Updated: Jul 24
After an exhausting week of prepping our 43 foot RV, we set out on our second full-time RV adventure. Our first stop was Pensacola, so we drove 8 hours from our home in Southwest Florida, to Perdido Key in the Panhandle. We wanted to return to the Emerald coast of Florida where we had visited on our first full-time RV trip in 2018. This was where I fell in love with Florida and the emerald green, clear, warm Gulf water and sugar sand beaches.
Pensacola holds a special place in my husband’s heart, as this was where he did his avionics training for the USMC on NAS Pensacola. We visited the military base and my husband was excited to show our children the places where he lived, worked, and played on the beach.
We also visited the massive National Naval Aviation Museum on the base, which was absolutely fascinating. We spent 3 hours there and didn’t even get to see the whole museum. It has two huge floors of aircraft and interactive, historic, and educational displays, a theatre, a gift shop, and a restaurant. Our kids loved seeing the Blue Angels planes up close.
My youngest daughter loved being able to climb in the cockpits of some of the planes, like the Blue Angels aircraft.
My teenage son was fascinated by the exhibit on the nuclear bomb. The museum is free and well-worth a visit. We even got to listen to a commanding officer giving an inspiring graduation speech to a new graduating class of pilots.
We stayed in an RV park on Perdido Key, where not only did we get to see the Blue Angels flying over in formation for practice in the morning, but we could watch the boats go by and enjoy the sea birds and ocean life.
A shaded swing by the dock was a peaceful place to sit and relax. We watched schools of fish and rays from the dock and held cute little crabs we found on the stairs of the dock.
My daughter and I really enjoyed watching the pelicans flying in formation over the bay, and observing a family of Osprey who lived next door on top of the Oyster Bar restaurant sign. The parents would fly out over the park to the water to catch fish for their youngsters, who were exercising their wings in preparation for their first flight.
Perdido Key is a quiet and peaceful location on a barrier island tucked away from the busy city of Pensacola. We explored some of the beautiful local state parks like Tarkiln-Bayou Preserve state park and Big Lagoon state park, which has some lovely hiking trails and picnic areas.
Our favorite activity was visiting the beautiful beaches, which are very busy during the summer months. We would drive until we found a less busy place to park and enjoy the beach.
Our favorite beach we visited was Perdido Key state park beach, which has a bin for children to borrow sand toys and sports equipment. My daughter loved using the toys to build sand castles and throwing the football with her Dad on the beach. When you finish using the toys, you return them to a caged bin, which keeps the toys from going out into the ocean. It was such a great idea and I wish more beaches did this! They also provided buckets so that you could collect trash off the beach and throw it away. I was pleased to see that this beach was very clean, with wonderful sugary soft white sand and pretty little seashells. Recent storms had caused the water to be more murky than usual, but it was still beautiful and pleasant to swim in. The waves were bigger and stronger, so we had to be careful to stay close to our youngest. Always be sure to pay attention to the conditions and the flags on the beach.
My daughter and I really enjoyed the educational signage about the endangered Perdido Key beach mice, who make their habitat in the dunes around the beach. They dug tiny interconnected burrows in the dunes and we could see their tiny little footprints leading back and forth between all the burrows. They are considered the architects of the dunes, feeding on the sea oats, and helping new sea oats to grow, which act as anchors for the delicate and shifting dunes. The dunes provide a natural barrier during hurricanes and storms, protecting the barrier islands. We waited until after sunset, hoping we might catch a glimpse of the elusive and shy beach mice, but all was quiet. The beach mice usually don’t come out until it’s dark, so a camera trap would be useful in observing these tiny creatures. At least we had the opportunity on several nights to enjoy gorgeous sunsets on the beach.
We also drove to Pensacola Beach, which was a much busier and more popular spot. We found a less busy section of the beach and enjoyed an evening by the pier; swimming, shell collecting, people-watching, and observing sea birds.
I tried to soak up as much beach time as I could, because I knew it might be months before we could visit the beach again. Our RV journey will take us all the way through the desert Southwest of the U.S. and eventually to the California coast, but it will be months before I set foot on a beach again! The beach is one of my happy places and brings peace to my soul. I love visiting many different environments on our RV adventure, but I’m so glad that eventually we will return back home to the beautiful beaches of Florida!
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