The website Booking.com has discovered that an amazing 86% of travelers report that they are interested in somehow offsetting the environmental impact of their travel in some way. Even if that just means saving the turtles by eschewing the use of plastic straws, y’all are some seriously thoughtful people if you really want to do some good while you have some fun. Popular Florida vacation destination Panama City Beach has jumped on the ecologically thoughtful travel bandwagon by suggesting some fun alternative options they call “voluntourism.”
If you’re planning a late-summer or fall vacation, consider some of these ways to help minimize the impact of your travels while still having a great time in this fun coastal region. They suggest staying in earth-friendly lodging options like the Sheraton Golf & Spa Resort or the Wyndham-Emerald Beach Resort, both of which have been certified by the Florida Green Lodging Program which highlights lodging partners that have voluntarily committed to conserving and protecting the destination’s natural resources, implementing environmental practices like water conservation and recycling to energy efficiency and indoor air quality.
Or you could really get back to nature by camping in one of the 176 campsites to choose from at St. Andrews State Park. Each site offers electricity, water, picnic tables and grills, accommodating both tents and RVs up to 40 feet in length. The park also has a “primitive” camping area equipped with water, a portable toilet, fire ring, and picnic tables for scouts, faith-based groups, and other small, non-profit organized groups.
Once you’ve made the choice of where to stay, Panama City Beach offers a multitude of activities that are both enjoyable and good for the planet. Many of them are family-friendly so you can teach the next generation about the environment while you strive to leave the world a little better than you found it. Here are their suggestions for things you can do to help preserve the beautiful environment of the Emerald Coast so that it will be there for you to return to in the future:
VOLUNTOURISM & ECOADVENTURE
Deep Dive into the “Wreck Diving Capital of the South”:
Known for some of the best shipwreck diving on the Gulf Coast, Panama City Beach is the premier diving destination for both beginner and advanced divers. Become scuba certified with Dive Locker and discover hidden, underwater treasures, including the destination’s newest artificial reef, the former El Dorado Cruise Liner. Sunk by the Bay County Artificial Reef Association, an organization dedicated to the creation and conservation of the surrounding area’s artificial reefs and fishing habitats, the El Dorado is the latest effort to restore damaged reefs from Hurricane Michael. The organization is also currently seeking donations for the establishment of the Glenn and Bubba Cooper Memorial Reef. To donate, click here or for more information on epic diving adventures in Panama City Beach, click here.
Participate in “International Coastal Cleanup Day”- September 21, 2019:
Participate in the Ocean Conservancy’s seventh annual International Coastal Cleanup Day at Camp Helen State Park on September 21. Sponsored in coordination with the Lake Powell Community Alliance, this special event has led to the removal of over 20,000 pounds of trash from Lake Powell and its watershed. Participants can even bring their own boat, canoe, kayak or paddleboard and join the armada of cleanup crews. Supplies including vinyl gloves, garbage bags, data cards, coffee, donuts and water will be provided. For more information or to sign up, click here.
Adopt a Sea Turtle with Gulf World Marine Park:
Gulf World Marine Park is the perfect place for the entire family, featuring daily interactive shows with dolphins, sea lions, reptiles and tropical birds. Over the years, the marine park has matured into one of Panama City Beach’s jewels for its charismatic trainers and commitment to rehabilitating local marine life on-site. For those looking for ways to give back while on vacation, consider adopting a sea turtle and helping to aid and support the treatment of current and future sea turtle patients. For more information on Gulf World Marine Park’s Adopt a Sea Turtle program, click here.
Biking, Hiking and Walking Trails:
Explore the 3,000-acre Conservation Park, offering 12 looping trails ranging from 0.6 to 11 miles long for walking, biking, hiking and wildlife/bird watching. St. Andrews State Park, consistently one of the most popular and most visited state parks in Florida, offers guests the chance to walk, hike or bike and see an amazing variety of wildlife, from migratory birds to deer to even alligators. One of Panama City Beach’s newest trail systems, Gayle’s Trails, is also growing to span the entire island of Panama City Beach, so far connecting Frank Brown Park to Conservation Park. For more information on Panama City Beach’s parks, click here.
Located just across the pass from St. Andrews State Park, Shell Island is an undeveloped seven-mile island of white sand, emerald water and beautiful pine forest. It’s perfect for a picnic, walk on the beach or snorkeling adventure. Sightseeing trips, private charters, boat rentals and an hourly shuttle service make the barrier island accessible to those who want to get away from it all. The waters between the island and the mainland also happen to be home to one of the world’s highest concentrations of bottle-nose dolphins – a breathtaking sight to experience both from the water and onshore. For more information, click here.
If boats aren’t for you, try your hand at paddleboarding through Panama City Beach’s protected and open waters like the Grand Lagoon, St. Andrews Bay and various cold springs, rivers and lakes in the region. Calmer waters make for a relaxed experience and a chance to paddle above rays, fish, sea turtles and other wildlife beneath the water’s surface. Rent equipment from The Boardroom or if you’re feeling especially brave, visit Yoga Elements to try paddleboard yoga. For more information on paddleboarding in Panama City Beach, click here.