Perfect Parks: Pensacola Beach, RV Resort
In Pensacola, powdered-sugar sands share the coast with shimmering emerald waters. The western-most city in Florida’s panhandle also has a history of shared cultures. While originally inhabited by the Muskogean-speaking people, the land was later ruled by five governments—the Spanish, French, British, the Confederate States and United States—giving the city a nickname: “City of Five Flags.”
To get more closely acquainted with this land (and historically sought-after real estate), post up at the Pensacola Beach RV Resort, a lovely waterfront home base. Located on a barrier island off Pensacola Beach, the resort has 17 premium sites sitting directly on Santa Rosa Sound. A walk past palms and a tiki bar leads to water-front seating and access, including a dock for fishing and sunset views. An additional 37 deluxe sites nearby circle the pool and clubhouse, while 17 standard sites are closest to the access road, via Deluna Drive. Younger guests can romp away at two playgrounds in these areas—one at the center of the park, another on the beach.
A short walk off property leads to the Pensacola boardwalk, gulf pier, Casino Beach, shops and restaurants. Deeper into town, a stroll through the Seville Historic District or an afternoon excursion to Fort Pickens make for a quick study of the global influences that remain in the city’s stories and architecture. But the best entertainment of all lies steps from the campsite in Santa Rosa Sound waters for paddle boarding, kayaking and swimming. Divers know these crystal waters with warm temps hold hundreds of dive sites and wrecks, too, hidden gems of an emerald sea.
Scenic Drives & Public Lands of the Gulf Coast
The drive along Mississippi’s Secret Coast runs a shell’s toss to the water through historic towns with centuries-old oaks, Creole cottages and wraparound porch stunners. Waveland to Pascagoula, MS
Alabama Coastal Connection
This U-shaped route rings around marshy Mobile Bay’s fishing villages and makes a stop on Dauphin Island, with white sand and day-glo stilt houses. Ride the ferry over to the eastern side. Grand Bay to Daphne, AL
Only a half hour from New Orleans, this palmetto-frond–lined boardwalk trail weaves through bird-serenaded swampland. It once provided refuge for escaping enslaved people. Marrero, LA
Great Calusa Blueway
A marked paddling trail connects 190 miles of water through the Estero Bay Aquatic Preserve, mangrove-forested Pine Island Sound and the Caloosahatchee River’s tropical tributaries. Summer brings manatees into warm waters. Sanibel Island to Fort Myers, FL
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge
A 68,000-acre Panhandle paradise for migrating and native birds in winter, like roseate spoonbills, bald eagles and wood storks. One of the nation’s oldest refuges, dating to the 1930s. St. Marks, FL
William J. Rish Recreational Park
Named after a Florida state representative passionate about disability rights, the 100-acre beachfront park has two miles of ADA-compliant boardwalks and uninterrupted views. Cape San Blas, FL
Boca Grande Bike Path
Peddle from the top of Gasparilla Island down a paved six-mile bikelane into town and, farther, to its namesake state park with a seashell-dusted beach and peacock-blue water. Boca Grande, FL
History Tour: Cigar City, Past to Present
In Tampa, begin with Ybor City Historic Walking Tours to learn how Cuban Americans built “Cigar City.” Then experience another thriving Ybor tradition: real-deal Cuban sandwiches piled high with mojo-marinated pork at La Segunda Bakery. Downtown, wander the Tampa Museum of Art along the Hillsborough River or see Tempus Projects, which curates work by contemporary Floridian artists.
America’s Sea: The Gulf Coast
Gumbo Ground Zero
The World Championship Gumbo Cookoff takes place in New Iberia, Louisiana. But even if you miss the festival, Bon Creole Lunch Counter serves good gumbo Acadiana-style, with a scoop of potato salad in the middle. Legnon’s Boucherie has many ways to take a bite of the bayou home, too, from boudin sausage to cracklins.
Panhandle Shop and Sing
In Seaside, Florida, pop into Sundog Books and Central Square Records, perched over the same beachside town square where Seaside Farmers Market shoppers pick up locally grown oranges and tupelo honey. The community also hosts the annual 30A Songwriters Festival (Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Jason Isbell—all alumni) and the Longleaf Writers Conference. Find the pocket-sized Gulf Coast book and other Wildsam guides at wildsam.com.
For more cultural insight and road-trip intel from across America, visit Wildsam.com.