Taking a break from the usual trips into the mountains, I went to Florida last weekend to celebrate the marriage of one of my good buddies. The wedding was in Pensacola Beach, with the actual ceremony on the beach outside of town.
I’ve been to Florida before, but not the Gulf coast, and especially not the panhandle, and so when I got there, I was quite surprised at just how built up it was. When I think of Florida, it’s usually the Tampa/Orlando area, which I try to avoid, or the south-Florida beaches, keys, and the Everglades. To me, the panhandle was just an extension of Alabama and Georgia.
Pensacola Beach is quite nice. It’s a barrier island made up of nearly pure quartz sand which is why the beaches are so white. The Gulf waters have a clear turquoise hue that becomes brilliant blue as the water gets deeper. Despite being so far north and so late in the season, there was still good beach weather, helped by the nice warm water. Daytime highs were anywhere from the mid-70’s to low 80’s with cool breezes and, surprisingly, low humidity. You could not ask for anything more perfect. Nights and mornings were chilly, but bearable.
As I mentioned before, we were down for a wedding, and were staying with a few other folks from the U of I. We all split the cost of a rental which meant we all had to travel together, so there wasn’t much sight seeing. There really isn’t a whole lot to see beyond the beach anyway. Pensacola is a Navy and Air Force town, next to one of the largest bases I’ve seen. The barrier island is also home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, offering miles of undeveloped beach and island habitat that would have been fun to explore.
Luckily, due to to a scheduling error (I thought I had booked my flights home for Sunday), we had an extra day in Pensacola, and after dropping people off at the airport in the morning, we headed back to the island to check out Fort Pickens, a civil war era fort at the end of the island. With some more free time, this area seems like a great place to watch for birds and other wildlife. I’m thinking that if a similar situation arises again, Erin and I will arrange to have our own transportation so that we can go out on our own.
So, there you have it. I have now been to Pensacola, the Florida panhandle, and the gulf coast.