Fishing Rodeo fun for all ages coming to Navarre Beach

Fishermen young and old and of all skill levels are making their way to Navarre Beach because the sixth annual Navarre Beach Fishing Rodeo is upon us.

This is by far my favorite event of the Beaches to Woodlands Tour (scroll down to read more about this event series).

The rodeo will be held Oct. 6-7. As the saying goes “fish from the shore, a boat, kayak or from the pier- you just can’t fish from the seafood market!” All are welcome.

During the festivities the pier is hopping with fishers of all ages angling to catch the most massive fish in a variety of categories based on species, fishing-style and participant age.

Six divisions will highlight the rodeo, including the Navarre Seafood Open Division and the Half Hitch Kayak Division. Participants can win in different divisions; Windjammers Junior Division, Scooter’s Offshore Slam, Scooter’s Inshore Slam and the Invasive Lion Fish Division (which requires no registration fee) and a list of fish categories. Bragging rights, trophies and cash prizes are on the line.

Registration can be done at, Half-Hitch Bait and Tackle, Gulf Breeze Bait and Tackle or the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier. As an added bonus, registrants receive a captain’s bag with gifts from sponsors and a fishing rodeo T-shirt.

While the Fishing Rodeo invites all ages to compete, it also features an event focused on teaching kids: the annual Take A Kid Fishing clinic on the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

Scheduled for Oct. 6 from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m., this event is a great way to introduce children to the sport of fishing. Every year I see hundreds of children smiling as they learn how the art. The kiddos receive lessons in conservation, native fish species, bait, how to fish and more.

Plus, every registered kiddo receives free fishing poles to take home. Start times will be staggered at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. and is open to children ages 5-12. Registration is at under “9th Annual Take a Kid Fishing presented by Holley by the Sea Fishing Club.”

Best of all the events also coincide with Fish Free Weekend where admission for the pier is free. Some of the Gulf of Mexico’s best fishing is waiting along our emerald shores, and for that weekend only it is free to cast off from the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico.

Don’t have any poles? You’re in luck. The Pier store offers a variety of rods and reels for rental meaning even inexperienced fishermen can get involved.

Win or lose, pro or amateur, it’s always a blast on beautiful Navarre Beach. Plan to be here Oct. 6-7 at


Slip on in to the Slippery Mermaid

Good vacations require good eats. Nothing shatters the picturesque tropical escape image quite like a bland meal from a chain restaurant.

In recent years I have had to make an admission to myself: I am a bit of an incorrigible foodie.

I confess, my phone’s camera is full of pictures of gorgeous eats, and I have been known to hunt down a great Mediterranean place in the back of a gas station on a rumor alone. Try not to judge.

But back to your vacation. As you are soaking up the rays on Navarre Beach you may ponder ‘where am I going to get the perfect dinner to round out this perfect day?’

I have several recommendations, but if sushi is your thing no place is better than Slippery Mermaid. I love this place. With a light, beachy atmosphere, the Mermaid offers indoor and outdoor seating with a water front view. About a five-minute drive from the island, this place offers a variety of classic sushi and Asian-inspired cuisine.

I highly recommend the Poseidon roll, and as a fan of octopus I always get the octopus nigiri.

For those of you that are not big fans of fish, I highly recommend the Raider Roll. This steak sushi is named for our local champion high school football team the Navarre Raiders, and it will fill the stomach of any carnivore.

Aside from a fun, beachy-feel and delicious food, the Slippery Mermaid is also a cut above thanks to their eco-friendly attitude. The restaurant does not use plastic single-use containers. All of their sauce bowls, serving dishes and even the chop sticks are biodegradable.

And they love the motto “skip the straw.” This movement is based on the idea that restaurants should ask whether visitors want to use a single-use, plastic straw rather than just providing them automatically.

Straws are a big contributor to plastic pollution in the Gulf of Mexico and our oceans. I had a group of kiddos recently give me a lesson in ocean pollution, and what can I say, they convinced me. Now I tote a reusable metal straw in my purse for those occasions we visit a restaurant. (Protip: a travel toothbrush holder will keep your straw clean while its floating around in your purse, should you decide to start carrying one, too.)

So Slippery Mermaid only provides straws on request, meaning less plastic waste.

Good food that you can feel good about. I love that.

Try the sushi on beautiful Navarre Beach,

Movie’s with a view at Toes-N-Sand on pier

In throwback to the days of the drive-in movies, the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is hosting the Toes-N-Sand Sunset Movies series.

As the sun slips down over the rippling Gulf of Mexico on beautiful Navarre Beach, a big projection screen is set up in the sand. At approximately 8 p.m. each Wednesday night the folks at Windjammers, the pier restaurant, start the show.

