Navarre Beach is bookended by Florida tourism centers Pensacola Beach and Panama City Beach, and receives neither the fanfare nor the crowds of either. But what it lacks in spring break hordes and rowdy celebrations, it more than makes up for with a wealth of family-friendly outdoor eco-adventures and wildlife experiences.
Featuring 12 miles of pristine white sand shoreline along the southwestern edge of the Florida panhandle, plus easy access to the Santa Rosa Sound and Blackwater River State Park, Navarre Beach is perfect for those looking for a more low-key vibe, while spotting turtles and birds, paddling, surfing or exploring the miles of bike paths.
Meet Baby Sea Turtles
Four of the six species of sea turtles in the United States can be found at Navarre Beach – loggerhead, green, leatherback and Kemp’s ridley. These threatened animals are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and Navarre Beach has become a refuge for them.
Sea turtles come to Navarre Beach for its comparative quietness and darkness, thanks in large part to its residents, who help protect the turtles by keeping the beaches free of objects and artificial light. Nesting season is May through October, during which time you can see turtles laying eggs on the beaches, provided you follow the visitation rules.
The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center will teach you everything you want to know about seeing baby turtles hatch. You can also meet Sweet Pea, the NBSTCC ambassador-in-residence – a green sea turtle who has been living at the center since 2018, when she was rescued from an entangled fishing line.
Explore Blackwater River State Park
Muscogee Native American Indians called this region’s primary river Oka Lusa (“black water”) because of the naturally occurring tannins that give it a coffee-like color. Today, the Blackwater River is the only intact sand-bottom river left in the United States. Clear tawny water, thick arching tree canopies, and powdery white sandbars give the waterway its signature appeal.
Blackwater River State Park lies within Blackwater River State Forest, which is roughly 30 miles east of Navarre Beach. The park is well-known in the region for its canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and tubing. A 31-mile paddling trail is its biggest draw and the reason it’s known as the canoe capital of Florida, but the park also offers ziplining, swimming and biking.
The 590-acre state park is also a haven for birds and their watchers, with more than 4.5 miles of birdwatching tree line. Birders often come in search of the rare and endangered red-cockaded woodpecker, known to inhabit the Coldwater recreation area, as well as herons, warblers and mockingbirds.
Snorkel the Navarre Beach Marine Park
You won’t need any special skills to see the underwater sights when you visit the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary, where three artificial reefs were created to host marine life and educate the public about the importance of sustainable underwater ecosystems.
Situated 150 feet offshore, these man-made reefs consist of environmentally friendly materials and are situated 7-14 feet below the surface and 10-20 feet apart. Visitors who snorkel around the reefs in the Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico will have the opportunity to see sea turtles, jellyfish, octopi, oysters and many other species of fish – an unforgettable experience, especially for families.
1,545-foot-long Navarre Beach Pier is the longest fishing pier in Florida and is the best place to see dolphins, stingrays and schools of fish. You can purchase fishing passes for $4-7, which include fishing licenses. Poles are available to rent at the nearby privately-owned bait and tackle shop.
Make sure to read and follow all of the Santa Rosa County rules, such as no fish cleaning on the pier, before you drop your line. If you’re lucky, you might catch Mahi Mahi, Amberjack, Red Snapper, King Mackerel, Wahoo or Cobia. This is also a great spot to catch a spectacular sunset or just do some people watching.
Catch Some Waves
Deep aquamarine ocean hues, bright white sand and idyllic 360-degree views make Navarre Beach one of the most idyllic places to surf, kayak and paddleboard on the Emerald Coast.
Wave seekers from near and far are drawn by the consistently good swells and tightknit community of surfers, kitesurfers, windsurfers and stand-up paddleboarders who ride the tides at Navarre Beach. Visitors can take lessons and rent surfboards, kayaks and paddleboards from one of the many local vendors.
Pedal the Paths
The town of Navarre Beach is as full of charm as the beach itself, and a great way to see it is to ride its scenic bike paths. The main Navarre Beach bike path stretches 3.6 miles along the coast from Spinnaker Court on Gulf Boulevard to Navarre Beach Marine Park. The path is a segment of the Seashore section of the Florida Trail and connects residential neighborhoods from the western and eastern ends of Navarre Beach.
If you’re looking for a longer route, ride the highly rated 40-mile Navarre Pensacola Beach Loop. With the exception of two bridge crossings, it’s as flat as a pancake and loops around the Santa Rosa Sound. Bike rentals are available from The Boardwalk Shop and Sage Paddle on Gulf Boulevard.
Natural beauty abounds in this small corner of Northwest Florida, and there’s plenty of ways to enjoy it all.