Pensacola Beach, Florida 2015

Interstate 10
"Road Trip!!! That's the plan.  Gas prices are very low - let's go on a road trip to Disney World."  I am certain those words must have crossed my lips when we were planning our trip to Disney World back in January. Well, being the budget conscious person that I am, we did opt to drive instead of fly to Disney World. Was it worth the drive?  Did we save money? YES! 

While we were in a hurry to get TO Disney World, we decided to take it slow coming home. On the way home we spent 2 nights in Pensacola Beach, Florida. As we prefer a beach that does not have high rise hotels, or any business for that matter, we chose to spend our day at Gulf Islands National Seashore near Pensacola Beach, Florida.  There were miles & miles of white sandy beaches that were untouched by man! The beaches were as white as snow.  It truly was something to see!

Where did we stay?
Well... since I am budget conscious you probably already know I did not stay ON the beach in a condo. The closer you are to a beach, the HIGHER your lodging prices become. After all I was only there for 1 1/2 days so being on the beach was not a priority. We stayed in a brand new Hampton Inn in Pensacola, Florida at I-10 & Pine Forest Road.  The hotel was clean (my highest priority), quiet (& my room was next to the elevator),nicely appointed, & had THE most comfortable bed I have ever slept on in a hotel. Oh yeah, there was FREE breakfast each morning! I booked the room 6 months before my trip using my points I had accumulated during the year.  My total cost for 2 nights using points & cash was only $111. Now that was a deal!

How far from the beach was your hotel?
The drive to the beach was a pleasant 35 minute drive on a Saturday morning in June. We went around 9 AM so the crowds had not yet headed that direction yet.  There was a $2 toll to get to the island but that toll was well worth the money. Helpful hint that will save you money: DRIVE THE SPEED LIMIT.  There are police officers cruising to give tickets all the way to the beach.

What did you do at Gulf Islands National Seashore?
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Naval Oaks Visitor Center
When we arrived we visited the Gulf Islands National Seashore Naval Live Oaks center.  A ranger led tour started shortly after we arrived.  The ranger took us on a short & easy hike and explained the nature trail to us. After the brief tour we then headed to Fort Pickens located on the far end of the island.  The ranger led program was very informative about the history of all of the forts on the Florida coastline.  I highly recommend touring Fort Pickens with the ranger. After exploring Fort Pickens we headed to the beach.  There was a red flag warning so we did not venture into the Gulf any deeper than our ankles. However, my son had a blast playing in the snow white sand.  The beach was not very crowded so we enjoyed a bit of solitude while our son played. Other things you can do include camping, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, or going to more ranger programs at one of the nearby forts. If you are visiting on a Tuesday or Wednesday you might even catch a glimpse of the Blue Angels practicing.  

What is the cost for Gulf Islands National Seashore?
The cost for a single vehicle that carries less than 15 people  is $15 for 1-7 days and is good for all of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. You can find more information about fees at the National Park Service web page.

Where did you eat while at the beach?
Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar
We ate lunch/dinner around 3 PM at Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar in Pensacola Beach, Florida.  It was about a 6 minute drive from Gulf Islands National Seashore. Peg Leg Pete's Oyster Bar gets great reviews online, but I must say we thought the food was bland.  I guess we should have ordered oysters since it is an oyster bar. However, all 3 of us ordered something different and none of us really liked the food. To top it off we waited 40 minutes at 3 PM on a Saturday afternoon to be seated.  Service was really slow even once we got a table. It must REALLY be packed around 6 PM.  

Our day at the beach was over & it was time to go back to the hotel. We had to get on the road early the next morning & head home.