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 www.GBZoo.com for event updates, seasonal hours, and more. The Wild Shots contest runs from now to August 31, so book your vacation ASAP at navarrelistings.com.

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 NavarreListings.com and book your tour spot on EventBrite.com.

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 www.facebook.com/SandDollarSaturdays.

 

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 https://www.artistry98.com/classes 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 www.navarrechamber.com.

  • 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 www.historicpensacola.org/explore-arcadia-mill.

 

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 www.facebook.com/navarrebeachmarinesanctuary.

 

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 www.tiny.cc/sharkschool.

 

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 www.artuncorked-navarre.com.

  • 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 www.navarrebeachseaturtles.org.

 

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 www.navarrelistings.com

Tips for shorebird photography

Shorebird nesting season is in full swing on Navarre Beach! Rare species such as black skimmers, snowy plovers and least terns lay their eggs in our powdery white sands each year, and this time of year the chicks have almost all hatched.

Cute little fluffs of feathers are running around the marked nesting areas, making for a lot of bird watching fun.

This time of year, birdwatchers and photographers flock to colony nesting sites along Navarre Beach.

 

Here are a few simple tips for shorebird photography:

  1. Always remain outside posted areas. These birds are protected, and the posted areas help to keep them safe. Those nests and chicks can camouflage pretty well in the sand, putting them in danger of being trampled. Consider a zoom lens for detailed shots. I find that my 135 MM (pretty standard camera lens) does just fine.

 

  1. Do not get close enough to cause the bird to leave its nest, and never “push” birds around the beach by scaring them in the direction you want them to go. When the birds all take to the air, it is called “flushing.” This can be dangerous for the birds, especially with predators and passing cars.

Instead, be patient. The birds, especially the black skimmers, are really great at posing.

 

  1. Keep an eye out for predators such as raccoons, cats or crows. The scent of humans can attract these predators. If you see predators, move away for now. You’ll always have another chance to get the perfect shot, but these birds only have one chance to successfully raise their chicks.

 

  1. Try to keep photo sessions to 10 minutes at a time to avoid undue stress on the birds. I find that a quick photo shoot in the early morning hours before traffic can yield some great pics!

 

  1. To avoid unintended disturbances, do not publish the specific location of a nest when sharing photos online. But definitely tag #NavarreBeach and #Florida’sMostRelaxingPlace in any posts online!

 

  1. If you see bands on a bird’s leg, take the opportunity to be a citizen scientist and report it! These bands are tools to help researchers keep track of these birds and learn more about their habits. Report codes and colors to BandedBirds.org to help in the conservation of our feathered friends!

Ghost crab hunting no fun for sea turtles

On evenings this summer, Navarre Beach has looked something like Christmas Eve, all twinkling lights as people were out with bright flashlights looking for ghost crabs.

The crabs respond to the beam of light aimed at them, they pop out of their hole and the chase is on. Little ones and their parents are running and shrieking trying to catch a ghost crab. They scoop the tiny white crustacean up in their net, toss it into a bucket…only to let the poor thing go at the end of the night. On to the next hole to do it all over again.

This may sound like a fun time for all at the beach, but there is peril in this practice. This fun game with bright flashlights deters our sea turtles from nesting on Navarre Beach.

These endangered species have been struggling to find safe nesting habitats. Our nesting numbers are certainly not where they should be and have been declining, and this is one of the reasons why.

Visitors who don’t know any better are putting these endangered species in jeopardy with their bright flashlights. When I walk the beach some evenings, I will stop a few visitors to chat about the risks. Nine times out of ten they had no idea.

Sea turtles find their way by light. They navigate by the light of the moon, therefore when other lights are present, they become directionally confused. This season, we have had more than a few false crawls by sea turtles looking for a place to nest. There were three in one night. They crawl up on the beach and make a U-turn back to the water. The lights on the shore tell them it is not the right place to nest. They go look for another place.

