I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is a beach in the panhandle of Florida that easily ranks #1 at the top of my family-friendly getaways list. And I’ve got experience with beaches. Been to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands (perfect for a second honeymoon), Brighton, England (too rocky), and the usual suspects – Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Jacksonville (not as big a fan of the Atlantic as I am of the Gulf).
Dorothy and Rich brave the waves at Pensacola Beach.Pensacola Beach is perched at the top of my list for a number of reasons. It’s nice and quiet. There’s plenty to do, but there’s no “strip” like you find in Panama City. Sugar-white sand makes the beach incredibly beautiful and feet friendly.
It’s affordable. I’m not saying you’ll save money by vacationing here, but it’s much more cost-effective than comparative locales nearby. For instance, you can save a bit of money by staying at a hotel/motel in town rather than right on the beach. You’ll have to drive a bit further and pay a $1 toll to get to the beach, but you’ll save some cash and have the option of seeing the sights in town, such as the downtown Seville Square area, which offers a number of boutiques, restaurants and outdoor concerts.
Staying shady underneath the pier
Pensacola Beach actually offers two swimming/sun bathing options – the beach on the Gulf side and the calmer beach on the bay side. If you want waves and crystal clear water, head to the Gulf side. The public, life-guarded area of the beach offers a pier, which is perfect for setting up under if you want some shade. If you want calm waters (perfect for little ones) and no chance of a rip tide, head for the bay, where life guards also keep careful watch, as well as plenty of accessible restrooms, picnic tables and nearby parking. The bay side is located right next to the Quietwater Beach boardwalk, which offers a ton of restaurants and shops.
Enjoying the bay's calm waters
Great seafood abounds at family-friendly establishments at the beach such as Flounder’s and Peg Leg Pete’s, which both have playgrounds amidst their tables. The Marina Oyster Barn in town on Bayou Texar has been the first dinner stop for my family for years (ask for Dale, he’ll show you a great time!) because of its good food and friendly service. Jerry’s is also a great choice if you’re in the mood for burgers and fries at reasonable prices. Skopelo's is another great family dining spot, but a bit closer to fine dining in terms of price, food and service.
Great live music is always around, whether it be at the boardwalk, or at any number of establishments on the beach. Our favorite band is Wildwood, which performs regularly at the beach. Check them out for great covers that everyone of any age can dance to.
I could go on and on, but instead I’ll let you poke around the following websites to see for yourself why Pensacola should be your family’s next vacation destination.
A guide to the history of Pensacola
Pensacola News Journal