A Guide to Pensacola Area Attractions
The beaches associated with the Pensacola area are some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Although hurricanes over the past couple of years have changed the landscape, and even washed away many sand dunes, the emerald green waters and white quartz sand still make the areas' beaches unsurpassed in beauty.
A large portion of the beaches are managed by the Gulf Islands National Seashore National Park Service. These include Opal Beach, Fort Pickens, and Johnson Beach in Perdido Key. The National Park Service helps to protect the vegetation, such as the wild oat grass, which prevents erosion beyond the shoreline. They also protect wildlife such as nesting birds and sea turtle egg burial mounds. The National Park Service has also provided many facilities such as restrooms, and pavilions as well as parking lots. All of those provisions help keep vehicles and people from damaging the vegetation and polluting the environment.
A few of the more popular beaches are:
Fort Pickens is on the west end of Santa Rosa Island and is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. More information below....
Navarre Beach is on the east end of Gulf Blvd on Santa Rosa Island. To the east of Navarre Beach is Eglin Air Force Base.
Opal Beach is also on Santa Rosa Island and is about half the distance between Casino Beach and Navarre Beach.
Pensacola Beach is actually the town you enter when you arrive on Santa Rosa Island from Pensacola. Pensacola Beach has Quietwater Beach on the sound side of the island, and Casino Beach which is on the gulf side.
Perdido Key is the barrier island to the west of Santa Rosa Island. Perdido Key is home to Johnson Beach, which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and also Perdido Key State Park.
Fort Pickens National Park -
* Ft. Pickens is part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, one of the top ten most visited national parks in the U.S. and is a focal point of tourism for the Pensacola area. Ft. Pickens has been inaccessible by vehicle since Hurricane Ivan (September 2004); it is scheduled to reopen to public use in early 2006, but will only be accessible by boat. Relevant stakeholders (officials, including aquatic preserve staff, and community representatives) have agreed to collectively consider access solutions over the short term to ensure that the recreational values can continue to be experienced by visitors.
* Federal park rangers at Ft. Pickens have Jr. Ranger camps during the summer to educate children about the park. Day camp activities include dip netting, touch tanks, bird watching, plant identification and trail hikes. This demonstrates an interagency approach towards management of the Aquatic Preserve.
Big Lagoon State Park -
Although Big Lagoon State Park was pummeled by Hurricane Ivan, it is finally bouncing back and is still considered to be one of the best places to go camping, fishing, boating, etc. in the Pensacola area.
Pensacola Lighthouse -
A mid-19th century Pensacola Lighthouse that is still operational. It is located on the Naval Air Station and tours are available.
Blue Angels -
Pensacola is home to the Navy's Blue Angels who are based at NAS Pensacola. They perform officially twice each year for the Pensacola area, although you can occassionally spot them just training.
USS Oriskany -
What was once an aircraft carrier of great honor, the USS Oriskany has since become the world's largest known artificial reef and a must-see for experienced divers.
Historic Pensacola Village -
If you're visiting Pensacola you must take a tour of Historic Pensacola Village which includes the T.T. Wentworth Museum (pictured here), the Museum of Commerce, several 19th century houses, and Old Christ Church.
The Arts Festival, Mardi Gras, Seafood Festival, Fiesta of Five Flags, and Jazz Fest are just a few of the many Festivals that take place every year.
The Zoo -
No vacation should be complete until you visit the ZOO in Gulf Breeze, where you can feed the gators at the gator hole, feed the giraffes, visit the petting zoo, ride on the Safari Line Ltd. Train, or view all of the many other animals.
There are quite a few Museums in the Pensacola area. The most popular museums would be the National Museum of Naval Aviation (pictured here), the Civil War Soldiers Museum, and the Pensacola Historical Museum.
Amusement Parks -
Big Kahuna's Water Park - Destin, FL. Biggest man-made waterfall in the world. 3 rushing rivers, lazy river, speed slides, body flumes, white water tubing, leisurely lagoons, 2 wave pools, four children's areas with kid-sized slides and variable-depth pools.
Dinosaur Adventure Land - "In addition to our fantastic rides, Creation Museum, Hands-on Science Center and special events, you will see some amazing science demonstrations and find out the truth about dinosaurs."
