It started with out our great tour of the south. To celebrate 30 amazing years of marriage, we wanted to begin in one of our favorite places on earth, the always happy and happening New Orleans. Second on our list was Nashville (a blog to come), where we wanted our fill of BBQ, Bourbon (I know its really Kentucky, but go with me on the alliteration) and Blues (of the Country sort).
OK, anyway, we knew a stop in between would be a must. Carla isn’t happy in the car that long. So, we’d detour to Memphis. We have a plan! I’m thinking, great, everything we want (the three B’s), and a lot of nights to get it all in.
But as we started Google mapping the route, it occurred to us that without adding much distance we could add an additional ‘B’ – Beach ! After the New Orleans nights and before the Nashville scene, we could get in some R & R for few days (and dry out a bit…LOL). The gulf shore would fit in perfectly, just head east before North. And through all the great choices, one stood out: Pensacola.
So here are the reasons we went, the reasons we loved it, the reasons to go back, and the reasons why you should consider it as well!
1) The Gulf of Mexico
Tailor made long, sunny lazy days, or as much activity as you want. The water is beautiful. Warm, clear, and a beautiful shade of turquoise. We’ve been to just about every Caribbean Island, Hawaii, Mexico, etc. and Pensacola Beach is really beautiful. Powdery white sand, perfect water temperature (it was August, we like the heat), pretty dunes and a comfy lounge char and umbrella. I think back to one particular day that we spent just floating on a raft for what seemed like hours. Need I say more? (we’ll, I guess I’m about to…)
A nice bike ride from our hotel, The Gulf Shores National Seashore
Quoting www.visitpensacola.com – ‘The Seashore provides endless opportunity for solitude and relaxation and miles of unobstructed views and access to the Gulf. A short hike, bike ride, or kayak trip always ensures a swath of beach, sans humans.
Even without people, you are never truly alone.
An abundant ecosystem of marine and terrestrial wildlife surrounds you. Osprey and great blue herons are often overhead, their huge nests visible in the treetops. Dolphins, sea turtles and rays are commonly spotted swimming near the shore in the crystal-clear waters. And at varying seasons throughout the year, the Seashore provides a nesting and hatching ground for shorebirds – like the beautiful black skimmers and tiny least terns – and sea turtles, particularly loggerheads.
For adventure seekers, the Seashore offers a wide range of recreational activities including snorkeling, kayaking, boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, biking, camping, fort tours, ranger-led programs and more. Launch your kayak from one of several oceanside parking lots and make your own itinerary. Watch for the gopher tortoise, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, and more than 300 bird species. Snorkel to see sand dollars, starfish, crabs and fish. Join a ranger-led nature tour to explore life in the brackish marshes or hidden in the shade of tall pines and gnarled live oaks.
For history buffs, the Seashore offers a unique look into the military significance of Pensacola going back before the American Revolution. Explore three forts designed to fortify Pensacola Harbor – Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee —all are included within the Gulf Islands National Seashore and administered by the National Park Service.
If you have dreamed of a day exploring a deserted island, the Gulf Island National Seashore is your ideal destination.’
I just felt like I couldn’t have said it better. This is a gem.
3) The Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier
1471 ft long, 30 feet above the water, is bustling with activity: para-sailing, sailboarding, deep sea fishing…it goes on and on. Just $1 to walk on, $7.50 for adults to fish and kids are free. From the end, you’re likely to spot dolphins, seat turtles, and the occasional manatee. For us, we actually loved walking below on the beach, where the gentle waves splash the pilings, making an awesome photo opp.
4) The Margaritaville Beach Hotel
We can only tell you about one hotel, which is where we stayed, and we highly recommend it. Sitting directly on the beach, with magnificent views, the hotel is open and airy, with a staff ready to delight you at every turn. A great inside bar and a truly wonderful restaurant: Frank and Lola Love Pensacola cafe – with outside seating along a balcony overlooking the dunes, sand and water. We had the most romantic dinner and amazing beachside breakfast there.
The pool is just large enough, with an outside bar that became our second home. A nice casual menu with Mahi and Grouper burgers and the like, and a long list of margaritas (but, of course!), of which we just had to try a new one every day. And let’s not leave out the Landshark on tap. Trust us, Jimmy (and whoever is managing his brand) gets it!
5) Great food in a great setting
Beyond our hotel restaurant (which we loved!) Within walking distance of our hotel, we discovered a few favorites. All casual and beachy, with great bars to hang out, and each with a unique atmosphere.
Frank and Lola Love Pensacola Cafe (in the Margueritaville Hotel). We had a truly wonderful and delicious anniverary dinner to remember on the balcony, under the starts, overlooking the dunes, beach and gulf. With local seafood, a great wine list and impeccable service, it all comes together. And breakfast in the same spot is an amazing start to a sunny beach day.
