Pensacola Local Highlights

Published on October 05, 2022 - Updated on October 05, 2022

Pristine beaches and emerald waters steal the show in Northwest Florida but there’s so much more to see and experience in Pensacola. The area’s rich history and natural beauty make it more than easy to fill your days with food, fun, and adventure. Here are some of our favorite local spots to frequent.

Pensacola Highlights and Local Favorites

Gulf Islands National Seashore Fort Pickens Area

1400 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach, FL 32566

Ft Pickens

At the time of its completion, Fort Pickens was the largest brick structure on the Gulf of Mexico. The massive structure has endured wars and natural disasters, but a large portion of it still stands. The area is now part of the National Park Service and offers several beach accesses, hiking trails, as well as the ability to tour the remnants of the fort and batteries. The Pensacola Lighthouse stands tall across the bay and visitors may even catch a glimpse of the US Navy Blue Angels in flight.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Peg Leg Pete's Restaurant is locally famous for its seafood and hospitable atmosphere.

+ Red Fish Blue Fish offers beautiful water views and a fun backyard area with lawn games.

+ Laguna's Beach Bar & Water Sports overlooks the sound and offers water sports, food, and entertainment.

Blue Wahoo Stadium

351 W Cedar Street, Pensacola, FL 32502

Blue Wahoos Stadium

Pensacola has its own minor league baseball team housed in a fabulous stadium (Blue Wahoo Stadium) overlooking the bay. Blue Wahoo's baseball always draws a fun crowd that’s ready to root for the home team. Great food and wholesome fun make this outing one of our top favorites. Be sure to stay for the fireworks!

Nearby Attractions:

+ Centennial Kids Park and Playground is located directly behind the stadium and offers a modern play area with a fabulous view.

+ The Garden at Palafox and Main is a unique outdoor dining hall with multiple airstream food trucks as well as an open-air bar.

+ Nick’s Boathouse is located next to the stadium and offers a menu with something to please everyone and views of Pensacola Bay.

Gulf Breeze Zoo

5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Gulf Breeze Zoo

The Gulf Breeze Zoo is situated on over 50 acres and visitors can experience over 1000 animals in a variety of ways. This lovely zoo is dedicated to education and conservation. Take a stroll through the park’s exhibits, walk the towering boardwalk, or take a ride on the safari train. There is an onsite play area, a gift shop, as well as a diner with food, snacks, and refreshments.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Tiger Point Park is located nearby and offers a nice modern playground as well as a paved walking path.

+ The Eatery Gulf Breeze offers a fun outdoor dining experience with multiple food trucks offering savory choices as well as sweet treats.

+ The Pointe overlooks the Tiger Point Golf Course and offers live music, daily specials, and family fun.

Navarre Beach Fishing Pier

8579 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566

Navarre Beach Fishing Pier

Take a walk on the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, the longest fishing pier on the Gulf of Mexico, and soak in the panoramic views of the beautiful emerald coast. Visitors are almost guaranteed to see dolphins, sea turtles, or a majestic ray. Stay for sunset and don’t forget to dig your toes into the powder white sand of Navarre Beach.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Opal Beach is located just outside of Navarre Beach proper and offers secluded beach access as well as access to the Santa Rosa Sound.

+ Windjammers is located at the pier and offers waterfront dining and drinks, as well as a play area for the kids.

+ Tommy Snoballs is located just across the causeway and offers New Orleans-style snoballs.

Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

8740 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566

Sea Turtle Conservation Center

The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center is home to Sweet Pea, its resident sea turtle. Visitors will enjoy interactive displays and exhibits as they learn about reef systems, marine life, and conservation efforts.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Navarre Park and Playground is located just across the causeway and offers a brand-new playground and splash pad overlooking the sound.

+ Juana’s Pagodas and Sailor’s Grill is located just across the street and offers waterfront drinks and dining, as well as a play area for the kids.

+ The Twist Custom Ice Cream is a nice local spot for ice cream, hand-crafted shakes, and sundaes.

Blackwater River State Park

7720 Deaton Bridge Road, Holt, FL 32564

Blackwater River State Park

The Blackwater River is a true lazy river with its shallow clear waters and winding banks. The river’s sandy bottom and large sandbars give it an appearance that is far different from its name. The river has many sandy beach spots along its shores and is a popular destination for swimming, tubing, fishing, and paddling. Blackwater River State Park is also home to miles and miles of hiking trails that wind through the forest of towering long-leaf pines. The trails range in level of difficulty and are perfect for exploring the area’s ecosystem.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Boomerang Pizza and General Store is located in nearby Milton along the downtown and riverwalk area.

