In the late 17th century, the French began exploring the lower Mississippi River with the intention of colonizing the region as part of La Louisiane or New France in North America. Fearful that Spanish territory would be threatened, the Spanish founded a new settlement in western Florida. In 1698 they established a fortified town near what is now Fort Barrancas, laying the foundation for permanent European-dominated settlement of the modern city of Pensacola. The Spanish built three presidios in Pensacola:
The resurgence of Pensacola’s downtown in the past few years means several old factories and warehouses near the bay got spruced up and repurposed. One of these was a former box factory, which has been converted into the 14New World Inn. 14New World Inn Google Map: 600 S. Palafox St. Website: https://skopelosatnewworld.com/stay/about-new-world/ 850-432-4111 It also houses Skopelos, a gourmet restaurant. Each room in this upscale hotel is decorated differently and named for a figure from Pensacola’s rich history. The most popular, according to manager Amanda Kirk-Pennington, is the Rachel and Andrew Jackson suite, a favorite of newlyweds, with its California king bed, antique writing desk and separate lounge area. Other rooms — especially those on the second floor — look out onto the waterfront, such as the Vicente Sebastián Pintado, named for a Spanish surveyor who in the early 1800s drew up the plan for Pensacola’s streets. But, um, beware: “We do have a reputation for being haunted,” Kirk-Pennington says. “You’ll hear doors opening or doorknobs that’ll shake. We recently had a guest call down and say things were shaking in his room. But it’s all very benign,” she assures me. “The building is 120 years old, so it stands to reason it would have some quirks.”
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A colorful retro sign at the foot of the Bob Sikes Bridge points the way to 1Pensacola Beach. 1Pensacola Beach Google Map: Via De Luna Website: https://visitpensacolabeach.com/ 800-874-1234 It’s topped with a striped sailfish and the proclamation “World’s Whitest Beaches.” That famous, wide sweep of sand is the result of quartz particles rinsed thousands of years ago from the Appalachian Mountains and swooshed by rivers into the Gulf of Mexico, where they formed a new shoreline. You can spot sharks, dolphins, manatees and rays from the pier, a popular spot for sunset-watching and fishing. The beach boasts all the routine human comforts — seafood restaurants, hotels, paddle board and water scooter rental shops. But don’t miss its unique feature: the famous healing waters. By this I mean the slushy alcoholic milkshake called a bushwacker. Recipes for this dangerous brew include rum, vanilla ice cream, coconut cream, Kahlúa — you get the idea. I poked into Sandshaker before noon on a Sunday, by which time the bartender told me she had already mixed dozens, including one she whipped up before the bar opened for a guy waiting outside.
The city of Pensacola utilizes a strong mayor-council form of government, which was adopted in 2011 after citizens voted in 2009 to approve a new city charter. An elected mayor serves as the chief executive of the city government, while a seven-member city council serves as the city's governing body. A council president is selected by the council from its members, along with a vice president.
We’re not the only ones. Pensacola has become a magnet for young people drawn to the burgeoning business scene and affordable living. The city is responding with new construction. But you won’t find massive development here — yet. Some locals worry it may come to that. This seems to be a magical in-between time. For a once-sleepy Southern town, it feels like an awakening.
The beach is not just famous and breathtakingly beautiful, with its sugar-white sand and turquoise water; it’s also clean enough to lure several rare species of sea turtles, it’s an inspiration to countless local artists, and it’s a geological reminder of the precarious purity of this region. The 2010 BP oil spill blackened it; its subsequent cleansing coincided with the upswing of growth downtown and a cultural and economic rebirth. Just about everywhere we turned — whether poking into galleries or cafes, or strolling the beach — we felt a buzz of creativity, whimsy and high spirits.
Churches in Pensacola include: Saint Pauls Church (A), Science Bay Church (B), Allen Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church (C), Spoken Word Church-Apostolic Faith (D), Brentwood Assembly of God (E), East Side Assembly of God Church (F), Pace Assembly of God Church (G), Bahai Faith (H), Antioch Missionary Baptist Church (I). Display/hide their locations on the map
The hub of beach activity, Casino Beach, on Pensacola Beach, is named after the original casino that stood in this location and is a popular beach access. The location is dotted with restaurants and family entertainment areas. It is situated next to the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier and is equipped with lifeguard stands and station, volleyball courts, snack bar and large parking lot. The Gulfside Pavilion hosts a "Bands on the Beach" concert series during the summer tourist season.
A sidewalk aroma tells you all you need to know about the fried-chicken haven that awaits you inside the 75 Sisters Blues Cafe 75 Sisters Blues Cafe Google Map: 421 W. Belmont St. Website: https://fivesistersbluescafe.com/ 850-912-4856 . This stylish restaurant serves up comfort food galore: The black-eyed peas are soft and velvety; the collards have a tart punch; the grits are so creamy they’re like an emotion. Sweet potatoes raise to ambrosial heights, honeyed and warm. Wash them down with the bloody mary of your dreams: garnished with okra and a fried chicken wing. “It’s your fix for the day,” says co-owner Jean-Pierre N’Dione with a laugh. Born in Senegal, raised in France, he’s lived in Pensacola for 20 years. With his cocktails, food, live music on many evenings and a Sunday jazz brunch, he strives to evoke the spirit of the restaurant’s Belmont-DeVilliers neighborhood. Historically, it was an African American hot spot during segregation. “We owe it to those people,” N’Dione says, “to re-create that atmosphere.”
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While generally cooler than most of peninsular Florida, Pensacola Beach maintains a more stable temperature year round than inland areas of Pensacola and Escambia County. As such, winter lows are several degrees warmer than Pensacola proper and summer highs are generally cooler as a result of the surrounding waters. As with many islands, Pensacola Beach enjoys sea breezes which begin around noon and end around sunset in the summer. The average temperature ranges from forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit in January to eighty-nine degrees in July.
Generations of families have been coming to our beach to reconnect and have fun. With downtown Pensacola so close, business travelers and groups like to stay at the Beach even when conducting business “in town.” Everyone enjoys the white sand beach and emerald waters of the Gulf. Everyone also gets to enjoy the flyovers by the world renowned Blue Angels, based right here in Pensacola. The presence of our Navy also provides the memorable opportunity to visit the Naval Air Museum.
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Pensacola Beach for many years remained largely undeveloped. The Casino Resort was the first tourist destination constructed on the island (at the present day location of Casino Beach) where a variety of special events including beauty pageants, fishing tournaments and boxing matches were held from the 30s through 50s. With a bar, tennis courts, bath houses, and a restaurant, it was a popular resort until it eventually closed in the 1960s.
In 1559, Tristán de Luna y Arellano landed with some 1,500 people on 11 ships from Veracruz, Mexico. The expedition was to establish an outpost, ultimately called Santa María de Ochuse by Luna, as a base for Spanish efforts to colonize Santa Elena (present-day Parris Island, South Carolina.) But the colony was decimated by a hurricane on September 19, 1559, which killed an unknown number of sailors and colonists, sank six ships, grounded a seventh, and ruined supplies.