Top 5 ways to keep your vacation sporty

Relaxing on beautifully sun swept Navarre Beach is fun and all, but I get it: sometimes we need a little excitement in our lives.

From watersports to breathtaking views, some folks just need a little spice in their life and their vacation. Never fear! Navarre Beach offers excitement too.

With that in mind I present to you the top 5 ways to keep your vacation sporty on Navarre Beach.

  1. Helicopter Tours

Imagine zipping above the world, the shimmering waters of the beach below you as you sail along on a helicopter tour of sunken ships, Gulf Islands National Seashore, historic Fort Pickens and more. Navarre Family Watersports has been offering seasonal tours high in the skies for years. The glass dome-like faces of their helicopters mean you won’t miss a thing.

Tours start at under $50 per person.

  1. Golf

The immediate area around Navarre Beach offers two expansive golf courses for visitors to tee up on. The sweeping greens of Tiger Point Golf Course offer 18 holes overlooking the beauty of Santa Rosa Sound. Skilled or first timers will find a welcoming experience.

The Club at Hidden Creek will also temp golfers with another 18 holes of waterfront fun. An excellent feature of Hidden Creek is the Creekside Southern Grill where upscale southern cuisine awaits.

  1. Kayak or zipline

Just up the road from Navarre Beach is Blackwater River. Adventures Unlimited offers a round trip ride down the river via kayak, canoe or even tube. As you paddle along one of nature’s ancient marvels, take a stop to eat lunch on a sand bar or pull up on the shore to let the little ones splash around.

Adventure’s Unlimited also offers zip line tours that are just what the adrenaline seeker needs. I highly recommend. It’s beautiful. It’s fast. And it’s high up. Not for the easily unsettled.

  1. Paddle boarding

Stand up paddle boarding is a favorite among locals. Whether you just want to get out on the water or even practice some yoga, stand up paddle boards are a unique adventure. It is easy for beginners to break into the sport, and once you start it is hard to stop.

I highly recommend renting a board from Sage Paddle Co. This business was started by a teenaged entrepreneur with a knack for business. Sage has created a state and nationally recognized business that puts outstanding service first. And she is only 15.

Delivery and pick up of the equipment to one of our beautiful beachfront condominiums is free of charge.

So come get your sporty vacation started on Navarre Beach.

The reefs complete!

If you love snorkeling, kayaking or diving I have some great news for you. The wait is finally over!

The expansion of Navarre Beach’s near-shore artificial snorkel reef has finally been completed!

The reef has more than doubled in size meaning double the breathtaking wildlife.

Dolphins, sea turtle, octopus, colorful fish and more call the reef home. Even cute little sea hares have been known to stop by (check out our previous post “Attack of the sea hares” for more on these cute-yet-creepy critters).

The reef expansion has been a long time coming, but thanks to the hard work of a few dedicated locals these reefs are even more spectacular. A crew on a barge had to place each of the reef modules in a grid on the left and right of the reef to create the expansion.

The reef modules consist of disks of concrete and limestone stacked on a pipe that is dug into the ground. The disks have a little space between each layer allowing for creatures to hide inside. The porous surface also allows critters like coral to dig in and grow.

I love taking my underwater camera out to snap a few shots while snorkeling.

For more information of the variety of creatures to see on the reef checkout navarrebeachmarinesanctuary.com or better yet come see for yourself!

Tying the knot on Navarre Beach

When you find the one, you just know. You get this funny butterflies-in-your-tummy kind of feeling when they are around, and the world seems a little brighter just because you know that person is in the world.

And when it comes time to say those two little words to the person who completes you, it should be perfect.

I get that. I have photographed my fair share of weddings and helped plan a few more in a variety of locations, but there is just something about beach weddings.

Churches are traditional sure, and there are a variety of other locals that folks have turned into wedding venues. But the beach is a beauty not replicable by man.

Vowing to love, honor and cherish someone eternally in a place that is as eternal as the world itself just seems right, you know? Like the steady lap of the waves, so too will your lives together continue with the ebb and flow of life.