Fast Eddies Fun Center - go carts and arcade games
Paintball Panic - where you'll find everything for the Sport of Paintball
Sam's Fun City - water park, arcade games, laser tag, indoor rides, simulators, and restaurant
Waterville U.S.A - Gulf Shores, AL. The ultimate in family fun, is a 20 acre Water Park and Amusement Park
Arts & Theater -
American Guild of Organists - Pensacola Chapter
Arts Council of Northwest Florida - Our Mission is to provide access, leadership, and support to the arts and cultural communities - promoting quality, diversity and economic growth.
Bayfront Gallery - "Largest Selection of American Fine Craft on the Gulf Coast." "480 American artists from 49 states represented."
BETA Children's Theatre - "Provide(s) a professional venue for the performing arts for children in acting, singing and dance."
Blue Morning Gallery - "Created to showcase the work of local artists and to encourage the development of new creative talent within the community."
Carol's Curtain Call The best Pensacola site for theater events and audition news.
Choral Society of Pensacola - "A group of volunteer singers who for 68 years have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and professionalism in Northwest Florida."
Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival - "Hosting over 200 fine art and fine craft exhibitors, performing artists and heritage artists."
Jazz Society of Pensacola - "An organization of business and professional people, musicians, teachers, students and just plain listeners working together for the purpose of advancing jazz music."
Kaleidoscope and Ballet Pensacola - "A non-profit organization that provides Northwest Florida with exceptional classical and contemporary dance productions as well as local dancers and emerging professionals with a quality training ground in a professional environment."
Music Pensacola - The music guide to the Pensacola area.
Pensacola Children's Chorus - "Provides quality music education and performance opportunities that enrich the lives of children from all religious, racial, cultural, and economic backgrounds."
Pensacola Civic Band - "An organization of adult instrumental musicians who want to continue performing in a band after high school and/or college."
Pensacola Junior College - Music and Theatre
Pensacola Junior College - Visual Arts Gallery
Pensacola Little Theatre - "The oldest continually producing community theatre in the southeastern United States."
Pensacola Museum of Art - "A bridge to the visual arts for the diverse populations of Pensacola and the surrounding communities."
Pensacola Opera - "Enrich the culture of Northwest Florida by producing quality opera and making it available to audiences of all ages and to support these productions through education and other community programs."
Pensacola Symphony Orchestra - "A non-profit organization, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra relies on grants and its corporate and private supporters for financial assistance."
Saenger Theatre - A Center for the performing arts.
University of West Florida - Division of Fine and Performing Arts
West Florida Literary Federation
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - all you need to know about freshwater fishing in Florida, licensing, limits, piers, boat ramps, hot spots, etc.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - all you need to know about saltwater fishing in Florida, licensing, limits, piers, boat ramps, hot spots, etc.
FlSuncoast.com - Provides you with fishing information about license, bag limits, fish identification, artificial reef locator, knots, tides and fishing reports.
Florida Sports Fishing - Dedicated to sport fishing in Florida and the surrounding waters, which is one of the richest and most diverse fishing areas in the world.
Gulf Breeze Fishing Pier - 1.5 mile bridge for fishing, includes rules, fees, and other information.
Gulf Coast Angling - Information about saltwater fishing for Pensacola, to Destin, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama.
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council - Federal Fishing Rules for the Gulf of Mexico
Pensacola Bay Fishing Bridge - 1.5 mile bridge for fishing, includes rules, fees, and other information.
Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier - longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico
Pensacola Big Game Fishing Club
Pensacola Blue Angels Bass Page
Adventure Perdido - Perdido Key, FL. Sailing charters for sailing instruction, moonlight or sunset sails, dolphin watches, or exploring deserted islands. Variety of boat sizes for rent, including ski boats, speedboats, run-a-bouts, pontoons, parasailing, and jet skis. Also has a "Yellow Crab" Water Taxi (1½ Hr. Boat Rides).
Adventures Unlimited - Milton, FL. Canoeing, Kayaking, Tubing, and Camping
Beach Marina - Pensacola Beach, Florida. Bottom fishing, off-shore trolling, party boats, and private charters.
Blackwater Canoe Rental - Milton, FL. Round trip service for canoeing, tubing, or kayaking
Capt. Bubba Thorsen - Pensacola, FL. Has the 26 foot Katelyn and the 70 foot Chulamar for various fishing trips, sightseeing, beach combing, moonlight cruises.
Capt. Wes Rozier - Pensacola, FL. 30 years of fishing experience in the Florida Panhandle & Alabama inshore waters. 18' Sea Ark side-console boat with 90HP Johnson trained to go where the fish are!
