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Once you’ve explored Florida’s big name destinations like Miami, Orlando and Tampa, wander off the beaten path. Your journey might lead you to Navarre Beach. Located in Florida’s Panhandle, Navarre Beach is a beautiful destination with white sand beaches and warm ocean breezes. The pace is slow, so you can truly appreciate the marine life, boardwalk and outdoor activities like kayaking. Here’s what you’ll find in Navarre Beach, with recommendations for places to stay, where to eat and what to do.
Navarre Beach Florida: When the Beach is All You Need
My husband and I headed to Navarre to spend our anniversary weekend together on Florida’s Emerald Coast. He is not a beach bum like me but he was thrilled to escape the hustle and bustle with our jobs and three girls back home. We both hoped Navarre Beach would offer us some much-needed peace and quiet.
The Gulf Islands National Seashores adds up to four miles of gorgeous white sand beach with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Santa Rosa sound on the other. It’s located midway between Pensacola to the west and Destin and Panama City Beach to the east.
When we arrived, it was clear that Navarre Beach is not a traditional ‘beachy’ town. It’s untouched by the commerce I typically expect to find in a beach town: t-shirt shops, fudge shops and kitschy souvenir shops. I knew right away that this would be a place we visit again in the future.
Read More: Hidden Gems in Florida
Untouched Beauty Means Fewer Lodging Options
Most people look for a VRBO vacation rental in the area. It’s a great option if you prefer to cook some of your own meals. If this is your preferred lodging choice, be sure to check out the Navarre Seafood Market for fresh caught fish.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel, check out the SpringHill Suites by Marriott, which has beachfront rooms. The hotel boasts a stunning pool and lazy river that screams rest and relaxation.
If you’re looking for a condo, check out ResortQuest to get help finding the right lodging for your vacation.
Coldwater Gardens is also very impressive for lodging. This out-of-the-way spot works well for visitors that want to get away from it all. Expect to find ‘glamping’ tents, a treehouse and cabins available for rent.
While the lack of hustle and bustle in this part of northwest Florida was immediately apparent to me when we arrived I don’t think I truly realized how much of a difference it made until I stepped on the beach. There were no high rises fighting for space and every inch of sand was not covered by people. It was just pure coastal beauty.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Check out these Florida resorts. We think they’re worth the splurge!
Where to Eat in Navarre Beach
This quiet little beach town has some fantastic restaurants.
One of our favorites was WindJammers on the Pier. We enjoyed lunch on the patio overlooking the beautiful ocean. Later that evening we returned to have drinks around the fire pit. With a soundtrack of crashing waves it was the perfect way to end the evening. For a delicious homestyle breakfast, I highly recommend TC’s Front Porch. Make sure to order one of the famous scones (some of the best in Florida). Juana’s Pagodas and Sailors’ Grill is Navarre’s oldest operating restaurant and a great spot for live music.
SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
Read More: 5 Favorite Restaurants in Florida’s Navarre Beach
Things to Do in Navarre
This is the obvious choice. You can easily spend the entire day swimming and playing on Navarre’s pristine beaches on the gulf coast. Be sure to pack what you need for a perfect beach vacation and bring the right sunscreen.
SheBuysTravel Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we’re traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
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Read More: Here are our other nominees for best beaches in Florida.
Visit the Pier
A Navarre Beach vacation also offers something unique; it boasts the Navarre Beach fishing pier. This is the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico with fantastic views of the Gulf’s clear waters. It costs $1/ per adult (kids 5 and under are FREE) to walk on the pier. Pay once and you have access, with your receipt, until 11 p.m. The pier is an attraction all by itself. You may catch a glimpse of pink jellyfish the size of frisbees or dolphins ready to snag fish off the fishing lines.
For the fishers out there, you can even catch a fishing charter to snag some deep sea fish.
Have an Adventure
Adventures Unlimited is just minutes away from Coldwater Gardens. It offers a wide variety of, you’ve guessed it, adventures! We opted for the zip lining tour and had the best time! SheBuysTravel contributor Allison Taylor took a kayak trip with her family. They were kayaking newbies and a got a brief paddling lesson before heading off on the river. She says it was the perfect first foray into kayaking — the river was only waist-deep, so she was comforted to know that if she fell out of the kayak, she would be fine. (In case you’re wondering, she didn’t fall out, although she “came very very close.”)
Commune with the Animals
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is located about 15 minutes from the beach and it was so much fun. The zoo is not so large that it is overwhelming, or that it would take the entire day to see unless you really wanted to spend your whole day there. The zoo is the perfect place to spend a couple hours on a safari train ride, or by enjoying animal encounters with giraffes, gorillas and even tortoises. You can even learn a little about the Florida ecosystem. The exhibits are all fairly interactive and the animals seemed generally happy. Bonus points to the zoo for having reasonable prices in the gift shop.
Explore Gulf Island National Seashore
I highly recommend renting paddleboards or scooters from Sage to enjoy a cruise through the Gulf Islands National Seashore with its white sand dunes and emerald blue water. Taking this ride was easily one of the highlights of our trip to Navarre.
Rent a Boat
A variety of watercraft are available to rent from Navarre Family Watersports. Traveling with a group? A pontoon boat is a fun way to spend the day out on the water. Prefer to go solo? Rent a jet ski. Or, if you’ve got a need for speed, check out their CraigCats. They’re built for two with a 30 horsepower motor.
Learn About Sea Turtles
A trip to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center on Gulf Blvd. is a must when you’re in town. You’ll meet Sweet Pea, the resident, non-releasable sea turtle, and learn about conservation initiatives.
Whether you play a round or just hit the driving range, Navarre has a golf course for you. One of the most popular is The Club at Hidden Creek. Avoid booking fees when you reserve a tee time online.
Prefer mini golf? There are a number of golf courses in nearby Fort Walton Beach.
Fun Things to Do Near Navarre Beach
Keep these other activities in mind if you are looking to wander beyond the beach or if a rainy day strikes while you’re vacationing.
- Panhandle Butterfly House & Nature Center – This popular attraction is scheduled to reopen in the Spring of 2023 after extensive renovations. Get up close and personal with some of the 200 butterfly species native to Florida.
- Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – Located in Fort Walton Beach, Gulfarium is the place to go if you’d like to learn more about marine life. One of the popular activities available is a stingray snorkel adventure.
- Escape Zone 60 – You might not feel super sharp after lounging by the Gulf of Mexico for days, but your adrenalin will kick in when you and your travel companions attempt to solve one of the popular escape room puzzles at Escape Zone 60.
Why We’ll Go Back to Navarre
Navarre Beach was such a gem and I found myself head over heels in love with the little coastal town. Navarre is one of those spots that you love so much that you hesitate to tell others about it for fear it will be overrun with tourists.
Creating ways to bond during each excursion: that’s the family travel style of Breeze Leonard and her three little girls. The piney woods of East Texas is home and thinking outside the box is the way they take off-road adventures and head to the world’s scenic sites. They’ve four-wheeled in the Ozarks, snorkeled in the Gulf of Mexico, hunted shells in the Caribbean and volunteered for community service projects in Missouri. Through multigenerational and blended family travel, each new destination becomes the perfect place for them to reconnect with each other.