Midwest Mermaid Travels: Things to Do in Pensacola Beach, FL!

Just as it began to cool off in Wisconsin last fall, my family hopped on a plane to the Florida panhandle.  Throughout my entire life, we have managed to vacation there just about every other year.  When I say my family, what I actually mean is almost my entire extended family.  More details on how to successfully plan a 20+ person vacay in another post!  

During our stay, we usually spend a day or two in Pensacola Beach before moving to the more remote Navarre Beach.  We have some old favorites that we always visit, but I'm always down to try new places.  So that's what we did!  There are obviously going to be tons of other options for places to stay and things to do, but these recommendations are all based on my personal experiences.

Where to Stay

Margaritaville Beach Hotel

The weekend we arrived in Florida, we stayed at the amazing Margaritaville Beach Hotel.  You walk into a crisp, clean, and white lobby and immediately get a sense of luxury!  All the decor is island themed and the words painted on the walls spell out lyrics to Jimmy Buffett songs.  You definitely will feel like you are residing in an island paradise during your stay.

Accommodations:  Our rooms definitely kept to the clean white theme.  The freshly made beds were like fluffy white clouds.  Our view was that of the Santa Rosa Sound (basically the bay.)  That means that on which ever side you stay, you will either get a view of the Gulf of Mexico or the Sound!  And get this - at Margaritaville, you actually have room to take a comfortable shower!  The bathroom in general is pretty roomy, unlike many other hotel bathrooms I have encountered.  Extra: the robes and their bath products are excellent perks.  Another plus for staying at Margaritaville:  You can also get a shuttle to and from the boardwalk if you want!  Great for going out at night.

Food:  My favorite part of Margaritaville was probably the delicious food they have at their restaurant, Frank & Lola's.  Like the Jimmy Buffett song, where Frank and Lola honeymoon in Pensacola.  Both the breakfast and the dinner were awesome.  I mean, you know the usual caliber of mediocre hotel food (I'm thinking of the WI Dells)...totally not the case here!  We all were so happy with the food and I would definitely come back to eat at Frank & Lola's even if I wasn't staying at Margaritaville.  I have especially fond memories of one seafood filled omelet (shrimp, crawfish, etc)...it was divine.

Pool:  A crucial amenity of any hotel, in my opinion.  The pool area at Margaritaville is super chill and really relaxing!  At least it was when we were there, which was September.  I'm sure if you travel there at a peak tourist time it's a lot more crowded.  But when we visited, it was lovely.  They have the Poolside Tiki Bar where we got, you guessed it, margaritas.  They also had someone playing guitar which was very fitting for the island vibe.

Beach:  You get a nice beach entry to the Gulf of Mexico right from the lobby of Margaritaville!  You just walk down the stairs and you're ready for a day of fun in the sun.  You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas if you want, but we didn't.  It's also a five minute walk from the Pensacola fishing pier, which you can walk all the way down to get nice views of the beach.

We had a great experience at the Margaritaville Beach Hotel and I know you will too!

Where to Eat

Peg Leg Pete's

I can't say I've ever visited Pensacola Beach without eating at Peg Leg Pete's at least once!  Their excellent selection of seafood keeps us coming back.  I always order shrimp (which is my favorite food by the way, in all its forms), so Peg Leg's is the perfect place for me.  We also ordered the grouper sandwich, which you can get either chargrilled or blackened.  We chose blackened, and in that case it is topped with cajun sauce, lettuce, and tomato.  Seriously good.  I have fond memories coming here even as a kid, where I'd order shrimp that would come to me in a souvenir sand pail.  

Red Fish Blue Fish

I have only good things to say about Red Fish Blue Fish!  And I have to add the final line of their slogan and Instagram handle, @yumfishchewfish.  Clever.  A bright and colorful ambience and the most aweeeesome baked oysters.  I had originally ordered oysters for myself, but liked them so much that we ordered the oyster trio to share: spinach and lump crab, cajun sriracha, and jalapeño bacon cheddar.  My fave was the jalapeño bacon cheddar, which is totally something a Wisconsinite would say.  We also tried the tropical fish tacos which were delicious as well.


Flounder's has been a fave of my family's for stopping for a drink and dessert.  You'll find it on the boardwalk.  Their Diesel Fuel is as lethal as it sounds.  My limit is one.  But you can choose from a ton of different tropical flavors!  Or the classic, which actually looks like it could be diesel fuel.  They also have amazing key lime pie.  It's actually three slices of pie on top of one another, so I would suggest sharing.

Carmen's Lunch Bar
(NOT a spot in Pensacola Beach, but in downtown Pensacola.  This was a restaurant we stopped at on our way out of town at the end of our trip!)

Carmen's Lunch Bar was probably my favorite meal while in Florida.  That's saying a lot because I had so many great meals!  At Carmen's, we ordered three menu options.  The Spanish crab cazuela, which was jumbo lump crab, chorizo sausage, manchego cheese, lemon, saffron, and arugula.  The Spanish crab melt sandwich, which was the same thing as the crab cazuela, except served open faced.  The Strocatto pie was slow-roasted beef, sugar snaps, and carrot-whipped potatoes, baked sheppard's pie style.  The iced tea was delicious, I think it was orange and ginger.

Things to See

Fort Pickens

Fact: Fort Pickens was the largest fort to defend Pensacola Bay and the only fort in the South that was never occupied by Confederate forces during the Civil War.  It's basically ruins now, but definitely worth checking out!  We had initially stopped at there to watch the Blue Angels fly, but they had unfortunately rescheduled to a different day of the week.  We decided on our way out to stop at the pristine piece of national seashore called Langdon Beach.  It was practically vacant (besides a few wandering jellyfish).  Picturesque!

The Boardwalk

I always try to make a stop at the Pensacola Beach boardwalk as soon as I get into town.  Can't pass up the chance to get a picture in the big shell!  But there are lots of cute little boutiques there too and souvenir shops.  I've been going to Alvin's Island since I can remember, and they pretty much still have the same merchandise as they did when I first started going.  Did you need a Pensacola Beach koozie or seashell keychain with your name on it?  You've come to the right place.

Well, that's all for now!

There's obviously tons more to do in Pensacola Beach, but this was all I could squeeze in during my short time there!  Stay tuned for another blog post about the main portion of the trip, at Navarre Beach!

Have you ever traveled to Pensacola Beach?  Let me know of any go-to spots for next time!