Welcome to Pensacola beach!
With so much to do, we wanted to create a guide full of all of some of our LOCAL favorites!
Having been born & raised here, I felt I was (rather) qualified to share a few things that I love about our town, with all of you who are only here short term!
I’m a wedding photographer, family photographer, business developer, farm owner, etc > > >
but the main part about me (in regards to this) is not only do I love pretty scenery, to enjoy and to photograph,
but I REALLY love GREAT FOOD****
& when it comes time to unwind & relax (which is atlas once or twice a week)
you’ll find me here > > >
on Pensacola Beach > > >
((usually hunting shells at sunset, as pictured below))
Each time we’ve traveled somewhere, the local joints always end up being our favorite.
Not the we don’t enjoy exploring, or being tourists sometimes too,
but to make the most of our time, we always want to make sure our time (and money) are well spent!
So here is a list of 15 faves!
From my family, to yours!
In no particular order > > >
1.) GULF ISLANDS NATIONAL SEASHORE.
If you’re staying anywhere on pensacola beach, you’re only (one) turn away from fort pickens beach.
You will need to pay $10 gate fee to get in, or apply that to a pass if you’ll be in town a while!
What to do: there are several “locals only” beaches on this path. Known for being the best beaches for fishermen (lack of children running through the lines), you’ll find more than 4 parking lots on the left side of the road that have wayyy less people, which means wayyyy more seashells & wayyy more privacy! Head out at sunrise for your best chance at all the good shells, or head here at sunset, for an un-paralled view of the emerald coast
(with no condos/ houses in the background!)
2.) FORT PICKENS
Using the same pass above ^, follow this road all the way to the very end for a chance to visit fort pickens. A great spot for fishing, diving, or just spending the day walking and exploring.
What to do here: if you’re visiting with kids, you’ll want to make sure they’re in closed toed shoes to run free and wild. Fort pickens is beautiful, but is located in grassier areas with sandspurs and brush. Though there is plenty of room to roam, you won’t want to slip out of your shoes during a tour.
Also, bring your camera, the views are spectacular! (Granted) I am a beach wedding photographer, I had to share my favorite images from shooting here. I love the grassy areas and undisturbed beach areas, all remote, feeling world’s away from the core of Pensacola Beach (Casino Beach)
3.) PENSACOLA BLUE ANGELS
Check the practice schedule for weekly flying times if you’re not staying on a “home show” weekend. They typically practice 1-2 times per week during the spring a summer. Head out to ^ the gulf islands national seashore / fort pickens for an awesome view to the show! If you’d like to make the drive over and get away from the beach a while, they have a lovely museum (free) where kids can climb in and out of aircrafts, which makes it ideal for a rainy weather backup day (or a “recover from sunburn” day)
What to do: head down to any of the more private beaches along the seashore (on fort pickens road, past toll) or head all the way to the very end (fort pickens) for a chance to watch the blues practice. Truly, one of the best parts about pensacola!
4.) DOLPHIN CRUISE
Currently, we don’t support any “one” cruise, but be sure to hop on a boat while you’re here and take a tour! The boats stay on the sound side (typically very calm waters) and hunt for dolphins. Fun fact: there are more dolphins in the waters surrounding pensacola and gulf breeze, than there are people living in those towns! Take all the photos you want, but please don’t pet, feed or attempt to disturb the dolphins in any way. Who needs a park with dolphins in captivity, when you can have them right outside of your boat, in their natural habitat?!
What to do: research local dolphin cruise boats
Pack a snack, sunscreen and make sure your phone is charged, remember, sometime the search for dolphins can take a while, and sometimes they’re spotted before you even leave the dock.
Some boats offer beverages on board, so check ahead.
4. B) DOLPHINS
Don’t want to cruise? Typically you can see dolphins swimming in the gulf waters, right off the sandbars (sometimes closer!) just sit in your beach chair, and keep your fingers crossed!
5.) WALK THE PIER
(info via visit pensacola beach)
For spectacular views and great fishing visit the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier.
