THINGS TO DO IN PENSACOLA BEACH WITH KIDS (FLORIDA ROAD TRIP PART 7)
Please note that we were working with Visit Florida on parts of this trip. Full disclosure at the bottom of the post.
To give a quick overview of our trip, we flew into Miami and spent 16 nights travelling around the state of Florida, visiting Miami, the Florida Keys, Fort Lauderdale, Anna Maria Island, Crystal River, Panama City Beach and Pensacola Beach, before travelling to Louisiana and spending a couple of days in New Orleans. We covered 1825 miles in total. I will be doing blog posts on each destination we stayed in, as well as some practical trips for planning and going on a road trip with young children (mine are 8,6 and 3).
ROUTE PANAMA CITY BEACH TO PENSACOLA BEACH- 130 MILES… 2 HOURS 30 MINUTES
After a stormy three nights in Panama City Beach it was off to our final destination in Florida- Pensacola Beach. We were flying out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and therefore Pensacola seemed like a natural stopover. I hadn’t heard much about it before we travelled, but on googling beach resorts up in North Florida, it seemed like a place we would like to visit.
I want to start by saying Pensacola Beach is beautiful. We only spent two nights here, but we wish we had stayed longer. It was a gem of a place, a beautiful beach lifestyle, combined with some history and interesting attractions. We loved it. Pensacola has been ruled by the British, the Spanish, the French, the Confederacy, and the United States, which has therefore earned itself its nickname of “The City of Five Flags.” There is all the obvious lure of a beach resort- wonderful seafood restaurants, sugar white beaches, and a laid back atmosphere, but it also has a vibrant downtown area with art galleries, restaurants and museums a plenty. It’s also known for aviation. It’s the place where all naval pilots train and home to the impressive National Naval Aviation Museum and the Blue Angels Naval aerobatics team.
WHERE WE STAYED
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort Pensacola Beach. The hotel was clean, with great facilities, and we were really impressed with its pool area. In fact we ended up cancelling our provisional plans for the first afternoon as the kids were just crying out for some down time and a splash in the pool. If you have stayed in a Holiday Inn before you will know what I mean- the hotel’s aren’t flash or particularly stylish- but they are comfortable and you know exactly what you are going to get.
The hotel also occupied the most stunning position on Pensacola Beach. This was the view from our balcony- it was bliss waking up to this each morning.
WHAT WE DID
On our first night in Pensacola we headed to a restaurant not far from our hotel called Red Fish Blue Fish. Overlooking the beautiful Santa Rosa Sound, Red Fish Blue Fish’s mission is simple- to serve good food using the freshest local ingredients. According to their website their restaurant walls have a story to tell. The wood planks in their entryway were reclaimed from an old Coca-Cola warehouse north of Pensacola. You’ll also notice many sustainable features in their colourful design, like solar power panels and repurposed shipping containers. The big plus side of this restaurant though (bar the food which is delicious!) is the back yard. Overlooking the water and exceptionally family friendly, with giant Connect 4 and grass aplenty for the kids to run around, our children were in their element making friends and playing. We also got to witness the most beautiful sunset.
Downtown Pensacola is definitely worth a walk around. It’s actually a really pretty town and it’s main shopping street Palafox Street holds the title of one of the ’10 Great Streets in America’. We spent a morning wandering around and taking it all in. We stopped at a great sweet shop for the kids called Bubba’s Sweet Spot, where they spent ages (literally ages!) choosing sweets to take home for their classmates. We also stopped at a great coffee shop called The Bodacious Brew where the kids made friends with a local dog. It’s these unposed photos of our travels that I always love looking back on the most.
Also in Downtown is the Wish You Were Here wall. Being an utter instagram cliche I really wanted to get some photos by the wall. It’s colourful and vibrant, and was commissioned by local artists Veronique Zayas and Some Choi. You can find it on the corner of Palafox and Romana streets on the side of the Zarzaur Law Firm.
I love these photos. The kids look so happy.
We loved just walking around and taking it all in. There is nothing better than exploring a new city by foot, with no huge plans. I think it is one of the best ways to see it.
Located just a few blocks from Pensacola Bay, the Historic Pensacola Village includes 27 properties in the Pensacola National Register Historic District. Eleven of these properties are interpreted facilities that are open to the public. You can go in the properties and learn all about the town and the 450 years of history behind it. Founded by Spanish sailor Don Tristan de Luna in 1559, the Pensacola Bay Area was the first European settlement in the New World. Over the centuries, the flags of Spain, Britain, France, the Confederacy and the United States have flown over the “City of Five Flags.” Due to the limited time we had in Pensacola we decided not to go for a full tour, but we did wander round and take in the beautiful buildings. Pensacola really does have a little bit of everything.
Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches and Pensacola beach is no exception. Our children are happiest just running in and out of the sea, going for long walks along the sand, and building sandcastles. So that is exactly what we did.
Pensacola is actually partly based on a peninsula and we found by driving further down towards the end the beach was a lot quieter. There were so many other places we wanted to visit while we were there. We really wanted to visit the Naval Museum and also climb the 177 steps to the top of Pensacola lighthouse. That is the one problem I would say with road trips, while most of the time they are epic and it is great seeing so many different places, it’s also a shame if you find somewhere you love and don’t fit in all you want to see.
Someone turned three on our last morning in Pensacola. But our time in Florida had come to an end after an epic 15 nights. We had an incredible time and it just further taught us just how much we love the state of Florida. We’ve visited a few times now (mainly Orlando), and each time we visit it makes us realise just how much else there is to explore. We flew out of New Orleans Louisiana (somewhere we had always wanted to go!) but that’s a story for another blog post.
Here is a video I made of our time in Pensacola…
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NB We were working in partnership with Visit Florida on parts of this trip and some of our accommodation and activities were given to us in exchange for content. Check out their website for lots more advice and inspiration for planning your road trip.