Summer camps – as depicted on TV and in the movies – are synonymous with cabins and bunk beds, outdoor games, campfires and sing-alongs. While traditional sleep-away camps still exist, more often than not summer camps today are conducted during the day and offer campers the chance to dabble in any number of activities and subjects.
Right here in the Pensacola Bay Area, local children and those visiting during the summer months have camp opportunities galore! From surfing to seining and cooking to coding, children can explore and learn new skills while having fun on summer vacation. Plus, if the kids are attending a camp, that means moms, dads or grandparents get in a little kid-free relaxation time this summer!
I’m happy to share with you some of the most popular summer camps in our area. Take a look, decide what suits your kids’ interests and fits with your schedule. I recommend reserving space early as some camps fill quickly.
Waterboyz Surf Camp
What better way to make memories at Pensacola Beach than by learning to surf? At Waterboyz Surf Camp, participants learn about surfing etiquette, culture, training and techniques, as well as waves, tides and marine biology. As long as they are at least seven years old and a strong swimmer, children can attend any of 10 four-day sessions offered Monday-Thursday, May 30 to August 3. Surf Camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon and is located about four miles east of the tollbooth at Park East. The cost is $170 per session for each child. Surfboards are provided for use during the camp. And don’t worry, alternative programs such as paddleboarding, skimboarding, Indo boards, skateboarding or games are substituted if a flat spell or foul weather conditions occur. Register online or in-store at Waterboyz Surf and Skate Shop on Ninth Ave.
A friend’s middle-school-age daughter has attended Surf Camp. “It’s a well-organized camp,” she said. “They assist you at the beginning and are there with you on the water and also give you the freedom to try your newly learned skills, independently, as you get more comfortable with surfing.”
UWF Explore Summer Camps
Certified teachers and instructors lead UWF Explore Summer Camps for students entering kindergarten to those entering 12th grade. Choose from weekly camps focused on the likes of LEGO Robotics, American Girl and Harry Potter, as well as dinosaurs, art, history, healthcare careers, coding, 3D printing, stop-motion animation and more. Hours and prices vary. Camp locations include the UWF Main Campus in north Pensacola, and the Museum of Commerce and Pensacola Museum of Art in Downtown Pensacola.
A marine science camp is offered for two weeks in June at Gulf Breeze Elementary School, located on U.S. Hwy. 98 between Pensacola and Pensacola Beach. Designed for students entering 1st through 6th grades, UWF Marine Science Camp enables children to explore the area’s natural habitats and learn about its flora and fauna. My kids have attended this camp twice. Hunting hermit crabs in the Santa Rosa Sound and seeing other marine life up close are their favorite memories.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
For those wanting to experience some of the area’s most treasured sites, the National Park Service invites children and their families to explore Gulf Islands National Seashore. Although it’s not a summer camp exactly, a variety of activities ranging from a half-hour to over an hour in length are planned throughout the summer at Fort Pickens and the Naval Live Oaks recreation area. Susan Teel, chief of resource education for Gulf Islands National Seashore, said planned sessions include kayaking, seining and snorkeling, as well as black powder musket and cannon firings led by rangers outfitted in Civil War replica uniforms. With the exception of the park admission fee at Fort Pickens, these activities will be free and open to the public. An event schedule will be published online once it is finalized. Other options from the National Park Service include the Junior Ranger and Every Kid in A Park programs.
Amy Minchin has vacationed in Northwest Florida since she was a young child. Despite a few sunburns and freckles picked up along the way, she’s been proud to call the Pensacola area home for the last seven years. She and her husband enjoy sharing Pensacola’s natural beauty, history and culture with their three daughters. An award-winning writer, Amy left a career in corporate communications and marketing to pursue freelance writing and consulting opportunities. Her writing has been published in the Pensacola News Journal, Pensacola Today, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Birmingham Magazine, Lakeland Ledger, UAB Magazine and UWF Connection. Amy shares her family’s adventures and helps others discover ways to enjoy all that the Gulf Coast has to offer through her blog, Sand in My Minivan.