Laguna Beach

parasailing adventure

Drive west from Mexico Beach and Panama City Beach with the Gulf of Mexico peeking out from between the condos along the roadway to the family-orientated town of Laguna Beach for a relaxing vacation away from the crowds. Spend your days canoeing, kayaking, dolphin watching, parasailing, and swimming. For something a little different, take the family to Coconut Creek Family Fun Park for the chance to get lost in the Gran Maze or to the local Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

9. Sunnyside

tall grasses at the beach shore

In Sunnyside, condos aren’t visible but in their place are family homes dotting the beach to rent and spread out inside of with a large family. You and your family will enjoy the slower pace of life in the beach town. When you’re ready for some fresh water, check out Camp Helen State Park. This nature area offers sand dunes that surround a freshwater lake, where you and the family can fish, swim, and enjoy a picnic lunch.

10. Rosemary Beach

golf balls

Enjoy the benefits of a planned community when you choose a vacation rental in Rosemary Beach to the northwest of Mexico Beach. Here, you find condos, family homes, community pools, walking and biking paths, shopping, and everything you need to make the most of your trip. Hop in the car and drive over to Hombre Golf Club with its 18 holes to practice your game.