Get Ready for the Navarre Fishing Rodeo

It won’t be long before anglers along the Emerald Coast can compete in the Navarre Fishing Rodeo.

The event, in its fifth year, is set to take place Oct. 7-8.

The tournament organized by the Navarre Beach Area Chamber Foundation highlights the abundance of fish that can be found in area waters and the different methods for catching them.

The competition is open to pier, boat, kayak and onshore fishing. Previous years have seen competitors of all ages casting a line and bringing up big catches.

A total of seven divisions and 20 fish categories will highlight this year’s rodeo, with organizers hoping to attract freshwater and saltwater anglers.

In addition to the open and junior divisions, there are several other divisions, including a kayak division where anglers on non-motorized vessels can compete in their own division for Spanish mackerel, King mackerel, snapper, flounder, redfish and trout.

There are also two “Slams” – where offshore division entrants will compete for the largest Spanish mackerel, King mackerel and snapper. Inshore participants will battle for the winning flounder, redfish and trout.

Also, with the growing efforts to reduce the lionfish population, there is a category in the rodeo for divers, who will focus on bringing up the most weight in the non-native species. These red-striped, spiky invaders make for good eating.

There is a mystery category as well. In that category, the species of fish and winning weight will be predetermined and released to anglers prior to the tournament.

Tens of thousands of dollars in cash and prizes will be handed out to the winners of the tournament. Last year first place for the open and kayak divisions were $125 cash, second place was $75, third place was $50 and the slam categories won Yeti Tundra coolers.

All participants in the fishing rodeo receive a Mojo long sleeve fishing rodeo tee and captain bags filled with a variety of fishing treats.

Door prize drawings for items donated by local businesses have landed fishers kayaks and more.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online at The cost to register in the rodeo is $45. Children 12 and under are free in the junior angler division with a paid adult registration.

Several nonprofit groups benefit from the event each year including Navarre Beach Marine Park, Take a Kid Fishing and Heroes on the Water.

For more information, call 850-939-1900 or visit

Snapper season extended in federal waters

Fisherman visiting Florida’s gulf coast will be happy to know that red snapper are still on the menu.

Federal waters have been opened up to recreational fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico for a longer period of time thanks to the joint efforts of the United States Department of Commerce and the five Gulf states.

These delicious, bright red reef dwellers are showing up in more abundant numbers and larger sizes than they have in years Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials reported.

Once set for an all-time low of only three days, the season now has an additional 39 days added to it. The extended season opened late last month and will be open on weekend days and holidays through Labor Day weekend.

The season will remain closed Monday through Thursday during that stretch, with the exception of July 3 and July 4 and Sept. 4. The federal season extension is the first in a decade.

Even if snapper (or off shore fishing) are not your thing, the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier offers fishermen a great opportunity to drop a line. As one of the longest piers in the Gulf of Mexico, this pier sports a variety of fish and quiet a history of successful casting.

Anglers frequently pull from the water king and Spanish mackerel, cobia, jack crevalle and more. Even inexperienced anglers can enjoy.

Come cast out on one of Florida’s best beaches.

Sea turtle nesting season is here!

Florida Panhandle beaches are seeing dozens of nighttime visitors crawling onto the beach to dig their nests, leaving behind hundreds of round eggs with baby sea turtles inside, before disappearing back into the deep. This is the only time of year that sea turtles come ashore.

While it’s not new to have turtles burying their eggs in Navarre’s pure white sands between the months of May and October, the first nest of this nesting season was historic.

On Mother’s Day weekend Navarre Beach received its first ever leatherback sea turtle nest!

Leatherback sea turtles are special. These sea turtles are the biggest in the world. The largest ever recorded was 10 feet long and weighed more than 2,000 pounds.

Our local mama left tracks that were more than 7 feet wide! That means she probably weighed 800 pounds and measured 7 feet long from nose to tail. By comparison, the loggerhead sea turtles that frequent Navarre Beach average 3 feet long. Loggerhead eggs are usually the size of a ping pong ball, but leatherbacks lay eggs the size of billiard balls, roughly 80 per nest.

