Cruise on over to Pensacola Beach this summer!

By Katie King

There’s a brand new way to explore Pensacola’s top destinations now. Pensacola Bay Cruises recently launched its ferry service to Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens and Downtown Pensacola.

Sure, you can still opt to drive and park at each.

But if you’re looking to explore the island and cover a lot of ground in one day, why fight stop-and-go traffic, when you can cruise in style instead?

This time, on a multimillion-dollar catamaran boat, with a spectacular viewing deck, air conditioned main deck and beverage service.

You had me at air conditioning.

In June, the National Park Service (NPS) launched its new ferry service along Pensacola Bay. Two 150-passenger ferries, named Pelican Perch and Turtle Runner by area school children, depart from Downtown Pensacola, the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk and Fort Pickens every 45 minutes through 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 p.m. on weekends, depending on the departure location.

Simply put, taking the ferry is a lot of fun. And it provides a stress-free, relaxing and safe way for couples and families to see Pensacola Beach and downtown Pensacola from a fresh and beautiful perspective – the water.

The ferries feature a climate-controlled enclosed main deck and a shaded upper deck for observation. Each is equipped with a snack bar for food and beverage service, restrooms, passenger storage, flat screen TVs and a sound system for on-board interpretation by NPS rangers.

The boats even feature bike racks for those wishing to explore Fort Pickens or Santa Rosa Island by bicycle, and storage space for families wanting to bring coolers or some beach equipment.

Plus, each ferry ticket includes an entrance into the Gulf Islands National Seashore for the day. Those traveling to Fort Pickens can hop on the free shuttle to tour the fort and historic buildings, or choose to walk around the tip of Santa Rosa Island and view the Pensacola Pass.

Those traveling to the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk pier can grab a ride on one of the free, open-air trolleys that circles the island. Hop on and off as you please. To view the trolley stops and schedules, click here.

Or, heck, why not do both? A single ticket will allow a rider to get on and off the ferries as many times as they want during a day.

Ferry rides start at $20. Active-duty military and seniors will pay $18.50 for the tickets, children (ages 3-15) will pay $13, and frequent riders can purchase a 10-trip pass for $150.

The Pensacola Bay ferries are scheduled to run daily through Aug. 19.

From Aug. 22 through Sept. 28, they will run Wednesday through Sunday. From Sept. 29 through Nov. 4, they will operate on Saturday and Sunday. Service will resume in March 2019.

Tickets can be purchased at each landing site and online at pensacolabaycruises.com.

(Please remember that prices and times are subject to change, please check the ferry website for the latest information.)   Click below to see route and schedules.