Best of all the fun is free!

All you need is a blanket to toss in the sand. Food and beverages will also be available. Bring the whole family for a night of classic cinema with the added bonus of a beautiful view.

The beach front fun doesn’t have to stop just because the sun goes down. I recommend after a long day of playing in the surf, head back to your spacious condominium. Take a quick shower in the full-size restrooms and get dressed for the evening fun.

Then you can grab dinner on the pier at Windjammers with a front row seat for a magnificent sunset.  I recommend the seafood tacos and beach burgers for the littles.

After dinner watch the evening movie on a blanket beneath the stars.

This weekend’s movie is “Dirty Dancing,” and other classics played include “The Goonies,” “Jaws” and “Grease.”

Beside the Wednesday night movies, the pier also offers live music certain evenings on weekends.

Come join the fun. Book at

Beaches to Woodlands is coming early this year

My favorite time of year is almost here. I’m not talking about the holidays. (Though that is an exciting time of year.)

No, I’m talking about Beaches to Woodlands! For the 15th year in a row Navarre Beach and her neighboring communities are coming together for a variety of festivals and fun centered around the transition of the seasons.

This annual assortment of festivals, runs and seasonal activities allows our local community to celebrate what makes us great. From the fertile farm lands in the north end to the beauty and history of the Blackwater River to the tropical beaches of Navarre Beach.

This is also a great time to visit and really experience our county like a local while the temperatures are still mild. This time of year the weather is still warm staying in the 80s and 70s. Perfect temperatures to relax on the beach or to zip through treetops on a Fall Foilage Zipline.

The 15th Annual Beaches to Woodlands has expanded for this year. The event that once resided firmly in the confines of October 1-31 now encompasses a three-month affair, and I welcome the change.

I am especially excited to try out some new events this year including the Rhythm and Ribs Festival 2018 being hosted in historic downtown Milton and the Navarre Beach Fireman’s Challenge where participants try their hand at being a fireman for a day complete with the uniform. (Trust me, it’s a lot harder than it looks.)

Kicking off the events this year in September will be month long activities such as the Fall Foliage Zipline Tours at Adventures Unlimited and cultural opportunities with Gulf Coast Kiln Walk in Holley. I love checking out their handmade pottery and learning about the history of mankind’s love of firing clay.  Holland Farms Pumpkin Patch & Maze and the Sonshine Family Farms Corn Maze and Mini Golf will open to the public Sept. 22.

The fun in Navarre will be kicked off with a packed weekend Oct. 6-7 with Monarch Madness Butterfly Festival in Navarre Park, Take a Kid Fishing, Navarre Fishing Rodeo and Juana’s 5th Annual Oktoberfest Beer Tasting.

A full list of events is available at Find your favorite festival or a register for a fun 5K, then book your stay at


Zoo welcomes two new babies!

Baby animals are my weakness. You know those videos of the sleeping kittens twitching in their sleep? I cry.

So when Gulf Breeze Zoo announced the birth of not one but two new zoo babies, I was ecstatic.

On July 24, reticulated giraffe “Gabby” went into labor just after 3:00 pm inside the giraffe exhibit. Patient zoo guests anxiously watched her deliver a healthy calf, “Gus,” two hours later at 5:00 pm.

Gus’s literally dropped into the world from six feet up since giraffes give birth standing.

“Giraffe give birth standing up, so Gus had a six-foot drop into the world, which may be surprising to some, but that’s the perfect birth if you’re a giraffe,” said General Curator, Jamie McMaster

She and the Animal Care Staff had been anticipating the birth for the past fifteen months, the typical gestation period for giraffe. Although Gabby had full access to the privacy of the maternal stall in the giraffe barn she elected to give birth in the exhibit yard.

After the birth, Gabby unfortunately displayed no interest in caring for her new offspring and did not demonstrate any protective instincts even when staff entered the exhibit to examine the calf.

But Gus was in good hands.

Zookeepers stepped in to care for the “little” guy (who was born taller than me!) They already had a nursery stall set up and a special milk formula on hand just in case. As with any baby, Gus requires around the clock care and feedings.

Less than a week later on July 30, a dromedary camel calf was born.

“Lexington” is the first baby to “Ladybug” a six-year-old dromedary camel. With knobby-knees and fur like a sheep, he is adorable.

While Animal Care Staff were eagerly anticipating Lexington’s birth, they were unsure how Ladybug would do as a first-time mother. Soon after the birth it was clear that animal care staff needed to intervene for the well-being of the new calf and he was moved to the nursery to receive immediate care.

