Just off the shore of the Florida panhandle, near the Alabama border, lies a quiet little barrier island named Santa Rosa. This pristine island paradise encompasses the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the hub city of Pensacola Beach. Here the traveler will find crystal clear blue-green waters and miles of quartz laden white sand beaches. Gentle waves from the Gulf of Mexico lap at the beach and beckon the water lover to jump into its cooling waters. The adventurous can swim, snorkel, kayak, or parasail, and the more laid-back traveler can bask in the sun on the cool, reflective white sand. Often dubbed “the red-neck Riviera” due to its low cost, and proximity to rural areas of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida; Pensacola is truly an under-estimated vacation destination. It is one of our favorite places and we have vacationed there four times over the years. Those who crave nightlife and constant entertainment from mini-golf courses best skip this protected seashore and head on down the road to Panama City, but those who enjoy nature and some history will be right at home on this beautiful island. Among the highlights is a trip to Fort Pickens on the Gulf Island National Seashore. Fort Pickens is the largest of four forts built to defend Pensacola Bay, Florida and its navy yard. The fort was begun in 1829, completed in 1834, and used until the 1940s. There is a gift shop at the fort and a self-guiding tour through the ruins of the batteries and buildings. Up on top of the fort you can see great vistas of the island. Snowy-white sand bordered with tall sea-grass frames the emerald waters that surround the historical area. Herons wade in the shallow waters, waiting for a catch, or better yet, a hand-out from the fisherman along the shore. This is a great place to take in the sunset.
We can’t think of Pensacola Beach without dreaming of our favorite local restaurant, Peg Leg Pete’s. Specializing in seafood, they have some of the best dishes anywhere. We highly recommend the oyster sampler and the key lime pie. There is also a great pizza place, can’t remember the name, right on Via de Luna Drive. They have excellent food, and some of the best pizza we have ever eaten. It is pretty much right across the street from the Clarion Suites Resort which is where we love to stay. They have a boardwalk right down to the beach and there are usually vendors close who rent watersports such as kayaks. Kayaking off the shore is a great way to spend the day. If you get out early enough you will most likely see the pod of dolphins that cruise by everyday. We have also encountered sea turtles; one had to be a loggerhead, because it was almost as big as the kayak! On another outing we came across a shark that was cruising pretty close to shore, from what we could see our best guess is that it was a harmless nurse shark, but thrilling all the same. The beach is a nice shallow sandy entry into the water which is great for swimming. We snorkel off the shore as well, but there really isn’t much to see. There are several little schools of fish but no coral, just sand, which gets a little boring. It is great fun for little kids though. Another highlight of being a beach bum in Pensacola is that often the Blue Angels will buzz right over the beach. Now that’s entertainment.
After spending some time on a beach all to yourself you might decide that you desire a little bit of civilization, when that happens just head across the bridge to Pensacola for an excursion. We always drive over to the Naval Live Oaks section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore for some great hiking. You can also find any fast food restaurant that you desire in Pensacola, along with other restaurants like Outback Steakhouse, and McGuire’s Irish Pub. All in all Pensacola and Pensacola Beach are great places to visit. We can’t say enough about the beautiful beaches and relaxing atmosphere. Please enjoy some of our photos from this spectacular area.
Click here for info on purchasing photos
Copyright 1989-2008, Natural Born Hikers, All rights
Send comments on this web site to email@example.com