They say laughter is the cure for just about anything, and after a recent trip to a beach, I can confirm that this is in fact, true.
A ten hour car trip loomed in front of me and to be honest I was dreading it, after all, the last time that I embarked on such a journey, was with children in tow. When a trip passes in what feels like just a few hours, one becomes acutely aware of two things. First, the appropriate travel partner has been chosen and secondly it has been far too long since girl’s time has happened.
Our destination was Navarre Beach, a town unspoiled by tourists. In other words, there aren’t
junk souvenir shops dotting each corner and you will not need to take out a second mortgage because of the many, many times you had to indulge your family in a round of miniature golf.
Where is Navarre Beach, Florida?
Navarre Beach is located in the panhandle of Florida. It is on Santa Rosa Island, which is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Navarre Beach is in Santa Rosa County, Florida.
For perspective, Navarre Beach is about 6 hours from Walt Disney World and only 36 minutes from Destin. That being said, Navarre Beach couldn’t be more different from Destin. You won’t find the traditional beach town souvenir shops or mini golf courses lining the main strip. In fact, there isn’t even a main strip.
Hunting for Shells in Navarre Beach:
Did you know that Navarre Beach is one of the best spots in Florida to hunt for sea shells and sand dollars? If you make it out early enough in the morning, you will likely find other treasure seekers down by the shore. Because Navarre has remained largely untouched by tourists, your chances of finding a unique shell or even better a sand dollar are pretty good!
Snorkeling in Navarre Beach:
Navarre Beach has established themselves as a great place to go snorkeling. Because the reefs where people snorkel are close to the shore, it allows for people of varying abilities to enjoy snorkeling. Maybe your trip to Navarre Beach is where you will try snorkeling for the first time?
Places to stay in Navarre Beach:
Navarre Beach is everything that a beach vacation should consist of, pure ocean views in the most relaxing atmosphere that you could possibly imagine. This area is so pure in fact, the only hotel is currently under construction (see below for an update on this!).
Condos for rent in Navarre Beach
There are quite a few beach front condos for rent, ResortQuest is a management company that is in the area and can assist in finding the perfect condo for your needs.
Hotel (and there’s just one!) on Navarre Beach
Currently, there is just 1 hotel in the Navarre Beach area, for clarification I mean directly on the beach. It is the Spring Hill Suites. I should note that I haven’t stayed here myself but wanted you to give scoop on a hotel option.
The pace doesn’t have to stay slow and leisurely, there are options just about an hour down the road from the shore in Milton, Florida.
Things to do in Navarre Beach and Surrounding Areas:
Adventures Unlimited offers as you might guess, adventures for the entire family. From tubing to canoeing and kayaking to zip-line tours there are lots of options to choose from. After carefully weighing my options, I choose kayaking. I feel a bit ashamed in telling you that I hadn’t done canoeing or kayaking prior to this trip. After a quick paddling lesson by our guide Taylor, I was left to my own devices to navigate the very gentle Black Water River.
The tour that we were on was just about 4 miles long and took right at an hour and a half to complete. Which for this kayaking newbie, was the perfect length, man my arms were screaming by the end! I need to be honest, I was extremely apprehensive about my maiden kayaking voyage. I felt like I had accomplished a major feat when I docked my vessel and handed my paddle over.
On the river, I passed a family with small kids who were taking advantage of the tubes on the river. The children were young and were having a fun yet, manageable time. What’s even better the kids were doing so well that mom and dad still seemed relaxed!
Just down the road from Adventures Unlimited is Coldwater Gardens. Nestled on a 350-acre farm, Coldwater Gardens offers a kind of primitive lodging options, but not so primitive that a non-camper would be uncomfortable.
In fact, I mused that if I was to return with my family, it would be feasible to rent a cabin or glamping area for 1 or 2 nights and then return to the condo.
