Guide to Beaches in Pensacola, Florida

    By VISIT FLORIDA staff

    Your guide to beaches in Pensacola, FL

    Editor's note: Beaches and parks are listed geographically from west to east.

    Beaches with this symbol have beach wheelchairs available, either provided as a courtesy, or available for (prearranged) rent and delivery from private companies.

    Nestled in Florida's northwestern corner, the beaches in Pensacola, Florida will leave you with enough warm memories to last you through to next year's visit. Whether you are craving the flavor of local crowds or the peace of an isolated, sugary-white beach, you'll find it any time of the year on this award-winning, emerald-green coast.

    Gulf Islands National Seashore

    Run by the National Park Service, the seashore encompasses several beaches, picnic areas, campsites, historic areas and diverse wildlife from Florida's border to the eastern tip of Santa Rosa Island. Eighty percent of the protected area actually lies under water. There are snowy-white beaches, sparkling blue waters, fertile coastal marshes, and dense maritime forests. Visitors can explore 19th century forts, enjoy shaded picnic areas, hike on winding nature trails, and camp in comfortable campgrounds.

    Perdido Key Beach

    Part of the Gulf Island National Seashore, this barrier island located west of Pensacola is a hidden retreat where you can fish, sunbathe, swim, surf or simply relax along the award-winning beaches in Pensacola, FL and protected dunes. Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, better know as Dr. Beach, has consistently ranked Perdido Key Beach among the top 20 beaches in the nation. Half of the island is occupied by Johnson Beach and Fort McRae. Ruins of Batteries 233, Center and Slemmer remain atop what is left of Fort McRae, built in 1836.

    Perdido Key State Recreation Area

    More protected shoreline stretches west into the Perdido Key State Recreation Area - 247 acres with almost 1 ½ miles of white Gulf beach sand. Fish, swim, hike and relax in this westernmost state park.

    Big Lagoon State Park

    On the mainland across from Perdido Key Beach, 705-acre Big Lagoon State Park is another sanctuary for hiking, boating, swimming, fishing and camping. A 40-foot observation tower at the East Beach area provides a panoramic view of Big Lagoon, the park and Gulf Islands National Seashore across the Intracoastal Waterway.

    Fort Pickens

    Located at the western end of the beaches in Pensacola, FL, this area offers a secluded, pristine beach as well as a little bit of history thanks to the fort, which was one of four local forts (including one underwater) built between the 1820s and the beginning of the Civil War to protect Pensacola Bay. The park also includes a museum, campgrounds, boardwalks and facilities.

    Pensacola Beach

    Pensacola Beach occupies nearly eight miles of the 40-mile-long Santa Rosa barrier island. It is surrounded by the Santa Rosa Sound to the north, the Gulf of Mexico to the south and on either side by the federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore. You can swim, fish, kayak and play at one of two area beach parks: Casino Beach and Quietwater Beach. Lively Casino Beach is considered the geographic center of the area, while Quietwater Beach is closer to the commercial center and features its own boardwalk and concert area. There is also plenty of access to quiet areas of the beach where you can avoid the crowds.

    Pensacola Beach Fishing Pier and Observation Post

    This 1,471-foot pier extends across emerald-green waters beyond two sand bars and leaves you with breathtaking views of the shoreline. Take in some fishing (fishing supplies are available on the pier), a snack at the diner, or an amazing Pensacola Bay sunset. It's all sure to leave you with a unique experience every night of your visit.

    Opal Beach

    Named for the 1995 hurricane that damaged part of the coast, Opal Beach is located halfway between Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach. The park offers ample parking, picnic facilities and bathrooms.

    Navarre Beach

    Nestled between tall shady oaks and the Santa Rosa Sound, the eight miles of Navarre Beach consist of powdery white sands and emerald-green surf. Navarre Beach Park, located on the eastern end of Navarre Beach, offers more amazing natural areas. This 130-acre state park features 4,000 feet of pristine Gulf beach, as well as fishing, swimming, camping and a variety of activities. Spot a bottlenose dolphin off the park's 1,545-foot pier or take a walk along over the park's wetland. It's one of the best beaches in Pensacola, Florida for families.

    Naval Live Oaks

    Not only is the Gulf Islands National Seashore headquartered here in Gulf Breeze, but this area features more than 1,378 acres of woods and waterfront ideal for walking and wading. This preserved area is a refuge for a variety of protected species of small animals, birds and plants, the most notable being the live oak, which was used to make Navy ships in the 1700s because of its unusual strength and natural shape.