Navarre, FL \ Gulf Islands National Seashore
Updated: May 7
If you are looking to escape to a quiet beach destination Navarre, FL and Gulf Islands National Seashore provides beaches where you can stretch out while having access to nice restaurants and civilization. This is why we like the area:
Beautiful white beaches and turquoise waters
Beach side restaurants with playgrounds, volleyball, and other activities
skim boarding, boogie boarding, and swimming in waves
wildlife viewing birds, sharks, dolphins, and others
More quiet destination with beaches that are much quieter than other nearby destinations.
According to the National Park Service https://www.nps.gov/guis/index.htm Gulf Islands is one of the nesting locations for sea turtles to return annually to lay their eggs. In 2016 almost 70 nests were documented and close to 7,000 hatchlings were released into the Gulf of Mexico. This Seashore is critical to the continuation of sea turtles and ecosystem. The NPS discusses in detail more about the sea turtles and how the seashore supports their success.
We saw brown pelicans many times at the beach. It was fun to watch them fly low in groups and glide with ease over the waves. If you pay attention to the sky you will also see Ospreys. We were enjoying a sunset at the campground and noticed a few scanning for a meal. You will also see advertising plans, the Blue Angels, helicopters, and other aircraft during your stay.
For us, Gulf Islands Seashore was a great play place. We enjoyed skim boarding and boogie boarding. The shore was nice and flat and the water created a great surface for gliding. The advantage here is that there are miles of beach with limited parking. We had room for the kids to run the beach without running into others and causing a problem. I think we only hit one other beachgoer with a skim board while we were there. That is probably because I only tried to skim board once. As much as I wanted to take on the sport, I was restrained by the fact that we were 1,000 miles from home and I needed both legs in good shape to get us and our RV home. Hopefully, this Summer the Lake Michigan water will give me my chance closer to home.
As with other beaches, we enjoyed walking the shore, searching for shells. My daughter found a shark's tooth on the last day. Based on the maps you can drive from Navarre to Pensacola on Gulf Islands Seashore. We didn't go that far but enjoyed our drive past Opal Beach and the main rec area of the park.
Navarre Beach is home to some of the most beautiful water I've seen. As the pictures show, the emerald color is amazing. The fishing pier was in use by many when we were there. I was surprised to see a mobile bathroom on the pier for public use. This is a great spot for pictures. We had lunch at Windjammers on the pier and would recommend it for decent food and good service. The alligator bites were a new tasty treat for our brood. Also here is the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. We noticed a line every time we drove by so we didn't go in. We also ate dinner at Sailor's Grill/Juana's Pagodas. This looks like the Spring Break party spot with Beach volleyball, water toy rentals, and the bar that is meant for drinking, live music and dancing. We saw dolphins offshore while we were driving down the causeway and stopped into Juana's to get a closer look. Keep your eyes up and screens down....you never know what you might see.
We stayed at the Hideaway Retreat in Navarre, FL. The campground has full hookups and beach access. There are many trees and shade everywhere. We enjoyed walking with our dogs and letting them swim the beach. They also received a well-needed salt water bath. We were very pleased with their customer service and ability to manage so many campers, successfully.
There is a community firepit where you must bring in your own wood. Around the fire, are yard games including ping pong, connect four, bean bags, and swings. We had a lot of time playing in the campground. Families are nice and the layout provides for the right amount of social interaction with other campers. The laundry facility is new and clean.
Hurricane Sally caused destruction to their shoreline. When we were there the pier was damaged and the bluff was eroded. This is no different than any other shoreline we noticed. I'm sure as always people will rebuild. We deployed the toys and kayaked and paddle boarded. The water was clear and we noticed a sting ray and other sealife, as we explored. The waters are calm due to the protection of Navarre Beach and great for little ones to play on the beach and wade in the water. The water is shallow and only up to about 5 feet at the end of the pier. Try to go at low tide and other times throughout the day to enjoy the changes.
The sites are tight. Big rigs do fit as they suggest. However, this campground is built for trailers and class Cs 30 feet and smaller. We pulled in with our 35 foot Class A and I spent the rest of the trip trying to figure out how we were going to get out. We saw many larger rigs navigate the campground just fine. Personally, it was a little too tight for my comfort level. If you have a larger setup and you stay here you won't be disappointed. However, you will understand when you pull in what we experienced.
Our stay in Navarre was memorable for it being the first time our brood spent a lot of time in salt water. We enjoyed our days hanging out at the Hideaway and spending time on the beach. The area can be as quiet or as exciting as you want to make it. We had some uptime and downtime. The drive to Gulf Islands Seashore was fun. We all got to pick out our favorite island dreamhouse in between Navarre and the seashore. There is a Wal-Mart for any restocking you need to do. If you are looking for a great beach destination, this is it. Please let us know if you have any questions about the area and what you like about Navarre and the surrounding area. Oh, the sunsets are amazing!