Situated in the Florida Panhandle, the Pensacola Bay Area is known for its historic charm, gorgeous beaches, award-winning tours and abundant wildlife. In fact, Gulf Islands National Seashore has twice earned the title of Florida’s best beach in USA Today's "10Best Readers' Choice" awards, chosen by voters of USA Today and 10Best.
Anybody who has visited our beaches knows why it earned such high rankings. But there’s more to the Pensacola Bay Area than just its beaches. Here are 10 things you must do on a trip to Pensacola.
1. Download the Experience Pensacola App
The Pensacola Bay Area has been an oasis for explorers since the Spanish first arrived in 1559. Nowadays, instead of using a compass, the Visit Pensacola App offers today’s explorers a unique way to discover all there is to see, do and experience around the city – all through an interactive app on a smartphone. Looking for specific restaurants? Fun festivals? Historic places? Live music? Outdoor activities? Family fun? Sporting events? Nightlife? Arts? Museums? We’ve got you covered. With geolocation features and an itinerary builder, finding what to do while in Pensacola is fun, fast and easy! You can even discover travel deals for your next affordable vacation! Download the app now from the Apple App Store or on Google Play.
2. Meet a dolphin (or two)
Who doesn’t love Flipper? Known for their playful behavior, dolphins are highly intelligent creatures and very social. Did you know that dolphins have acute eyesight both in and out of the water? And they can hear frequencies 10 times that of a human? That means dolphins know where you are long before you ever see or hear them coming. Dolphins tend to live in pods and hunt and play together. The most common species of dolphin you’ll find around the Pensacola Bay Area is the bottlenose dolphin. Take an excursion to see dolphins and other wildlife around Pensacola Bay. Multiple boat charters leaving Pensacola Beach offer one- and two-hour tours that take you to areas known for dolphin viewing.
3. Get out the paddles
The best way to enjoy Pensacola Bay’s natural attractions is to explore them by water. Visitors can rent paddleboards, canoes or kayaks to discover beautiful areas like Big Lagoon State Park, Little Sabine Bay, Big Sabine Bay, Bayview Park, Johnson Beach, or Perdido River. These waterways take you through secluded bayous, dense marshes, narrow canals and serene beaches. Paddlers can see a variety of birds and wildlife as they pass through the various landscapes of beaches, wetlands and saltwater marshes.
4. Fly high above the water
The first thing to know about parasailing is that you’ll get much higher than you can even imagine. The other thing to know is it’s eerily quiet (but really quite relaxing, actually) when being pulled behind a boat, high in the air, in a giant parachute. It’s easy to go parasailing along Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key. Ride service businesses can give you personal training before pulling you across the bay for a bird’s-eye view of the city and the beach.
5. Hit the links
Pensacola is home to numerous world-class golf courses. Lost Key Golf Club is an Arnold Palmer signature designed course with premier grass called Sea Dwarf Paspalum. The course takes pride in being one of the few golf courses that is naturally resourced and protective of the environment. Marcus Pointe Golf Club is another great course with an award-winning 600 acres of rolling hills and fairways.
6. Pull out the tents—or campers.
Why camp in a forest when you can do it at the beach? Whether you’re traveling by RV or bringing tents, the Pensacola Bay Area is ideal for camping by the beach. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy primitive, natural settings in Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach. The campgrounds at Fort Pickens on Pensacola Beach can accommodate both tent and RV camping. And for those more into “glamping,” the new Pensacola Beach RV Resort is right up your alley.
7. Explore 450 Years of History
Curious about Pensacola’s local architecture, museums and cultural influences? Pensacola offers centuries of stories and sites to discover. Explore the vast brick battlements and labyrinth of arched tunnels of Fort Pickens – a pre-Civil War era fort on Pensacola Beach. Spend the day touring Historic Pensacola Village to experience the rich heritage of America’s first European settlement. Comprised of 28 museums, historic homes and properties, the village encompasses 8.5 acres within the footprints of the original Spanish and British forts in downtown Pensacola. Start exploring
8. Go Fish
The Pensacola Bay Area is an angler’s paradise, and you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it. Between the Gulf of Mexico, three bays and a river that’s home to Florida’s most diverse freshwater fish population – we have a bounty of saltwater and freshwater fish species to choose from here. All it takes is a quick stop at the tackle shop or a call to your one of our many charter fishing captains and guides. Next thing you know, you’ll be hooked— well, hopefully just the fish. Whether you book a fishing charter or cast a line from one of the Gulf's longest piers, there’s rarely a bad day to cast a line out in Pensacola.
Whether you desire an elegant waterfront restaurant, a laid-back beach bar, downtown dining, or something in-between, Pensacola is just the place to satisfy any seafood craving. Because of the area’s rich history, you’ll be able to find everything from French flavors and Spanish savors to southern Cajun cooking. For those wanting to take some of our fresh seafood home with them, you can’t leave without stopping in the world-renowned Joe Patti’s Seafood market– a Pensacola landmark for the past 90 years.
10. Obviously, go to the beach!
The most obvious thing to do in Pensacola is to hit the beach. Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key are both known for their pearly white sands and warm, crystal-clear waters. It's a paradise for beach-goers, a beautiful backdrop for relaxing or embarking on your next outdoor adventure. When not swimming or sunbathing, take a walk along the shoreline and collect seashells as souvenirs. Just remember our motto: Leave Only Your Footprints Behind.
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