For us to be hanging out in Pensacola Beach is nothing new. In fact, we started coming here way back in 1997 when we moved to New Orleans. Three hours to the sugar white sand beaches was a constant and compelling draw which had us coming over for a weekend beach vacation often. Fast forward to 2010 when we bought our motorhome and were thrilled to dodge inflated hotel costs with lumpy mattresses and tiny minibars for a comfortable king bed, full kitchen, and the luxury of our own home on wheels.
There are some favorite joints that you can be sure we will show up at and this time was no exception. We didn’t even have the rig parked at the campground and set up before we hit two of our favorites. First stop - Joe Patti’s Seafood – a fish market of epic proportions that will have staunch meat eaters making a switch to the world of sweet seafood. Have a taste for Maine lobster (which Betsy did, of course), succulent scallops, U-10 shrimp, jumbo lump crab meat, and anything else that swims in the sea? Joe Patti’s is your place. We loaded up on shrimp, lobster, stone crab, cheese, fresh baked bread, and headed out the door with happy smiles and eager stomachs.
Just outside the gates of the national park (Gulf Islands National Seashore) that was going to serve as our campground for our stay (Fort Pickens) is an eatery that one should not miss called Peg Leg Pete’s. With pirate flags flying overhead, an outdoor dining space adorned with license plates and old fishing gear, and oysters served up all different ways this is a laid-back beach bar feel as anywhere. Peg Leg’s Spicy Lafitte oysters are a delicious blend of crispy bacon, melted cheese, and pickled jalapenos that culinary dreams are made of and we can not resist.
Finally, with two stops under our belts it was time to set up camp at Fort Pickens. Every time we come here, we comment on how much we really like it. The park is at the end of a long peninsula that reveals on a map it is just a long spit of sand surrounded by beautiful clear water.
So why do we like it so much? Well, there are miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing piers, remnants of the old fort to explore, a visitor center and museum to learn about the area, beautiful long beaches to walk on, shallow waters to kayak, and an all around peaceful feel. It’s no wonder we stop here every year and fall in love with it again and again.
While it is really easy to occupy all of our time at Fort Pickens, Pensacola Beach and downtown Pensacola are well worth a visit. What Pensacola Beach brings to life with beach bars, boardwalks, and wave runners, downtown Pensacola throws a curve surprising you with historic homes, cultural activities, and old Florida charm. Downtown is a hub of museums, theaters, and cultural venues. The revitalized area is classy and you wont find a tacky tourist shop anywhere. There is the T.T. Wentworth, Jr. Florida State Museum and Historic Village, Children's Museum, Pensacola Museum of Art, Saenger Theater, Pensacola Little Theater, Opera House, MESS Hall science museum, and many other hidden gems.
On the last Tuesday of each month, the art museum is free so we decided to pop in for a look. The museum is housed in an old jail and still retains some of the architectural features that confirm its previous use and waft a creepy feeling. Afterwards we headed down Palafox Street a main thoroughfare housing boutiques, galleries, unique shops, and restaurants that have brought new life to an old city. The inviting atmosphere and eating counter at Khon’s on Palafox caught our attention and soon we found ourselves indulging in a bowl of ramen as well as a bahn mi sandwich which satisfied our ethnic food cravings.
One of our favorite attractions in Pensacola is the National Naval Aviation Museum a free museum that is one of our favorite museums in the country (and that is saying a lot). There are previous posts about the museum so we will spare you the details and leave you with a link. The museum is housed at Pensacola Naval Air Station which is home to the Blue Angels and if you are there during March thru November you must go see their Tuesday practice session and witness their amazingly precise and entertaining aeronautical maneuvers.
So yes, we did have a great five days exploring, relaxing, and getting reacquainted with the wonderfully diverse and always yummy Pensacola area.