Escape the Crowds: Fun Things to Do in Mexico Beach, Florida’s Hidden Gem for Family Fun

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Another thing to do in Mexico Beach, FL is enjoy the unobstructed views of the beach.
White sand beaches are uncrowded in Mexico Beach, Florida. Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Nestled along the Gulf Coast, Mexico Beach is a quaint, picturesque town with plenty of fun to be had. Best part, none of the  rowdiness of the more popular beach towns. Between the delicious local eateries, family-friendly beach parties, fishing tournaments and music festivals, Mexico Beach is the go-to place for an eventful yet relaxing Florida vacation.

I was first introduced to Mexico Beach about 15 years ago and it was love at first sight. Growing up in the southeastern United States, I was immediately taken by the town’s charm and nostalgic ambiance. Located at the very tip of Bay County, Mexico Beach is located just past Florida’s Emerald Coast about 30 minutes from Panama City.

It’s not often you find a beach town without any high-rise condos, chain restaurants or large-scale shopping malls. The folks are friendly and the white sand beaches are clean and plentiful.

Here are a few ways you, too, can enjoy one of my favorite Florida cities on the Forgotten Coast. It’s a particularly nice way to end a Disney World vacation on a restful note if you’re driving home from Orlando.

One of the best things to do in Mexico Beach, FL is enjoy the sunset.
Enjoy gorgeous sunsets in Mexico Beach, Florida. Photo credit: Sarah Gilliland

The Beach

Unlike some of the more popular Florida beaches, Mexico Beach remains fairly unknown to the rowdy, party-loving beach crowd. The locals would like to keep it that way. This quiet spot on the Gulf of Mexico is sometimes referred to as “Mayberry on the Water”.

You’re likely to find more families with young children or empty nesters than any other demographic. With more than five miles of white sand shores, early rising to stake your claim on prime land is completely unnecessary.

Although a devastating hurricane swept through in 2018, the beaches have recovered and they are perfect for shelling, snorkeling and other outdoor activities.

Read More: Fun things to do in Panama City Beach Florida, just 30 miles away from Mexico Beach.

Fishing on the Gulf Coast

Mexico Beach and the neighboring town of Port St. Joe have fishing charters that offer opportunities for inshore or offshore trips, most of which include gear and a fishing license.

There are also opportunities to fish on “license-free” days. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at fishing, these license-free days allow you to “try before you buy.”

Here’s when you can fish license-free:

  • First consecutive Saturday and Sunday in June
  • First Saturday in September
  • Saturday following Thanksgiving

The saltwater waiver applies to any recreational harvest requiring a saltwater fishing license (e.g., crabbing, lobstering, scalloping, etc.) as well as fishing from shore or a boat.

Killer Seafood Logo
A Mexico Beach staple, Killer Seafood has some of the best fish tacos. Photo: Sarah Gilliland

Where to Eat in Mexico Beach

All of the restaurants are locally owned and operated. You won’t find a chain restaurant anywhere in Mexico Beach.

Killer Seafood has some of the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten. Unfortunately, like many establishments in Mexico Beach, its building was destroyed during Hurricane Michael. Now, Killer Seafood operates out of a food truck.

Mango Marley’s building survived the hurricane and the restaurant is open for business. Don’t miss the specialty drink, the Watermelon Margarita, or the delicious burgers.

A family favorite restaurant, Toucan’s, was completely decimated by Hurricane Michael. In late 2022, the owners announced on their Facebook page that they would break ground on a new building for the restaurant.

If you need a break from seafood, check out Crazy Beach Pizza, near the entrance of town on Hwy 98. The calzones are some of the best I’ve ever had.

Shopping in Mexico Beach

While there is no shopping mall to speak of, retail therapy is still available in Mexico Beach. New shops have sprung up in place of the ones affected by the 2018 hurricane.

For visitors who are looking to find unique gifts outside of the typical vacation souvenirs, Cloud Nine Creations specializes in stained glass and mosaic art. Seagreen Salvage & Co. has new and salvaged home décor, accent furniture, and gifts. Shell Shack of Mexico Beach offers seafood and an assortment of novelty gifts such as T-shirts and souvenirs.

Finally, Mexico Beach Marina is back open for business. Planning on boating or fishing on your beach vacation? You’ll need to make a stop at Mexico Beach Marina for all your fuel and gear needs. The marina also rents kayaks if you’re feeling adventurous!

Nearby town Port Saint Joe offers a Scallop and Music festival every year.
Near town, the annual Port Saint Joe Scallop and Music Festival is worth a visit. Photo credit: Sarah Gilliland

Mexico Beach Florida Events

Even in a small town, there are likely to be several events going on throughout the year for you to enjoy, and my family has been lucky enough to catch a few of these events in action. Blast on the Beach is Mexico Beach’s annual 4th of July celebration, complete with fireworks and an early morning 5k.

The annual Port Saint Joe Scallop and Music Festival comes around each September and the last time we attended the festival there was live music and food trucks galore.

If you’re in town during one of the many fishing tournaments, you can catch all the action down at the docks, even if you choose not to participate in the fishing yourself.

There really is something for everyone, so be sure to check the Mexico Beach calendar of events when planning your trip.

Things to Do Near Mexico Beach Florida

At some point in your visit, you might be feeling a little stir crazy and want to get out of town. The good news is that Mexico Beach is within driving distance of several other great northwest Florida vacation spots.

Drive east to Cape San Blas and visit the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park or Gulf County’s Salinas Park. Cape San Blas is one of the few beaches in Florida that allows horseback riding directly on the beach. Broke-A-Toe, one of the horse riding companies in Cape San Blas, offers a variety of riding options including one-hour, 1.5 hour and sunset rides that vary from $50-$80 depending on the length of the ride and the season.

If you drive west, you’ll find lots of fun things to do in Panama City Beach or Destin. You can experience all the great things those towns have to offer like go-karts, mini-golf, movie theaters, and, of course, premiere outlet mall shopping!

Places to Stay in Mexico Beach, Florida

One of the tricky parts about staying in small towns is finding the right vacation rental. Small towns can mean limited real estate and beach properties for rentals. Don’t worry though – Mexico Beach has some great options both beachfront and in town ranging from single family homes to townhouses and condos. Rentals can be found on both ends of Mexico Beach running from Crooked Island Beach down to St. Joe Beach.

To find vacation rentals and hotels near Mexico Beach, Florida, use this interactive map.

Sarah Gilliland is a mom to fraternal twin girls and a baby boy, lover of road trips big and small, and a passionate SEC football fan (War Eagle!). Although her father’s military service took her all over the world as a child, Sarah’s family now calls Birmingham, Alabama home. Sarah happily shares the ups and downs of her parenting journey at On the Road with Sarah. When she’s not writing or traveling, Sarah is digging deep into a good book, binging on Netflix, or planning other people’s vacations.
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2 responses

  1. Appreciate your straightforward topics—-really helps consider if this is a fit for my family.

  2. 4.5

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