As a visitor to our beach, you can do your part to protect sea turtles. Strolling the beach at night can be relaxing, and the views are breathtaking. Try not to use a flashlight or headlamp. Instead depend on the moon. It provides ample light to trace our beaches, and moonlights much more soothing.

If you need a light, use a red filter. The shorter wavelength of red light has minimal impacts on turtles’ sense of direction. There are phone apps that will make your light red, or you can purchase amber bulbs from our local Ace Hardware store for other lights. Ask the sales associate about turtle friendly bulbs.

And maybe if you are lucky you will get the treat of seeing one of our nesting sea turtles in action. If you do, keep your distance and stay quiet to let her do her thing. It is a rare but very, very cool experience.

Come be a part of our nesting season this year on beautiful Navarre Beach, just leave the flashlights at home, navarrelistings.com.

July events for Navarre Beach

Navarre Beach’s tourism office has some great suggestions for fun in the sun this month!

 

Sand Dollar Saturday and Local Marketplace

July 6, 9 a.m.

Join the merchants of Sand Dollar Plaza on 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 vendors at the Local Marketplace. For more information, call 850-368-9500 or visit www.facebook.com/SandDollarSaturdays.

 

Shell Flower Making Class at Artistry 98

July 1, 8, 15, 22 and 29, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Artistry 98, 1993 Hwy. 87 in Navarre, will offer a free shell flower making class. Class is limited to 10, reserve a seat at www.artistry98.com/classes.

 

Tunes by the Dunes

July 4, 11, 18, and 25 ,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. in Navarre. Bring a lawn chair. Food will also be available for purchase. Call 850-939-32667 or visit www.navarrechamber.com  for more information.

  • July 4 – Robert Wayne
  • July 11 – Glenn Parker
  • July 18 – Remedy Band
  • July 25 – Chloe Channell

 

Archaeology in the A/C

July 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2 p.m.

Study rare artifacts in the classroom and learn more about their history at the Arcadia Mill, 5709 Mill Pond Lane in Milton. New artifacts will be showcased every Tuesday in July during this free program for all ages. For more information call 850-939-32667 or visit www.historicpensacola.org/explore-arcadia-mill.

 

Florida’s Flora – Nature Tour of Arcadia Mill

July 13, 10:30 a.m.

Guests of all ages will learn how native plants were historically used. The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes along the boardwalk and nature trails. Bring appropriate trail attire, bug spray and sunscreen. Purchase tickets at the Arcadia Mill Visitor Center at 5709 Mill Pond Lane in Milton. For more information, call 850-826-3084 or visit

www.historicpensacola.org/explore-arcadia-mill.

 

Enrichment Day at the Gulf Breeze Zoo

July 15, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Observe animals in their habitats at the Gulf Breeze Zoo, 5701 Gulf Breeze Pkwy in Gulf Breeze, with a variety of activities designed to encourage natural behaviors that animals would experience in the wild. For more information, call 850-932-2229 or visit www.gbzoo.com.

 

Clear Bottom Kayak Tours

July 13 and 27, 9 – 11 a.m.

Explore 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 www.facebook.com/navarrebeachmarinesanctuary.

 

Shark School at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

July 4 and 20, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Shark School students will learn about our local gulf coast sharks, shark biology and shark conservation. Students will also participate in arts and crafts, a shark tooth treasure hunt and gain 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 www.tiny.cc/sharkschool.

 

Reefs and Robotics at the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station

July 8-12, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Introduce students to mechanical design, construction, problem solving, and teamwork skills at the Reefs and Robotics camp. Kids from sixth to eighth grade will build an autonomous underwater vehicle to explore the underwater world. The price for the camp is $300 and it will be held at 8638 Blue Heron Ct. in Navarre Beach. For more information, call 850-261-2141 or visit www.navarresciencestation.org.

