Pensacola’s beautiful beaches and historic downtown make us a destination, but if you want to see where the locals hang out, explore East Pensacola.
Just about every day, the Graffiti Bridge at the 17th Avenue Railroad Trestle gets a fresh blast of spray paint — messages of joy, love and support from the folks who live here. This iconic Pensacola landmark, dating as far back as 1935, is the spray-painted gateway to walkable historic neighborhoods lined with live oaks, quirky local eateries, antique shops and boutiques, bay bluffs, a bayou — and large swaths of parks and walking paths.
Old East Hill, East Hill and East Pensacola Heights neighborhoods are connected to Pensacola’s history and its new growth. Artisan-crafted homes, tiny cottages and sprawling old mansions share an open grid.
East Hill and East Pensacola Heights are home to the bicycle slow-ride: a casual weekend “peloton” that stops at every neighborhood eatery and watering hole. Massive live oaks shade runners and dog-walkers as they patrol the network of residential roads.
You can’t go far without finding a park in East Hill, but the jewel is Bayview Park on Bayou Texar. The hillside park has shade trees and jogging paths, lighted tennis courts, a fishing pier, dog parks (one for bigs and one for littles) and an enclosed dog beach. Rent a covered pavilion for a family barbecue, find a shady spot and string up a hammock — or rent a paddleboard, kayak or pedal boat.
Across the Bayou Texar Bridge is East Pensacola Heights— where you’ll find a dozen of eateries within just a few blocks.
Travel a few miles east along Scenic Highway and treat yourself to a view at the Pensacola Bay Bluffs Park. Boardwalk steps lead down the sandy bluffs to the bay. You’re not supposed to cross the railroad tracks, but the bay shoreline is on the other side of the tracks (wink, wink). They are plenty of spots to stop and take in the view.
They say the towering Old Sacred Heart Hospital building in East Hill is haunted, but that doesn’t scare off the locals who frequent the many businesses and two cool eateries that share the former hospital. Ozone’s Pizza occupies the morgue of the 103-year-old building, serving up to-die-for (get it??) gourmet pizza and Imperial pints (20 oz.) of craft beers. Don’t be scared. Just around the corner, dine under the stars in the courtyard of The Vineyard. It’s good-dog friendly, hosts outdoor movies, and offers a menu that includes small plates, burgers, and specialties – and even a brunch menu. Continue down 12th Avenue a few more blocks and stop in Brew Ha Ha cafe. Enjoy burgers and fun appetizers in a setting that includes decor and artifacts celebrating the city’s pop culture and history. Before you leave, snap a selfie in front of the iconic Pensacola postcard mural on the side of the building.
On the eastern side of Bayou Texar you’ll find a Pensacola landmark called Jerry’s Drive-In. The restaurant opened in 1939 as a BBQ joint and is still serving up burgers and banana milkshakes. Next door to Jerry’s is My Favorite Things, a fun, urban version of a Cracker Barrel gift shop specializing in breakfast dishes and sandwiches, and handmade desserts. Go a few more blocks east to travel back in time to the ‘50s when you pop in the Scenic 90 Diner, known for its home-cookin’ menu and mouthwatering milkshakes. And don’t forget to visit The Apple Market, one of the last-standing local groceries. Stop by the deli for a fresh sandwich or a prepped meal to go. Tell Mr. Apple you’re visiting Pensacola.
Water sports at Bayview Park, rent a paddleboard, kayak or pedal boat and see the area from the water. The bayou extends for three miles inland, or snakes through a winding channel for a mile to Pensacola Bay. It’s an absolutely beautiful way to see the sights, nature and a water view perspective of the coolest neighborhoods in Florida.
For the outdoor adventurist types, don’t worry – East Pensacola has you covered. Waterboyz is a surf, skate and beach gear mecca without all the tourism. It also boasts a 5,000-square-foot, multilevel skate park for kids (big and small) as well as Single Fin Café, a full-service restaurant. Weatherford’s is the rugged-outdoor gear headquarters for locals (yes, we vacation too), but it also boasts an indoor climbing wall and outdoor tower to test your skills on, if you’re up for the challenge. And local runners flock to Running Wild. The shop hosts almost-daily running groups, training groups and gait analysis for your run-happy gear.
For more places to shop and eat, check out visitpensacola.com/eastpensacola