Pensacola Faves: An Underrated White Sand Destination
To be honest, I don’t know if I would have ever planned a trip to Pensacola, Florida if I didn’t have family living there. It’s not the most talked-about destination and it doesn’t have the world’s best culture or most Instagrammable views. But for whatever reason, each time I visit, I have a great time! I have seen some amazing sights, done some really cool activities, sunbathed on some beautiful white sand beaches and eaten some delicious food! So, if you’re looking for a beachy destination within the USA, I’m confident in recommending Pensacola, Florida. I’ve even made a list of my personal faves so you can take advantage of them while you’re there!
THE WHITE SANDY BEACHES (OF COURSE!)
The white sand beaches of Pensacola are probably my number one favorite thing about the city (except my mom, of course!). Now, it’s important to know that the white sand beaches go on for miles and miles on the Gulf Shores, so don’t just settle for the main, touristy one you see upon arrival! Here are some tips:
- Cross the bridge for the beach! To get to the beach from the mainland, you’ll have to cross two bridges: the 3-mile bridge to Golf Breeze and then the Bob Sikes bridge to Pensacola Beach. Don’t forget to pay the bridge toll online! It’s only $1.00!
- Stay to the left and drive on towards the Portofino Resort! Once you cross the bridge, you will continue driving straight down the main road towards Pensacola Beach. You’ll recognize it by a big beachball water tower and a bunch of shops, bars and restaurants lining the beach. If you want to get away to relax at an empty corner of the beach, stay to the left and continue driving down along the coast! You’ll see plenty of uncrowded spots along this way on your right. Just choose one and park!
- Turn right and drive on towards Fort Pickens! If you turn right off the main road and continue on, you’ll see some really beautiful beaches on your left and some very nice homes along the shores! You can stop at one of these beaches or continue on to Gulf Island National Sea Shore and Fort Pickens. You will have to pay $25/car for a 1-7 day pass or $45 for an annual pass.
- Have lunch or dinner near the main beach. The nice thing about the main beach (near the beachball tower) is that there are some great restaurants right on the beach! You can easily spend the day at your peaceful beach corner and then hop in the car or on your bike and grab lunch or dinner before you head home! Some of the restaurants can be a bit pricey, so be sure to check the menu before you go. If you’re there in the high season, be sure to make a reservation!
- Bring a picnic! I also recommend grabbing a cooler and stopping at the market to pick up some sandwiches or salads before you go! That way, you can have a relaxing lunch on the beach. Also, this is more budget friendly! My mom and I do this all the time when I visit! I recommend going to The Apple Market on Scenic Highway if you’re coming from that direction.
- See some dolphins from the Pier! If you can get there early enough, between 6 and 8 am, you can head out to the pier to watch the fishermen catch their fish and see some dolphins swim up to steal them!
THE BOUTIQUE RESTAURANTS & WINE BARS
There are so many cute and delicious boutique restaurants and wine bars in Pensacola. Located in the downtown area, near the beach and everywhere in between, you can find a lot of independently owned, small businesses. Here are just a few of my recs!
- For breakfast, brunch &/or coffee: The Leisure Club Coffee & Brunch. Definitely get the Brunch Trio and the Angeleno coffee. Also, can’t go wrong with Mimosas!
- For Snacks & Cocktails: Agapi Bistro & Garden. Go for Happy Hour and try as many appetizers as you can! I recommend the marinated feta & pita & some rosé Prosecco!
- For Lunch: Shaggy’s Beach Shack. Shaggy’s was one of the first restaurants I went to in Pensacola and I’ve had some good food and made some great memories there! I recommend the fish of the day and a Shaggy’s Sangria! I must say, though, that the last 2 times I went it was rather disappointing (rude staff, strange smell, bad service, cold food, etc.). But, hey, try it for yourself to find out!
- For Dinner: Peg Leg Pete’s. This is my favorite place for seafood dinner! I recommend the blue crab claws, gumbo and, of course, the whole lobster! Warning!: Be ready to wait a rather long time if you go on a weekend night!
- For Drinks: The Wine Bar on Palafox. I LOVE this place! The decor, staff, location and menu is to die for! Not to mention, the great happy hour! I recommend a bottle of the ’20 Bex Riesling, Nahe, Germany and a few small plates to share! They are truly ALL good!
THE OUTDOOR MARKETS & ART SHOWS
Personally, I was surprised by the arts and culture scene in Pensacola. Not only are there weekly outdoor markets with over 80 vendors (and growing), but they also host a monthly arts and culture event called “Gallery Night”, where different arts and crafts vendors, food trucks, artists and performers showcase their work and products! There is usually live music, great food and tons of great, handmade gifts to buy! Aside from the market and Gallery Night event, Pensacola is known to host various events, including food truck festivals, line dancing, meditation & more. Check out the links below for more information & dates.
