We just spent a weekend in Pensacola, Florida on Santa Rosa Island! We drove 10 hours Friday after work, stayed Saturday and Sunday then started heading back Sunday night. So the big question in any sane person's mind: was it worth it?!?
As I write this, it is February and 20 degrees here in Missouri. We have been enjoying sleet and freezing rain for the last few days, so the short answer is--yes, for us to spend two days embracing the warmth of the sun, walking outside in a t-shirt, and feeling the sand on our feet is absolutely magical even if it is only for two days. Here are our
Top 3 Reasons to Visit Santa Rosa Island
1. Incredible, Undeveloped Beaches
The beaches on Santa Rosa Island where we camped were amazing. Looking out the windshield, we forgot at times that we were looking at dunes of sand rather than piles of snow. The beaches seem to go on forever without a restaurant, condo, or tourist attraction in sight. This was a beach experience unlike any we had had before.
2. Fort Pickens
We spent almost a full day exploring Fort Pickens. Whether you love architecture, military history, or just exploring interesting places, you will love this historic site. We decided to take a hike down the trail in our campground and after about 15 minutes, we were in the midst of this incredible, massive fort! We were amazed by the perfectly crafted arches that were built into every part of this structure. We were also surprised that we were able to explore and walk through the different areas of the fort with very few restrictions. Our 11 and 6 year old children also loved the excitement of exploring Fort Pickens.
3. Hiking Trails
There were so many hiking and biking trails that we never got the chance to see during our stay at Fort Pickens Campground, but the ones we had time to explore gave us a great chance to experience a little of the nature that lives past the beach. This added a great dynamic to our trip breaking up our time on the beach. Several of these trails led to parts of the fort like Battery Worth which we mistakenly decided to explore after dark. This trip was made even more unsettling when we saw the eyes of a bobcat in our flashlight's glow.
What You Might Not Love...
So before I make it sound like this was an absolutely perfect trip, as overlanders, we are accustomed to camping in fairly isolated, primitive areas. Camping in a campground, surrounded by strangers was a strange experience, but the white noise of the wind and the waves really did make our campsite pretty quiet.
Another disappointment was that we couldn't actually see the ocean from our campsite at all. We could be at the beach after a 10 minute hike, but sitting outside our tent watching the waves was not a possibility.
This last part wasn't a problem for us but may be for others. There are very few places to park your car as you are exploring. There are a few parking lots, so you could make it to parts of the beach without a significant amount of walking, but if mobility is an issue, you may be missing out on parts of this national park area.
Check out our adventure here!
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