A wide platform at the end of the pier allows anglers of all ages
to try their hand at “deep sea” fishing in the 20 ft. deep waters below.
If you don’t have your own gear, you can rent from the on-site bait and tackle shop.
They’ll happily tell you what’s biting and outfit you to get in on the catch.
If fishing isn’t on your agenda, a stroll to the end of the pier provides
amazing views of the beach and the marine life below.
It’s also a great spot to snap a photo and watch the sunset.
There are separate charges for fishermen and observers.
What to do: Check the pier’s website above for details and hours of operation or walk on out and see for yourself
(pier is right behind the giant beach ball)
6.) HUNT FOR SANDCRABS
(info via gulfshores.com)
Crabbing on the beach at night is a fun activity for all ages.
Grab a couple of flashlights** (must have), sand shovels, dip nets and buckets
and head out towards the beach just after dark.
Sand crabs are pretty fast, so you’ll have to move quickly.
After a wave breaks, shine your light and you’ll see them scurry across the sand, burying themselves.
Break out the shovel and start digging.
Once your crab-hunting adventure is over, be sure to release them back to the water.
7.) GO FISHING!
As with dolphin cruises, we currently don’t advertise for any one fishing charter, though visit pensacola has several listed on their site.
Check with your captains, as many local restaurants will cook your fresh catch for you, right off the dock. You can also rent equipment from the Pier (above) or visit Gulf Breeze Bait & Tackle, for the full hook up!
8.) VISIT CASINO BEACH or QUIET WATER BEACH ((AKA MOM’S BEACH))
What locals refer to as mom beach, many refer to as Quiet Water.
Located on the northern side of the beach, the sound side is typically less wavy, thus, easier for moms to keep watch of beginner swimmers. Parking can be hard to find, so arrive early if you don’t want to have to walk. Spend the day on this beach, and order lunch from the boardwalk, shop various boutiques and stores, and enjoy some delicious drinks from various bars, all within a few steps of casino beach. Bring your chairs, floats and coolers and see why many local moms, prefer this beach, (over the gulf side) for smaller babes. Casino Beach is technically right across the road (on the Gulf Side) is is easily found by the giant beach ball!
During the summer, every tuesday enjoy live bands at “bands on the beach” at the gulf side pavillion
(also located behind the giant beach ball)
Check their website for dates/times and acts.
Bring your own beverages ( no glass) and enjoy a night of music close to sunset. Stop for some of the most delicious wings in the world, at sidelines before heading out, or grab some after the music ends! (located right next door!)
Just a short 20 minute drive from the beach is the thriving vibes of downtown pensacola.
Featuring some of the best restaurants, shops, and sites, one could easily spend all day walking the various parks, museums, shops and more. A must while you are there? Joe patti’s seafood! If cooking is in the plans, grab some fresh shrimp, crabs and fish, straight off the docks! They’ll even steam them for you!
Fave shops and sites: duh home and garden (beautifully curated home decor and lunch spot)
Jeweler’s trade for all things sparkly
Ever’man co-op and grocery store
Intracoastal outfitters + lee tracy
Old hickory whiskey bar
Artel art museum
Pensacola children’s museum
Palafox market (saturday am only)
We may be biased, but the blue wahoos stadium has to be one of the prettiest stadiums (at sunset) in the world
For games, times and tickets visit here
Keep in mind, they often have fireworks, and kids can hang out in “the outfield” in the grass if they want to move their legs. There is also an awesome park and plenty of room to roam, if you just want to visit during the day (and not attend a game)
12.) PENSACOLA LIGHTHOUSE AND MUESEM
The Best View in Town! Climb 177 steps up the historic Pensacola Lighthouse for one of the most beautiful views on the Gulf Coast.
Built in 1859, the lighthouse is located on board NAS Pensacola.