The beach just fits the bill.

The thing that truly makes Navarre Beach the right beach for weddings is the uncrowded, unhurried nature of it all. When the big day is coming (or here) stress levels can be high. Planning a wedding is an intense process usually involving a dozen or so moving parts and a million decisions.

It’s a relief knowing that the revenue is pretty much already decorated (what better décor than a one of a kind sunset over an expanse of shimmering blue water and powder white sands?).

Further help taking the pressure off can come from our wedding planning partners.

Award winning wedding planners Tropical Beach Weddings have been making couple’s dreams come to life for years on Navarre Beach.

We also partner with White Sands Weddings. Just a scroll through the photos of a White Sand Weddings event will tell you they have an eye for style, flexibility, elegance and fun.

More info can be found on both of these planners at navarrelistings.com/weddings.htm.

As for somewhere to put all those loved ones who came to see you two tie the knot, the Cabana del Sol will have everyone staying in style and comfort. The waterfront island rental property overlooks the blue waters of Santa Rosa Sound. With more than enough space for 16, it offers a great place for the friends and family to stay.

As for the honeymoon, we have a few more intimate options at a variety of price points for you two to celebrate the beginning of the rest of your lives. Spend a night sitting on the porch of a penthouse watching the stars above the Gulf of Mexico. Or venture out for a glass bottom kayak tour of the Navarre Beach near shore reef. Or just spend some time alone together. This is a place where you can truly just relax.

Congratulations on your engagement and soon to be wedding. I can’t wait to great you in person here on Navarre Beach.

Beaches to Woodlands Tour starts this month

When anyone asks me when the best time of year is to visit Navarre Beach, I usually surprise them.

Folks assume that the summer months when the kids are out of school or spring break when the weather is perfect would be the best time to hit the beach, but they are dead wrong.

On Navarre Beach, October is the time to visit.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking: but isn’t it cold? Who vacations on the beach in autumn?

The answer is smart folks. October on the panhandle usually involves temperatures staying in the mid-80s to high 70s with clear sunny skies and mild evenings with plenty of stars.

And late September through the end of October are the most active times of the year thanks to the 14th annual Beaches to Woodlands Tour. This tour consists of a litany of events, festivals and fun for the whole family.

The name “Beaches to Woodlands” plays off the natural beauty of our area. In the south along the Gulf of Mexico are some of the whitest, most uncrowded beaches in the world with the longest fishing pier in the Gulf of Mexico to boot.

But just a few minutes’ drive up the road the Blackwater River and historic downtown Milton are waiting to greet visitors.

My October usually consists of hitting up the annual Navarre Beach Fishing Rodeo on the pier and running the beach in the Run for the Reef 5k.

There will be a fantastic event at the Panhandle Butterfly House at the foot of the beach bridge called Monarch Madness. They release hundreds of monarch butterflies is a cloud of fluttering orange beauty to migrate south.

Beyond that, I love visiting the farms just north of Navarre. These “woodland” areas are celebrating the harvest and that means corn mazes, games, rides, pumpkin patches and more. A handful of locations do this each year, but my personal favorite is Sweet Season Farms. Check it out at sweetseasonfarms.com.

Then as the sun goes down, stop by downtown Milton for Bands on the Blackwater. (P.S.- Boomerang Pizza across the street is delicious.)

So toes in the sand or lost in a corn maze, Navarre Beach is the October destination. Hands down.

The full schedule of events for Beaches to Woodlands is available at beachestowoodlands.com.

Come join in the fun.

Navarre Beach vacation giveaway

Who wants a free vacation on beautiful Navarre Beach?

My guess is most of you!

Well here’s your chance to visit on us! We are giving away a free three night stay in one of our three bedroom condominiums facing the Gulf of Mexico.

Imagine yourself relaxing on your gulf-front balcony, sipping an ice cold beverage as the waves crash serenely on the shore. The warm Florida sun on your skin, and not a care in the world.

