Springtime in my house brought many changes, and even more stress. We bought our first house, did major renovations, moved, and my oldest son switched schools. My husband works in the education field so spring is his busy season, so we were constantly scheduling and rescheduling our commitments, and we were both exhausted.
I was given the opportunity to attend a trip to explore Santa Rosa County for Housewives in the City, and I honestly had no idea what to really expect. I grew up in Florida and my family took yearly vacations around the state. We visited Daytona, Cocoa Beach, Ormond Beach, Palm Beach, the Keys, Sanibel Island, Cayo Costa (see a pattern here… we love the beach!), and many other destinations in Florida. However, I had never heard of Navarre Beach or Santa Rosa County. I’d heard of the amazing beaches along our Emerald Coast in the Panhandle, but the closest I ever came was a quick stop in Destin during college.
After the stress of the spring, I was secretly dreading the trip. I didn’t know anyone else who would be there, and I’d be leaving my family but bringing plenty of mom-guilt along with me. What I didn’t know was that Navarre Beach claims a status as the “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place,” and I’m here to tell you, it’s true. I spent two days reconnecting with nature and found myself completely relaxed and at peace.
Things to Do
Visitor Center and Butterfly House
Navarre’s Panhandle Butterfly House is exactly the type of quaint attraction that forces you to slow down and look around. I’ve visited a number of butterfly gardens at museums or other attractions, but I’ve never seen as many butterflies as I did in Navarre’s Butterfly House. Admission is by donation, and in addition to the butterfly garden, the building has an amazing collection of gorgeous butterflies that are preserved and labeled.
Adjacent to the Butterfly House is the visitor’s center, complete with a playground and splash pad for the little ones. This would be a great place to take the kiddos in Navarre!
Address: 8581 Navarre Pkwy; Navarre, FL
Sage Paddle Company
Upon arriving at this adorable, picture-perfect rental outpost along the main drag in Navarre, I was immediately welcomed by the most amazing family. Sage and her parents want nothing more than to help you have a fantastic time with as little stress as possible. Our group chose to start with renting scooters, and Sage kindly and patiently trained us all to drive the scooters (none of us had ever driven before)! We took a gorgeous ride down to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and I’m confident that this was the most beautiful, pristine beach I have ever seen. White sands, green water, sea grass – it was just perfect!
Sage will go to any length to ensure you and your group have a fabulous experience no matter what you rent – paddleboards, bikes, scooters, kayaks, etc, so be sure to meet her and plan a fun time on the island!
P.S. If you are as energized and empowered by young entrepreneurs as I am, take the time to chat with her. She’s an impressive young woman, and so much fun too!
Address (Free pickup and delivery available): 8228 Gulf Blvd, Navarre, FL 32566
When was the last time you spent hours in nature, just enjoying your surroundings? Heard the sound of a bubbling creek and a gentle breeze passing through the tree tops? In our hustle and bustle, it’s all too easy to look at screens and overlook the beauty around us every day. Jack Sanborn, of Adventures Unlimited, set out over 40 years ago to give families a place to enjoy North Florida’s natural setting and have fun. His passion shines through as he explains that children are growing up without the essential time outdoors, and he hopes to give them a place to visit where they won’t even think about checking their phones.
Adventures Unlimited is situated in the northern part of Santa Rosa County, a quick 35 minute drive from Navarre Beach. They boast rustic but comfortable accommodations that allow you to enjoy their fleet of 250 canoes, 100 kayaks, 500 tubes and 10 stand-up paddle boards. We were treated to a taste of their Zip Line Tree Top tour. The guides were extremely knowledgeable, safety-conscious, and focused on our fun. Our tour was unfortunately cut short due to local storms (this is Florida, after all!), but we were able to start at their highest platform and make a couple runs to try it out. The views are breathtaking, and I highly recommend this experience! If you are feeling less adventurous, they also have river tubing, which is about as relaxing as it gets!
Address: 8974 Tomahawk Landing Rd., Milton, FL 32570
I am not much of a history buff, but our visit to Arcadia Mill proved that with the right artifacts and setting, history can come alive. This mill is set in a local neighborhood that has grown up around the mill property. The museum is modern and new, and I learned so much about the first and largest 19th century water-powered industrial complex in northwest Florida! This site is definitely worth a visit, and has an engaging area for children as well as a beautifully maintained boardwalk through the trees.
Address: 5709 Mill Pond Lane, Milton, Florida 32583
This 1,545 foot long Navarre pier is reported to be the longest pier in Florida! Plan a few hours to fish with the locals, or take a relaxing walk to watch the excitement as someone reels in a big catch! You can even see fish, turtles, and rays in the water from above. I saw a group of fisherman catch a few gorgeous mahi fish from the end of the pier.
Address: 8579 Gulf Blvd., Navarre Beach, FL 32566
Where to Eat
Windjammers on the Pier
It does not get better than dinner and a view. Our dinner at Windjammers was complete with a view of the Gulf of Mexico and a view of a cotton candy sunset. Having grown up and worked in beach restaurants, I came with low expectations of a restaurant adjacent to the pier, but I was pleasantly surprised by all of their offerings. Chef Johnny takes pride in sourcing local flavors in dishes such as gumbo, Mexican street corn, and fried shrimp. They even have live music to complete the relaxing vibe, not to mention ENORMOUS frozen drinks that are certainly big enough to share!
Address: 8579 Gulf Blvd, Navarre Beach, FL
Are you a sushi lover? Go to Slippery Mermaid! Do you shy away from raw fish, but love exploring new foods? Go to Slippery Mermaid! Do you have a sushi lover in your family but never let them indulge because you don’t care for it? Go to Slippery Mermaid!
I am not a fan of raw fish, and I don’t even really love seafood. I was thrilled to find a few offerings on the Slippery Mermaid’s menu that I could try, and they were simply amazing! I had a sushi roll with beef, and I am now on the hunt for something similar at home!
Address: 8779 Navarre Parkway, Navarre, Florida
Why I am Already Planning my Return to Navarre
I was treated to a fantastic weekend exploring so many attractions in Navarre Beach, Milton, and elsewhere in Santa Rosa County. I cannot wait to bring my own family back to enjoy everything with me! I expect to spend considerable time on the beach, but will bring them to all of the sites above to give us time to connect as a family and relax on vacation!
Hi! I'm Diana. I love the beach, my family, chocolate, coffee, and meeting new people. I host monthly events in the Tampa area and cannot wait to meet all of you!