This was partially destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan and Dennis and a new bridge was constructed. Hurricane Ivan caused a huge volume
of water to be thrust into the Escambia Bay. The wave was recorded to be 90’ high with a 40’ wave face. This is the reason for this bay bridge (I-10) breaking apart, but also the 3-Mile Bridge, the fishing piers (the original bay bridge), the train tussle and points across the Highway 90 causeway between Escambia/Santa Rosa Counties. One life was lost on the I-10 Bridge. This person drove an 18 wheeled tractor trailer on the eastbound lane of the bridge as the wave had just made pass. No other fatalities on the bridge were found or noted. Thanks to the Good Lord above!
The first two photos above are on Pensacola Beach right after Ivan hit. The third photo is the damage taken on Bayfront Parkway, downtown.
Hurricane Ivan made record setting
history with it's major hurricane force winds
that lasted for a total of 18 HOURS!
No other hurricane has EVER had winds
last that long, doing that much damage...
This last run of photos is what was Five Flags Inn on Pensacola Beach. The first is when it was built in 1965. The next shows its location on the beach. The third shows the destruction that Hurricane Ivan caused and had to be demolished. I personally remember when this was still standing and in steady business. I was fortunate to have been able to stay there. This was were I stayed after my high school graduation. And yes, I do remember because it was a lot of fun! Five Flags Inn was conveniently located, inexpensive, simple and nice. Steady upkeep was done over the years, due to the many hurricanes and tropical storms (even tropical depressions) that have made land fall in and around the Pensacola area since it was built in the 60 s. The worst, costliest and ultimate down fall can easily be noted for in the above picture. The damage incurred from Hurricane Ivan made the repairs cost a lot more than the structures value itself. The site of the hotel was demolished and cleared. As of 2012, the property it once stood upon is still clear of a new structure.
The Lobster Fest, De Luna Fest, Bushwacker Fest, and the Independence Day fireworks are on Pensacola Beach EVERY year. It is a true joy to experience. Trust me, been there and will continue to do that! Depending on your desire of “things to do”, the cost for (possible) tickets could be from free to moderately expensive. It totally depends on advanced notice to save for or deeper pockets when events take place. Also included are jet skiing, para-gliding/para-sailing (pictured above), go-carts and very fine dining/eating out restaurants and tourist businesses/shops. For the low cost of $1.00 anyone can enjoy Pensacola Beach!
On a side note; if you want to ride to the west on Santa Rosa Island to visit/explore the deep history of Fort Pickens, the cost is $8.00 per car. The ticket you receive is good for a week and well worth it if you want to learn more of the deep history behind Pensacola. Go to Fort Pickens and get a very close look and understanding of a very strong (and old) piece of Pensacola and American history.
VIsitors (and locals) F Y I !!!
The bridge, the beach main roads, parking areas, Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Bay Bridge (3-Mile Bridge) and right into Pensacola get backed up with heavy traffic before and (a LOT more) after MAJOR beach events.
PLAN PROPERLY REGARDING BATHROOM BREAKS, FOOD / DRINKS / SNACKS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY ... FUEL!
Pre-trip planning will ultimately lead to you and your family and/or friends to having a great and safe time.
Now that we are on the beachhere are pictures that begin with the beach's start and to its growth/changes over time. If you do find this interesting, pay close attention to the past pictures. Go to the beach for yourself and get a “modern” look at the growth that has taken place. Not even hurricanes have slowed the growth down. The following photos are of a time when the beach was enjoyed by families who traveled to Pensacola via a ferry ride, NOT A CAR! Actually, the vehicle had not even been invented yet. But, it was still being enjoyed by families... just as it is today.