THE RED ORANGE SUNSETS
Some of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen have been in Pensacola. I love grabbing a drink and some snacks to watch the sunset with most vibrant red orange colors over the trees or the water. Here are some of my fave spots to catch a sunset!
- The Bay Bluffs Park
- The Beach! Really, any beach but I prefer to find a nice, calm spot (see above!).
- A Bar or Restaurant with an outdoor bar or terrance. You can check out Calvert’s for a great view (though the food is not my favorite)!
BLUE WAHOO BASEBALL GAMES
I’m not really a big fan of baseball, myself, but there’s something about a tall Summer Shandy under the sun at the Blue Wahoo Stadium that puts me in a great mood! The tickets are not too expensive- less than $20/person BUT I will say that the food and drinks can be a bit pricey. Here are some tips for game day!
- Outside food and drinks are not permitted so budget some money for the concessions! There’s nothing like a beer, a hot dog and some nachos at a baseball game!
- Wear a hat and bring sunscreen! If you’re going in the summer, it will be hot and sunny! I also recommend bringing some kind of mini fan and/or facial mist if you get warm easily!
- Park down the street! It is MUCH easier to get out of there and avoid traffic if you don’t park at the stadium. Street parking is usually free and only a few minutes walk from the park.
- You can buy tickets on game day! So if you’re in Pensacola and not sure what to do, check the schedule for last minute tickets!
FREE BLUE ANGELS AIR SHOWS
If you’re looking for something fun to do for an hour or so, you can head to Navy Point on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. to see the Blue Angels Navy Flyers during their training sessions!
- Pro tip #1: Bring a blanket to sit on and have a little picnic while you’re there!
- Pro tip #2: Don’t forget to bring a hat and sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun while you watch!
THE 4TH OF JULY CONCERT & FIREWORKS
If you happen to be in Pensacola for the 4th, definitely don’t miss the annual concert and firework show! It is the best firework show I have ever been to and the concert was great, as well! Because Pensacola is home to a big Naval Base and Air Station, you get to hear a several hour show from the Pensacola Navy Band! It really is a great 4th of July ambiance! Here are my suggestions if you decide to check it out!
- Get there early! The show begins at 6 p.m., but if you want to get a good spot, make sure you get there around 4:30 or 5 p.m.
- Bring a blanket, chairs & parasol! The sun doesn’t set until much later, so make sure you bring something to give you some shade! There are no trees to sit under in the middle of the park!
- Bring a cooler! Definitely bring your own food and drinks- it is permitted! I don’t remember if they had any at the venue, but I everyone, including us, had their own coolers!
I have been to 5 different tattoo studios in several different countries but this is definitely my favorite one, thus far! Everything is super clean and new and the staff is super friendly! My favorite tattoo artist there is Kimo, so definitely ask for him if you go! BUT make sure you get an appointment, because he is usually booked!
BAY BLUFFS PARK
If you like running and hiking or just picnicking and hanging out, the Bay Bluffs Park is a great place to visit! You can use the stairs to hike down to the bottom or hike down the bluffs, themselves. You can see some amazing views of the ocean or walk down the train tracks. You can also step out into the water and see some fish, birds and rays! No matter what you like doing, you will likely run into some friendly walkers or joggers, out for a stroll on the beach.
- Pro tip #1: Be careful! The tracks are still in use!
- Pro tip #2: Don’t go too far into the water! You should watch out for jelly fish and other wildlife that could be dangerous or disturbed by your presence!
CHILLING BY THE POOL
If you’re in Pensacola in the hot, summer months, you definitely need to stay somewhere with a pool! This is a MUST for me, because some days you just wanna hang out and rest. When t’s too nice to stay inside but too hot to be out in the sun, chilling by the pool is the best solution!
- Pro tip #1: Book a place with a pool OR know someone with a pool! 😉
- Pro tip #2: If you don’t have one already, head to Walmart and grab a cheap pool floaty!
- Pro tip #3: 50+ SPF sunscreen ALWAYS. No exceptions!
I’m living the “broké”-bitch-life (abroad). A twenty something-year-old optimistic cynic, lover of new cultures and self-care addict, I’m here to teach you that “doing it all” (and then some) really is possible!
Get in Touch
I’m always looking for new ideas and suggestions for things to write about my trips, faves & business! Hit me up for collabs, content, questions & more.