Navarre Beach gets recycling ‘toy chest’

I’ll admit while our white powdery sands on Navarre Beach are a joy to play in, getting toys down to the beach can be a pain.

Especially if you are trying to fly. First you have to go to the trouble of actually finding them in stores, then get them packed along with all the other items you will need for relaxing.

And when you finally get ready to go down to the shore, the kids have inexplicably managed to lose them. Seriously, how?

Rather than purchase the shovels, buckets, frisbees and more, why not borrow them?

The Navarre Beach Lifeguards has launched the beach toy recycling box program this month, and it is already a huge success.

Beach Safety Director Austin Turnbull got the idea for the beachside boxes after seeing a similar program on a beach in Texas.

“There are not a lot of trash cans around. There are also a lot of leftover beach toys that are just getting thrown in the trash. They are still good and made of plastic,” Turnbull said. “I thought it would be good for the environment and just a good nature thing that needed to be done on our beach.”

Whether you are a visitor or just one of the neighbors, you can pull items from the bins to play in the sun on the beach. Use whatever items you would like. Then, you just put your beach toys back in the box at the end of the day, no worries over lugging them back to your condo.

“You pretty much have a toy chest of beach toys here at the beach available to them,” Turnbull said.

The boxes are constructed out of recycled PVC board, which stands up to the wear and tear of the beach climate. The local lifeguards and firefighters constructed and initially stocked the boxes. They bear the logos of the Navarre Beach Lifeguard program, Navarre Beach Fire Rescue and Santa Rosa County, which helped fund the project.

The boxes have been pre-stocked with noodles, shovels, buckets, frisbees and sandcastle-making items. The boxes are self-sustaining with discarded and donated toys collected off the beach.

The first box was placed at the foot of the walkover closest to the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier alongside the wheelchair mobi mat. A total of six bins are being placed along the length of the beach near the edge of the dune line close to designated walkovers.

The boxes complement a similar program created at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center where visitors can borrow beach toys from the center’s Borrow Bin of plastic toys collected during beach cleanups.

These new boxes will be located directly on the beach, providing easier access.

I love this concept not only because it eliminates a lot of the hassle but because it serves an important conservation goal, keeping our beaches beautiful for future generations to enjoy.

The boxes help keep items from impacting wildlife overnight, and it conforms with the beach’s Leave No Trace Ordinance, which prohibits any items being left on the beach after sundown.

Plastic toys can pose a hazard to sea turtle hatchlings attempting to make their way to the water by creating obstacles the tiny turtles must navigate around.

Plastics washed out into the Gulf of Mexico are also hazardous to wildlife. Because plastics last indefinitely in the water, they typically get broken down into smaller pieces referred to as microplastics.

These microplastics can become the size of sesame seeds or even smaller. Fish and other sea life then consume these plastics, unaware they are not food. This can cause marine life to accidentally starve themselves.

By reusing these toys, we can reduce the impacts of plastic on our beach while still getting to have our fun day in the sun! Come check the boxes out at

Second annual Wing Off coming to Navarre Park

You, dear reader, have a very important decision to make this Saturday.

The nonprofit Starfish Project of Navarre has called foodies of all ages to vote to determine which is the best chicken wing in Navarre as part of the second annual Wing Off in Navarre Park.

For $15, patrons will gain entry to the festivities where 17 teams of chefs will be serving up their best chicken wing recipe in the hopes of gaining favor and one of the three coveted voting tokens given to each visitor.

But it’s not just tasty wings being served up! In addition to the tasty offerings, the event will feature a variety of vendors and live music.

There will also be a Kids’ Zone put together by volunteer students from Navarre High School and the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station. The area will include bounce houses, activities, Tommy Snowball’s snow cones and more right along the water of Santa Rosa Sound near the playgrounds.

Children under the age of five will have free entry to the event.

As for the wings, visitors who purchase an arm band will be able to sample free of charge. Then they use their tokens to select their favorite.

While there will be official blind judging by a panel for prizes, everyone knows the real trophy is for people’s choice award decided by the tokens. These trophies literally look like chicken wings.

Vote tokens must be submitted by 5:15 p.m., and the winners will be announced at 5:30 p.m.

Starfish Project president Brandi Hook said the friendly competition is all for a good cause and the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser of the year. The funds will go to support the nonprofit’s mission of assisting children with special needs.

“It really is just a family fun event for all,” Hook said.