 

Trash Bash with the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center

July 27, 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 participants can bring supplies. For more information, call 850-684-3347 or visit www.navarrebeachseaturtles.org.

 

Book your stay at NavarreListings.com.

Hometown 4th of July brings patriotic beach fun

Who doesn’t love cute kids showing off their patriotism or fantastic fireworks lighting up the sky over sparkling sand and water?

My plans for this Independence Day involve a cold drink and toes in the sand along beautiful Navarre Beach, and your plans should too!

The Navarre Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is bringing back the Hometown 4th of July Parade and Celebration for a second year on Navarre Beach in the Navarre Beach Park.

Here’s the ideal schedule. After awaking to a gorgeous sunrise in your beachfront condo, have a leisurely breakfast at Juana’s Sailors Grill (this place has been serving locals and visitors alike for 30 years!).

Then head over to the beach for a relaxing day of toes in the sand. Let the kiddos splash in the surf while you relax in your beach chair.

As the afternoon approaches, head back to your condo to clean up. Let the little ones take a nap while you get changed for a fun evening of celebrating our freedom.

Get the kids ready to decorate and dress up for the Children’s Parade at around 4 or 5 p.m. Babies, toddlers and children up to age 12 are invited to this hometown-style event featuring a short route parade with cute kids celebrating the U.S.A.

Parade Registration begins at 5 p.m. and is $5 per family. Pre-registration is not necessary. Children may dress up and use bicycles, wagons, strollers, small battery motorized play vehicles or walk, and they are encouraged to be creative. Last year we had a child rocking it on roller blades and a kiddo in a Tonka dump truck! The Parade and all the fun begins at 6 p.m.

Alongside the parade will be Picnic in the Park via Navarre Chamber food trucks dishing out all kind of great street eats while everyone enjoys a beautiful day and evening on Navarre Beach. There will be great food such as barbeque, burgers & more! I can attest that our local food truck foodies know how to grill it up.

At 7 p.m., Robert Wayne will perform. Grab your blanket and be entertained by this family friendly show as the sun sets over our sand dunes. The fireworks display will also be viewable from the festival area so no need to move your seat. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is always a treat.

Book your July 4th accommodations today at NavarreListings.com.

New Navarre Beach pavilions open for July 4!

Just in time for July 4 weekend, Navarre Beach’s newest pavilion complex is ready and open to the public.

These new ADA-friendly pavilions, restroom facilities with showers, parking spaces and other much-anticipated enhancements are located in the Navarre Beach Marine Park, a stretch of pristine white sand.

Making this happen was a multimillion-dollar project funded by recovery funds from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The new Blue Heron pavilion is located on the gulf side in the Navarre Beach Marine Park between the two previously constructed pavilion complexes. It has 12 picnic tables with ADA accessible seating and eight grills.

Those grills will be perfect for cooking up some burgers and dogs for Independence Day celebrations on our beautiful beach. Stick around for the afternoon home town children’s parade and fireworks show.

The two smaller pavilions, named Barracuda and Sea Horse, offer additional ADA-accessible picnic tables and grills.

The more than 200 space parking area includes six ADA spaces. All the pavilions also have wheelchair accessible ramps, allowing everyone to access the new facilities.

We’ve added two new shower-down stations to clean up after a long day in the sun, surf and sand, and new restroom pavilion with skylights also offer ADA compliant facilities.

There is also an observation platform for watching the native wildlife without disrupting their delicate ecosystems.

The complex is located just a stones throw from one of Navarre Beach’s mobi-mats, which allow wheelchairs and those with difficulty walking to access the beach over the sand dunes.

The pavilions will be available for rental in the coming weeks. These spaces are great for birthday parties, family reunions or even laid-back wedding receptions after a beautiful beach wedding.

Beach safety: understanding the flags

While the Gulf of Mexico’s glistening waters are beautiful, it is important to respect mother nature. Unlike Atlantic beaches where big crashing, white caps tell swimmers when dangerous conditions exist, gulf waters seem more placid even when there are strong currents at work.

