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Beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast to Visit Despite COVID-19

Whether you’re a tourist hoping to visit the award-winning beaches that epitomize Northwest Florida, a pet owner taking your canine friend on an adventure, or a local planning on a relaxing, low-cost day trip, you’ll find that Pensacola has numerous options available that vary in terms of size, cost, and function.


Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach, winner of numerous awards, most recently ranked #15 by Tripadvisor’s 2021 Traveler’s Choice Awards, is a must-visit for any tourists hoping to experience the best of the Gulf Coast. A visit to the main beach alone costs simply $1 (electronic payment only), the toll for the Bob Sikes Bridge. It’s huge, the waters are a gorgeous green, and the sand is milky white and expansive. The only downside is that it tends to be crowded, so if you’re looking for a quiet vacation, this isn’t the place to go.


Casino Beach

The central part of Pensacola Beach is referred to as Casino Beach. You can recognize it by the large beach-ball shaped water tower and the Gulfside Pavilion taking the place of what used to be a tourist attraction called “the Casino.” This is the part of Pensacola Beach where most people like to gather, meaning it is the most crowded and has more places to shop and eat than anywhere else. If you enjoy large beaches and beachside restaurants filled with hundreds of excited beachgoers, this is your ideal destination. 


Pensacola Dog Beaches, East and West

There are two separate dog beaches on either side of Pensacola Beach. In them, owners let their best friends experience the ocean. Dogs must be kept on leashes at all times for the safety of themselves and other dogs, and owners must pick up after them. Be sure to bring some fresh water for your canine friends!


Gulf Islands National Seashore

This beautiful, long stretch of federally protective seashore runs 150 miles from Cat Island, Mississippi to Santa Rosa Island, Florida. It is home to several visitor areas and beaches and is a perfect place to visit if you enjoy Florida history and nature. There are many land-based nature activities available, such as hiking and camping, but there are also a few small beaches where visitors are welcome to various types of water recreation. The area is more wooded and grassy than Pensacola Beach, so it is better for those hoping to enjoy it as a national park rather than a fun beach vacation.

Face coverings and masks are required in all park centers and buildings. Seven-day passes cost $25 per vehicle, $15 per person, and $20 per motorcycle.


Fort Pickens

This historical pentagonal fort was built in 1834 and remained in use until 1947. It is located on the Pensacola Beach strip of Gulf Islands National Seashore and is accessible to the public today as a museum. If you’re an American history buff, you’ll enjoy exploring the walls of Fort Pickens.


Langdon Beach

The designated liveguard area of Fort Pickens is called Langdon Beach. It is a smaller, slightly grassy beach for campers, backpackers, and tourists to enjoy as a part of their stay in the national park.


Naval Live Oaks

This federally protected forest, once a federal tree farm, is home to a seven-and-a-half mile long beautiful hiking trail and some small public beach areas.


Johnson Beach

This recreation area is best known for its Discovery Nature Trail, a raised boardwalk that carries visitors over the sand dunes and salt marshes.


Opal Beach

Visiting this beach is a particularly special experience. Created in 1995 when Hurricane Opal flattened the sand dunes and left a gleaming 6-mile stretch of sand. This hidden beach is kept quiet and secret by the locals, and is almost always private and clear of the crowds that one would usually see at a beach.


Perdido Key

If you’re looking for beautiful scenery and a great place to surf-fish, you’ll want to visit Perdido Key and it’s sugar-white sandy beaches with rolling dunes and busting plant life. Perdido Key is well-known for its beautiful scenery and hiking paths that give hikers a wonderful view of the wildlife of Florida beaches. If you’re more of a fan of exploring nature both in and out of the water, the beautiful national parks in Perdido Key would be your ideal place to visit.


Big Lagoon State Park

Nature lovers will enjoy the seclusion and beautiful natural landscapes that exemplify this park. It is well known for being a wonderful place to birdwatch, as birds love the trees and wooded areas. Trees shade the picnic areas and boardwalks protect the fragile dunes and sand plants from damage. Beaches and bays provide lovely swimming locations, especially in groups. $6.00 per vehicle and $2.00 per person.


Perdido Key State Park

$3 per vehicle. Home to several endangered species and a beautiful place to watch nature. Walk along the boardwalk and look down at the beautiful dunes below, protecting several endangered species of wildlife. You can do anything from camping to swimming to boating to kayaking.


Navarre Beach

A beautiful and quiet beach known to be perfect for people hoping to relax and enjoy their vacation with all the emerald water and white sand dunes of Gulf Coast beaches, without the chaos and crowds of Pensacola Beach. The artificial reefs in its waters are a gorgeous place to snorkel and the many resorts along the quiet coastline provide all a tourist would want in order to enjoy a relaxing beach vacation. If you’re hoping for a resort stay, Navarre is your ideal location.

Written By A. Alderman