Florida Panhandle Travel Guide
Last month I took advantage of a cheap flight deal (thanks Allegiant) and flew into Destin, Florida to visit my best friend Hannah. She moved to Destin a couple of years ago and I’ve been planning to visit her since. Well… I found a flight for less than $150 round trip, so I jumped on the opportunity. Florida was the go-to destination for my family vacations growing up but this was my first time visiting the Florida Panhandle. I took a long weekend trip (Friday night to Monday afternoon), which was a good amount of time to relax and chow down on some delicious seafood.
Hannah picked me up from the airport Friday night and we immediately went to dinner at Old Bay Steamer. (Fort Walton Beach area) We shared a large salad and an even larger pot of steamed seafood. Everything was SO GOOD. We kept laughing about how much we ate but there was still had so much food left. It was a little pricey but I would recommend it.
After we had our fill of seafood, we headed back to Hannah’s house to chill out and drink some wine.
Saturday – Downtown Pensacola & Navarre Beach
Saturday morning we headed to downtown Pensacola to have brunch at The Ruby Slipper Cafe. I loved the atmosphere of the restaurant but I wasn’t impressed with the food. I ordered the Chicken St. Charles and realized I am not a fan of egg benedict. I’d definitely go back and order something else- they have a wide variety of menu options. There was also a pretty long wait (thankfully, this was after we arrived), so call ahead or arrive early if you plan to eat here.
We needed to burn off a few calories after indulging in brunch, so we took a stroll around Downtown Pensacola, and it’s a super charming place! It kind of reminded me of Charleston, SC (one of my all time favorite cities). We checked out the Farmers’ Market before making our way back to the car.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging on the beach. It was pretty chilly (again, this was mid-March) so I just got comfortable and read my book, Scrappy Little Nobody. I still ended up getting sunburnt. That Florida sun gets me every time.
Navarre Beach is really beautiful. It was a little crowded because of all the spring breakers out enjoying the beach. I think it is usually less crowded than the other nearby beaches, though. There’s a restaurant right on the beach and a pier that you can walk down. (Side note: it costs $1 to walk on the pier. It’s a good spot to look for sea turtles but, unfortunately, we didn’t see any.)
We went to Rio Bravo Mexican Restaurant for dinner. (Gulf Breeze) The food was amazing and they have BOGO margaritas. Perfect way to end a relaxing day.
Sunday – Brunch & Naval Live Oaks Area
I’m definitely a brunch lover and Alphy’s Family Restaurant (Navarre) did not disappoint. They serve really good, reasonably priced diner food. Highly recommend! The only downside was that the wait was pretty long.
The majority of Sunday was pretty relaxed. I think the combination of sunburn, food, and alcohol made me really lazy and tired, so I ended up just slothing around for most of the afternoon.
In the late afternoon, Hannah and I headed over to the Naval Live Oaks Area to take a short hike. We walked the Brackenridge Nature Trail (about a mile long trail). The trail loops around but we followed a clearing down to the sound and walked along the water for a while. It was a really enjoyable hike and a nice change of pace from the beach. I enjoy going to the beach but I’m definitely not a beach person. I LOVED all of the beautiful oak trees and foliage along the trail.
Monday – Destin
Monday was the last day of my long weekend trip. Since my flight was not until 5pm, we still had most of the day to explore Destin. We had a slow start to the day so our first stop was lunch at McGuire’s Irish Pub. Everything about McGuire’s was awesome. The atmosphere. The food. The gift shop. It was truly a great experience that I would recommend to anyone visiting Destin. I ordered the 18 cent bean soup (because… I mean, it’s 18 cents, I had to try it), naked fish and chips (SO GOOD), and a Strawberries Murphy adult beverage (which was actually my least favorite thing, but not bad). They also served dark rye bread with a glaze on top. It was so good that we almost ate the entire loaf.
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk is right across the street from McGuire’s Irish Pub, so we decided to walk the boardwalk to burn off some of the ridiculous amount of calories we just consumed. There are a bunch of shops and restaurants along the boardwalk. I wasn’t a fan because everything there was super touristy.
We then made our way to Henderson Beach State Park. There is public beach access here, but they do charge a fee to enter… I think it was less than $10 per vehicle. I LOVED this beach. The sand was so soft and the water was a beautiful mixture of greens and blues. I kind of wish we had planned more time to spend here because it was so nice. I think all the beaches in the Destin area are probably this beautiful. If you visit Destin and are not staying right on the beach then I’d definitely suggest going to this one.
The Florida Panhandle is an amazing vacation destination. The beaches are really beautiful and perfect for a family beach trip or a relaxing weekend getaway. There are plenty of other fun places to explore if you aren’t a beach bum, like Downtown Pensacola and the Naval Like Oaks Area.
I only touched the surface on my long weekend trip to the Florida Panhandle, but I’m keeping this at the top of my travel list for beach vacation spots.
Have you been to the Florida Panhandle? What are some of your favorite things to do here?