Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
For years Gulf World Marine Park has been a great place for both a family outing and a science lesson. As one of the original Florida coastal marine life facilities, the park offers dolphin shows and a chance to learn about marine conservation.
Located across the street from the Gulf of Mexico in Panama City Beach, the park offers a variety of shows and special events and is one of the area’s top tourist attractions.
Along with the shows, exhibits at the park include a stingray petting pool, tropical gardens with lots of alligators, penguins, a shark pool, colorful tropical birds, and reptiles. There are definitely enough activities to keep everyone from toddlers to grandparents entertained for hours.
Established in 1969, Gulf World Marine Park is a fully licensed Marine Mammal Public Display Facility and a member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. It is also the area coordinator for the Southeast Marine Mammal Stranding Network which aids marine mammals stranded in the wild. It is a long-term rehabilitation facility for dolphins and small whales and also provides temporary housing and care for injured sea turtles.
The park offers several interactive programs as well as day camps for youngsters. Participants are advised to bring a swimsuit and towel for the Swim with Dolphins and Trainer for a Day programs. Day camps include lunch and snack, a tee-shirt and a souvenir photograph.
Gulf World is one of the few places in the country where you can actually swim with dolphins. This interactive dolphin program lets visitors get up close and personal with these intelligent and beautiful creatures.
You'll hear the underwater “speech” of dolphins, learn about marine conservation, be pulled around the pool on a dorsal fin and get a dolphin kiss or a dolphin handshake.
Programs sell out fast each day so reserve early by calling 850-234-5271. The price is $175 for a 45-60 minute program for ages 5 and up. Park admission is included so you'll be able to see the shows and enjoy the park afterward. Bring a swimsuit and a towel.
You can follow trainers as they go about their daily routines with dolphins and sea lions and get a behind-the-scenes look at training sessions. You also can assist in food preparation and feeding, and you get to appear on stage in the show. Participants must be age 12 or older. The program costs $250 and lasts from 9:15 AM to 3:00 PM. Lunch is provided.
In this camp, you can spend a full day with the dolphins and participate in training sessions. Learn about bottlenose dolphins, rough-tooth dolphins, and marine conservation and make a fun arts and crafts project to take home. Camps cost $65 for ages 7 to 12 and run from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Lunch is provided.
Other day camps for kids include Stingray Interactive Program, Swim and Play With a Dolphin, Sea Lion Meet and Greet, and Snooze With Sea Life, an overnight program.
Shows are scheduled throughout the day that include the California Sea Lion Show, Stingray Feeding, Shark and Turtle Feeding, Bottlenose Dolphin Show, Feathers and Friends, and Underwater Scuba Show. The Magic of Noah Wells, an outstanding magic and variety show, is available for an additional ticket price.
The park is open daily from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM. The park is closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
Tickets are $29 plus tax for Adults 12 and older and $19 plus tax for children 5 to 11. Children 4 and under are free. For more information call 850-234-5271 or visit Gulf World Marine Park.