The tower offers stunning views of Pensacola Bay, the Pensacola skyline, and the historic Navy Yard. The fully restored Keepers’ Quarters, built in 1869, is home to a museum and a gift shop. Visit this historic spot in America’s First Settlement, established in 1559. Make a day of it and visit the National Naval Aviation Museum and Fort Barrancas while you’re here. Our nature walk takes you to the white sands of beautiful quiet-water beach–a perfect beach for kids. Bring the family and a picnic lunch and stay a while. The Pensacola Lighthouse and museum is open 7 days/week. Special tours include Blue Angel practices, Light of the Moon and Ghost Hunts. Private tour and function times available as well. *To access NAS Pensacola, civilian guests must use the West Gate on Blue Angel Parkway*
13.)NAVAL LIVE OAKS
A perfect place to go exploring!
Visitors can view wildlife and fabulous flora and fauna from one of the many nature trails in this 1,000 acres of woods located on the water. Bring your swimsuits, towels, a board for sliding down the sand mountain, closed toed shoes and snacks!
14.) Get active!
((I swearrr we just paddle boarded and kayaked last weekend with my sister, but we didn’t get any photos!))
Oh well! If you do this and take some good shots, send them my way!
Rent paddle boards to tour little sabine or bikes to ride trails through fort pickens.
To see the best trails visit here
15.) Kid / Family Zone
There is a new addition to Pensacola Beach called Premier Adventure Park
Parasailing, Jet Skids, Go Karts, Ropes course and more!
I am thrilled this finally exists. For when you’re over the beach for a while, and just want to try something else, the kids are sure to have a great time!
I hear they are adding a splash pad and a restaurant, but for now, it was enough to keep us busy for half the day!
For now, be sure to bring drinks and snacks, as there isn’t anywhere to purchase on site!
ALSO > > > > BOOK A BEACH PHOTOSHOOT < < < <
SEE WHAT I DID THERE? I DIDN’T EVEN GIVE IT A NUMBER, BUT IT’S A MUST FOR ME!
TRULY, WITH PENSACOLA BEING LISTED AS ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES,
BE SURE TO DOCUMENT YOUR TRIP WITH A 40 MINUTE PHOTO SESSION APPROX 1 HOUR BEFORE SUNSET
(RIGHT BEFORE DINNER!)
I’D ENCOURAGE YOU TO DO IT BEFORE THE SUNBURNS SET IN,
BUT ALSO ONCE EVERYONE (ESPECIALLY LITTLE ONES) GROW ACCUSTOMED TO THE SAND!
FOR INFO ON HOW TO BOOK A FAMILY SESSION, EXTENDED FAMILY SESSION, COUPLE’S SESSION AND MORE, CLICK HERE
-ON THE BEACH-
(in no particular order)
Perfect for date night!
Elegant waterfront destination with a raw bar serves refined, area-sourced seafood dishes.
Atmosphere is lovely (inside and out) and drinks + food are top notch!
My personal faves: lobster fingers , loved and rubbed salmon, praline bowl! The cat 5 hurricane is my go-to drink!
Flounder’s on the beach
Perfect for families or date nights, offering lunch and dinner.
Often they also have live music!
Perfect for families because they have a playground outside (with booths for dining surrounding it!)
and access to the water (sound side)
Truly, a perfect spot for lunch or dinner
My personal faves: Flounder’s Shrimp & Spinach Dip, ribeye (i know! Not seafood but yummy!) they’re also known for their diesel fuels!
WHERE THE LOCALS HANGOUT AND CHILL
PERFECT FOR LARGE FAMILIES / DATE NIGHT
LIVE MUSIC, DIRECTLY ON THE SOUND, AMAZING STAFF!
VERY LAID BACK AND RELAXING
FOOD IS GOOD, MUSIC IS OUTSTANDING!
MY PERSONAL FAVES: THE CUBAN WITH A RIP TIDE AMBER (BREWED LOCALLY IN PENSACOLA, FL)
PEG LEG PETES
Also perfect for families!
Bustling, pirate-themed seafood restaurant featuring a children’s play area & raw bar.
Callllll ahead! For sure! Parking is scarce and this one stays packed during the summer!
