We headed to lovely Navarre Beach, on Santa Rosa Island just a few miles from Pensacola Beach, a few months ago, after spending a few days in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama. I had been to Navarre Beach in the past – we had even chosen to rent a beach house there rather than Pensacola Beach because it was so quiet and unspoiled – but it had been a few years. Before we headed over to the island, we stopped at one of the local Publix grocery stores on the way to pick up drinks and snacks to stock the fridge in our condo. We stopped before we even got to Navarre Beach because the last time I was there several years ago, there was no grocery store anywhere close by. You had to drive to nearby Pensacola or Gulf Breeze if you wanted to pick up groceries.
As we pulled up near the bridge to cross over to the snow-white sand of Santa Rosa Island and gorgeous Navarre Beach, I was surprised and pleased to see a brand new Publix grocery. This means that, with the incredible beach, fabulous accommodations and small, locally owned restaurants on Navarre Beach, you may never have to leave the area for your whole vacation!
There are plenty of condos and beach houses to choose from in the area but we were very fortunate to be on a press trip and were provided with a gorgeous condo overlooking the water by Gulf Blue Vacations. Locally owned by some truly nice people and with plenty of gorgeous properties available, we were very happy with the stay at Summerwind Resort they arranged for us – I even wrote about it in detail.
You can spend hours at Navarre Beach just enjoying the gorgeous view of white sand and water that shades from the palest green at the water’s edge to navy blue on the horizon.
We had a great view of the famous Navarre Pier – the longest pier on the gulf coast – and could easily walk to it. After checking in and enjoying our incredible view, we headed out to the pier where the whole family can spend hours fishing and will probably have a lot of luck. You can even rent fishing equipment right on the pier. We saw fisherman pulling in fish after fish – and there’s your dinner for tonight! Take a break for lunch and eat at the restaurant right on the pier – they serve hot, fresh, just-caught fish and it’s really delicious. We had a wonderful lunch there.
There are plenty of other great places to eat in Navarre Beach as well. If you are in the mood for California Style Mexican Cuisine, head to the Cactus Flower Café. The Mexican food is fresh, flavorful, delicious and healthy. Order the Mango Shrimp Appetizer which is sweet, spicy and wonderful. Then try the fish tacos; they have a lime sauce that is to die for! We got to sample all the desserts and they are equally fabulous, so be sure to try them all. Or get one of each to take home!When you ready for more fresh, local seafood, stop by the Beach Monkey Bar and Grill which is situated right on the beach. Sit on the large deck, try the fried fish and shrimp with a frozen tropical drink and enjoy the incomparable gulf coast sunset.
Navarre Beach is quiet and very family friendly with the soft, sugar-white sand that will keep kids busy for hours. But if they start to get a little bored, there are destinations in several different directions that will keep them very happy. The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station is located right at the Navarre Beach Park and offers camps and classes for kids to learn more about the marine ecosystem of coastal Florida. We stopped by for a visit and I was pleased to see groups of kids there, both in a classroom learning about marine life and getting kayaking lessons in the gentle bay.
Just a few miles away, The Gulf Breeze Zoo is one of the most kid-friendly zoos we have ever visited. The Walking Path and Petting Zoo has a large petting area, a giraffe feeding station with the friendliest giraffe I have ever seen and a free-flight budgiery full of colorful parakeets. Kids were standing inside the budgiery with birds flying all around them, laughing in delight. Kids will love the “budgie treat sticks” which are basically Popsicle sticks with bird feed stuck to them. If they hold them out, the brightly colored birds will land right on their hand. Stroll along the boardwalk, a raised walkway where you watch the more exotic animals, or ride the Safari Limited Train around the beautifully landscaped 30 acre preserve to see chimpanzees, gorillas and huge Nile hippos.
When the family is ready for a day of adventure, take a short drive through historic Milton, Florida and spend the whole day at Adventures Unlimited. Stop in Milton for lunch and a stroll around town, especially down by the river to see the war monuments and enjoy the view.
For those who want a real adventure, you can zip line through the trees like I wrote about here, over the river and from tower to tower – it’s really a blast. Just make sure you are not afraid of heights! Or you can choose the Challenge Ropes Course which is a great adventure for a group or a family. If you don’t feel quite so adventurous, try canoeing, kayaking or tubing down the Blackwater River. The clear, tea-colored water is only about two feet deep with a soft, sandy bottom so it’s great for kids. We spent a day canoeing and having a picnic on the sandy shore one year and it was a lot of fun. They also have cabins available or you can choose to camp on the sandy shores of the river and spend time swimming, playing and just enjoying the beautiful area.
If you choose to never leave Navarre Beach during your vacation there, the kids will be perfectly happy playing in that gorgeous white sand and splashing in the beautiful gulf coast water while you laze on the beach in your lounge chair.
And that sounds pretty darn fabulous.
Full disclosure: Our trip was provided by Florida Beaches to Rivers, but as always, I will share my honest opinion about any travel experiences I have.