NAVARRE BEACH, Fla. — Navarre Beach advertises itself as Florida’s best-kept secret. It must be true, because it says so on the sign at the entrance of the bridge that takes you to the beach.
It’s hard to believe it’s much of a secret judging from the beachcombers there this past week, but if you compare it to the crowd of sun worshipers on its left and right – at Destin and Pensacola Beach – Navarre Beach is downright secluded.
(Tip: Don’t drive into Destin to shop on a rainy day in the summer. Apparently, all the tourists staying in the Florida panhandle have the same idea.)
I took my family to Navarre Beach last week for vacation. We’ve stayed at several places along the Alabama-Florida coastline in the past — Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and Florida’s Perdido Key and Pensacola Beach — but this was our first trip to Navarre. We seem to be working our way down the Emerald Coast.
We came to Navarre Beach for the surf and the sand, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The turquoise-colored water is beautiful.
Down the road from all the condos and beach houses, Navarre Beach is home to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. For eight miles, the pristine beaches remain untouched by development and are home to nesting sea turtles, birds and other wildlife.
Navarre Beach doesn’t have as much shopping, night life and restaurants as in Destin and Pensacola Beach, which probably is why it’s the beach less traveled among the trio.
I had no intention of fishing on this trip but soon discovered that just a few hundred yards down the beach from our condo was one of the most popular fishing spots in the area — The Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.
There are a few fishing piers in the Florida panhandle, but — at least according to the locals — Navarre is the best. Perhaps that’s because it’s the longest fishing pier extending into the Gulf of Mexico. It measures 1,545 feet long and towers 30 feet above the water.
The first fishing pier was constructed on Navarre Beach in 1974, but Hurricane Ivan knocked it out in 2004 and forced county officials to build a new one. The new, modern pier opened in June 2010 and is said to be sturdier to stand up to future storms.
The pier was built in a way to protect sea turtles that nest in the area. Signs along the pier inform anglers of the safe fishing guidelines for protection of the sea turtles, birds and dolphins.
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