Escambia at a Glance
|Popular Spot||Pensacola Beach|
|Sandy Beaches||39 miles|
|Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail||10 sites|
|State Parks & Lands||Acres|
|Big Lagoon State Park||705|
|Perdido Key State Park||290|
|Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park||4,200|
|Fort Pickens Aquatic Preserve||34,000|
|Gulf Islands National Seashore (Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa)||95,000|
|Bays & Inlets|
|Bayou Chico, Bayou Garcon, Big Lagoon, Escambia, Pensacola, Perdido & Tarkiln bays & Tarkiln Bayou|
|Rivers & Paddling Trails|
|Perdido and Escambia rivers|
|Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway|
Escambia County is like much of the Panhandle—mostly undeveloped and sparsely populated with sugary white quartz-sand beaches, government-protected land and a strong military influence.
The state's westernmost and oldest county, it is one of the country's first European settlements and Florida's original capital. Escambia County claims 2,000-year-old Native American mounds, the state's oldest church, one of its oldest cemeteries, and a 1698 fort, but its beaches are its main attraction.
Two major barrier islands shelter 80% of the Escambia coastline—50-mile Santa Rosa Island and 16-mile Perdido Key. These two islands envelop Perdido Key State Park, Big Lagoon State Park, and parts of the 160-mile Gulf Islands National Seashore, the longest tract of protected seashore in the country. Perdido Key hosts the endangered Perdido Key beach mouse, piping plover bird and Loggerhead sea turtle. Bridges span Pensacola Bay, Santa Rosa Sound and Big Lagoon to the barrier islands. Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is home to four species of rare, endangered pitcher plants.
Sandwiched between beaches that line the gulf and bay, Pensacola Beach occupies the western third of Santa Rosa Island. Residents, boutiques, galleries, specialty shops and restaurants line the island, which also sports one of the longest piers on the gulf—the 1,471-foot Pensacola Beach Pier. Other activities include biking, snorkeling, kayaking, free concerts and the yearly 4th of July Pensacola Beach Air Show featuring the Blue Angels.
Also open to the public on the Gulf Islands National Seashore are four historic forts built to defend Pensacola Bay: 1829-34: Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island where Apache Chief Geronimo was a prisoner; 1839-44 Fort Barrancas, on a bluff overlooking Pensacola Bay; 1845-56 Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas, to resist land attack; and Fort McRee, a three-tiered fort on the east end of Perdido Key.
The city of Pensacola, known as the "Cradle of Aviation" and home to Pensacola Naval Air Station, is the primary training base for all aviators in the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard and Blue Angels. The city overlooks Pensacola Bay, the deepest bay on the Gulf coast. It is the site of the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola Museum of Art, a Civil War Museum, and Historic Pensacola Village. Festivals occur year-round. The "City of Five Flags" (Spain, France, Great Britain, the Confederacy, and USA), is Florida's second oldest city.