Beaches & Outdoors

The beach, of course, is what most people know about the Pensacola area. Sand so white it looks like snow, so smooth it squeaks under your feet, emerald-green water. Our creation myth involves ancient rivers flowing down from the Appalachian Mountains the size of today's Himalayas, carrying fine quartz crystals to form thin ribbons of sand stretching along the coast. Our doomsday myths involve class-5 storms and multinational oil companies, but that's another story.

Above all else, Pensacola Beach offers balance. Much of the year you can find a lively crowd and plenty to do in "Downtown" Pensacola Beach. There are places to stay, entertainment, and good food, but not the condo cannon claustrophobia of other beach spots. There's no shortage of activities — rent a sailboat, a jet-ski or a kayak, take a dolphin cruise, go parasailing or deep-sea fishing, or just grab a beer and listen to the surf.

It's also easy to get away from the crowd and get back to nature, since Pensacola Beach is bordered to the east and west by the protected areas of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and miles of miles of undeveloped beaches. All you need is a bottle of water and some flip-flops to explore lonely dunes, hidden coves, and wildlife-filled salt marshes.

Just a short drive north will take you into the wild where cold water rivers run through untouched forests and state parks ready for canoeing, tubing, camping and exploring.

 

Pensacola City Parks Pensacola is a city of parks. The City of Pensacola maintains 94 facility/park sites with over 600 acres of park land. Our downtown parks serve as market and festival sites and give public access to Pensacola Bay. Downtown neighborhoods are graced by open parks and playgrounds every few blocks – within easy walking distance of most homes in the city. Pick a favorite, meet the neighbors, make it your own!

Gulf Islands National Seashore Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola is a park rich in natural resources - sparkling blue waters, snow-white beaches, coastal marshes, and beautiful winding nature trails. They all provide homes to the unique wildlife of Northwest Florida. Millions of visitors enjoy America’s largest National Seashore every year. All areas of the seashore are open to the public unless posted.

Blackwater River State Forest A favorite destination for canoeists and kayakers, Blackwater River is one of the purest sand-bottom rivers in the nation, making this park a popular place for swimming, fishing, camping, and paddling. Shaded campsites are just a short walk from the river and a picnic pavilion overlooks the river. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy strolling along trails through the more than 600 acres of undisturbed natural communities. In 1980 the park was certified as a Registered State Natural Feature for its exceptional illustration of Florida's natural history.

Pensacola Lighthouse The historic 1859 Pensacola Lighthouse is a prominent feature on Pensacola Bay. It overlooks Pensacola Pass and still provides guidance for ships entering the bay. The lighthouse is on NAS Pensacola across the road from the Naval Aviation Museum.

Diving The USS Oriskany The Mighty "O" was one of 24 Essex-class aircraft carriers completed during or shortly after World War II for the United States Navy. She was sunk four miles off the coast of Pensacola in 2006 to form an artificial reef. At 44,000 tons, 888-foot-long, the ship is by far the largest vessel ever sunk to make a reef. "The Great Carrier Reef" has become a popular diving spot, with more than 4,200 visits in 2007 and was named as the world's best wreck diving site by the Times of London.