(Last Updated On: January 16, 2023)

orange sunset over the water at a state park near panama city florida

Containing almost 175 state parks within its borders, Florida is the place to go if you love to explore and play in the great outdoors.

In fact, such is the quality of their state park system, The Sunshine State has been honored with the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence on no less than four separate occasions!

Boasting landscapes that range from the wildest of wetlands and the most pristine of beaches to deep, gaping caverns and rampaging rivers, these state parks provide outstanding opportunities for walking, hiking, fishing, swimming, boating and a range of other outdoor recreational activities.

For residents of Panama City, many of these state parks are easy to get too. So they are great destinations to explore on a day trip, or longer period of vacation.

If you need a break from city life for a while and want to reconnect with nature, there are a wide range of options available to you.

Outlined below is a list of 5 state parks near Panama City we highly recommend you go to.

Map of State Parks Near Panama City FL

Here is a map of the Florida state parks covered in this post:

List of State Parks Near Panama City

The following five state parks near Panama City all provide lucky visitors with spectacular scenery, fantastic options for outdoor recreational activities, and various arrangements for camping. Below you’ll also find their distance from Panama City and what makes each worth a trip.

1. Blackwater River State Park

Blackwater River running through the forest of Milton at Blackwater River State Park


Location: 7720 Deaton Bridge Rd, Holt, FL 32564

Don’t be fooled by its name, the Blackwater River State Park is actually almost a transparent golden brown color when seen against its white sandbars. But if offers a fabulous range of fishing, boating and swimming opportunities for the visitor.

Located a 2 hour drive north west from Panama City, the park features the largest contiguous ecosystem of longleaf pine and wiregrass remaining in the world, which is best explored via canoe or kayak.

It also features several miles of unspoiled forested nature trails that will take you past an impressive terrain of magnolia, Atlantic white cedar and longleaf pine trees.

The campground here has 30 sites that has either a 20,30 or 50 amp electric service. They range from sunny to fully shaded and also come with potable water connections, RV sewer hookups and a well-maintained restroom with showers.

2. Big Lagoon State Park

walkway and pavilion at Big Lagoon State Park


Location: 12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507

Lying a 2 hour and 50 minute drive east of Panama City, the Big Lagoon State Park is considered the gateway to a fantastic 1,515-mile sea kayaking journey along the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail which will take you around the entire state.

The perfect environment for boating, fishing, canoeing, hiking and paddling, the park boasts a diverse range of natural communities that range from stately rows of pine flatwoods to lush saltwater tides.

It is also home to a number of bird species which are particularly prevalent during the spring and fall migrations. These include over 23 species of wood-warbler, as well as numerous sandpipers, ducks and black-bellied plovers.

With 75 sites available there is plenty of room for campers. Each site is equipped with 30 to 50 amp electricity, while there is also three full-service restrooms, as well as a dump station onsite too.

The park is also a notable spot for stargazing, with a number of programs offered all year round.

3.Lafayette Blue Springs State Park

Location: 799 Blue Springs Rd, Mayo, FL 32066

Offering you the opportunity to paddle around in the first-magnitude spring, the 3 hour drive west to Lafayette Blue Springs State Park is definitely worth it.

Centered around the mighty Suwannee River, the park is a haven for those who enjoy canoeing, kayaking and fishing, while those who regularly partake in scuba diving will be intrigued by the Green Sink Cave System which contains more than 12,000 feet of underwater passageways.

Camping options here are limited to tent-only sites, as well as a river camp for paddlers and a primitive youth camp. However with numerous other opportunities for hiking and biking, as well as wildlife viewing and swimming, there will be plenty to occupy your time during the day.

4. Fanning Springs State Park

People swimming in the spring at Fanning Springs State Park


Location: 18020 Northwest, US-19, Fanning Springs, FL 32693

The Fanning Springs State Park is another state park that is centered along the winding Suwannee River.

A 3 hour and 30 minute drive west from Panama City, the springs here produce over 65 million gallons of water every day. Which makes it a second-magnitude spring.

Comprising of clear, cool and very refreshing water, it is a very popular destination for those into swimming and paddling as the temperature is a perfect 72-degrees.

The spring also provides fantastic opportunities for fishing for the likes of bass, mullet and freshwater flounder.

A lovely spot for picnics, there are a number of BBQ grills available for visitors to use too. The park also has a volleyball court on the sand, as well as a playground for kids and lovely boardwalk through cypress swamp to stroll on as well.

Primitive camping is available for eight people here who are arriving by foot, bicycle, or alternatively paddling in on the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail. The site has no electricity, but it does have an open, cold-water shower.

5. Tomoka State Park

large tree at Tomoka State Park


Location: 2099 N Beach St, Ormond Beach, FL 32174

Although it will take you over 5 hours to drive southwest to Tomoka State Park, the distance is well worth covering, especially if you love bird watching or fishing.

Home to over 160 species of birds, many of which can be spotted through a picturesque half-mile nature trail that guides you through a hardwood hammock, there are also more than 90 different species of fish you can catch too, including the common snook, sheepshead, tarpon and red drum.

In addition the park also provides you with numerous hiking and biking trails as well as plenty of kayaking, canoeing, paddling and boating options.

For overnight stays there are 100 campsites available, each of which come with an electric hook-up, as well as three restrooms with hot showers.