This is, or was, a fairly popular “casual” picnic area. There are two bayside picnic areas to enjoy, they are from the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze sides where families could/can grill out and enjoy a relaxing family time while you could fish, swim or just relax. Hurricanes have done enough damage over the years to reset the area. It is not used near as much as it was in the 1950's, 60's and 70's, although it is occasionally used to this day. The first is in Pensacola. This can be found on the northeast side of the Pensacola Bay Bridge (3-mile Bridge) at Bayfront Parkway and 17th Avenue. There is also a Visitors Center, a Florida Marine Patrol Station and a newly (re) constructed fishing pier that is accessible via automobile. An entry fee is charged to access the fishing bridge. The other is on the southeast side of 3-Mile Bridge in Gulf Breeze and you can get an aerial view, as to where it is, from the middle photo below. Below, one can get a very real understanding and visual perception of the very nice growth that Gulf Breeze, Santa Rosa County, Florida has made since the 1960's. And, they continue to grow. Well, speaking of Gulf Breeze, it is in Santa Rosa County and everyone driving from downtown Pensacola to Pensacola Beach must drive through Gulf Breeze.
BE ADVISED, SPEEDING IN GULF BREEZE IS NOT TOLERATED! PLEASE, DO NOT GO ANY MORE THAN 5 MPH OVER (at absolute most)!
If you do and are caught, they you WILL give you a speeding ticket.
Gulf Breeze does not play when comes to protecting us (visitors, locals and citizens). They do this for everyone’s safety! Here is a brief overlook at the entry into Gulf Breeze coming from downtown Pensacola. The bridge speed limit is 55, BUT note the speed drops to 35 MPH throughout the main drive of Gulf Breeze. If you are heading to the beach, you should stay on the outer right lane and veer right when you see the Pensacola Beach (sailfish) sign. Have your toll money ($1.00) ready or easily accessible for the toll booth. BE SAFE AND HAVE FUN!!!
You haven’t seen Pensacola until you’ve seen it from the water! Just like it was originally found. Rent a kayak or canoe and paddle gently down tea-colored rivers in neighboring Santa Rosa County. Rent a pontoon or sailboat to explore bays and bayous. Sailing charters let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the great weather and gorgeous scenery. If you’re especially adventurous try jet skiing, para-sailing or scuba diving. Crabbing, scalloping or fishing are fun activities for almost any age. Try your luck for both fresh and saltwater fishing, and if you don’t catch anything, a trip to one of the local seafood houses ensures you’ll still have fresh fish for dinner! Ooh, and did someone say “dinner?” Being a resort town, Pensacola has an abundance of spots with local atmosphere, from elegant white linen and crystal to sauce-up-to-your-elbows barbeque. Take in views of the gulf, sound, bay or bayou as you dine, or savor the sights in historic downtown. So, what is the best way to find just the right spot? Ask the locals. We’re a friendly lot and love to share our favorite finds with visitors. If you find yourself downtown or on the beach and aren’t quite ready to call it a night, step out for a whole lot of enjoyment and fun. If you are downtown go to Seville Quarter, 7 huge bars in 1 entertainment complex in downtown Pensacola that is FULL of history (and "good times"). Also found right in the heart of the downtown on Palafox Place are; Play, Intermissions, O’Riley’s Irish Pub, Helen Back, CAVO Restaurant/Bar (in the Pensacola Grand Hotel), New York Nick’s, Hopjack's, Sluggo's, Beef O'Brady's and The World of Beer. If you are on (or going to) the beach, try any of these; the Grand Marlin, Hemingway’s, Flounder’s, Peg Leg Pete’s, Native Café, Lillo’s Tuscan Grill, Wine World Wine Bar, Riptide’s Sports Grill and Gulf Side Tiki Bar, Dog House Deli, Florida Pizza Kitchen, Captain Fun, Paddy O’ Leary’s (my absolute favorite and be ready for a TRUE AND REAL Irish pub good time), the Sand Shaker, Sideline’s Bar/Grill, The Dock at Casino Beach, Bamboo Willie’s, Hooter’s, Margaritaville Hotel/Bar, Paradise Bar & Grill, the Islander Bar, the Break Beach Bar and Beach Pops. These are several of the places where you can eat and/or dance the night away. Mind you, there are very many awesome places that were not listed, but could make for the best time and place you could dream of. Whether you are in the downtown area or out at the beach, with proper planning you can go from one to the other very easily. Why? Because, some "locals" have moved here from all over the world, the arts and cultural scene is diverse, representing dozens of nationalities, endless festivals, and year-round cultural offerings. Pensacola has its own