Pensacola Beach Vacation
Unless you're from the south or happen to be familiar with northern Florida, you probably haven't heard of Pensacola Beach. Almost everyone I've ever mentioned it to says "where?" When I explain it's in the panhandle they ask if it's close to Sarasota or Ft. Lauderdale or some other Florida city they've ACTUALLY heard of that's on the totally opposite end of the state. Pensacola Beach is an unincorporated community located on Santa Rosa Island, a barrier island, just south of Pensacola, Florida. With a population of just over 8,000, it's one of the last beaches that isn't over developed. It has a super local feel to it and you can drive for miles with nothing but sand and water on either side of you. Just you and the marine life. I was lucky enough to grow up on this beach and part of me doesn't want to write this post so I can help keep it a secret, but it's just too great not to share.
My family was recently invited to a wedding (shout out to Shelley and Chris) in Satsuma, Alabama. Another town I'm sure you've never heard of, because I hadn't either (and I grew up fairly close to there)! Satsuma happened to be about an hour and a half from Pensacola, so we decided to turn our trip to the wedding into a week long family vacation back home.
Flying into Pensacola can be pricey since it's a smaller airport, but Frontier will start flying there in the spring and is already advertising flights as low as $54 each way (from Denver). Whether or not the prices will stay that low, I'm unsure of, so consider a spring trip! Nearby airports to keep in mind are in Mobile, Ft. Walton Beach or even Panama City. If a 3 hour drive doesn't intimidate you, New Orleans is an inexpensive option as well. I have found flights as low as $120 round-trip from Denver! The New Orleans option happens to be my favorite because New Orleans is my favorite city. I love to spend a day or two there and then head over to Pensacola.
For this trip, we stayed at Beach Club which is right on the Gulf of Mexico and walking distance to Pensacola Beach Pier, restaurants and nightlife. No matter where you stay, you're not far from the water. It's a very skinny island so you can see water to the north and south from almost anywhere. Premier Adventure Park rents bikes, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and jet skis. They have go-karts and even do a dolphin jet ski tour! Fort Pickens, a military fort built in the 1800s with lots of history, is always a cool spot to check out (especially if you have kids). We didn't get a chance to visit this time because Hurricane Nate hit right before our visit and damaged some of the roads causing closures, but from what I understand it should be open within a month. There is plenty to do on the beach, but not an overwhelming amount of things, which is the reason I love it so much. There aren't a ton of distractions so you can really focus on soaking up the sun and ocean breeze while having fun with your loved ones. Which is exactly what we did. We spend slow mornings on our balcony watching the waves roll in and looking for dolphins while we spent a lot of our afternoons looking for shells and sand dollars the hurricane washed up on shore. Sand dollars are the holy grail, so keep an eye out for those! If you want to visit Pensacola Beach and have any questions, let me know. I'm not a travel agent by any means, but I know my way around.
I forgot my camera in my car back in Denver, so all photos below are iPhone pics. You can see there are very few and they're primarily at sunset because we were having too much fun during the day to remember to take photos. I think those are the best kinds of vacations...the ones where you totally forget about your phone or camera and just stay in the moment! Hubby and I did get the chance to do a little romantic shoot (I'll save those photos for another post) on the beach with an awesome (and I mean AWESOME) local photographer Anneliese. I followed her Instagram page @loveanneliesephoto awhile back in admiration of her work. Never did I think I'd actually meet her, let alone work with her! If you're thinking family photos (or a romantic shoot) would be a good idea on the beach hit her up. Her work TOTALLY speaks for itself, but I seriously can't rave about how much I love her stuff. Go look at her Instagram or her portfolio on her website. HOLY WOW!
In the meantime, enjoy a few of my amatuer iPhone photos from our trip!