Five Reasons To Spend Winter On Pensacola Beach
By Katie King
Winter weather shouldn’t be something you have to bear the brunt of while on vacation. It should be something to enjoy and behold.
On Pensacola Beach, winter is truly something to behold. So ditch the snow shovel and grab a sand rake instead. Because on Pensacola Beach, unlike most northern cities in winter with their below-freezing temps and roadside snow banks, our snow white sand never turns gray or melts away. Our fine powder stays brilliant white year round. And our mild temps, coupled with the lower sun and lack of humidity, makes the colors of our sky and Gulf waters that much more vivid in winter.
So if you’re seeking a beautiful winter destination for soul-searching and solitude – paired with Southern Hospitality — look no further. What could be better than whiling away your days by walking miles of secluded beaches, collecting seashells and watching shorebirds and stunning sunsets? Here are five things to do (or not do) on the beach in winter. It’s your choice.
1. Birdwatching: Part of the Florida Birding Trail, our narrow barrier island attracts over 300 species of birds every year. From pine warblers to pelicans, you’ll find them here. Some are year-round residents – like our native osprey, willets, Great blue herons, green herons, pelicans, red-bellied woodpeckers, Great horned owls, brown thrashers and mockingbirds. Others, like piping plovers, are snowbirds too and migrate all the way from Canada to winter on our beach’s sand flats.
Waterfowl adorned with beautiful plumage also winter in our estuaries around Pensacola Beach. Horned grebes and common loons are fun to watch as they as the dive searching for fish. And if you look closely, yellow-rumped warblers and gray catbirds can be spotted wintering in the beach grass and shrubs.
Once near extinction, our national symbol — the bald eagle — is being spotted more frequently along Pensacola Beach thanks to a rebound in the population. Bald eagles can migrate from anywhere between Canada and the Gulf Coast. The migrants are typically the non-breeding individuals, while the breeding pairs tend to remain in the same area year round. Tip: look for their giant nests built high in trees and platforms and wait for them to return. They’re usually not gone long.
2. Seashelling: Pensacola Beach is popular among shell collectors. The northern winds flatten the surf, and the winter sun — riding lower in the sky —casts long shadows across the sand, making seashells easier to spot from a distance.
The trick is to check the tide charts to catch the Gulf at its lowest tide. Winter low tides can push the Gulf waters past the tidal shelf, where many shells collect. On some days, the low tide occurs early in the morning – the perfect time to get out and hunt for those new shells that washed up overnight before most people hit the beach.
Tiny lightning whelks and turbans, colorful coquina and fragile baby’s ears are frequently found in the swash zone. And if you venture just knee-deep into the water, you may find shark eyes, calico scallops, gray and white augers, cloudy periwinkles and scotch bonnets.
3. Solitude: While South Florida beaches are jammed with tourists in the winter, Pensacola Beach is appealing for people who want to unwind, relax and wander down long stretches of beaches with very few beachgoers.
It’s the perfect time to read a book, take a nap, or meditate or share quality time with loved ones without the interruptions of throngs of beachgoers competing for a spot in the sand around you. Take beach chairs and a blanket, relax and breathe in the tranquil beauty.
4. Outdoor recreation: Our mild winter days often start out chilly but warm up nicely to enjoy most activities the beach has to offer – walking, cycling, running, and even wading. Even a dip in the Gulf is not out of question for the hardier souls.
And, there’s no reason not to enjoy water sports. You may need to wear a wet suit if diving in, or bundle up if boating. Our waters become much clearer in the winter with fewer storms and boat activity, providing a better opportunity to see more marine life on paddleboard or kayak excursion in either the Gulf of Mexico or bays.
5. Wining and Dining: Pensacola Beach restaurants and bars are popular year-round, but they’re less crowded than in the summer. Winter is the best time to get seated quickly, allowing you more time to sample a variety of fare on the beaches. You’ll find an empty bar seat more easily and enjoy some the local signature drinks our bartenders mix up.
So escape your winter wasteland and fly south to our little wonderland of warm, sunny days, sugar-white sands and emerald-green waters.