Natural Escapes Near Pensacola

See rare White-topped pitcher plants in the Pensacola area.

On your way to Pensacola? Lucky you. Since you are here in the Outdoors and Nature section of VISITFLORIDA.com, there's a chance you're headed that way with lots of outdoorsy gear in tow. You might have even found room in your vehicle to squeeze in a few family members as well, and I imagine they would like to get out at some point at use some of that gear. All of these are good things.

Pensacola is one of those places that I just don't get to visit often enough. I love the history – Native American, British, Spanish – there is so much to see and do. If Florida history or architecture is your thing, you owe it to yourself to check out Pensacola. The same goes for nature lovers. Get a good dose of the outdoors at these five places:

Tarkiln Bayou State Park – Spend a few hours exploring the Perdido Bay Trail (7 miles) and the boardwalk leading out to Perdido Bay. On the way, make sure to check out the rare White-topped pitcher plants in the prairie. Bring your camera, binoculars, and bug spray. www.floridastateparks.org/tarkilnbayou

Big Lagoon State Park – This is my spot for camping in the Pensacola area. Yes, it's famous for the size and quantity of mosquitoes – there's even a "Blood Donor" sticker available at the park for purchase. Seriously, this is a must-stop for nature lovers of all types. Get up early and watch the sunrise at the observation tower – you won't be sorry. www.floridastateparks.org/biglagoon

Gulf Island National Seashore – Fort Pickens area –  This section of the Gulf Islands National Seashore is incredible. History buffs will go crazy over the massive World War II gun batteries and Fort Pickens, which was built in the 1800's. For hikers, the northern terminus for the Florida National Scenic Trail is at Fort Pickens – take a walk for a few miles, or over a thousand miles. It's your choice. www.nps.gov/guis

Adventures Unlimited – Heading north and away from the coast, this is the spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing. Choose from several trips on the Blackwater River or Coldwater Creek, or see things from the treetops on the zipline course. Cabins and tent sites are also available. www.adventuresunlimited.com

Garcon Point Trail – While you are in Milton, don't miss a quick stop in at the Garcon Point Water Management Area and hike for about three miles. It's a combination spur and loop trail maintainted by the Florida Trail Association. Like Tarkiln Bayou State Park, this is another great spot to see White-topped pitcher plants. www.floridahikes.com/garconpoint

Got a favorite place to visit in the Pensacola area? Share it with me on the VISIT FLORIDA Outdoors and Nature Facebook page


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