The proceeds will help with purchase of new all-inclusive play equipment for Navarre Park to ensure children of all abilities can play. This equipment will be installed as part of a major remodel coming to Navarre Park and the visitor information center.

The funds will also support Starfish Project’s work to offer needed services to those with disabilities. This includes funding medical equipment as well as speech, physical, occupational and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy.

Want to go?

What: 2nd Annual Wing Off

When: Saturday, Aug. 24, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Navarre Park,

Who: Benefiting Starfish Project, nonprofit for special-needs children

How much: $15 at event

If you’re in town this weekend and want some tasty fun in the sun, come on out! Book today at

Get some Wild Shots at our 50-acre zoo!

It’s Wild Shots time and that means photo fun for all ages and skill levels at one of the best zoos on the Gulf Coast!

Located just west of Navarre Beach, the Gulf Breeze Zoo hosts an annual Wild Shots photo competition, and photographers of all skill levels are invited to take photos of the zoos furry, scaly and feathered residents.

The Gulf Breeze Zoo is the award-winning home of more than 800 exotic animals meaning no shortage of Instagram-worthy finds. Here are five of the best places to get a winning shot!

  1. Feeding the giraffes

Up close encounters with giraffes are one of the things Gulf Breeze Zoo is best known for. Our family of giraffe love coming up to meet visitors. During feedings, visitors can offer up treats for these towering creatures, and get the chance to pet them. Still one of my favorite things to do here.

  1. Safari train ride

This train ride offers an excellent photo opportunity with the amazing animals that call Africa home including zebras, gorilla, rhinos, hippos and more. The more natural setting here means the animals are ready for their close-up.

  1. Elusive leopards

While the zoo’s collection of big cats includes lions and tigers, the most prized predator photos is the one that is hardest to get. Clouded leopards, while beautiful, are also hard to see due to their more nocturnal nature. For the best chance to snap a pic, try visiting these guys when they are most active in the late afternoon.

  1. Cheeky otters

Quite possibly the most amusing residents of the zoo, the otters are always ready to strike a pose. They’re goofy and curious of zoo visitors, making for fun photo subjects.

  1. The Budgiery

Prepare to be immersed in the fun when you enter the Budgiery, home to a colorful assortment of budgies. These feathery friends are most fun to photograph with one of the treat sticks on hand. The birds will land on you, on your camera and just about anywhere, making for a variety of cute shots.

There are few basic rules for the contest. Visitors have to obey zoo policies while taking their photos, images must be taken at the zoo and only five photos can be submitted.Categories include youth for ages 2-12 years old, adult and cellphone photos.

Grand Prize winners of the 2018 Wild Shots Photo Contest will be announced on the zoo’s website and through social media.

Each Photo Category (Adult, Youth & Cellphone) will win the following prizes:

1st Place: Zoo Unlimited! Includes 4 Annual Memberships for unlimited visits to the Gulf Breeze Zoo for a full year ($185 value)

2nd Place: Grand Day Out: Includes 4 Day Passes, 4 cups of food (for the critters), 4 budgie sticks, and 4 giraffe feeding experiences ($125 value)

3rd Place: Choose Your Adventure: Includes $75 gift certificate for your choice zoo tickets, animal feed, merchandise…it’s your choice! ($75 value)

Staff Pick: Zookeeper Gift Pack: Includes an official Gulf Breeze Zoo T-shirt, zoo animal plush and souvenir cup ($40 value)

Even if you don’t win, a day at the zoo just exploring with the family is always a win.

The Zoo opens at 9 a.m. daily and is located just off Highway 98. Visit for event updates, seasonal hours, and more. The Wild Shots contest runs from now to August 31, so book your vacation ASAP at

Peak at the reefs with kayak tours

Want to experience all the wonderful wildlife Navarre Beach’s reefs have to offer but not a big fan of snorkeling or scuba?

Then the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary’s Clear Bottom Kayak Reef Tours are right up your alley!

These two person vessels are exactly what they sound like. The bottoms are made of a watertight and transparent material, allowing paddlers to peak right through the surf and into the world below.

The 45-minute tour aims to familiarize locals and tourist alike with the creatures that call the reef home. The paddle is not too strenuous, and the reefs are within sightline of the shore and on duty lifeguards.

Sanctuary foundation leader Mike Sandler acts as one of the reef guides on these tours.

