Along the westernmost parts of the Florida panhandle is a city that’s surrounded by stunning aquamarine waters and white sandy beaches. This is exactly what sets Pensacola apart from the many other beaches of Florida. When you’re in Pensacola, you’ll feel like you’re in a different part of the world—the Caribbean perhaps. The gorgeous beach town, which also happens to be a naval town, will surprise you with its charm, personality, and history. There are many ways you can spend your vacation in Pensacola, but if you’re visiting for the first time, we highly suggest you do these 10 things for a true and excellent Pensacola experience.
1. Gulf Islands National Seashore
The first thing you’ll have to do is visit the beach, of course. There are plenty in the area, but the Gulf Islands National Seashore is easily a favorite among locals and tourists alike. What is there not to like about 160 miles of white sandy shoreline and dunes? You can spend an entire day enjoying the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, soaking up some sun, boating, scuba diving, fishing, or anything else that you might like doing at the beach.
2. 5 Flags Speedway
You can’t say you’ve ever been to Pensacola if you’ve never been to the speedway. This half-mile stock car racing track is probably the best short track in the nation. It’s extremely fast and loud, and it’s quite an experience even if you’re not a racing fan. There’s a good chance you’ll come across some big NASCAR names at this speedway during some of their special events, so keep a watchful eye.
3. Big Lagoon State Park
There’s something you can appreciate at this state park whether you’re an indoor or outdoor person. This coastal park is enormous, and its many ecosystems are full of vibrant wildlife and lush greenery. You can do plenty at this state park: camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, fishing, and so much more. There’s a boardwalk that has a few lookout towers where you can have a great view of the area.
4. Condor Sailing Adventures
Being in Pensacola is a great opportunity to go sailing, especially if you’ve never gone before. The beautiful waters in the area will make you fall in love with the ocean. Of course, you’ll have to do it with the pros, and the people from Condor Sailing Adventures are the best at what they do.
5. Gulf Coast Air Tours
Take a totally different tour of Pensacola and do it while you’re flying. The Gulf Coast Air Tours offer a stunning view of Pensacola. You can either do a romantic sunset tour or do a shark patrol tour. Either one you choose will absolutely impress you.
6. Historic Pensacola Village
Learn more about the history of this beautiful city by visiting and walking the 8.5-mile stretch of Historic Pensacola. You’ll see 28 different properties that will offer you a glimpse of this area’s past. Eleven of these properties are open to the public, and the properties range from museums to actual homes.
7. National Naval Aviation Museum
Being that Pensacola is a big naval town, you can expect that it also has the world’s largest aviation museum. This is a must-see if ever you’re in the area. You’ll learn a lot about the history of naval aviation in the US. You can find some pretty impressive displays in this museum, including the very first plane to ever cross the Atlantic in 1919: the Curtiss NC-4.
8. Niuhi Dive Charters
If you’ve already explored the land, the air, and the surface of Pensacola’s waters, there’s only one place left to go: under the sea. Niuhi Dive Charters offer an amazing experience of some of the wrecks and reefs that you can find deep in the Gulf of Mexico.
9. Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
There’s something fascinating about old lighthouses, and Pensacola’s lighthouse is pretty impressive. You’ll have to take the 177 steps to get to the top because the view is just amazing up there. This lighthouse was built in 1859, and it’s in excellent condition today. The museum is also worth a visit, as you’ll learn a lot about American history during the time when this lighthouse was built.
10. Pensacola Pedal Trolley
For a unique way of exploring Pensacola, go with the Pedal Trolley. This pedal-powered vehicle has enough seating for fifteen people. You can explore the Downtown Historic District this way. Take the tour and make the most of the trip. It’ll only last ninety minutes, but it’ll surely be one of the best times you’ll have in Pensacola.