symphony, ballet troupe, Choral Society, Children’s Chorus, theater groups, and a community band! Two favorite events are Gallery Nights, which are held about once a month on Palafox Place, where all of the downtown art galleries open their doors to the public. Trolleys shuttle people to various venues to enjoy food, live entertainment and art demonstrations as well. The other popular event is Evenings in Olde Seville Square, free concerts every Thursday night throughout the summer at the historic Seville Square gazebo. The Pensacola Civic Band, Barbershoppers, Broadway Troupe, jazz and big bands are all a part of the summer series. Bring a lawn chair and a cooler, and sit back and enjoy an evening’s worth of great music... for free! Outdoors is where most of the Pensacola activity takes place. The weather is great nearly all year, so anytime is a great time to go biking, hiking and camping in one of the beautiful state parks. Biking can take place along miles of wooded and beachfront pathways or right in the heart of the downtown historic area. SEGWAY riding is all through downtown and the beach. Outdoor festivals celebrating Pensacola’s heritage, seafood, crawfish, crabs, lobsters, art and music provide visitors with plenty to see and do. Lucky you! This is the Emerald Coast…Pensacola! ENJOY!!!
One last thing to mention regarding Pensacola Beach. The fact that THERE IS A WHOLE LOT MORE TO SEE, TO STAY IN AND/OR TO DO! Whether you are vacationing/visiting, a local or a beach resident (or if you are employed out at the beach), there are all kinds of events/celebrations/festivals/holiday festivities and EVERY DAY FUN ALL YEAR LONG! Take a ride west (take a right at the first and only traffic light) on to Fort Pickens Road to see the beautiful west side of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. At Fort Pickens you will see (and visit) centuries of history. If you choose (visitor or local) you can use the RV/camp sites available. Or, stay on Via De Luna (go straight through the traffic light) heading east and see the residential, hotels and shops/stores. Keep driving to see the east side of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
It is very well worth a visit from one side to the other! So, let's take a look.
This is on the east side of the island.
Oh, and FISHING... I must mention FISHING!
As for one of the many nicknames we have, one of them is "The Red Snapper Capital of the World". Honestly, it isn't just the red snapper. There is a very long list of fish that are caught on a regular basis. This being in Pensacola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Look through these photographs and see how fishing is a VERY popular "thing to do" in and around Pensacola. The "around" part is covering up the Escambia Bay and River (brackish, being salt water and fresh water to fresh water).
Directly above is a post Ivan aerial view of the damaged fishing bridge that ran across Pensacola Bay from Pensacola to Gulf Breeze. This bridge was the original Pensacola Bay Bridge that began in 1951. To "locals" it's called the 3-Mile Bridge. The storm surge on Pensacola Beach fishing Pier. Here are three things that made this a "serious" happening. A reference to the picture on the right is as follows...
1st- The waves are not surf able, 2nd- fishing is not going work, 3rd- at least a Red Flag is flying, but there was not a lifeguard on watch!
Pensacola and several surrounding areas were devastated by Hurricane Ivan. Pensacola found itself on the eastern side of the eye wall, which sent a large storm surge into Escambia Bay that eventually destroyed most of the I-10 Escambia Bay Bridge and completely destroyed the fishing bridge that spanned Pensacola Bay alongside the Phillip Beale Memorial Bridge or locally known as The 3-Mile Bridge. The storm heavily damaged the bridge. It knocked 58 spans off of the eastbound and westbound bridges and misaligned another 66 spans causing the bridge to close to traffic in both directions. Over six billion dollars in damage occurred in the metro area and more than 10,000 homes were destroyed, with another 27,000 heavily damaged. NASA created a comparison image to illustrate the massive damage. Hurricane Ivan drove up the cost of housing in the area, leading to a severe shortage of affordable housing. In July 2005, Hurricane Dennis made landfall just east of the city, sparing it the blow it had received from Ivan the year before. However, hurricane and near-hurricane force winds were recorded in downtown, causing moderate damage. Although Pensacola only received a glancing blow from 2005's devastating Hurricane Katrina, light to moderate damage was reported in the area. Katrina also undermined a large percentage of Pensacola's tourist base from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.
