Pensacola is the gateway to outdoor fun in the Florida Panhandle. It’s been nicknamed the Western Gate to the Sunshine State and the Red Snapper Capital of the World. Pensacola Beach is known for it’s sugar white sands. When most visitors think of Florida, they think of sun and sand. The beach is a big draw to Florida, but Pensacola also has access to beautiful national parks, state parks, rivers, hiking trails, kayaking and paddleboarding spots and so much more. Explore with us as we share the many things to do in Pensacola.
Attractions In or Near Pensacola
- Fort Barrancas
- Navy Aviation Museum
- Sam’s Surf City
- Historic downtown Seville
- Arcadia Mills
- Milton River Walk
- Plaza de Luna
National Seashores and State Parks
The Gulf Islands National Seashore is one of the jewels of northwest Florida. Pensacola is in close proximity to Fort Pickens, Naval Live Oaks, Johnson Beach, and Opal Beach which are all part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Fort Pickens is located to the west of Pensacola Beach. It’s bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola Pass and Pensacola Bay. The park includes hiking, biking, historic Forts, fishing, bird watching and camping.
Opal Beach is located to the east of Pensacola Beach. Opal beach is a day use area located on the Gulf of Mexico and the Santa Rosa Sound. The amenities include covered picnic areas and bathroom facilities.
Naval Live Oaks is located in Gulf Breeze, Florida. Visitors to the park will enjoy exploring the history of this area in the muesuem, hiking among beautiful live oaks, having a picnic, or swimming in Santa Rosa Sound. The amenities include hiking trails, picnic areas, covered pavilion, bathrooms and a museum.
Johnson Beach is located in Perdido Key, Florida. You’ll have the white, sandy beaches of the Gulf of Mexico with covered pavilions for picnic tables, restrooms and outside showers. There is also a launch into the Intercoastal Waterway and a Discovery Nature Trail boardwalk.
Kayaking & Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
The team here at Outdoor Gulf Coast spends many of our summer days surfing, kayaking, and SUPing. The Pensacola area is surrounded by beautiful locations to enjoy nature while paddling. From Pensacola you can enjoy paddling in the Gulf of Mexico, bays, bayous, lagoons, and even cool flowing rivers. We’ve begun to compile a list of our favorite paddling locations which include Blackwater River, Perdido River, Big Lagoon State Park and many others.
Stand Up Paddleboard Lessons and Rentals
Ready to get your feet wet on a Paddleboard? Pensacola has many places to get lessons, rent, and purchase paddleboards.
- Water Warrior – Paddleboard Lessons, parties, ECO Tours, and more!
- Paddleboard ECO Tour on Pensacola Beach – enjoy exploring the Gulf Island National Seashore lead by a ACA certified instructor.
- Book a Paddleboard lesson/rental online
- Rent Kayaks, Paddleboards, and Pedal Boats at Bayview Park
- Coastal Paddle Company – YOLO dealer located in Gulf Breeze. They offer lessons, rentals, parties and guided tours.
- Innerlight Surf Shop – locations in Gulf Breeze, Pensacola, Gulf Shores and Destin Florida. They offer lessons and rentals
- Waterboyz Surf Shop – locations in Pensacola. They offer lessons and rentals.
Kayak Rentals and Where To Kayak
Kayaking in Pensacola has been popular for years and for good reason. Pensacola has bays, bayous, rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico. Our family has enjoyed many hours kayaking in places such as the Blackwater River, Bayou Texar, Big Lagoon State Park, and many other great places near Pensacola.
- Where to take a kayak – Looking for a nice location to kayak? We’ve compiled a list of our favorite places.
- Kayak Rentals / Tours
Fishing Along the Coast
Know as the Red Snapper Capital of the World it’s little wonder that Pensacola is a fisherman’s paradise. Pensacola provides both fresh and salt water fishing. There are many places to cast a line from the Pensacola Beach Pier, the Pensacola Beach Bridge, Palafox Pier, to fishing charters. The fishing enthusiast is sure the find the perfect fishing hole.
- Pensacola Bay Fishing Pier
- Pensacola Beach Pier
- Reel Eazy Private Boat Charters
- Total Package Charters
- Snapper Trapper Diving and Fishing Charters
Places to Bike
From Pensacola Beach to Milton’s Blackwater Heritage Trail the area has many great places to bike.
- Historic Downtown Pensacola Bike (Bicycle) Tour
- Fort Pickens
- Pensacola Beach – The beach has nice paved bike paths that run from the east of Portifino to Fort Pickens.
- Blackwater Heritage Trail
- UWF – The University of West Florida has many great off road biking trails.
Places to Hike
Hiking is always a fun activity for the family. This area has many great hiking trails to enjoy the beauty of creation. Some of our favorite spots to take our family is Shoreline Park, UWF Nature Preserve, and Arcadia Mills.
- Gulf Islands National Seashore Naval Live Oaks Park
- Shoreline Park in Gulf Breeze
- Tarkiln Bayou (View Map | View Photos)
- Big Lagoon State Park
- Bayou Marcus
- Jones Swamp Wetland
- Johnson Beach Discovery Trail
- Fillingim Landing
- UWF Nature Preserve
- Bay Bluffs
- Krul Lake/Sweetwater trail
- Blackwater River Heritage Trail
- Arcadia Mills
- Chain of Lakes