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Pensacola Beach


Pensacola Beach is famous for its white-sand beaches, emerald waters, and the Southern hospitality that makes visitors feel right at home. Located south of Pensacola and connected via bridges to the mainland, it’s part of Santa Rosa Island, a 40-mile barrier island facing the Gulf of Mexico. With approximately 343 sunny days per year and an average temperature of 77 degrees, Pensacola Beach is an ideal vacation destination year-round ­– whether your idea of a good time is lounging on the sand, shopping till you drop, or playing a leisurely round of golf. For the athletically inclined, swimming, fishing, diving, snorkeling, and sailing are all popular options. You’ll find additional recreational opportunities at Gulf Islands National Seashore, which flanks either end of Pensacola Beach. Nature trails wind through the park’s coastal marshes and live oak forests, which host both native and migrating bird populations. Offshore, submerged lands teeming with marine life invite exploration by divers and snorkelers. The area is also home to the Pensacola Naval Air Station. The air station, which has earned Pensacola recognition as the Cradle of Naval Aviation (all Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine aviators start their training in Pensacola), is the base for the famed Blue Angels, the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. Also at the air station is the National Museum of Naval Aviation and IMAX Theater, a popular stop for visitors of all ages.

With a history that dates back to 1559, the city of Pensacola offers another fascinating break from the beach. Older than St. Augustine, which was founded in 1565, and Jamestown, founded in 1607, its historic neighborhoods still hold reminders of a past when it was ruled, in turn, by Spain, France, England, the Confederacy, and the United States.

In fact, to commemorate its 450th anniversary, Pensacola, which was the original capital of Florida, is in the midst of a 450-day celebration. The event, which started May 23, 2008, and continues through August 15, 2009, includes festivals, exhibits, parades, and other activities that recall the city’s heritage.

Other special events – concerts, arts and crafts shows, seafood festivals, and more – keep visitors entertained throughout the year.

For transportation from the airport to your vacation rental, visit www.PensacolaShuttleService.com.


Where to stay


Accommodations range from beachside bungalows to penthouse suites overlooking the Gulf, high-rise resort hotels to cozy bed-and-breakfast inns. There’s a vacation rental to suit just about any budget, and many are both family- and pet-friendly.

To see photos, amenities, and other details on Pensacola and Pensacola Beach vacation rentals, choose from our list of condos, hotels, and beach houses. Or use our custom search feature to find the Pensacola or Pensacola Beach vacation rental that’s best for you.



Restaurants


Pensacola and Pensacola Beach eateries offer a variety of palate-pleasing choices. Of course, there’s plenty of fresh Gulf seafood prepared just about any way you like it – fried, baked, broiled, steamed, or grilled, and served with greens, grits, hush puppies, and other Southern favorites. But you won’t be disappointed in the range of choices if you prefer a thick burger, a juicy steak, or a succulent plate of ribs .

You can dine on an open-air deck overlooking the Gulf and watch the beach volleyball game in progress, or in a candlelit dining room with white tablecloths and antique furnishings. Dress tends to be casual, even in the most upscale establishments. There are lots of family-friendly choices, too, with some restaurants offering play areas and special menus for the kids.

Discover the delicious side of Pensacola by choosing from our list of restaurants below.



Golf



Designed by such well-known planners as Arnold Palmer, Bill Bergin, Jerry Pate, John LaFoy, and Ron Garl, Pensacola’s golf courses are both challenging and scenic. With lush greens, sparkling lakes, and thick pine woodlands filled with wildlife, they offer visitors the ultimate golfing experience.

Typical amenities include pro shops, locker rooms, practice facilities, bars, and restaurants. Many area courses are part of a larger resort and offer special getaway packages that include lodging, green and cart fees, meals, and, in some cases, even guaranteed tee times.

Our list of golf courses and resorts will help you plan your Pensacola Beach golfing vacation.



Fishing


At 1,471 feet, Pensacola Beach’s fishing pier is the longest in the Gulf, making it the ideal spot for land-lubbing anglers to catch a big one. And shoreline fishermen can expect to haul in pompano and redfish pretty much year-round.

Deep-sea fishing in the Gulf yields catches of snapper, grouper, king mackerel, cobia, triggerfish, amberjack, redfish, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, sheepshead, jack crevalle, tarpon, ladyfish, flounder, and yellow-fin tuna.

Pensacola, Escambia, and East bays provide plenty of fishing pleasure for anglers as well. Depending on the season, the catch of the day may include flounder, speckled trout, mullet, redfish, striped bass, and cobia. Bay waters and the nearby Intracoastal Waterway are also rich in sea grasses, making them a haven for crabs and shrimp.

Freshwater fishing is good in the nearby Escambia River, where anglers will find 85 recorded species, including channel catfish and largemouth bass. Also popular with local fishermen is Bear Lake, in Blackwater River State Forest. Park facilities include two groups of 20 campsites, with sites in one group boasting electrical hookups.

For more about Pensacola fishing, and to charter a boat, check out our list of Pensacola Beach fishing charters.



Shopping


If you’re looking for beach gear and souvenirs – for yourself, or to take home to family and friends – there are plenty of places to buy them in Pensacola Beach. Shops there offer everything from sundresses and T-shirts to custom-made jewelry. You’ll also find spots offering deli and grocery items, as well as a good selection of wines and liquors. For a shopping experience that includes a journey back in time, check out Pensacola’s Seville and Palafox historic districts, where stores selling art, antiques, clothing, and gifts are housed in renovated 18th- and 19th-century buildings. The city also has two large malls offering everything from clothing, accessories, and jewelry to linens and housewares.