This photo directly above is Pensacola Fire Department's Engine 5 on a safety run and assessing damage from the hurricane.
The next photo is at the foot of Bob Sikes Bridge (aka the Toll Bridge or the beach bridge) and shows the amount of damage the
hurricane left behind. As usual, the beach has made a significant and beautiful recovery post a hurricane, tropical storm or
tropical depression. When you go to the beach (if you haven't already) you can plainly see the great growth and the beauty the beach still has! It is worth the trip!!!
2004 HURRICANE IVAN
70 years later
CASINO BEACH OPENING DAY, 1931. The second picture shows its growth and its popularity among locals, visitors and vacationers.
Shown below are a few of the photos taken during boxing matches held at Casino Beach and gives visual proof
for one of the reasons it was (and still is) called Casino Beach.
1949, Ribbon Cutting Day Pensacola Beach Toll Booth
Pensacola Bay Bridge (3-Mile Bridge) the first is in 1951, the second is in 1974 and the two photos to the right side are from 2012
Pensacola Wayside Park 1959 and 2010
2015, Pensacola Beach ranked #1 beach in Florida and 5th in the Nation!
Above, the original sign for the beach located above the stage
To the left, in the photo, you can see the fishing boat
Pensacola Beach – Here is (more) info from then and now. I hope you have (already had or will be having) an awesome time.
Long, white, empty stretches of gleaming beaches and dunes along the Gulf of Mexico…this is perhaps how the Pensacola Bay area is best known by those who vacation here. The Pensacola metro area is by far the largest in Northwest Florida, with more than 400,000 residents, many of whom were once vacationers and just couldn’t get enough.
And there is a lot to love about Pensacola and her beaches. Pointing the way is the flashy, trashy 40-foot neon billfish, a sign that you have arrived! Pensacola Beach, the hub of Santa Rosa Island, is populated by trendy boutiques, luxury condos, fantastic eateries, “night life”, the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, and the neighborhood portion of the island. Here, the sun and the nightlife are scorching hot—it’s the place to see and be seen.
Flanking this busy central core are portions of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a 150-mile stretch of islands and keys from Destin, Florida clear over to coastal Mississippi. On Santa Rosa Island, 22 miles of gulf and sound front are forever preserved. Visit (yes, you really should visit) Fort Pickens, a pre-Civil War fortress where an Apache man by the name of... Geronimo with his wife Ga-Ah, who was laid to rest at Barrancas National Cemetery (Section 18) on September 29, 1887. She died because of yellow fever. These Apaches were once incarcerated here, but had pretty much “free roam” in the fort. Other nearby Gulf Islands treasures is the Naval Live Oaks Preserve in Gulf Breeze, Johnson Beach on Perdido Key (where Fort McRee was and the small remains are located), Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt (both of these) on the Naval Air Station Pensacola.
Or, take a right turn at the traffic light on to Fort Pickens Road and see...
Yep, that is the UFO house! No, it is not a UFO on a house. Ha Ha! It was built in the late 1960's and only 20 were originally built worldwide. It has withstood the test of time regarding the number of hurricanes/tropical storms/tropical depressions that have wreaked millions of dollars worth of damage to the island. It is worth a drive down Via De Luna to get a look at or even a picture of. Maybe, if you stand positioned at a certain position you can be photographed holding thing UFO in your hand(s). Your call, your choice.
The location of THEN (the 400 year celebration) and NOW (the Villa Sabine neighborhood) can be seen below. The 1959 Quadricentennial Celebration had quite a show and a very good turn out. The photos show the recreated / re-constructed village of the first settlement on Pensacola Beach by the Spanish (from Spain) in 1559. This was done in remembrance and celebration of the 400 year anniversary. It was a museum. The sad side is that it was closed by the late 1960's to the beginning of 1970. The location pictured below of Villa Sabine and Sabine Bay is where the original village was located and the re-constructed village celebration took place. The location of Then and Now is on the north side of the road where the CROSS is atop the largest dune (as of 2014) on Pensacola Beach / Santa (meaning Saint in Spanish) Rosa Island is located. It is truly remarkable that this dune that the cross sits atop has withstood so many hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions since the cross was placed there in 1961. Personally, this makes one get an understanding of the power of the CROSS!
