What is that one image that strikes your mind when you think of the Summer? – The beaches! Summers drive me crazy because I live in a place which gets really hot and sultry. But still there is something about beaches and summer which always go along well together and I did not want to miss surfing, diving and swimming in the beaches of West Florida this summer. And hence, came the plan for a road trip to Pensacola and Destin – two of the most beautiful beaches in West Florida.
Above is an image of the Florida Panhandle or West Florida, an informal, unofficial term for the northwestern part of Florida. This is a strip of land roughly 200 miles long and 50 to 100 miles wide (320 km by 80 to 160 km) which lies between Alabama on the Northwest Georgia on the North ,and Gulf of Mexico to the South. The West Florida or the Florida Panhandle stretches from Perdido Key in the west to Apalachee bay in the east, and it is divided into four major areas – Pensacola, Fort Walton/ Destin, Panama City and Apalachee Bay.
It took around 8 hours to travel all the way from Houston, Texas to the westernmost tip of Florida Panhandle – The Pensacola . The weather in Florida supported us throughout the trip and we enjoyed each and every bit of the moment.
Whether you are looking for serenity or action packed beach events, Pensacola & Destin beaches will definitely suffice your needs. My husband and I wanted to relax and rejuvenate our spirits. We ended up spending more time in the pristine white sugar sands and turquoise waters. This was our second best beach vacation after the one to Maldives around a year back. The laid back atmosphere was a perfect getaway from the fast paced everyday world. We built our own dream castle, enjoyed the cool sea breeze and had wonderful weekend.
Day 1 : Destin
Our first destination was Destin which was an hour’s drive along the Emerald Coast from Pensacola. Destin is ranked amongst the top 10 summer vacation spot by Tripadvisor. Another fun fact about Destin is that it is called the Fishing Village. As soon as you enter Destin, you come across a sign that says “Welcome to Destin, The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” Destin is known for beautiful white sand beaches and wonderful fishing. We were actually fascinated by the sight of numerous people standing on a bridge awaiting their catch of the day. That’s when my hubby wondered that this could be his new hobby.
The plan for that day was to get suited up to do some action. No kidding, we had plans to do flyboarding in the Destin Bay. Unfortunately, there was a boat explosion earlier that morning on the harbour where flyboarding was planned, and we could not do the activity. If you have plans to do flyboarding, you can approach Power Up Watersports for some good deals. They also offer jet skiing.
Next on our itinerary was Henderson Beach State Park. The entry fee to this park is $6 and it is camping friendly park. The first thing that strikes you eyes in this 200 acre state park, aside from the stunning shoreline, is the absence of high-rise hotels or rental homes and condos that crowd other area beaches. During the tourism boom of the early 80’s , the Henderson family sold this area to the State and promised to keep this stretch of land undeveloped and open to the public. This park also allows RV & tent camping. This is a pristine place along the picturesque Florida coastline.
The water is green, the sky is blue and the white sands made my day. Imagine sitting in a comfy chair or lying on a towel on the sand, and hearing the seagulls welcome you, not to mention the rhythmic sound of the waves hitting the sandy shore.
Our evening was pre planned. We had booked the Sunset and Dolphin Cruise with Olin Marler Charter Fishing and Dolphin Cruises. We had booked our cruise through www.destinboardwalk.com, where in you can get good deals .
We entered the boat after a long day at the beach. Once we settled down on the boat, I understood why this tour was popular. Of course, we went by the numerous good reviews in tripadvisor about the tour. There were sufficient places for everyone to sit and enjoy the cool evening sea breeze. The tour guide and the captain did a great job explaining lots of facts about dolphins and their habitat. The tours promise 98% chance of spotting wild dolphins, but we did not see them. We had kept our eyes wide open hoping to catch a glimpse of the wild dolphins, and were beginning to wonder if we would ever see them. At one point, we felt that even the guide sounded upset that he couldn’t show us any dolphins. That’s when I spotted one diving into the sea gracefully…like a song! We were excited and tempted to holler like old time whalers – Thar she blows! Of course, a dolphin doesn’t blow like the other bigger whales. From that instant, we started spotting dolphins everywhere. It was amazing to see those wild mammals diving towards the setting sun into the cold water. Seriously, my mind felt calm and mesmerized by seeing this beautiful sight. The cruise ended with the sunset and we reached back to the shore.
