Also see our Gulf Islands Scenic Drive article for attractions along the Emerald Coast from Pensacola to Apalachicola Florida
Visiting Pensacola Beach on Santa Rosa Island
Pensacola Beach is the beach community located on Santa Rosa Island, a thirty mile long, narrow barrier island strip of dunes and grass lands that protects Pensacola Florida from the hurricanes and storms that roll across the Gulf of Mexico. To the east and west of the town is the Gulf Islands National Seashore Park that occupies most of Santa Rosa Island. Pensacola Beach occupies a place in history as the location of landfall of America’s first European settlement in 1559.
When people living on the mainland in Pensacola proper say they are “going to the beach” they intend to drive across two bridges crossing Pensacola Bay to Santa Rosa Island and the beach community of Pensacola Beach. They’ll swim and lounge in the sun and surf on white sugar sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico at either the huge municipal Casino Beach or one of the more isolated beaches east and west of town that are located in the Gulf Islands National Seashore (ranked by one source as the #3 beach in the US and a top 25 beach world-wide). They will typically party at one of the fun dining and drinking establishments on the northern shoreline of the island, on Santa Rosa Sound, which also has some nice beaches but are not as expansive and pristine as the Gulf side beaches.
Some Beach Scenes
Things to Do in Pensacola Beach
The fun and entertainment center of Pensacola Beach is within walking distance of its famous beach ball water tower and one of the longest fishing piers on the Gulf of Mexico. Swimming, beach combing, surfing, fishing, boating, snorkeling, parasailing, shopping, dining, touring the boardwalk and entertaining are all within walking distance. Another popular activity is following Pensacola Beach Echo Trail to learn about the island’s unique birds, flowers, fish, and mammals.
Civil war and military history buffs will enjoy visiting historic Fort Pickens and exploring the array of retired coastal gunneries along the gulf side of the western end of the island. In addition to the historic fort, the Fort Pickens campground and recreation area has a network of hiking and nature trails plus boardwalk trails to their uncrowded sugar-sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
As a tourist-oriented community, Pensacola Beach has its share of shopping, entertainment and nightlife venues. Many of these are located along the Portofino Boardwalk that fronts the beach along Santa Rosa Sound.
As RVers we tend to spend a good deal of time on the trails and beaches of Fort Pickens but when we do come into town, we like to sample the sea food restaurants, of which there are many. See our article and reviews of Pensacola Beach Restaurants here.
Loads of other attractions are located only about 4 miles away on the mainland in Historic Pensacola Florida. Golf courses, more historic forts, the fantastic Naval Aviation Museum, the Palafox and Seville historic districts, the Florida State Museum, waterfront parks, an arts district, entertainment, and loads of great restaurants are among the interesting things to see and do in Historic Pensacola (see our article).
Hotels, Condos, Lodging & Camping
There are several high rise resort hotels that front on the beach and offer dining, entertainment, and sun and surf related services. Visitors to the island can also stay at any number of low rise condo units. The condo units that aren’t directly on the beach have access to several public beach areas that are sprinkled throughout the town as well as the main municipal Casino Beach whose pavilion hosts entertainment and events. RV travelers and campers can choose from the Pensacola Beach RV Resort near the center of town or migrate out to the western end of the island to the RV park and campground at Fort Pickens National Park.
Pensacola Beach Visitor Links
See our article on
Pensacola Beach Dining & Entertainment
Gulf Coast Scenic Drive, Scenic Highways 98 and 30A
Roscoe January 2017