Cooling Off in the Florida Panhandle

Whether you are visiting Pensacola, Panama City Beach, or Destin, you will likely feel the “gift” of the Florida Panhandle heat and humidity.  On even the mildest summer days, you can walk outside and feel like you just stepped into a steam room. The best way to beat the heat is to find a cool water feature.  The Florida Panhandle may be synonymous with sandy white beaches, but the beaches aren’t the only way to cool off on those sweltering summer days!

Rivers and Lakes

Falling Waters State Park (Chipley, Florida) – Falling Waters State Park boasts Florida’s tallest waterfall…even if it is just a little trickle most of the year!  Camp under the trees, walk up and down the boardwalks to view the waterfall and the sinkholes, and then go swimming in the two-acre lake.

Blackwater River State Park (Holt, Florida) – We love tubing down Blackwater River on a hot summer day.  There are several companies that will rent you an inner tube and bus you up to the starting point.  Hop in your tube and drag your cooler along with you.  When you float by the perfect spot, beach your tube and enjoy a picnic lunch.  When you are ready, float down the river to your car!  If tubing isn’t for you, there are also canoes and kayaks available for rent.

Blue Springs Recreational Area (Marianna, Florida) – This recreational area has playgrounds, crystal clear springs for swimming, and for the really adventurous there is even an opportunity for cave diving!

Ponce De Leon Springs State Park (Ponce de Leon, Florida) – The springs were named after Ponce de Leon, the famous explorer looking for the fountain of youth.  The springs stay a perfect 68 degrees year round and are a beautiful turquoise color.

Krul Lake Recreation Area (Munson, Florida) – Spend the day playing in this 6.5 acre manmade lake that is recharged from springs nearby.  The first half mile of the Sweetwater hiking trail includes a suspension bridge over Sweetwater Creek.

Water Parks

water parks florida panhandle

Sam’s Surf City (Pensacola, Florida) – Sam’s is a small water park that everyone in the family can enjoy but I particularly love the activities available for the 3 – 7 year old crowd.  There is a Junior Activity Pool with slides perfect for children that are at least five years old.  We spend a lot of time at the Kiddie Pool where the toddlers can splash and slide. There are also larger water slides (you must be at least 7 years old and 42”) and a lazy river.

Big Kahuna’s (Destin, Florida) – The kids will love playing in the Fun Fountains, Pleasure Island pools, the shipwreck and Crocodile Flats.  The tweens, teens and adults won’t be able to get enough of the tube slides, river runs, and speed slides.  This park is located right across the street from the sparkling blue ocean so when you are finished playing take a walk on the beach and watch the sunset!

Shipwreck Island Waterpark(Destin, Florida) – If you can drag the kids away from the Ocean Motion Wave Pool, there are so many slides and pools to explore at Shipwreck.  We spent most of the day at Tadpole Hole where the kids explored the submarine and chased each other around the shallow water.

Splash Pads

splash pads florida panhandle

Plaza de Luna (Pensacola, Florida) – This beautiful splash pad is located right on the water.  It is great for the kids to run around.  There is a large grassy field to play on and when you are all tuckered out, stop by the concession stand and get an ice cream or a tasty po’ boy!  On Thursday nights during the summer, hear live music and meet cool characters at Sunsets at the Plaza.

Destin Commons (Destin, Florida) – This outdoor shopping mall has enough stores to keep any shopping mom or dad happy.  When you are finished with your shopping, take the kids to the large splash pad and let them run around.  There is also a small playground next to the splash pad.

John Duncan Memorial Children’s Park (Navarre, Florida) – Splash in the fountains, play on the gigantic playground, say hi to the ducks or have a picnic lunch.  There is so much to do at this park that you could find yourself spending the greater part of a day here.

Jennifer Close loves to explore and take new adventures with her family down the street, across the country and around the world.She writes about her adventures on her family travel blog, Two Kids and a Map, and writes about exploring Pensacola at Pensacola with Kids.

Images Courtesy of Trekaroo and Destin Commons



About the author

Jennifer Close has been a Trekaroo Superoo since 2010. She loves to travel with her two children and blogs about her adventures at Two Kids and a Map and Pensacola with Kids.
5 Responses
  1. Shawn

    Ponce De Leon, Blackwater River, and Krul lake are all great places to cool off. We just recently visited Ponce De Leon State Park. Very nice be can be a bit crowded on the weekend. We spend a lot of time on Blackwater River. Very nice with lots of sandy beaches along the river.

  2. Gear Knobs

    when i was a kid, i really enjoyed going up and down on water slides, it is a very enjoyable experience ,,-

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