My personal faves: smoked yellowfin dip, sauteed blue crab claws, ½ lb steamed shrimp
Perfect for breakfast! A LOCAL TREASURE
MY PERSONAL FAVES: STUFFED FRENCH TOAST/ THE HUNGRY NATIVE! I’VE NEVER HAD BAD FOOD FROM THIS PLACE! EVER!
GO EARLY THOUGH! ITS SMALL AND BUSTLING DURING BUSY SEASON!
Perfect for the non-seafood eaters
I already told you guys about this one (above)
but i am a chicken wing girl (right after being a seafood girl) and the wings here are soo good!
Great place to catch any sports games (it’s certainly more of a sports bar than beach restaurant) but it’s one of my kid’s faves too
(there is goofy golfing right behind it!)
My personal faves: fried pickles, twenty wings (honey hot), large order of fries (extra crispy!)
H20 SUNDAY BRUNCH
IF YOU’RE HERE ON A SUNDAY MORNING, (THEN BE HERE!) FOR BREAKFAST!
ABSOLUTELY the best brunch on the beach
WITH all your favorites, plus live music,
bottomless mimosas and A Bloody Mary Bar.
$30 per adult (excludes alcohol)
$15 per child under 12
& TOTES WORTH IT!
ASK TO SIT BY THE POOL AND STAY AWHILE AND ENJOY THE MORNING OUTSIDE!
((BRING TOWELS AND SWIMWEAR!))
MY PERSONAL FAVES: UHM BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS AND THE OMELETTE STATION
OTHER INCREDIBLE EATS
(THAT ARE 100% WORTH THE DRIVE)
THE FISH HOUSE & ATLAS (DOWNTOWN PENSACOLA)
The Fish House is local,dockside dining overlooking beautiful Pensacola Bay and Seville Harbor. Just steps away from Historic Seville Square,WITH world-famous Grits a Ya Ya: A delectable Southern specialty of our smoked Gouda cheese grits smothered with a sauce of fresh cream, sauteed Gulf shrimp, spinach, portobello mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic, and shallots. Full bar. Late night menu.
JUST DO IT! ATLAS OR FISHHOUSE. THEY’RE SIDE BY SIDE AND YOU CAN’T GO WRONG!
My personal faves: fish head red ale (best beer ever impo)
Claws in garlic, grits a yaya, pecan crusted gulf shrimp with greens & peas
MCGUIRE’S (downtown pensacola)
In 1982 McGuire’s moves to its current location; Pensacola’s original 1927 Old Firehouse. Inside the pub you’ll find a turn-of-the-century, New York Irish Saloon themed 615-seat restaurant. We are celebrated for our atmosphere boasting more than One Million signed dollar bills hanging from the ceilings and walls of the Pub.
Call ahead or download the app! Wait times can be crazy for this hotspot (especially during dinner!)
My personal faves: irish wake! Spinach and artichoke dip, nachos, 16 oz ribeye, jameson pork chop
(seriously, one of my favorite things to eat, in this world!)
BAGELHEADS (downtown pensacola)
Local spot for coffee and bagels.
No drive thru though you can call ahead!
My personal faves: loaded bacon cheddar bagel (toasted) with scrambled egg, cheddar cheese and bacon
(my mouth is watering, just typing that! Worth the drive to town especially if you’re spending the day over there!)
THAT’S A WRAP!
THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO READ THIS, AND I TRULY HOPE IT WILL ENHANCE YOUR TRIP!
YOU’RE WELCOME TO REACH OUT WITH QUESTIONS AND WE WILL REPLY BACK AS BEST WE CAN!
KEEP IN MIND, PENSACOLA BEACH IS ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL.
SO IF ALL YOU WANT IS TO KICK BACK IN A CHAIR,
WITH THE WAVES AT YOUR FEET.
YOU WON’T REGRET IT.
THANKS FOR VISITING.
HOPE YOU’LL COME BACK AGAIN, REAL SOON!
((sharing is caring, please link to the original post))
Jordan Burch is a wife, mom of four, entrepreneur and award winning portrait photographer
located in Northwest Florida