Pensacola and Beyond

By: VISIT FLORIDA staff

ADD TO FAVORITES
Explore unique spots in the Pensacola Bay area with this driving tour.

It is rumored that Walt Disney's first choice of land for his amusement park was in northwest Florida, and no wonder. Besides its breathtaking beaches and mild climate, the curved arm of Florida's northwest coast has easy accessibility from southern and midwestern states alike.

The westernmost locale is the Pensacola Bay area. Buildings laced with wrought iron and painted in muted, sun-drenched colors give this city its Old World charm. Historic Pensacola Village in the downtown Seville Quarter, and the Civil War-era Fort Pickens, where Apache Indian chief Geronimo was once a prisoner, bring the storied history of the city alive.

Heritage Highlights

Other cities may have living history museums, but no doubt 19th century Historic Pensacola Village, 205 East Zaragoza St., is one of the few to display truly unique household artifacts, explained by costumed interpreters who bring the collection of coastal vernacular buildings-turned-museums to life. Located next to Pensacola Bay on Zaragoza and Tarragona Streets in the downtown Seville Quarter, one of the oldest historic districts in the Southeast, the Village conveniently sits atop the Colonial Archaeological Walking Trail. A series of outdoor markers and ongoing excavations point to the faint outlines of Spanish, British and American fortifications that once stood on these grounds. Call 850-595-5985 or go to historicpensacola.org

Nature Trek

Paradise found – that's what many visitors think the first time they walk barefoot in the squeaky sugar sand next to the tourmaline-green water of the Gulf. The Pensacola Bay Area has one of the prettiest stretches of beachfront in the country, and if you don't believe it, take a look at Dr. Beach's list of America's best. Play hard by deep-sea fishing, sunbathing, teaming up for beach volleyball, jet skiing, windsurfing and sailing, or go easy on activities with a simple stroll along the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The Seashore is one of the country's most visited national park areas and includes 12 units from Cat Island in Mississippi to Okaloosa Island near Fort Walton Beach in Florida. Park headquarters is at Naval Live Oak area in Gulf Breeze. Call 850-934-2600.

You won't want to miss the Gulf Breeze Zoo, 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy., offering a close-up view of more than 700 animals, including rhinos, gorillas, lions, monkeys and more. Feed the giraffe at the petting zoo, ride the train through a nature preserve and enjoy the walk-through aviary and botanical gardens. Call 850-932-2229.

Culture Quest

The protective geography of the Gulf, along with its mild weather, first lured the Navy to Pensacola. Tourists followed, and the Naval Air Station opened its National Naval Aviation Museum, 1750 Radford Blvd. This stellar museum features a fleet of airplanes and flying contraptions spanning the history of aviation, along with a variety of interactive exhibits. If you're lucky enough, you can catch a performance by the Navy's elite Blue Angels air squad over the glassy waters of the Gulf. Be sure to check the website in advance; the Blue Angels schedule is subject to change. Call 850-452-3604 for practice and performance schedule.

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