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The tranquil shores of Navarre Beach, Fla. in spring. (Courtesy of Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office)

A Stretch of Beach All to Yourself in Florida? Visit This Hidden Gem

In this beach town, time stands still and crowds disappear.

It’s known as “Florida’s most relaxing place”—where the Gulf of Mexico touches the sugar-white sands and turquoise waters of the Sunshine State’s gulf coast. It’s almost a trip back in time to the days when a vacation wasn’t filled with the stress of travel and dealing with crowds.

Navarre Beach, part of Santa Rosa County, Florida, isn’t a tourist trap and doesn’t intend to become one. If your dream vacation includes a long stretch of beach all to yourself, this is the place. Located between Pensacola and Destin on Florida’s Emerald Coast (named because of the water color), it’s a unique destination, offering a beach community without the usual overcrowding that often accompanies vacation destinations. Mom-and-pop restaurants offer unique dining and a break from the chains. And during the offseason, it’s about as quiet a beach as you can find in the state. It’s a family destination, with no rowdy bars that attract wild spring breakers.


Natural Wonders in Santa Rosa County

One of the absolute jewels in this county is the Gulf Islands National Seashore, 7 miles of federally protected beachfront property connecting Navarre Beach to Pensacola Beach on the Florida panhandle. Parking lots are scattered alongside the road, so pull over and take a walk. During the winter, you might find yourself the only person on this pristine beach. It’s also a bird sanctuary, and during nesting season, the speed limit decreases to 25 mph to keep our flying friends safe. But you’ll want to drive slowly anyway to enjoy the spectacular, unspoiled scenery and crystal clear waters, taking in the Gulf breeze as it blows between the sea oats.

Fishing from shore takes on a whole new meaning, as the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier stretches nearly a third of a mile into the Gulf of Mexico and is the longest fishing pier in the Gulf. Even if you’re not an angler, it’s a relaxing walk, an opportunity to breathe in the salt air. You can also fish from the beach, and don’t be surprised if a heron flies up to you, waiting for the too-small catch you intended to throw back.

(Carlos Carreno/Moment/Getty Images)

Take a short walk from the pier and get a unique look at nature at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. It features interactive exhibits and displays to educate visitors about sea turtles, their life cycle, and the challenges they face in the wild. Even more nature is just up the road about a half hour, as the Gulf Breeze Zoo offers a variety of animals on its 30-acre African preserve.

(This is a short preview of a story from the March Issue, Volume 4.)