Pensacola Beach - Quadricentennial Village 1959 1959 Pensacola held a Quadricentennial (400th anniversary) celebration, which included the recreation of a Spanish Village on Pensacola Beach.
Pensacola Beach in the mid - summer of 2013
The photo above was taken in 2013. This is just a "normal" summer day! And, it's where the Blue Angels hold their summer air show for their “hometown” and IS WAY MORE CROWDED THAN WHAT YOU SEE ABOVE!!! You'd better believe it is, very much, worth attending! Just make plans to stay for a while after the airshow is over, because it will be very crowded and take a lot of time (and fuel) to leave. In 2012, there were over 200,000 spectators watching from up and down the beach and from boats anchored just off the shore line. The crowd grows larger every year.
Above is the original Bob Sikes Bridge, a narrow two-lane facility that ran parallel just to the east. This original bridge was tolled and was signed as TOLL US 98 until the bridge bonds were paid off. The decommissioned original bridge served as two 1.5-mile-long fishing piers until they were largely destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. By 2007, the remainder of the northernmost fishing pier was demolished. In 2011 the southernmost part of the fishing pier was demolished. In 2010, construction was completed on a northern replacement fishing pier about half as long as the original pier. In 1989, the bridge was struck by a barge and was out of service for several months. All traffic was diverted to ferries, causing severe backups in both Gulf Breeze and downtown Pensacola. The Florida Department of Transportation took the opportunity to modernize the bridge, adding emergency lanes and replacing barrier walls and lighting. FDOT announced in January 2010, near the end of the bridge's 50-year design life, that the bridge was structurally deficient and would have to be replaced within six years. As of 2011, a study was started to determine the "feasibility, location, and conceptual design" of a replacement bridge. As of February 2013, plans began to replace the bridge with construction beginning within two years, at a cost of $595.6 million, on a course slightly to the west of the existing bridge. The new bridge, like the current one, will not charge a toll. The 1st and 3rd pictures above show the Pensacola Bay Bridge or locally named the 3-Mile bridge old and new, the middle pic you see the former bay bridge that had turned into a fishing bridge with vehicle use. Hurricane Ivan tore out sections of the former 3-Mile Fishing Bridge and only the Escambia County side has been rebuilt to a higher, but much shorter fishing bridge. Gulf Breeze has yet to upgrade or rebuild their side and in 2011 the remaining damaged sections from the hurricane were finally removed.
Flounder's Chowder House
1940, A 3000 lb. manta ray was caught off Pensacola Beach!
OH YES, THAT IS CORRECT... 3000 POUNDS!!! WOW!
Turning right on to Fort Pickens Road (right at the light) you will come upon Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Hotel. He is more a "local" here than even locals know of. In his earlier days he played at a few bars on Pensacola and Perdido beaches. Your "ticket cost" was a cover charge at the entrance to the bar! Keep going past Margaritaville and you will pass... Holiday Inn Resort. Keep an eye out on the gulf side of the road. If you get to Peg Leg Pete's... turn around! You went too far.
(Look below the resort & Peg Leg Pete photos.)
This is where you will see the CROSS atop the highest dune on Pensacola Beach and yes, there is a parking area right there.
1979 HURRICANE FREDRIC
Pardon the skip in years, but this is THEN and NOW. Here is the most recent hurricanes that did extensive damage to Pensacola / Pensacola Beach.
1956 HURRICANE FLOSSY
First, one can see the Pensacola Beach 1960 at the Casino Beach parking lot area. Notice the absence of buildings, and the fact that Quiet Water Beach wasn't even built. The right side is the same area with Sabine Inlet in the picture and also showing the large growth of the same area in a mere 50 years. But, the water tower is still there!