Cruise details and location:
The operator’s name is Olin Marler Charter fishing and Dolphin Cruises and the tickets can be bought online through www.destinboardwalk.com. The boarding point is in the Destin Harborwalk near the Margaritaville Restaurant. The cruise lasts for 1.5 hours. I highly recommend taking this cruise if you are planning to visit Destin.
SeaFood Joint Hopping !!! 🙂 the most interesting part of my blog. My hubby and I are fans of seafood delicacies. Anytime I can fall for seafood gumbo and my hubby would never deny oysters. After the sunset cruise, we had decided to go on a seafood joint hopping. Here are the few restaurants which we covered in Destin @ the harborwalk:
- AJ’s seafood & Oyster Bar : The speciality of this restaurant is their fresh gulf coast oysters. So we opted for that and my favourite seafood gumbo. As it was a memorial day weekend there were live music in couple of places in the harbor walk.
- Margaritaville : They are famous for their nachos, salads, cheeseburgers and of course margaritas 😀
Some of the other seafood food joints with good reviews are:
- Bubba Gump
- Pompano Joe near the Henderson Beach.
Day 2: Pensacola
Our destination for the day was Perdido Key State Park which is almost on the west end of Pensacola.
Perdido Key is an unincorporated community in Escambia County, Florida, United States, between Pensacola and Orange Beach, Alabama. “Perdido” means “lost” in the Spanish language. This was also another breath taking beach view. People were relaxing on the shore taking a sunbath, some were listening to music, having chilled beer, kids were building sand castle etc. The park is open from 8 am to the public and it has parking lots nearer to the beach. This was a perfect place for a picnic.
How to take your vacation over the top?
Here is a cool way to do that – parasailing! If you’ve never done it you’re in for some real excitement and it’s not nearly as scary as you might think. We drove to Pensacola beach to do our very first parasailing adventure. I was little apprehensive at first whether to do this or not. I was literally in tears when I saw the first couple parasailing . Poor me. But I was glad that I did it. All thanks to my husband who is into such stuff and without a doubt he drags me along with him. 😀
Once it started , I felt like flying in the sky where you see only water on all three sides, the glorious Pensacola coastline on the other and your tiny boat at the bottom. The best thing was that we did our parasailing exactly during the sunset.
We did our parasailing activity at Key Sailing near the Pensacola Beach. There are many other operators but key Sailing had very good reviews and I totally agree with it. The friendly and experienced Captain and crew will do all the work to ensure your comfort and safety. Two or three people can fly at one time. They even dip you in ocean which was super thrilling.
Here is the link to the operator’s website: http://www.keysailing.com/ .
Rates for tandem parasailing: $90 excluding tax
After the exciting parasailing activity , we headed to an Indian restaurant to savor some known delicacies. We were actually craving for some yummy mutton biriyani. And we found a restaurant named ” Taste of India”. Though there was a huge line waiting outside as it was the memorial weekend, somehow we managed to get our seat. We started ordering everything NonVeggie in the menu. Our favorite dishes were Mutton shorba, pepper chicken , mutton biryani, dabha style chicken curry and naan. Mouthwatering ! 🙂 No time for pics as we were hogging without a break.
If you are still in search of some seafood hotels in Pensacola, you may as well visit the below ones:
- Crabs we got em – We tried the seafood nachos, mozzarella fries & grilled chicken. I totally liked the seafood nachos because it was filled with shrimp, tuna, chunks of large fish.etc. This restaurant directly located facing the Gulf of Mexico. You will find them right on the pensacola beach.
- Frank & Lola loves Pensacola – I heard that the breakfast burritos are famous here
.Finally, our trip came to an end. I felt that there’s always something soothing about the beach. It is rightly said that beach is “where doing absolutely nothing is doing something“. Bye, Florida! See you next summer! 😛 ( hopefully).
For Houstonians, this is a drivable beach destination. So don’t wait, before the summer ends, enjoy the Best Escape Anybody Can Have! 😀