Spring Forward to Pensacola Beach: A Family-Friendly Destination
By Katie King
If you’re looking for a fun place to travel with your family and escape over spring break, Pensacola Beach offers diverse itineraries for visitors looking to combine a little bit of fun, education and adventure, along with the traditional sun and sand, to celebrate the onset of springtime.
Here are a few of our suggestions:
Spending spring break on Pensacola Beach means some serious time in the sand and sun, but if you’re also seeking adventure, you don’t have to go far.
Experience the thrill of bottlenose dolphins playing in the boat’s wake while touring the island on a dolphin cruise in the Intracoastal Waterway. Observe the water from a different perspective – rent paddleboards and test out your core muscle strength on a family outing around the calm waters of Little Sabine Bay.
For high-octane fun, hop in a go kart and race your family members around a winding track along the beach and then jump on a waverunner and explore the sound side of the island by water.
For a high-flying adventure – discover what it’s like to soar above the water as you parasail behind the back of a speedboat, overlooking the island from more than 200 feet in the air.
2. Educational Experiences
Families looking for learning in a fun atmosphere don’t even have to leave the island to discover Pensacola’s rich ecology, history and heritage.
Follow a trail — one that tells of the local ecosystem and abundant wildlife — by exploring the Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail. Gain a greater understanding and respect for the special marine life –– sea turtles, birds, dolphins and, yes, even our much misunderstood sharks –– and discover what our beach’s famous soft, sugar-white sand is made of.
Spanning 8.5-miles along Pensacola Beach, the trail consists of 29 stops with educational signs that highlight the island’s ecology and answer all those questions about the plants, animals and birds, complete with colorful photos, maps and interactive codes for mobile devices to dig and dive deeper.
Biking the eco-trail is a perfect way to fully enjoy it. Once completed, you’ll fully understand why Pensacola Beach visitors are asked to “Leave behind only your footprints.”
With its labyrinth of arched brick tunnels overlooking sweeping views of the Gulf and Pensacola Bay, Fort Pickens is a favorite spot among history buffs, explorers and photographers.
Located at the tip of Pensacola Beach, Fort Pickens is the largest of the four historic Pensacola forts and took five years and 21.5 million bricks to build. Built by slaves between 1829 and 1834, this massive hexagonal brick citadel was occupied by Union forces during the Civil War and is one of only four Southern forts that didn’t fall into Confederate hands.
Today, the park is maintained and managed by the National Park Service, and there are guided tours, camping and other activities available on the site. Families can just explore the fort and the park at their leisure, experiencing an important piece of American history and the thriving, wild ecosystem that surrounds it. The fort is surrounded by acres of undeveloped, wild beach with areas for fishing, camping, kayaking and more. Meandering trails are waiting to be hiked or biked and miles upon miles of wide-open, pristine shorelines are perfect for beach combing, wandering or planting a beach umbrella, far from the crowds.
No vacation would be complete without beach memorabilia and souvenirs, and there are plenty of locations to pick up trendy gifts, coastal fashions and mementos from your trip along the island.
Pensacola Beach is peppered with quaint boutiques ranging from relaxed southern coastal options for men and women to designer apparel. Shoppers can spend time strolling along the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk searching for trendy clothing, hand-made jewelry, one-of-a-kind accessories and more.
Whether you are looking for an island souvenir, designer sunglasses, the perfect bathing suit, or even just to replenish your sunscreen — Pensacola Beach has you covered. If you like to shop till you drop, the best part of being on the beach is that you can spend the next day with your toes in the sand, relaxing in that new cover up or cute floppy hat you just purchased.
Beneath our casual, coastal lifestyle, you’ll find dining options that excite even the most refined foodie. With world-class seafood readily available at our fingertips and 450+ years of differing cultural and culinary influences, Pensacola Beach serves up some serious flavors.
Visitors are often surprised to discover that the island features Greek, Italian, Mexican and even Asian dining options and influences.
From ‘shrimp po-boy in hand and feet in the sand’ style restaurants, to “fun for the whole family” options, to a romantic sunset dinner overlooking the water – and everything in between – there’s no better dining than on Pensacola Beach.
So be sure to bring your appetite!