50 years later
To the left is the original Robert L. Sikes Bridge, more commonly called the Bob Sikes Bridge, (but, also referred to as the Pensacola Beach Bridge or... most commonly the Toll Bridge) in 1961. The photo to the right (2004) is the same bridge. Well, the same named bridge in the same location and, obviously, upgraded over time. This bridge is most noted as Bob Sikes Bridge, the Pensacola Beach Bridge, the Beach Bridge,
and/or the Toll Bridge. This is the way to Santa Rosa Island (Pensacola Beach/ Pensacola Casino Beach/ or just Casino Beach) from Gulf Breeze. Once you advance through the toll booth you will see the beautiful white-sanded Pensacola Beach that is located on the Gulf of Mexico - and where a large development of Beach Homes and Tourist Cottages grew rapidly. Photoed below and to the left is the ribbon cutting day when the Pensacola Beach Bridge was opened in 1949.The rather flat scene of Santa Rosa Island has definitely grown up (fuller and taller) since 1961! This bridge, just like the 3-Mile bridge stayed in place when a new (and higher) bridge was built. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan didn't do near the amount of damage to the Sound Bridge, as was done to the Pensacola Bay Bridge. This bridge is still used for fishing. You know, picking up dinner for the family and/or friends. “Catch” my drift? When you “catch” on, you will get “hooked” on fishing! In the photos above you can see the original bridge (picture to the left) that is now used for fishing. The second photo above is the toll plaza (to the lower left), with the Grand Marlin Restaurant to the center of the photo to the right. The third photo is of the bridge, but looking towards Pensacola Beach from Gulf Breeze.
Picture below was Painted by George Catlin 1834-35 (during his stay in Pensacola)
Gulf Breeze Bay Park
1995 - Hurricane’s Erin & Opal
1997 - Hurricane Danny
1998 - Hurricane Georges
2001 - Hurricane Barry
2004 - Hurricane Ivan
2005 - Hurricane Dennis
2017 - Tropical Storm Nate
2018 - Tropical Storm Gordon
This is an 11 foot 805 lb. Mako Shark Earnie & Joey Polk caught off the beach. It took over an hour to reel it in!
At the bottom of the third photo shows the more “modern” lifeguard stations.
The GREEN FLAG is clear and free. A YELLOW FLAG alerts citizens to swim with caution.
A RED FLAG means dangerous surf / rip tides, NO SWIMMING ALLOWED
This is for your safety!
The first picture above is the lifesaving station on Santa Rosa Island (now Pensacola Beach) 1910. There were a series of these built around the coasts of the United States in the 1890's to help rescue shipwrecked sailors. They were later taken over in 1915 by the U.S. Coast Guard. Only a few remain in the United States that still stand. The second photo shows Captain Broadbent in the center of the photo. This structure can still be found and is the present day Ranger's station at Fort Pickens, on the right before you get to the Fort itself. The third picture is the Pensacola Beach Public Safety building and was completed in early 2007. The 8,000 square ft. structure is the headquarters for the Pensacola Beach Lifeguards. PHOTOS BELOW: The first photo dates back to the early 1900's, the boat in the photograph was used (and called) a lifesaving boat. The middle photo below is the lifeguard station from 1960, followed by a “modern” style from 2007. Underneath the lifeguard stand, in the third picture, is a beach patrol vehicle. The vehicle carries a variety of equipment and accessories to assist the lifeguard(s) in their line of work. Take note that in the 3rd photo a YELLOW FLAG is being flown.
All three of these photos are from 1937
The first picture shown above shows the view of undeveloped Gulf Breeze looking north towards Pensacola, 1960. The next two photos you can see the undeniable and amazing growth even in the small area of land at the foot of the “3-Mile Bridge. Take note, the center picture above were taken before Hurricane Ivan decimated the Pensacola Bay fishing bridge. The middle picture has a notation that the fishing bridge has been removed. This was finally done in early 2012. But, there is still a picnic area on the east side of the parking lot that is just fine.
Pensacola Beach 1951 with two separate photos are placed next to each other, so you get a broad view of Casino Beach.
