Mexico Beach lies on Florida’s Panhandle, on a rural stretch of coastline southeast of Panama City. It’s close enough to the big city to enjoy an energetic nightlife while being just far enough away that you can revel in solitude. Book a stay at a Mexico Beach vacation rental right on the coast for easy water access, or opt for one further inland where you’re surrounded by rolling farmland. Either way, you have easy access to some of the area’s best attractions. Put these top things to do on your vacation list.

1. Go Snorkeling and Diving

Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the glassy surface of the water, Mexico Beach has more than 125 artificial reefs, making it the perfect place to scuba dive. Explore a spectacular array of sunken ships such as the Empire Mica, a World War II oil tanker. About Fun Charters and Daly’s Dock and Dive Center are both conveniently located near Mexico Beach. About Fun Charters takes snorklers on a three-hour trip to sites lush with marine life. Daly’s Dock and Dive Center offers scuba diving classes, rentals, and charter service to Mexico Beach’s best reefs.

2. Ride Horses on the Beach

Experience the beauty of the beach without worrying about getting sand in your shoes through horseback riding on the beach. Both Broke-a-toe Horseback Riding and Two-bit Stable Horseback Riding take you on jaunts up the beach. Broke-a-toe offers first-time riders a brief horseback riding lesson before taking your group down to the beach for a 55-minute ride. Two-bit Stables also does beach rides and photo packages, so you have pictures to commemorate the day.

3. Go Kayaking

Get up close to the fish with a kayaking tour, self-guided or with a professional service. Barefoot Kayak and Paddle Board provides lesson and rentals for adventurists. Funs and Family Outdoor Adventures offers kayak tours as well as other family-friendly fun from paddle boarding to shelling. Other gear rental agencies from which to choose include San Flea Rentals, Sunshine Watersports PC, and Friends of Camp Helen Kayak Rental.

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4. Go Dolphin Watching

Go dolphin watching on a boat or jet skis, thanks to Flippers Tours. Fit up to three people on a jet ski, the perfect mode of transportation for a small family. If you have a bigger group, opt for the pontoon boat. Plus, Flippers rents out jet skis, boats, and snorkel gear for general use, so you can start all your water adventuring in one place. The company arranges dolphin encounters and Shell Island exploration tours daily. Mexico Beach Dolphin Tours also offers dolphin-watching, lunch and dinner cruises, as well as other sight-seeing.

5. Visit Tommy T’s

If you feel like spending a little time inside — or it’s a rainy day — stop at Tommy T’s, an arcade and gaming center perfect for entertaining the little ones (or yourself). Play a game of pool while the kids do some video gaming. Don’t leave without getting an ice cream cone. Tommy T’s does dipped ice cream in waffle cones.

6. Opt for a Fishing Adventure

While in Rome — or in this case, Mexico Beach — do as the locals and go fishing. Strike Zone Fishing Adventures lives up to its name by offering fishing tours on-board its Cape Horn boat. They have all the gear needed to pull in your haul. KC Sportfishing and Southbound Charter also do fishing tours. The former offers several different fishing options from bottom fishing and long-range game trolling to spearfishing. Southbound Charters also does bottom fishing. Plus, it cleans the fish you do catch, making the night’s meal all the easier.

7. Dine Out

While not feasting on your freshly caught fish, stop at Killer Seafood, Fish House Restaurant, Toucan Restaurant, Mango Marley’s, and Beach Pizza for some good grub. Both Killer Seafood and Fish House Restaurant offer fresh-caught seafood and a view, thanks to their locations on the beach. For a family meal and a more homey feel, try Beach Pizza or Sharon’s Cafe. You can get in and out more quickly for more beach fun.

8. Go Golfing

Golfing is more than just golfing when you’re doing it with the Gulf of Mexico on the horizon. St. Joseph’s Bay Country Club offers mature trees and green fairways with an 18-hole course boasting challenging water hazards. Stop by for a game away from the beach crowds, and grab lunch at the Grab and Go Snack Bar.

9. Browse Shops

Pick up souvenirs for yourself or gifts for others at some of the local shops such as The Grove, Driftwood Inn Gifts, The Shell Shack, and Two Gulls at the Beach. The Grove boasts a quaint beach shack look that carries tons of unique treasures such as model ships, marine-inspired sculptures, and vases. Two Gulls at the Beach has casual beach-themed trinkets to take home. If you want a food souvenir, grab something from Prickly Pears Gourmet Gallery.

10. Look at the History

Finish off your trip with a tour of Bay County Historical Museum and The Chapman House Museum. The Bay County Historical Museum illustrates the history of Bay County with exhibits about the Civil War, early settlers in the area, and clothing worn through the ages. Take in a spinning wheel, and discover how people once wove cloth to make clothing. Stop by some of the Bay County historic sites, such as the Bay County Courthouse, the McKenzie House, Loftin’s Ferry, and St. Andrews Civil War Skirmish Memorial.

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