Ever wanted to dive the largest artificial reef in the world, take a sailboat cruise at sunset around a bay so valuable it was fought over by five nations, or fish in the “Red Snapper Capital of the World”? How about paddleboarding alongside a pod of dolphins or biking through the first European settlement in America? You can do all this and more, thanks to the many small businesses in Escambia and Santa Rosa County dedicated to showing off the incredible natural resources of this area.
Numerous locally owned dive shops provide everything from SCUBA lessons and equipment to boat charters that will take experienced divers out to explore the USS Oriskany, an aircraft carrier sunk in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola. For visitors who prefer to stay closer to land, shops sell and rent snorkeling equipment to get underwater with aquatic life at numerous nearshore reefs.
Bike shops provide an environmentally-friendly way to explore the historic downtown area or multiple trails which vary from the Gulf-front to the woodlands and wetlands of Blackwater State Forest and the offroad trails of the University of West Florida’s sprawling campus. These trails are perfect by foot, too, along with numerous boardwalks and trails in state and national parks.
Sailing charters can provide everything from lessons and rentals that put you behind the wheel, to relaxing cruises with an experienced navigator leading the tour.
Experienced boat captains can deliver an incredible day on the water—catching anything from redfish, flounder, or speckled trout inshore to red snapper, triggerfish, grouper, marlin, sailfish, or tuna offshore.
If you’re interested in camping or RV hookups, several private campgrounds and parks provide lodging with views ranging from a cool water river bank to the beaches of Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, no time spent in Northwest Florida is complete without a canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard trip. The cool, clear waters of the Perdido and Blackwater River are perfect for relaxing by tubing, canoeing, or camping along the rivers’ white sandbars. Downriver and into the Gulf, kayak and paddleboard outfitters offer rentals, exercise classes, and guided ecotours along with lessons on proper paddling and safety.
No matter how you spend your time in Escambia and Santa Rosa County, be sure to spend it outside exploring!