A variety of rental boats are available at some of the marinas near the Thomas Drive bridge over Grand Lagoon. These include the Captain Davis Queen Fleet, based at Captain Anderson's Marina, 5500 N. Lagoon Dr. (tel. 800/874-2415 or 850/234-3435), and the Shell Island Boat Rentals at Treasure Island Marina, 3605 Thomas Dr. (tel. 850/234-7245; www.shellislandtours.com), which also rents WaveRunners, jet boats, inflatables, and other equipment.
The least expensive way to try your luck is with Captain Anderson's Deep Sea Fishing, at Captain Anderson's Marina, Thomas Drive at Grand Lagoon (tel. 800/874-2415 or 850/234-5940; www.captandersonsmarina.com). The captain's party-boat trips last 5 to 6 hours, with prices ranging from $50 to $90 per person, including bait and tackle. Observers can go along for $25 to $40.
The more expensive charter-fishing boats depart daily from March to November from the marinas mentioned in "Boating," above.
You definitely won't get seasick casting your line from two recently revamped boardwalks at the County Pier, 12213 Front Beach Rd. (tel. 850/233-3039), or the Russell Fields Pier, 16101 Front Beach Rd. (tel. 850/233-5080).
At Bay Point Marriott Golf Resort & Spa, the Bay Point Marriott Golf Club, 3900 Marriott Dr., off Jan Cooley Road (tel. 850/235-6950; www.baypointgolf.com), offers 36 holes of championship play, including the Jack Nicklaus-designed course the Nicklaus Course ★★, rated one of the country's most difficult -- and scenic. Hole No. 17 features a green design reminiscent of a fishbowl, where the green is actually recessed below the surrounding landscape, creating a challenging semiblind shot. The signature hole, No. 5, offers panoramic views of the Grand Lagoon and St. Andrews Bay. Both this course and the Club Meadows course have clubhouses, putting greens, driving ranges, clinics, and private instruction. Greens fees with cart start at about $99 in summer and $49 in winter, depending on the time and day of the week.
The Edgewater Beach Resort, 11212 U.S. 98A (tel. 850/235-4044; www.resortspcbeach.com), also has a 9-hole resort course, and its guests have access to the Hombre, 120 Coyote Pass, 3 miles west of the Hathaway Bridge off Panama City Beach Parkway/U.S. 98 (tel. 850/234-3573; www.hombregolfclub.com), a par-72 championship course that's a PGA Tour Qualifying School site. Also, 15 of its 18 holes have water hazards (the 7th hole sits on an island). Greens fees are about $39 to $69 with cart.
The course at the semiprivate Holiday Golf Club, 100 Fairway Blvd. (tel. 850/234-1800; www.holidaygolfclub.com), sports lake-lined fairways and elevated greens. Greens fees with cart are about $25 to $65. You can play at night on a lighted 9-hole, par-29 executive course.
The cheapest place to play here is the flat and forgiving Signal Hill, 9516 N. Thomas Dr. (tel. 850/234-3218; www.signalhillgolfcourse.com), where you'll pay about $20 to $30 with cart, rates subject to change seasonally.
For course information, go to www.golf.com or www.floridagolfing.com, or call the Florida Sports Foundation (tel. 850/488-8347) or Florida Golfing (tel. 866/833-2663).
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling
Although the area is too far north for extensive coral formations, more than 50 artificial reefs and shipwrecks in the Gulf waters off Panama City attract a wide variety of sea life. The marine institute has sent ships, navy scrap metal, pontoons, towers, bridge spans, tanks, hovercraft, and even a Quonset hut to the bottom of the Gulf since the 1970s. Perhaps the most famous wreck is the Empire Mica, a British tanker that was torpedoed by a German U-boat in 1942. It now rests 20 miles off Cape San Blas. The largest local operator is Dive Locker, 106 Thomas Dr. (tel. 850/230-8006; www.divelocker.net). Others include Panama City Dive Center, 4823 Thomas Dr. (tel. 850/235-3390; www.pcdivecenter.com), and Emerald Coast Divers, 5121 Thomas Dr. (tel. 800/945-DIVE  or 850/233-3355; www.divedestin.com). These companies lead dives, teach courses, and take snorkelers to the grass flats off Shell Island.