+ Blackwater Bistro is located in downtown Milton and offers a historic dining experience as it operates inside the James McBride Sharit House Circa 1909. They offer a wide selection of good eats and drinks.

+ Other nearby attractions include Carpenter Park and Playground and the West Florida Railway Museum.

Palafox Market, Downtown Pensacola

Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza, Palafox Street, Pensacola, FL 32501

Palafox Market.JPEG

This award-winning market takes place every Saturday, rain or shine, on historic Palafox Street. Regional farmers, artists, and craftsmen come together to offer locally grown produce, goods, and hand-crafted art. The Palafox Market is a favorite among locals and has become a top destination for Gulf Coast visitors. There’s so much to do in downtown Pensacola, so plan to stick around after you shop at the market and visit some of the other local shops, museums, restaurants, and breweries.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Ruby Slipper Cafe is located on Palafox Street and is a must for breakfast and brunch lovers. Seriously, don’t skip it.

+ There is an abundance of great dining options downtown but Parlor Doughnuts, Taco Agave, Jaco’s, and Graffiti Pizza are some of our favorites.

+ Other nearby downtown attractions include the Pensacola Children's Museum, Pensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola MESS Hall, and Palafox Pier.

Naval Live Oaks Area

1801 Gulf Breeze Pkwy, Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Naval Live Oaks Area

The Naval Live Oaks Area is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The area offers access to both the Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay. The shallow waters and sandy beaches make this a popular destination for swimming, fishing, and paddling. The park is also home to miles of hiking trails that wind through the forest and offers educational insight into the area's rich history.

Nearby Attractions:

+ The Gulf Breeze Shop is a local neighborhood coffee house that serves up the best coffee, smoothies, and juices.

+ Pedro’s Taco and Tequila Bar is located in nearby Gulf Breeze and offers a fun, colorful atmosphere.

+ Other nearby attractions include Sunset Kids Playground and Splash Park and Sunny Days Family Art Studio.

Casino Beach, Pensacola Beach

20 Casino Beach Blvd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

Casino Beach

Located on Pensacola Beach just in front of the iconic beach ball water tower, Casino Beach offers an abundance of free public parking, beach access, and is surrounded by a number of dining and entertainment options. The area is home to the Bands on the Beach seasonal concert series and is a prime spot to catch the US Navy Blue Angels summer air show.

Nearby Attractions:

+ The Pensacola Beach Boardwalk is located directly across the street and offers several great options for dining, drinks, ice cream, and shopping.

+ Some of our favorite dining options on Pensacola Beach include Native Café and Crabs on the Beach.

+ Other nearby attractions include Glow Paddle, Pensacola Beach Pier, and UFO’s Mini Golf and Arcade.

Big Lagoon State Park

12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507

Big Lagoon State Park

Big Lagoon State Park offers five miles of hiking and nature trails and a three-story observation tower providing spectacular views of Big Lagoon and Perdido Key. Day-use areas give access to the intracoastal waterway making this a prime spot for swimming fishing, boating, and paddling.

Nearby Attractions:

+ Innerarity Point Park and Playground is located nearby and offers play equipment and walking trails overlooking the intracoastal waterway.

+ Hub Stacey’s at The Point offers a relaxed dining atmosphere for the whole family with a water view.

+ The famous Flora-Bama Ole River Grill is a fun open-air dining experience. Enjoy a variety of food and drink options while you watch the boats pass by.

Have you been to Pensacola? Does your family live in this white sand paradise? Let us know what your favorite local spots are in the comments below! Or tag us in your photos on Instagram @gethappyly for a chance to be featured!

Interested in other amazing cities around the U.S.? We've got a whole bunch of local-recommended spots in major (and not major!) cities across the country. Check out our blog for great advice on cities like Chicago, Denver, Maui, Chattanooga, and more! Or, if you are interested in getting information about taking the family to the national parks, we've got some great tips on Saguaro National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Haleakala National Park, and Mt. Rainier National Park!

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Thoughtfully captured by:
Kristen Anderson
I am a work from home Mom of two girls and a proud military spouse. We are grateful to be living our dream on the beautiful Gulf Coast in Northwest Florida. We love staying active and spend most of our time enjoying the outdoors and everything that our area has to offer.
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