Florida Mini Travel Guide
We just returned from Florida yesterday evening after a 10 hour drive through Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana (with Florida and Texas on either end), and it was a great trip. Here's a recap with my suggestions if you ever get the chance to visiting Pensacola Beach, Florida, or if you find yourself on the beach nearby!
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the Portofino Resort on Pensacola Beach. My dad's friend owns a condo there, so we were able to stay at their condo for the week. Portofino is an amazing resort, and it sits right on the beach and the sound. Every condo has a view of either the sound or the beach (or both!). The really cool part about Pensacola Beach is that it is literally a strip of sand that isn't even a mile wide. The way the condo was situated, we were able to look straight down the island and see the sound and beach on either side.
The back of the condo was floor to ceiling glass, even in the bedrooms. I left my curtains open every night so that I was able to wake up as the Sun was rising, and it was so worth it. I was able to sit in my bed and watch the sun rise over the ocean every morning. It was amazing!
WHAT TO DO
To be completely honest, we did a whole lot of lounging on the beach. The resort puts out 300 sets of beach chairs for rent every morning, but you have to get them early because they go quick. Every morning one of us walked down to the beach to rent the chairs and we went back later in the day. The really great thing is that you get the chairs for the entire day - so if you want to go to the pool and come back later, you chairs will still be there waiting for you when you get back. You don't have to worry about someone stealing your chairs while you're in the water.
Rentals // This is typically of almost every beach resort, but the Portofino had tons of water rentals like paddleboards, surf boards, kayaks, etc. The prices are pretty steep for these rentals (more than your average beach resort rental), but we did end up getting a paddleboard one day. We did the full day rental because it was only $20 more than the hour long rental - which is a little silly.
I would say the all-day rental was definitely worth it because we we're able to use the board, take a break, then go back out again. I loved getting to use the board all day! I even saw a shark swim by me while I was paddling! I slowly sat down on the board and paddled back a little closer to shore :)
In addition to the rentals, the resort had some tours throughout the day. I did the sunrise bike ride on Wednesday morning - I loved every minute of it. It began at 5:20 am, and we biked about 2.5 miles down the island. By the time we got there, it was only about 5 more minutes until the sun was about to peek over the horizon. We climbed up on a sand dune where we got an unobstructed view of the horizon, and we watched the Sun rise for a few minutes.
After the sun rise, we biked back to the resort, and round-trip, it was an hour long tour. I loved that it was just led by a guide, but it was basically an on-your-own kinda thing. We were able to go at our own pace and wander around when we stopped for the sun rise to take photos, etc. It was really great to have the bike ride offered at the resort - it was $15 for the tour and the bike rental. If you’re staying somewhere that does not offer something like this, I encourage you to find a bike rental somewhere on the island and just go on your own. Look up the time the sun rises and try to be ready to watch a few minutes before it actually rises. My favorite part was getting to see the tip top of the sun as it popped over the edge of the ocean - such a great experience!
Blue Angels // We were lucky enough to be there the week before the big Blue Angels performance. We actually left the day of the show, but we were able to see three practices from the beach right in front of the resort. This is something that is well worth it to make an effort to see. It was one of the craziest, most amazing things I've ever seen.
If you’re planning a trip to Pensacola Beach, make sure to take a look at the Blue Angels practice and show schedule. We watched them practice Wednesday morning and both Thursday and Friday afternoon. The Friday practice was a full rehearsal of their show, so we were able to see the show without getting in the craziness of the day-of stuff.
Not only did we get to see the Blue Angels practice, we also visited the Naval Aviation Museum. I didn't really know what to expect beforehand, but this was also really, really cool. I loved getting to see the stories behind each aircraft and when/where they were used. I also became very interested in the aircraft carriers and their models in the museum. It amazes me how huge they are and the way they operate throughout the world.
WHERE TO EAT
These are my two favorite restaurants we ate at while in Pensacola. The first is the Shrimp Basket and the reason we ate there is actually a funny story.
Have you ever seen those airplanes with the advertisements flying behind? They seem to only be found flying above beaches. Anyways, we were in the pool on our first day there, and one flew by with an ad for the Shrimp Basket. I asked my parents if I thought that kind of advertising actually worked because you can barely read it and it seems like a ineffective way to advertise. Just by mentioning this, we read the sign, remembered seeing the restaurant on our way in and ended up eating there the next night. We sat down to eat and I realized that the airplane advertising had just worked!
Okay but anywaaaaays (hope you liked my awkward story), the restaurant was really, really good. It was one of those places that you knew would be good as soon as you walked in because it looked like it should be in a little town and the people were so nice. There was a wait so we sat at the bar and ordered our food from there. Every single person who came in to pick up their food spoke to us and was genuinely happy to be there.
The food was delicious - I’m not a seafood person, so I found myself eating a whole lot of chicken and burgers in Florida. This was probably my favorite meal that I ate for our entire trip. Everything was great, not to mention the hushpuppies - so good.
The other restaurant was Red Fish, Blue Fish, which is actually right across from The Shrimp Basket. The best part about this restaurant is the atmosphere. It sits right on the bay with the majority of the restaurant outside. People would anchor their boats right in front of the restaurant and wade in to eat (goals). They had giant Jenga, giant Connect 4 and great seating in a big grassy area. The food was a close second on my favorite parts. Again, I had a chicken sandwich and it was good. I would say if you’re looking for good views and a really great atmosphere, this is the place you want to be.