1956 - Hurricane Flossy
1960 & 2000 - Hurricane Helene
1964 - Hurricane Hilda
1975 - Hurricane Eloise
1979 - Hurricane Frederic
1985 - Hurricane’s Elena & Juan
1988 - Hurricane Florence
1994 - Hurricane Alberto
Above, you can see the old and the new fishing pier. Hurricane Opal destroyed the old one making
way for the first concrete pier and the longest pier on the entire Gulf Coast.
OOPS! I almost forgot to mention a couple of other things that happen on Pensacola Beach that you REALLY wouldn't want to miss.
First of all, there is the mid-summer Blue Angels Home Show that features not only the Blue Angels (the Navy Flight Performance Squadron) but a few civilian pilots that dazzle the crowds. Oh yes! THERE ARE VERY LARGE CROWDS! Tens of thousands show up on Pensacola Beach, Quietwater Beach, Portofino Boardwalk, out in the bay on boats, out in the gulf waters in boats and up and down the shoreline. That, pretty much, means any open spot to watch the show may be hard to find. It is enjoyed by the locals and visitors alike. My personal advice to you (whether a local or visitor) is to PROPERLY PLAN AHEAD FOR THIS EVENT!!! FOOD, DRINKS, RESTROOMS AND MOST IMPORTANTLY FUEL FOR YOUR VEHICLE OR BOAT!!! The crowds are most certainly BIG and this happens every year. Plan ahead so you don't put a damper on your good time.
CHECK OUT THE PAGE TABS BELOW TO LOOK AT OUR HISTORY
Another visual from Then and Now
All three photos are from 1951
Above is Casino Beach, in its “hay day”. The area is named for the casino that was inside of the building. It is the island's first tourist attraction, which opened in 1931 and was demolished in the late 1960's. It has remained one of the most popular destinations for visitors due to its convenient location to the bridge. Take note on the second picture above at the shadow to the mid-left. That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is one of many boxing matches that Casino Beach was well noted for. Of course, if one is caught fighting on the beach today, it may lead to a fine and/or jail time. The photo in the center is a picture of a boxing match in progress. When they were holding boxing matches it was a "BIG HIT" (ha ha).
In the photo below to the left, take note of the water tower that was built in the very early 1900’s. The Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (known as ECUA and formerly the Escambia County Utilities Authority) sold a water tower to the Santa Rosa Island Authority for one dollar. Yep! ONE DOLLAR! Aside from the price, you might ask "why?" if you knew the water tower isn't even being used anymore. But, for people in Pensacola Beach it's not just some public utility! It's “THE” beach ball and more notably a local landmark. “Locals” are very accustomed to the one on Casino Beach and another one that is located to the east at Via De Luna and Avenida 25. The following are pictures of the water tower at Casino Beach (the main beach). Before it was painted it looked like a golf ball on a tee. But, it was repainted looking as if were a giant beach ball. It surely is an eye catcher.
The painter, Mr. Catlin, was quoted from his own writing during his visit to Florida. “This sketch was made on Santa Rosa Island, within a few miles of Pensacola . . . The hills of sand are as purely white as snow, and fifty or sixty feet in height, and supporting on their tops, and in their sides, clusters of magnolia bushes---of myrtle---of palmetto and heather, all of which are evergreens, forming the most vivid contrast with the snow-white sand in which they are growing. On the beach, a single Seminole Indian family is encamped catching and drying red fish, their chief article of food.”
The entire island was initially owned by the Federal Government. As time progressed a need was realized. Promoting infrastructure and growth on the island, the Federal Government leased the lands now encompassing Pensacola Beach to the Santa Rosa Island Authority (SRIA) who in turn has leased the property to homeowners. Pensacola Beach for many years remained largely undeveloped. A casino was 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 1930's through 1950's. Below is the Pensacola Beach sign. It has been in this location since the sign was moved in 1961 from its original location on top of a building on the southwest corner of Gregory and Palafox streets in downtown Pensacola to its current location on U.S. 98. The visually famous sign has pointed visitors and locals alike toward Pensacola Beach for over 40 years and has only been replaced once in that time. In November of 2003, the original sign was put up for auction and became a decoration for Flounder's Chowder House (photo and info is further down) at the stage/deck, where there is seating, a volleyball court and even a kid's play area. Flounder’s is located between Casino Beach and Quiet Water Beach and cannot be missed. It has the owner’s actual boat mounted at its entry. By the way, their food is absolutely delicious! You will understand when you taste their food, and be sure to leave room for desert! Trust me, IT IS CERTAINLY WORTH IT!
