When we originally started planning our anniversary adventure, it was all about a tour of Florida – down the west coast to the Keys, then back up the east coast and home. After looking at the total driving distance; we started having second thoughts. Our goal for this trip was twofold: beaches and seafood. After doing more research, we finally decided on touring the Gulf coast. Our eastern destination was Pensacola, then we would double back through Biloxi, Galveston and home. We found nice RV parks along the beach and plenty of fresh seafood, both which met our goals and with a lot less driving. As it is, we have driven 1994 miles to get here from Tucson!
So, our first stop on our coastal tour was Pensacola. We found a nice RV park on the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. Many military posts have nice RV parks, and Pensacola NAS is one of them. We were right on the bay within walking distance of the beach.
This was also the location where we celebrated our 35th anniversary. We had four great days of weather! We celebrated our anniversary with our first taste of seafood at The Fish House in Pensacola’s Seville Square area. We were able to meet with our good long-time friend, Nancy, for brunch. We were all stationed together in England back in the 80’s and have remained life-long friends since. Craig jumped into southern seafood with both feet, ordering the Grits à Ya Ya; Spiced Gulf jumbo shrimp with bacon in smoked Gouda cheese grits and Jennifer had some of the best crab cakes she had ever tasted. The day was capped with a spectacular sunset we watched from the beach right next to our RV spot.
There is a rich military history surrounding the old Pensacola Navy Yard. There are three pre-Civil war era forts and a Civil War era lighthouse. The Pensacola Lighthouse dates back to 1859. It is still a fully operating lighthouse using an original lens from 1869. We climbed up the 177 steps to the top and walked around the catwalk. It was a gorgeous day – not a cloud in the sky. The views were spectacular. It was truly one of the best lighthouses we have ever been in. To cap things off, the Blue Angels were flying, and we watched them when we were at the top and as they returned to the runway located directly behind us.After a great seafood sampler plate for lunch at Peg Leg Pete’s we headed out to the end of the sandbar to Fort Pickens. This was the only fort the Union kept during the Civil War; they abandoned all the others in the area. It was used as the main base to bombard and retake the Navy Yards and the harbor. The fort is located at the end of the island in a large natural area. We climbed around the redoubts and walked along the entrenchments.
The beaches along the gulf coast are pristine white powder sand. They call it the Emerald Coast as the water has an emerald color to it. We grabbed a drink at Margaritaville and took a nice stroll along the beach. It was awesome.
On our way back to the RV park we stopped at the coast walk on the base. It was sunset time and we decided to just stop and watch. It was brilliant.
Pensacola NAS is famous as the home of Naval Aviation. It is also the home of the National Naval Aviation Museum. Now as an Air Force flyer, I must admit that I am somewhat prejudiced towards the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton. But my love for aviation runs even deeper, and the Navy museum’s reputation is so strong, we had to go check it out. We went on New Year’s Eve day and we had the place almost entirely to ourselves. Museums are about history and we are all about history so we spent most of our time in the World War I and World War II display areas. It was fascinating. There have so many airplanes in absolutely brilliant condition and the displays and dioramas are so very well done. There was an old Jenny with a cut-away to see the wooden wing spars and inside the fuselage. There is also a PBY trainer fully cut-away to see all the crew compartments. The Battle of Midway display was very moving. We spent two hours in just these two areas and felt like we barely made a dent in seeing everything.
As I mentioned, the weather was just fabulous, so we headed back down to Pensacola Beach for more seafood and beach walking. This time, we found the Casino Beach Bar and Grill right on the beach for lunch. The grilled grouper was great as were the fish tacos. Our table was in the perfect spot for sun and a beach view. Another gorgeous day for a walk on the beach. This time, it was more crowded, but still beautiful. The sand is just amazing, you walk in it barefoot and it is like walking on air. We even saw porpoises out in the gulf swimming and jumping.
New Year’s Day started off a little cooler and breezier with some clouds. In between the bowl games and some domestic chores, we took some strolls out on the beach on the base by the RV park. While it wasn’t a picture-perfect day; it was still a beautiful walk on the gorgeous white sand and a great way to round out our stay in Pensacola.
Next stop on our Anniversary Adventure, just a few miles down the coast to Biloxi.