Florida Panhandle

Picture of navarre_beach So this page is not a comprehensive page of the Florida panhandle, but we did cover some things from Pensacola to Ponce de Leon so that's what I've titled it. We stayed on Navarre Beach for a week. We selected Navarre Beach because it's about halfway between Pensacola Beach and Destin but with none of the assorted crowds and chaos. After spending a week here, we found it to be just like that. We did hear a handful of people complaining that there was nothing to do (i.e. parasailing, mini-golf, etc...). Those people chose the wrong beach. We quite liked it here.
Picture of seashore There's plenty to do in Navarre if you like seashore. There are three artificial snorkeling / diving reefs just barely off shore in the public beach area just east of the bridge. Two of these are on the bay side and we found the water too murky in August to be useful for snorkeling. The ocean-side reef had good visibility. Just west of Navarre Beach is a section of Gulf Islands National Seashore. There is nothing at all here except for dunes and beach. It's quite lovely.
Picture of jellyfish The sand at Navarre is great, the water is clear. We saw a lot of fish and several dolphins. Two minor annoyances would be the algae which can be seen from even slightly above the water level (green vs blue) and there were a couple days of jellyfish. One day in particular involved swarms of purple jellyfish. This is not one of those but it's more photogenic.
Picture of navarre_concert Navarre Beach is centered around the ocean end of the bridge where there are three restaurants, several public beach areas, one gas station and a fishing pier. We walked down here during their Thursday evening concert series which is quite a lovely setting.
Picture of ponceDeLeonSprings It's hard to leave Florida without visiting at least one spring. Having never really been to the panhandle springs before, this was a nice chance to visit one and we chose Ponce De Leon. This is some old school Florida. The state park is a parking lot just a short walk from the springs. There's a basic bath house, the springs surrounded by live oaks and cypress trees and a token nature trail.
Picture of springSource There are two sources for this spring, both of them are obvious with or without a mask. This slot is in the center of the pool and there's another one near one edge. Without a mask it's maybe a bit harder to see all the fish so we'd recommend one. There is also a diving platform and a lot of picnic areas. It's a nice place to picnic because you can watch the reactions of all the people who somehow don't realize the water temperature is 68F. This is a few degrees cooler than the central Florida springs I grew up around.
Picture of outlet There's a small cascade just past the springs and the outlet river which merges into a larger tea-colored river nearby. The outlet section is also accessible and being full of super-clear spring water it's also a good place to watch the fish.

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