Here are some photos, information and history of hurricanes in (and around) Pensacola. Considering the history of hurricanes and tropical depressions/storms, not all have been recorded. Moreover, not even stats were kept on every storm since 1887. Storms prior to 1950 were not named. The information you are being able to review has been validated by historical recording and statistical recording. Due to our location on the Florida Panhandle it makes us vulnerable to hurricanes.
1561- a hurricane destroyed Don Tristan de Luna's fleet and many of his supplies. It was a hurricane that hindered Don Tristan De Luna from the success he had worked for and basically caused him to die with almost nothing. This area has been hit by hurricanes for hundreds of years and WILL be hit again. We just don't know exactly when this WILL happen. It could have already happened this year, maybe happen twice in the same season or maybe next year. But if history has taught us one thing, another hurricane is inevitable!
1559 - The 1st Settlement of America was destroyed, both lives and ships were lost
1753 - Settlement on Santa Rosa Island destroyed by hurricane
1906 - Downtown Pensacola received massive hurricane damage
1916 made for two hurricanes making landfall
1917 - hurricane making landfall just to the east of downtown, but still doing significant damage downtown
1926 - hurricane
1950 - Naming of hurricanes and tropical storms began
Oh yes, there will be more added. Check the dates. They ARE NOT uncommon
for Pensacola, and the Gulf Coast around us.
The following are some photos from hurricanes that have reeked substantial damage to the Pensacola Beach and Downtown area.
The photos start from 1906 to now.
There are no photos that were taken of previous storms and the only information is written accounts and location of where the storm hit.
Obviously, the growth since the 1950’s has been quite abundant. Hurricanes don’t completely stop it, just occasionally slow it down to make it better.
Next is Casino 2 located on the sound side or bay side of Pensacola Beach and titled Quite Water Beach. The right picture shows the pier. It extended well off the shore line from the back side of Casino 2 and was a “safe haven” for kids, or anyone who did not swim very well in the gulf surf. This, mainly, due to it being (and still is) a lot more shallow and no surf conditions. It is also (then and now) a very good place for children to enjoy the beach in a safer environment. Covered picnic areas are still located on the sound side and what “locals” refer to as Mommy’s (or Mom's) Beach and Baby Beach. On the sound side now is the Boardwalk and the pier/boat dock (pictured further below) where there are quite a few “fun” things to do… in these more modern times. This being from a wide array of shops, to fine and casual dinning/restaurants, boardwalk bars and nightclubs.
Above (left) is a postcard from the very early 1900's for the Baldwin Steamer. Next is the Pensacola Yacht Club's steamer.
Just about any boat or ferry, was the only means to get to Pensacola Beach prior to June of 1931.
Pictured here in 2012 it only cost $1.00 (not bad)
Pensacola Beach Life Saving Station 1895
Santa Rosa Island Life Saving Station 1910
Pensacola Beach Lifeguard Station 2007
Gulf Breeze aerial photos from 1960 and 2010
Secondly, the July 4th Fire Works Show on the beach. Actually there is two shows that take place on the 4th of July. One downtown and another on the beach. The best way to be able to see both is by boat. Traffic and crowds will be rather full (and typically is). The choice is yours to make. Either way, the show takes place for an awesomely special reason and could (should) be experienced with friends and loved ones. Especially and most importantly, if this applies, enjoy the evening with your kids.
Whatever the reason for your beach visit... I hope you have a VERY memorable time, where the only disappointment is that the wonderful outing is over.
Now, let’s get into the dangerous side of what has happened (and will continue to happen) to Pensacola Beach, AND everything to the north, south, east and west.
HURRICANES, TROPICAL STORMS, TROPICAL DEPRESSIONS