Our top-notch lifeguard program is constantly monitoring water conditions during the summer and uses a standardized flag system to alert swimmers to beach conditions including strong wave breaks and rip currents. That is why it is so important to pay attention to the flag system when enjoying Navarre Beach.

 

Green

If a green flag is flying, the risk to swimmers is very low. Have fun! Just remember it is important to always know your limits when swimming, even on green flag days.

 

Yellow

There is moderate risk to swimmers due to surf and current conditions. Our highly trained lifeguards may be able to see risks that you cannot. On yellow flag days, avoid entering the water above your waistline. Follow any instructions lifeguards give you.

 

Red

Beach water conditions are dangerous. Do not enter the water.

 

Double red

If there are two red flags flying, the water is closed. Period. These conditions mean it is storming bad, and rescuers will be unable to safely enter the water if someone is in distress. Do not ever go in the gulf, even up to your ankles, during a double red flag. One rogue wave could spell disaster.

Play it safe and visit one of our indoor amenities instead. Check out the Sea Turtle Conservation Center or try your hand at one of our Escape Rooms.

 

Purple

This flag means there is marine life risk. Typically, purple flags go up when there is an elevated risk of being stung by a jellyfish or stingray. Ask a lifeguard for additional information and where to safely swim.

Stingrays are not aggressive and will run from people given the chance. But if you step on them, the barb on their tail can really hurt. To avoid this, locals do what is called the stingray shuffle, dragging your feet gently on the underwater sand to let these critters know your coming.

 

Now that you know, it is time to go! Come see us at NavarreListings.com.

Black Skimmer Grille is ready to serve you

There’s a new eatery in town, and they are located in the heart of Navarre Beach’s gold standard golf course, Hidden Creek.

Andrew Suthers is owner of the newly opened Black Skimmer Grille which started officially serving customers June 1. From local brews to masterful burgers, this eatery flies under the banner of comfort food done right. It is named for the shorebirds that frequent our white sand beaches.

“We want to be neighborhood casual comfort food, like the local ‘Cheers’ but also great food,” Andrew said. “We are very reasonably priced. We think we are right at that sweet spot.”

The restaurant features four 55- to 65-inch TVs mounted on the walls, along with a dartboard, full bar and new outdoor deck seating overlooking the course’s rolling greens.

The menu features a few consistent entrees with a chalkboard of rotating specials for the rest of the fare.

The space has been leaving much to be desired up to now, if I’m being honest. It felt stuffy like your typical Then the property just sat vacant for a while as the golf course management wanted to find a perfect fit to bring it to the next level.

Then came Andrew and his crew.

Andrew moved to our coastal community from Lexington, Kentucky. He’s been working in restaurants for 17 years, having started up two locations in that time. The chef previously owned Oscar Diggs, a phenomenal gastropub in downtown Lexington known for its high-end food and beer.

In addition to the combined 22 years of experience between Andrew and his partner, Kara Mardell, they have also partnered with Michael Juhl, who has been working in restaurants and pubs for 25 years.

When I stop in, Michael always stops by the tables to check in with guests and maybe crack a few jokes.

Andrew said they are excited to get the food rolling out. And rolling out it has been.

This place knows how to do it from scratch, and I mean actual scratch kitchen style. None of this ‘well only part of it came from the freezer’ nonsense. They cut their own potatoes in house to make their seasoned French fries, and that savory peppercorn bacon was created in the onsite smoker, not bought in a store.

Same with the wings which are smoked to perfection, then fried for that crispy texture.

My partner in crime said he loved their bratwurst, and the steak is well seasoned in a delicious demi glace.

Plus, the prices weren’t hard to swallow either, a rarity for golf courses.

So whether you are looking for a round of golf or just a great burger, come check out The Black Skimmer Grille this summer on beautiful Navarre Beach, NavarreListings.com.