Red Fish Blue Fish (great name, right?) Very cool bar area, featuring outdoor seating at Caribbean colored tables…with lawn games for adults and kids its like the ultimate backyard party. Simple good food from local ingredients. With a waterfront view along the sound, grassy areas and a sandy beach, lit by strings of market lights.
LandShark Landing Adjacent to our hotel, is like a mini-resort of its own. Featuring live is live music, signature drinks and an array of activities including beach ping pong, volleyball, hammocks under the palm trees, water features, a kids’ area and more. At night, gather around the fire pit and enjoy the tropical vibes.
Paradise Bar and Grill
This place was funky…in a really good funky way. We mixed with the locals hanging at the bar, sitting in the sand at picnic tables, walking out on the somewhat lopsided pier, and digging a very cool reggae band. Right on the Santa Rosa Sound, this was a good time, just don’t miss it as its in back of the funky motel of the same name. Get there by land or water.
6) Sunsets (and the following ‘Blue hour”). This stretch of beach is so peaceful, especially at the golden hour, when the warm breeze makes the dune grass sway and turn to gold. Find a spot to sit and remember why life is so good.
There is a lot we didn’t have time to do…mainly because we wanted to chill. There’s plenty of shopping and family attractions as well (we didn’t take the kids…so not much of that) But here’s a short list from www.visitpensacola.com where you can get the full scoop on all that, and more:
Historic Pensacola Village is the museum operation of UWF Historic Trust, which is a direct support organization of the University of West Florida. The Village consists of twenty properties in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. Historic Pensacola Village includes these self-guided museums: Museums of Commerce and Industry, Julee Patton Cottage, Manuel Barrios Cottage, and the McMillen House. Costumed guides take visitors through the Lavalle House, the Lear-Rocheblave House, the Dorr House and Old Christ Church. Living History programs are presented throughout the week at the Lavalle Kitchen House.
Math, Engineering, Science and Stuff – that’s what we do at the Pensacola MESS Hall. The MESS Hall is not a typical science museum. Rather than exhibits with planned outcomes, visitors get to work like real scientists, developing questions and creating experiments, engaging in complex reasoning and learning science just through tinkering. It’s all hands-on science.
Come play in Pensacola’s 450 years of history at the Pensacola Children’s Museum, a historical museum geared for kids.
Two floors of hands-on learning fun. Visit the Panton Trading Post, the Lavalle Cottage, the Fort, the Native American Village and the Kiddie Corral or sail away on the Galveston. Geared for ages nine and older.
The second floor houses artifacts of Pensacola history geared for older children and adults. It also offers a train set, building blocks, a reading nook where parents can read to their children,and dress up clothes for the younger ages as well.
The Pensacola Children’s Museum was designed to have interactive, imaginative, and educational play for all ages in the setting of a historical museum. Visitors can visit Pensacola’s Maritime and Lumber Industries, explore our Military History, experience Native American ways, and learn about the Multicultural History of Pensacola.
PENSACOLA’S ONLY WATERPARK and LARGEST FAMILY FUN CENTER! Play the best arcade games on the Gulf Coast at CROSSROADS ARCADE with over 50 arcade games.PLUS a 1,600 square-foot Laser Tag arena! This arcade is the most sophisticated and largest arcade within 200 miles with arcade games, redemption games, and prizes! Plus, enjoy delicious food and catering from “Bullwinkle’s Family Food ‘n Fun”. Indoor and outdoor fun for everyone!
Experience one of the most exciting and immersive learning adventures in the world aboard the world’s largest simulated aircraft carrier. An experience for 7-12th graders that inspires interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
Participants live for 6 days in a multi-story, 102,000 square foot facility experiencing theme-park style thrills surrounded by advanced technology, flight simulators, and virtual reality games that ignite imagination and encourage learning. http://www.nationalflightacademy.com
Experience hands-on history at the National Naval Aviation Museum located on board Pensacola Naval Air Station. See more than 4,000 artifacts and over 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard aviation. Experience the thrill of flight in the Flight Simulators, catch all the drama and power of the amazing Giant Screen Digital Theater and refresh with a tasty lunch in the authentic Cubi Bar Cafe. Then take home the spirit of Naval Aviation with a unique memento from The Flight Deck Store.
Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum offers climbing tours of the landmark 1859 lighthouse. The Lighthouse, situated on Pensacola Bay across from the Naval Aviation Museum, offers indoor and outdoor history exhibits, gift shop, Blue Angel and Light of the Moon Tours, ghost hunts, weddings and special events. The Richard C. Callaway Museum, in the restored 1869 keeper’s quarters, offers local history exhibits including: Native American, Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, and the first Pensacola Lighthouse. Programs include a free history lecture series, sunset tours, children’s programs, weddings and special events. The Lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Enough to do? Enough NOT to do? As you can tell, we really loved our stay in Pensacola, and are looking forward to our next trip back…soon!