“It’s very similar to having a face mask on and looking through the water,” he said. “As opposed to looking over the side, the clear bottom lets you actually see things on the bottom that you might not normally be able to see.”

Tours are able to spot sea turtles, sting rays, a variety of fish and much more. Dolphins and even sharks frequently come in to see what’s happening on the reef.

August is the last month for these tours with tours scheduled for Aug. 10 and 24.

The tour has groups of 12 loading into kayaks at the new kayak walkover at Sea Oat Pavilion. It cost $25 a person. The tour also includes free admission to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center.

The tour groups depart at 9, 10 and 11 a.m. The kayaks and paddles are provided.

The minimum requirements are:

  •  Ability to swim and expectation to get wet
  •  Life jackets which are provided
  • Ability to paddle the kayak for 45 minutes
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult and sign waiver
  • Remain in kayak, snorkeling and diving after the tour

According to the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary’s website, refunds will be given for inclement weather, and it is recommended that groups arrive 20 minutes prior to their tour time.

Time is running out to join in on the fund! Even without the tours, get out and enjoy the reef any time the weather and water conditions are safe by kayak, snorkel or even scuba diving.

Book your vacation today at and book your tour spot on

August events on beautiful Navarre Beach

Here are some ideas for vacation fun this month on Navarre Beach from our awesome Tourist Development Office.

Sand Dollar Saturday and Local Market Place

Aug. 3, 9 a.m.

Join the merchants of Sand Dollar Plaza the first Saturday of each month for a community and customer appreciation event. Grab a bite to eat at Alphy’s, check out the gift shops and visit the local vendors at the Local Marketplace. For more information, call (850) 368-9500 or visit


Shell Flower Making Class at Artistry 98

August 5, 12, 19 and 26, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Artistry 98, 1993 Hwy 87 Navarre, will offer a free shell flower making class. The class is limited to 10, reserve a seat at or call (850) 543-1338.


Tunes by the Dunes

August 1, 8 and 15, 7 – 9 p.m.

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce will begin their annual free summer concert series at the Sand Crab Pavilion in the Navarre Beach pier parking lot, just east of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier, 8220 Gulf Blvd. on Navarre Beach. Bring a lawn chair, come hungry and relax on the beach while listening to music and local cuisine. Fore more information, call (850) 939-32667 or visit

  • August 5 – Overdrive Band
  • August 8 – Sheandtheits Band
  • August 15 – Freeway 98


Florida’s Flora – Nature Tour of Arcadia Mill

August 10, 10:30 a.m.

Learn how native plants were used in the past on this 45-minute tour along the boardwalk and nature trails. Bring trail appropriate attire, bug spray and sunscreen. Purchase tickets onsite at Arcadia Mill Visitor Center, 5709 Mill Pond Lane, Milton. For more information, call 850-626-3084 or visit


Clear Bottom Kayak Tours

August 10 and 24, 9 – 11 a.m.

Explore and discover the Navarre Beach with a 45-minute clear bottom kayak tour of the gulf side artificial reef. Meet at the Sea Oat Pavilion in the Navarre Beach Marine Park, 8739 Gulf Blvd. in Navarre. For more information, call 850-939-3267 or visit


Shark School at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

August 3, 17 and 31 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Shark School students will learn about local gulf coast sharks, shark biology, and shark conservation. Students will also enjoy arts and crafts, a shark tooth treasure hunt and early entry into the center. The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center is located at 8740 Gulf Blvd. in Navarre. For availability and pricing, call 850-684-3347 or visit


Painting Events at Pik-Itz hosted by Art Uncorked Navarre

Art Uncorked – Navarre is designed to help you uncork your creative spirit, fun with friends, and a bottle of your favorite beverage at group painting classes at Pik-Itz, 1922 Highway 87 in Navarre. Each class features different artwork. For more information, call 850-843-437-4246 or visit

  • August 17, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Dolphin Wave
  • August 24, 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Turtle


Trash Bash with the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

August 31, 8 – 10 a.m.

Meet up to clean up! Volunteers for a beach cleanup will meet in the main Navarre Beach Parking lot near the Sand Crab Pavilion. A limited supply of gloves, buckets and pickers are provided or bring your own. For more information, call (850) 684-3347 or visit


Events listed are highlights of activities in Santa Rosa County. The Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Office is not responsible for any date or time changes or cancellations.


Book your stay today at