Road Tripping to Navarre Beach
According to the FY2019 Santa Rosa County Tourism Impact Report, 88% of visitors to Navarre Beach arrive via a personal vehicle, while only 7% rent a vehicle which aligns with 5% coming by plane (Pensacola and Destin Fort Walton Beach airports).
And 81% say their #1 activity is to ENJOY THE BEACH.
Interestingly, most visitors are coming from cities and states 6 to 12 hours away by car.
That is ONE. LONG. CAR RIDE!
But so worth it when you finally arrive
Places to Stop
A couple of stops you may want to plan along the way include Buc-ee’s in AL (20403 County Rd 68, Robertsdale) It is just off the I-10 exit to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach. If you are from Texas, you already know all about Buc-ee’s. If you’re not, you will definitely want to stop and check it out. The best bathrooms in any convenience store, truck stop, or rest stop you will find (hot water and actual mirrors)! Plus, there are always unique shopping options and of course the food! What you will not find is SEATING. The food is intended to be taken out of the store for consumption (so be sure to have them bag your items so you can properly dispose of the wrappers and containers).
Also, plan to make a stop at the Florida Welcome Centers. Most of these are just miles from the state line and what I love about them is the amount of FREE information and beautiful publications they stock.
The Welcome Center in Escambia County (just about 4 miles from AL border) has a section on Northwest Florida as well as other tourist areas, but if you are coming to Navarre you will want to visit the NWFL section. You can get seashell guides, bird and fish guides, golf information, and more. I know you are getting really close to arriving and you may want to just keep on driving, but I promise the amount of information they stock is amazing. Hours are 8 am to 5 pm and only closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
What to Pack
Since you are in your car anyway, it’s great for BYOing items you will want and need at the beach. When you start making a list of all the items that you could possibly put in the car, it looks something like this:
- Cooler(s)-large with wheels, small
- Wheeled Cart to haul stuff back and forth to the beach (extra wide wheels needed for sand)
- Umbrella or Shade Canopy
- Beach towels and Blankets
- Snorkel and Surf items (Goggles, Fins, Tank, Wetsuit, Tube)
- Seashell Bags
- Beach Toys—balls, frisbees, sandcastle tools, and containers
- Floats, Boogie Boards and Noodles
- Waterproof Speaker
- Kayak or Paddleboards
- And if you have babies or toddlers, now the list expands to include highchairs, cribs, and strollers.
For a vacation that involves very little clothes, there seems to be a lot to pack in the car!
I have done some research to help you determine what you can RENT here in Navarre so that you don’t have to pack so much and so that when you are done, you leave the items and the extra sand here! (You are going to take some sand home with you—I can guarantee it!)
First, let’s start with a good checklist. TravelingMom has one I like to print and use to pack the family and all your gear to enjoy a great week relaxing on the beach.
(Some items under Toiletries may not be necessary for your family but I’m glad they are included as reminders.)
Chairs and Umbrellas: There are several chair companies that operate in front of the condos on Navarre Beach (West Side of Pier), and you do not have to be staying in a condo to rent chairs. The companies offer both daily and weekly rentals. Most companies have the Chairs and Umbrellas set up by 7 am and will start taking down around 4 with final pick up by 6 pm. The benefit is that you do not have to haul chairs and umbrellas up and down from condos or back and forth from cars (plus the sand stays on the beach). The cost is $15-$25 per day with a discount if you pay for the week. Tips are always appreciated by the staff.
Bikes: You will find several vendors along Gulf Blvd offering bikes to rent. Most visitors ride along the bike path on Gulf Blvd and through the Navarre Beach Marine Park. Unless you are a seasoned bike rider I do NOT suggest riding up and across the Navarre Beach Causeway. It is 1.5 miles from Navarre Parkway (Hwy 98) to Gulf Blvd (US 399) and the incline is steep.
Kayaks, Paddleboards: There is a great story about a local business started by an 11 year –check out her story on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sagepaddlecompany/ and website www.SagePaddleCo.com They deliver to whatever beach location you are using. And they offer bikes, scooters, and my personal fav, the Scoot Coup.
The minimum age to rent is 18 years old and anyone under 29 years is required by FL law to have a Boaters License. Study before coming to get your license https://www.boatus.org/florida/
Scuba Equipment: Air tanks seem to be the most difficult equipment to locate! Unfortunately, you will have to drive to Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach to get air tanks if you don’t have your own.
Free and Almost Free and “Borrow Bins”
Last year the Santa Rosa County Tourism Development office and the Navarre Beach Lifeguards teamed up to place 6 Beach Toy Recycle Boxes along Navarre Beach. Visitors are encouraged to check the boxes for toys, noodles, sandcastle tools, and if you want to donate items you can leave them in the box.
Additionally, the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center has a box outside that visitors can donate items or “borrow” items to use during their visits. Admission to the Conservation Center is $5 per person (children under 2-free, military and seniors discount) and hours are Tues-Sun noon to 4 pm.