What’s more, Coldwater Gardens grows veggies and mushrooms right on site. While they don’t offer a regular meal service they are happy to put together something for a group of 20 or more, trust me, that is a meal that you will not want to miss.
Gulf Breeze Zoo
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is just about 15 minutes from the beach front condo that I called home for a few days. When my kids ask to visit our local zoo, I often cringe, because it is an all day affair.
The Gulf Breeze Zoo was a zoo that I actually enjoyed. It wasn’t so large that it became unmanageable. The animals that they have living at the zoo were so much fun to watch.
From the very eager petting zoo animals looking for you to share the kibble. To feeding giraffes and playing catch with the siamangs, I had a blast!
I would be remiss if I didn’t include the chance to feed the budgies. These brightly colored birds are a sight to see, for sure. Birds are not my favorite, especially when they are flying at you from every direction, but it sure was neat to hold out my stick of what is to those birds, the same as a treat, and have them land on your arm to nibble away.
We ended our tour of the zoo with a ride on the train, where we got to see more animals that are not visible otherwise. The zoo is a perfect choice for when you have been kissed by the sun just a little too much or when you and your family are growing weary of finding sand in places that sand should not go.
Navarre Beach Pier
The Navarre Beach Pier is the longest pier in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. It is located at: 8579 Gulf Boulevard Navarre Beach, FL 32566.
When I visited there were tons of older men fishing and I enjoyed watching them and sitting on one of the benches. It was such a beautiful place to be.
The Navarre Beach Pier is open from 5am to 11pm daily. Get there early enough to catch the sunrise, hear fish stories from the locals and stay for the stunning sunset.
Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center
Another fun spot for families in the area is the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. When you step inside the unopposing building, a large pool is home to GiGi the sea turtle. She was found beached and blind and was taken to SeaWorld, where she lived in a very small tank and needed to find a home, which is when the conservation center stepped in.
Where to Eat in Navarre Beach:
Windjammer’s on the Pier (Formerly, Lagerheads)
I fell totally in love with Windjammer’s on the Pier, it is a little hole in the wall with seats overlooking the gulf and quite possibly the best fish that I have tasted in quite a while. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner in quite possibly the best atmosphere on the planet. I could spend my days sipping cocktails and munching on yummy food.
Sailor’s Grill is another spot in the area worth checking out. They have some very serious sand volleyball leagues that pair quite nicely with the menus that are offered. I didn’t get a chance to try their breakfast but the word on the street is that the omelets and cinnamon rolls are the stuff that dreams are made of.
Ye Olde Brothers Brewery
The Ye Olde Brothers Brewery is a fantastic spot in Navarre that specializes in craft beer. In the effort of full disclosure, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a beer connoisseur. I did indulge in a beer flight and while I am not one to readily order a brew, I was able to appreciate the fact that they create such a well-made beer. The restaurant has a brick pizza oven that cranks out some totally unique pies, I highly suggest giving them a try! I will fondly remember this spot because it is where I tried my first boiled peanuts!
Fun fact about Navarre Beach:
Did you know that a large portion of Jaws II was filmed at Navarre Beach? Don’t worry that doesn’t mean that you will encounter a great white shark like Bruce.
What you won’t find in Navarre Beach, Florida.
The aspect of Navarre that stood out the most to me was the fact that there wasn’t a main drag that had the typical airbrushed t-shirt shops, there were no places to by hermit crabs with specialty shells or mini golf courses. And I didn’t miss it. It was truly just the unspoiled beach.
Why I will return to Navarre Beach.
Navarre Beach, quickly won a spot in my heart and will be a place that wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for a place to for rejuvenation and away from the rat race of everyday life. Laughter and waves restored my soul and helped me to find a place of relaxation and rest that I so desperately needed.
If you go, please let me know what your favorite part of the area turns out to be. If you have visited before what do you like the best about the town?
Other Beach Vacations We Love:
Santa Rosa County, Florida hosted me on this trip, but my opinions are my own.