Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico in an area of northwest Florida called the “Forgotten Coast” lies the quaint, panhandle beach town of Mexico Beach. This picturesque town was decimated by Hurricane Michael in 2018, but it is poised to make a roaring comeback. If you’re looking for a Gulf Coast getaway that is relaxing and scenic, Mexico Beach is the place for you.
This post is sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA.
Fun Things to Do in Mexico Beach, Florida
I was first introduced to Mexico Beach, Florida 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 feel.
It’s not often you find at 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.
Unlike some of the more popular Florida beaches, Mexico Beach remains fairly unknown to the rowdy, party-loving beach crowd, and the locals would like to keep it that way.
You’re liable 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 themselves have recovered, and they are perfect for shelling, snorkeling and other outdoor activities.
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, but are more of the recreational mindset, fishing on a license-free day allows 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.
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 blown away 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. So far, there have not been any announcements about rebuilding the iconic, beach front restaurant.
If you need a break from seafood, check out Crazy Beach Pizza, close to 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 “mall” to speak of, there is still plenty of retail therapy to be had in Mexico Beach. New shops have sprung up in place of the ones affected by the 2018 hurricane.
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!
Mexico Beach Events
Even in a smaller 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 choosing dates for your trip.
Things to Do Near Mexico Beach
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!