Three lucky ducks are in for this special treat. One of them could be you.

To enter go to our Facebook page, facebook.com/NavarreProp/. There you will need to LIKE the page, COMMENT on the giveaway post and SHARE the giveaway post.

Then go to navarrebeachgiveaway.com.

Enter your name and email, and you are in the drawing! Easy right?

But you have to act NOW. The first of the three drawings is fast approaching. It will be Sept. 25.

So go enter right away!

Good luck, and we will “sea” you soon here on beautiful Navarre Beach.

Attack of the sea hares

Navarre Beach faced an invasion last month!

The invaders slithered along the depths, antenna-like appendages quivering as they sought their prey. Thousands of their frilled and speckled bodies moved along the white sandy bottom of Navarre Beach’s nearshore snorkel reef in rows like soldiers marching into battle.

To be honest, they are kind of cute.

They’re no alien invaders. They are sea hares!

These squishy, hand-sized slugs are actually a native species to our coastal community, and they are only one of many species frequently spotted by visitors to the reef.

So what’s the big commotion? Well, we’ve never seen this many at once. Most days you’re lucky to spot one or two, but thousands all at once is unheard of. And really cool.

Their scientific name is aplysia, a type of shell-less mollusk used frequently in scientific study. In addition to being kind of strange looking, these little guys also have a neat talent. If startled they will release a bloom of purple ink just like an octopus. Some people say it kind of smells like roses.

Adorable, harmless and floral scented: what’s not to love?

As to why they showed up in such large numbers, the best guess is food. Sea hares are algae eaters, and with seasonal blooms of June grass fueled by a long, warm summer, there is plenty of food to go around.

Though the mass of sea hares has since dissipated, folks may still be able to spot these intriguing critters sliding along Navarre’s reef.

Check out this video of the invasion caught by local diver Tazz Felde at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvFiZqdBlF.

There’s a new zoo guy in town

Growing up here, I went to the Gulf Breeze Zoo pretty regularly with my family and occasionally as a special field trip with school.

The place is massive, and the wide variety of animals is so cool. My favorites have and always will be the giraffes. There is just something about these giants with the gangly-looking legs, gentle eyes and the long purple tongues that I can’t get enough of. Now that they have two babies, Gibson and Kelly, I find myself there even more often.

I also find myself spending hours in the budgie enclosure as the bright little birds twitter and flutter. They’re always fussing over who gets what branch or preening each other’s feathers.

The train ride is also a delight as you chug past rhinos, hippos, zebras, gorillas and other native species. It’s like taking an African safari without the plane ticket.

While the zoo has always been a joy as it has grown throughout the years, I was surprised to learn that she’s got a new captain at the helm.

Jesse Pottebaum has taken over as director, and he’s got big plans in mind.(Big plans that I love.)

Just a little background on Jesse, he started his career at Sea World San Antonio cleaning tanks and preparing fishy smelling meals for the animals. But with a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in theater, he was a perfect candidate to eventually begin working with the animals in performances and enrichment activities.

He went on to help Sea World launch Discovery Cove where he trained dolphins about interacting with people in their pools and guided upclose encounters of the aquatic kind.

He’s a husband and father of three adorable young children, and he’s an animal lover to a fault.

It’s the face-to-face, hands-on interactions like those at Discovery Cove that he wants to develop here. Imagine a close encounter with rhinos, touching lemurs or even handfeeding baby giraffes. Jesse said when people can make a connection with an animal, the message of conservation clicks. That’s when children and even adults learn to care he said. That is powerful, and it is a big part of the zoo’s mission.

So with that in mind Jesse and the zoo owner will be investing in new experiences, expansions and exhibit enhancements in the coming months. He hinted at a “wet” exhibit in the future as well.

Visiting now or in the future, the Gulf Breeze Zoo offers a family-friendly atmosphere for a once in a lifetime wild experience. Stop by on your vacation.