***Please note, if you are staying in a condo, you will need to store items in the designated areas (not on balconies, or walkways due to fire and safety codes).
Enjoy dolphin watching from the balcony of your condo or right on the beach and both the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular. Take a walk on the Navarre Beach Pier ($1 to walk-under 5 yrs old FREE) and watch fishermen reeling in their catch or spot a sea turtle swimming around.
Artificial reefs are available for snorkeling and shore diving in both the Santa Rosa Sound and the Gulf and easily accessible. More information can be found on the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary site.
Navarre Park has a playground and small Splash Pad for kids along with benches, picnic tables, and covered pavilions. The park is open from 7 am to 10 pm, and the Splash Pad is open Tues-Sun from 9 am to 5 pm.
Stop by the Visitor’s Center in Navarre Park (right on Hwy 98) early in your trip to get more information as well as FREE souvenirs. During Sea Turtle Nesting season get flashlight covers for your phones to go on the beach at night. And visit their website GetRelaxing.com for a visitor’s guide you can download.
For more information about Sea Turtle Nesting and how you can help: https://www.getrelaxing.com/stories/sea-turtle-season-navarre-beach/
Hopefully, with this information, you can remove a few items from the car! But we can’t stop without looking at a list of things to bring that include food, beverages, and supplies.
Food, Beverages, and Supplies
If you printed off the Beach Vacation Checklist you will notice a section: Things to Bring/Buy There and my advice is if you come to the beach every year create a Non-Perishable Tote like the one pictured below.
These items will not “melt” in the car during the drive. They don’t expire or weigh a lot and depending on the length of your stay and the number in your family, you may be able to purchase smaller quantities and use most of them up before returning home.
Included in this basket: Toilet paper, Paper Towel, Facial tissues, Laundry Detergent and Fabric Softener Sheets, Dishwashing Detergent and Pods, quart-size Food Storage Bags, Kitchen Trash Bags, and Foil & Plastic Wrap all placed in a laundry basket. Additional items could include paper plates, cups, and plastic knives, forks & spoons. I have a complete list on my website under Free Resources: Basic Set Up.
Everything was purchased at Dollar Tree and the total was less than $15.00
Remember the Navarre Beach Causeway? Unfortunately, this short stretch of road can become very congested on the weekends during peak season. We have visitors coming and going as well as all the local community that loves to come out to the beach on the weekends. And since most rental units have a Saturday to Saturday policy there is a lot of traffic on a 2-lane road.
What can you do to avoid this?
Use Grocery Concierge to deliver your Groceries before you arrive and Start Your Vacation Sooner!
If you are someone who regularly orders groceries from Walmart, Instacart or Shipt you may be wondering “Why should I use Grocery Concierge instead of one of these services while on vacation?”
The number one reason is that travel is unpredictable! Various delays or unexpected lane closures on the Interstate can cause families to arrive at their unit later than expected. As a licensed, and insured Concierge Service I gain access to the unit from the Property Management Company. If you experience a delay while traveling, you can rest easy knowing you will not miss your scheduled delivery.
Additionally, as a personal shopper, I can shop at specialty stores that are not included in these services. Many visitors want fresh seafood as soon as they arrive at the beach. I have a great relationship with Navarre Seafood Market and can get items like steamed crab legs or steamed shrimp as well as fresh fish and deliver these items along with the rest of your groceries. Also, Where Ya At Seafood Market provides items like gumbo or etouffee that can easily be reheated for your first-night dinner so you can grab a drink from the fridge and head out to enjoy the beach. It is my pleasure to introduce these local businesses to our visitors and provide the highest quality and variety of products.
Another difference between Grocery Concierge and these services is the fee structure. These services are subscription-based and have minimum purchase amounts. Subscriptions range in price and require a minimum purchase of $30 to $35 (alcohol is not included in the total to reach the minimum amount required). I do not have a minimum purchase amount instead each delivery has a delivery fee of $50 and a service fee. You pay only when you use it. (Also changing your delivery location is not easy!)
And lastly is my food donation program. If you have any unopened nonperishable items I will return to the unit and pick those items up and donate them to the food pantry. Instead of trying to pack items in your suitcases or throw items away, you can make a positive contribution to those in our community that can use the items.
Navarre Beach is a great place to visit! I liked it so much I moved here! And I hope that you will visit often and use the service companies I mentioned in the article. We love our visitors and we count on you to support our businesses during your visits. Pack the car with your beach towels, favorite pillow, cameras, board and video games to play at night or if a rainstorm comes up, and remember we have lots of stuff here for you to use and we hope that you will😊.
Last tip—the reason that DOGS are NOT ALLOWED on our beaches is due to both the shorebirds that visit here each year and the sea turtles that nest here. Both of these seasons run from April/May to Sept/Oct. But the ordinance is in effect all year long!
You can walk your dog along the walking and bike path on Gulf Blvd and there is a small dog beach on the west side of the National Seashore Park (Pensacola Beach). So, if your rental unit allows for dogs, feel free to bring them but PLEASE obey the county ordinance (or you could be fined $250).