Dive Pros - Pensacola & Gulf Breeze, FL. Scuba diving trips.
Emerald Coast Sailing - Sailing Charters and school located on Pensacola Beach. Crewed and Bareboat Sailing Charters available. Largest selection of sailing yachts in the area.
Floridaze Sailing School and Charters - Pensacola Beach, FL. Sailing school, charters, and leisure lessons
Gulf Coast Charters, Inc. - Pensacola Beach, Florida. Deep sea fishing, trolling (inshore or offshore) on the Angie Lynn. Highly personalized, climate controlled, private charters available for up to 6 passengers. Guaranteed fish on 6 hour or longer trips!
Key Sailing - Pensacola Beach, FL. Kayak, powerboat, sailboat, pontoon, run-a-bout, and waverunner rentals, parasailing, and boat sales.
Lanier Sailing Academy - Pensacola Bay, FL. Sailboat rentals, history / ecology tours, sailing club, sunset sails, or lessons.
Lively's Gulf Charters - Pensacola Beach, FL. The 55 ft. Lively One II for deap sea or tournament fishing, boat rides, sunset cruises, historic Pensacola tour, etc.
Moorings Charter Boat Service - Pensacola Beach, FL. From 18' trolling specialists to 65' sport fishing, for all types of fishing, scuba diving, or parties, reunions, receptions, etc.
Pensacola Angling Adventures - Pensacola, FL. Fishing trips from 4-12 hours, sightseeing or dolphin watching cruises, or moonlight cruises.
Pensacola Sailing Tours - Two-hour public or private trips, private half-day or whole-day trips, special event cruises, sunset cruises, moonlight cruises, and fireworks cruise.
Reel Eazy Charters - Pensacola Beach, FL. A 30 ft Island Hopper for deep sea fishing, diving, sunset cruises, dolphin excursions, party cruises to local restaurants and clubs, etc.
Scuba Shack - a full-service scuba diving center located in downtown Pensacola, right on the water. A 50' dive boat, the Wet Dream, is conveniently docked right behind the shop for customers to make a one-stop trip to go diving.
A Brief History of the Pensacola Area-
Pensacola (originally called Panzacola, from the Panzacola Indians) was discovered as early as 1516 by Don Diego Miruelo. It was not until 1559 that Don Tristan de Luna of Spain and 1400-1500 others came to Pensacola to establish a new settlement. It is presumed to be the first European settlement in the United States. Their stay lasted only a couple of years, as they were forced to leave due to a horrible hurricane.
In 1698, Don Andres de Ariola and 350 Spanish soldiers became the second generation of visitors to colonize Pensacola. During their stay, they succeeded in constructing the first permanent post and fort at the present day Naval Air Station on Pensacola Bay. The Spaniards built a second fort in 1719 near present Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. The French took control of it soon after and then lost Pensacola to the Spanish in 1722.
After the Spaniards regained control of the area, they decided to move their settlement to nearby Santa Rosa Island where it could be better defended. Unfortunately, a hurricane wiped out the colony and Spain abandoned further attempts to settle it. A small stockade, erected in 1752 near Historic Pensacola Village, is one of the few remaining souvenirs of that turbulent time.
In 1763, Spain ceded the area to the British as part of Treaty of Paris. The British stayed 18 years (1763-1781), and added what could be described as the area's first amenities---mapped streets of today's Pensacola Historic District, gardens and a public water well---before Spain recaptured Florida in 1781.
In 1821, Pensacola became part of the United States and Andrew Jackson became the first territorial governor of the new territory.
Then came the Civil War, 40 years later, when the city was involved in a standoff between Union and Confederate soldiers. Like much of the South, Pensacola ended up being divided ----with the Yankees holding Fort Pickens and the Rebels controlling Fort McRee. But Confederate forces evacuated the city in 1862 and many residents fled. An industrial boom of lumber, shipping, and fishing in the 1870's, brought these residents, Northerners and freed slaves, back and provided much needed fuel for the city's growth. And so, five different flags have flown over Pensacola: the Spanish, the French, the British, the Confederate and the American flags. That is how Pensacola has become nicknamed "The City of Five Flags".
In 1886, Fort Pickens became the unlikely site for the area's first tourist attraction when it held Geronimo and other Apache warriors prisoner there. Countless sightseers cruised the waters around the fort in hopes of glimpsing the aging warriors.
With the struggles of the early settlers including hurricanes and yellow fever and the battles that were fought through the centuries, Pensacola is rich with history and artifacts.