In his new enclosure, the little camel has no problem making himself heard. He is known for “sassing” his keepers by bellowing every time they come to check on him. He’s saying “feed me,” even when feeding time isn’t for another hour.

While dromedary camels are still relatively common in the wild, reticulated giraffe are not. Scientists estimate that fewer than 9,000 of this giraffe species remain in their native habitat of East Africa. “With many wild populations in peril, every giraffe birth should be met with great excitement,” said McMaster.

Both calves are very healthy and can be viewed daily, weather dependent. “Gus” the giraffe calf can be viewed in the giraffe nursery yard from 11am to 3pm, by the Giraffe exhibit.  “Lexington” the dromedary camel calf can be viewed daily in the baby yard.

Come meet Gus and Lexington. Book your vacation at


More than $2.4 million in improvements coming to Navarre Beach

There’s a lot of “coming soon” going on at Navarre Beach this week.

That’s because we are investing more than $2.4 million in grant money to make our fantastic beach even more fantastic.

The funds come from the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) grant through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) as part of the money set aside to make improvements following the BP Oil Spill. The oil is long since gone and our local wildlife have recovered, but these funds are being invested to make the beaches even better than they were before.

Visitors to the beach will have an all new facility to munch on their lunch and cross over onto our white sandy beaches on the Gulf side thanks to construction of an additional picnic pavilions and parking area in the Navarre Beach Marine Park.

The Navarre Beach Gulfside Walkover Complex will be constructed between the two existing walkover complexes. It will provide additional shade, 24 new picnic tables under several new reservable pavilions (cook out party anyone?), a new restroom and a wheelchair friendly boardwalk that will carry our visitors and locals over the dunes. (Yay, protecting sea oats!)

Capitalizing on interest in the local wildlife, the complex will also feature a 14-foot-high elevated bird-viewing area allowing visitors to get a look at nesting shorebirds, such as least terns, and their fluffy chicks.

Also coming to a lovely beach near you will be similar improvements to access for the Sound side of Navarre Beach. Protected by the barrier island, the beaches of Santa Rosa Sound offer gentle, nearly non-existent surf and shallower salt waters perfect for families with small children.
In an area we locals call Mother’s Beach (because that is where mother’s often take their little, little ones), we will be investing in an all new boardwalk system.

The Soundside Navarre Beach Coastal Access and Dune Restoration boardwalks will allow visitors, including those with limited mobility, to access the water without damaging our local sand dunes, and we will be restoring the existing dunes to their former glory (again, yay sea oats!). There will also be a new kayak launch.

Work will start on these projects after Labor Day and will likely be completed by June 2019. Visitors in the meantime will still be able to enjoy the beach at the existing crossovers and pavilions while construction is underway.

Whether you are planning to be one of the first to check out our bird watching platform or you will be seeing the new construction on your return trip to our lovely shores, you can book your vacay at

Here fishy, fishy: Navarre Beach gets new reef

Navarre Beach is just weeks away from having a brand-new scuba diving reef, and our diving community is so excited.

The team at Walter Marine has already begun the process of placing humongous reef modules to create an artificial habitat for the marine creatures that call our area home.

The reef is 2 miles wide and located a mile from shore near the end of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier.

This giant artificial reef will include a variety of manmade structures designed to create new habitat and support aquatic plant growth. Navarre Beach Marine Park guru and avid local diver Mike Sandler said the modules that make up this reef are massive.

And he isn’t joking.

Unlike the existing snorkel reef, with its man-sized reef modules, this new reef will be composed of structures larger than an automobile and nearly 15 feet tall. They are called tetrahedrons, three-sided pyramids with hollow centers and holes on all sides. The structures allow fish to easily maneuver in and out, creating habitat.

“Some of these things are going to be really huge. We are talking like 10 or 15 tons. Some of the others will be three or five tons. By comparison the ones we have for the snorkel reef are about 1.5 tons,” Mike said. “These are going to be some beefy structures that are not going to really move once they are deployed.”

Using GPS tracking and a massive crane the deployment boat has been slowly working its way along the reef area, placing the reefs in a specific grid pattern.

Once the reefs become established and plant growth spreads, it will attract a variety of marine life including sea turtles, sharks, octopus, a wide array of fish species, crustaceans and more.

And divers will be able to sneak a peek at all of them.

The reef also means a higher likelihood of catching some prize fish along the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier located less than a mile from the northern edge of the reef structure. Placement of the massive reef modules should be completed by December.

If you want to come dive the reef or cast a line for the critters it attracts, make your reservation with us today at