Our list of stores, malls, and outlet centers will help you plan your Pensacola shopping excursion.



Entertainment


When the sun sets over the Gulf, some of the most happening places in town are just gearing up for an evening’s fun. From Happy Hour until the wee hours, local nightspots keep visitors hopping, offering live music, dancing, and karaoke, usually in combination with good food and drink. One local bar also regularly holds Texas Hold-em competitions that have proved popular with patrons. Others offer visitors a chance to get in a game or two of pool, or catch up on the progress of their favorite team on one of their big-screen TVs. Music choices range from blues and jazz to reggae, country to rock and roll. Venues vary widely, from elegant restaurants in Pensacola’s historic district to open-air decks overlooking the Gulf of Mexico in Pensacola Beach. One popular spot invites visitors to kick off their shoes and dance in the sand to the beat of a live band.

Our list of Pensacola restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues can help you plan your nights on the town.



Other things to do


The Gulf waters off the Pensacola coast hold more than 100 charted wrecks and artificial and natural reefs, making the area a popular destination for divers. One of the best-known sites is the USS Oriskany, a 911-foot retired aircraft carrier that has been turned into the world’s largest artificial reef. Located 24 miles southeast of Pensacola Pass, the wreck is accessible to divers of every skill level.

Another interesting, but more difficult, dive is the USS Massachusetts. Sunk more than 50 years ago near Pensacola Pass, the wreck was dedicated as an underwater archaeological preserve in 1993. It attracts a variety of marine life, including Goliath grouper.

A favorite spot for lobstering, spear fishing, and shell collecting is Timber Holes. These natural limestone ledges, formed around the timber from prehistoric forests, is about 25 miles from Pensacola Pass.

Also popular with spear fishermen is the M/S Antares, a 400-foot freighter located 21 miles from Pensacola Pass that’s home to moray eels, red snapper, grouper, cobia, and amberjack. Hurricane Opal broke the massive freighter apart in 1995, but it’s still an interesting dive.

Don’t know how to dive? You can still enjoy an underwater adventure on a glass-bottom boat. Or you could sign up for a dolphin cruise to see bottle-nose dolphins in their natural environment. You’ll also encounter other native wildlife, including leatherback turtles, manta rays, herons, pelicans, and ospreys.

Snorkelers will enjoy exploring the underwater ruins of Fort McRee, a pre-Civil War fort at the eastern end of nearby Perdido Key.

Or you could head out for a day at Gulf Islands National Seashore for a picnic and ranger-led walks through the area’s dune, wetland, forest, and marsh habitats.

Another natural adventure is only a short drive away at Big Lagoon State Park. The 698-acre park, on the Intracoastal Waterway, offers nature trails, camping, boating, and fishing.

And finally, two free attractions you won’t want to miss are the National Museum of Naval Aviation and – if you’re in town at the right time of year – a Blue Angels flight demonstration team practice. These are scheduled for most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings from March through November.

For more options, and for diving/snorkeling and boat charter information, check out the following list of area businesses.



Special events


Two of the area’s annual events celebrate Pensacola as the Cradle of Naval Aviation. The Pensacola Beach Air Show, featuring the Blue Angels flight demonstration team, is held every July and always attracts a crowd. The Blue Angels Air Show, held in November, is the final air show of the season for the Angels, who spend much of the year traveling the nation with their precision jet performances.

This past spring marked the 24th year for the Pensacola Crawfish Creole Fiesta. The annual event, which celebrates the Creole influence on the area, is one of the largest crawfish boils in the state and includes authentic bayou country entertainment.

Pensacola is also the site of what has become one of the country’s largest billfish tournaments. This past summer marked the 38th year for the Pensacola International Billfish Tournament. Hosted by the Pensacola Big Game Fishing Club, the event generally attracts around 500 anglers.

The fruits of the sea are also the focus of the Pensacola Seafood Festival, which has been held every fall for 31 years. Samples of seafood dishes, live entertainment, cooking demonstrations, and more than 200 arts and crafts vendors attract thousands to Seville Square and Bartram Park for this free event, which has been consistently recognized as one of the top 20 festivals in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Probably one of the most unusual area events is held in nearby Perdido Key. The annual Mullet Toss takes place the last full weekend of April at the Flora-Bama Lounge. This quirky contest, which regularly attracts several thousand visitors, requires participants to throw a mullet from a designated spot in Alabama across the state line to Florida. In addition to the Mullet Toss, the weekend event includes plenty of music, food, drink, and other fun activities. It’s all in a good cause, too, because a contribution for each fish flung goes to local youth charities, and the event raises around $20,000 annually.

Other special events throughout the year include sailing regattas, sand-sculpting contests, concerts on the beach, a Veterans Day parade, and a Mardi Gras celebration.

Check out our calendar of events for an up-to-date list of what’s going on while you’re in town.
Vacationer’s Reviews of Pensacola Beach

I was in Pensacola last week and watched the Blue Angels from the hotel balcony. Blue sky and blue water was the most awesome sight with "Blue Angels" over the Gulf. Proud to be an American!
Pam G. on Facebook



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Sugar-white sand beaches in Pensacola Beach, Florida. Photos by Pensacola TDC.