Paradise Found: Florida’s Navarre Beach is a Hidden Gem

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Navarre Beach Florida white sand oceanfront with pier
Photo credit: Allison Taylor

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

resort quest sign Navarre Florida
Navarre Beach has fewer lodging options than other beach towns but that doesn’t mean the choices aren’t good ones! Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

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.

Read More: 5 Favorite Restaurants in Florida’s Navarre Beach

kayaking on a river in Navarre Beach
Get outdoors in Navarre with Adventures Unlimited for zip line tours and kayaking. Photo credit: Allison Taylor

Things to Do in Navarre

The Beach!

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.”)

view of Navarre Florida zoo
The Gulf Breeze Zoo in Navarre FL is a great spot to spend a few hours or the day. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

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. 

Practice Putting

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.

23 responses

  1. I agree Navarre beach is a gem. My favorite place to eat there is Dewy-Destin on highway 98 and the Santa Rosa sound across the Navarre Beach Bridge. The other is a food truck called Where Y’at which specializes in New Orleans Cuisine and is connected to an on-site seafood market. It’s located on the corner of highway 98 and Whispering Pines Blvd which is the traffic light after the Wal-Mart traffic light heading East. ?

  2. I live in Navarre ?? Shhhh. Lol

  3. We love Navaare Beach! We love it so much that we moved from Chicago and I started a property management company on Navarre Beach and my husband started a home building company on Navarre Beach! It is what I call Fantasy Island in real life!

  4. I was a lifeguard at Navarre Beach for the summer of 2000. It really is amazing- there were times when I had the entire beach to myself, as far as I could see.
    Also worth mentioning are nearby Pensacola Beach, Ft. Walton Beach and Destin. All beautiful beach towns!

  5. We are going to Navarre beach next week and it sounds great. I lived at the “beach” for 10 yrs in the USMC so I really don’t care for them but my wife loves it so then I do as well.

  6. Navarre is a nice “in between the tourist destination spots”. Many military families live here, or retirees. It is growing; hopefully it will not grow into what happened to Destin. Navarre is dubbed.. Florida’s Best Kept Secret… but word is getting out.. I do hope the visitors that come to our beaches do not litter.. please take home what you bring, and deposit in the proper bins. We get so tired of cleaning after grown folks.. especially after holiday weekends.. Just think for a moment, when you eat your fish, shrimp, etc…at the restaurant… they are feeding on that plastic You left on the beach… Thanks for keeping our Beautiful Beaches the way Nature intended…

    1. Well said! We love to visit Navarre Beach and drive from Texas because it is so worth the drive! We never litter and always pick up any trash we might see on the beach! I hope others do the same for our beautiful beaches , oceans, and ocean wildlife!

  7. If we can find the right house in Navarre I will be moving there soon, but we like Pace, Florida also. Lots of perks and Awesome Public schools!

  8. I was just there in May, 2018 and we LOVED it! Went with another couple and had the most fun and relaxing time ever! My husband and I are even thinking of purchasing a condo to rent out and stay when we go back! One thing I noticed…only one major ‘gift shop’ in Navarre, FL. Not one on every corner like the other beach cities. Everyone was so nice and friendly!

  9. We are planning a trip this summer to Navarre Beach for the first time. Please contact me with rental information.

  10. My Happy Place for 20+ years.
    Sshhh. Keep it a secret.
    Families should stay in Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach.
    The Gulf Islands National Seashore drive is great for lowering blood pressure.

  11. Allison – We’re (family of 5) flying into Pensacola and staying at a rental property in Navarre Beach. We’re there for 5 days and we are debating over the best transportation options. We’re traveling with another family of 5 and not sure if we should both get rental cars. Any advice as it relates to transportation in and around Navarre. We’re thinking we will spend most of our time of the beach, but will need to occasional drive for groceries, restaurants, etc.


  12. We love Navarre Beach!! We have been going there for about 6 years now and it still remains quiet. The beaches are pristine and the sunsets awesome! Agree. Best kept secret!

  13. We have a family trip planned in August. We were supposed to go to Panama Beach, to meet up with my step-son stationed at Ft. Rucker. My husband and I searched from Panama to Pensacola to Perdido Key. Somehow he found this beautiful place called Navarre Beach. We’ve been to Destin and loved it. Can’t wait to stay in Navarre. My first priority is restaurants, lol. So thanks for your recommendations.
    Brenda T.

    1. My husband and I have been going to Navarre Beach for about 15 years and loved it from the beginning. We have owned a condo there for the past 9 years so you know we really do love Navarre Beach. We rent our condo ourselves so please let people know they do not have to use a rental agency, lots of owners use to rent their own condos. There are many good restaurants in the town of Navarre on the mainland, but not many in Navarre Beach. There are also lots of activities in surrounding towns. Best of all is the beach!!

      1. Donna, What is the link to your condo rental?

  14. We are going in April!! I am so excited! This will be our second trip to Navarre Beach. The first time I stepped on the beach I was truly amazed at how beautiful the water and sand was! My parents are coming with us this time. They visit Gulf Shores every fall and they love that area. I tried to explain that they have to see Navaree’s beautiful water. While we love gulf shores as well I have fell in love with the blue water! I can’t wait for them to see it! We only visited the public beach so I am excited to actually stay and have the gulf at my back door! Thank you for your review . I enjoyed reading it and looking forward to trying the restaurants you mentioned. It is making me so hungry lol!

    1. I hope you have a fantastic time Blaire! I have been to Gulf Shoes several times myself. There is something very special about Navarre. I can’t wait to hear about all of your adventures. You should give the canoeing a try!

  15. You stated there are no hotels in Navarre, NOT TRUE! We have been going to Navarre the past six years and stay at the Best Western Navarre. There are two other hotels in Navarre – maybe you need to go into the town of Navarre and not the Navarre Beach that you’re really talking about. You have questions about Navarre you can contact me!

  16. We spend time every fall and spring at Navarre Beach. We have been coming for 9 years, so you know we love it here. We are retired, but our kids and grandkids love visiting us while we are here. You can’t beat the sugary white sand or brilliant turquoise water that is as clear as glass if you love the beach, as I do. And we love the wide open space, especially a mile or so down the road at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. If you like history, Ft. Pickens and Pensacola nearby offer plenty. And there is a great Naval Air Museum there, too. You have mentioned some good restaurants, but one we like, especially for breakfast and daily specials, is Alphy’s Family Restaurant, right in Navarre. Navarre Beach is known as Florida’s Best Kept Secret, but I think the secret is out!:)

    1. Thanks for your comment Nancy!
      I almost hated to write about Navarre, I wanted to keep it to myself!

  17. 4.5

    1. I was told about Navarre beach recently. I’m a sheller so I’m only looking to collect seashells. Does the beach have any seashells? I’m really looking to find a SAND DOLLAR. please advise

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