While most sea turtle species return to the beach where they were born to lay their eggs, leatherback females will migrate to new beaches for laying their eggs, traveling up to 3,000 miles from where they hatched which is likely how this mama landed at Navarre Beach.

She has been joined by three other nesting mamas on our shoreline including loggerhead sea turtles.

In about 65 days, these eggs will hatch, and the tiny turtles inside will dig for the surface and waddle their way to the water before swimming away to freedom.

While this is a time for celebration, it is also a time to be careful. That sprint to the Gulf of Mexico is fraught with danger. One scary statistic: It is estimated that only one in every thousand sea turtle hatchlings survive to adulthood. Many sea turtle species are vulnerable, threatened or endangered.

But you can help.

Visitors to the panhandle’s beautiful beaches can make their vacation #cleandarkflat to protect sea turtles. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Clean up the beach. Take your beach chairs, blankets, garbage and other items off the beach at night fall. These items can trip up or trap turtles.
  • Dark is good for turtles. Turn off unnecessary lights at night and pull curtains closed. Artificial light can disorient the nesting mamas as well as hatchlings.
  • Flat sand is best. Sand castles and holes can be death traps for sea turtle hatchlings.

If you are lucky you may even spot a nesting turtle or a hatching nest of baby turtles. If you do, keep your distance, don’t use flash photography and enjoy a once in a lifetime experience here on Navarre Beach.

To learn more, visit the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and meet their resident loggerhead sea turtle Gigi. This team of dedicated volunteers really knows their stuff.

Book your vacation today.

Bouncing Butterflies! Navarre butterfly house open for business

Flowers are in bloom, there’s not a cloud in the sky and the warm months are finally in full swing here on Navarre Beach which means it’s that time year.

The Panhandle Butterfly House has turned the key on their 20th season!

Located at the foot of the bridge leading out to Navarre Beach, this beautifully gardened public facility offers a unique, up close encounter with dozens of brightly colored butterflies.

If you have ever been inside an aviary, it is kind of like that, but instead of squawking, flighty birds that are pecking at you trying to steal the treat stick you paid $10 for, this atrium is filled with graceful butterflies quietly showing off their wing art. From iconic monarchs to wispy swallowtails, this facility houses a wide array of the flutter friends that call the Navarre area home.

I could spend hours sitting on the little wooden bench inside that enclosed garden as delicate wings fluttered back and forth from the surrounding blooms. On a quiet day, the fountains gentle trickle is the only sound. On a busy day children gasp in delight as they spot the flittering creatures all around them.

One girl even squealed with excitement when a monarch landed on her arm for a few seconds before fluttering on to a new roust.

The butterfly house also houses eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises that will eventually join the other butterflies.

This place loves public education. Imagine teaching little ones the butterfly life cycle with the real thing just inches from their nose. The docents at the butterfly house really love what they do, and they can provide amazing lessons into native species even for the adults. These passionate volunteers know their stuff.

Did you know that monarch butterflies will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants? Did you know that it takes about a month for a butterfly to mature from egg to adult during the summer months?

Well now you do, but that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all these gals have to teach visitors.

They even offer tips for making home gardens butterfly friendly with butterfly host plants. They are open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Outside the butterfly house is Navarre Park. This clean, quiet park features two playgrounds, open grass areas, picnic tables, a basketball quart and swings.

If you want to dip a toe after visiting the PBH, let the little ones run wild on the splash pad or walk down to the water’s edge. Santa Rosa Sound and the splash pad are just feet from the PBH.

The transformative power of butterflies have always fascinated us. Come play among the winged wonders on Navarre Beach before they close-up shop again Aug. 26. Monarch Madness is a special treat Oct. 20 -21. Book your family vacation today.

Beach Birds

Odds are if you go down to the beach, you will see the roped off areas along the bridge and near the sand dunes. Little signs will warn you “Don’t enter! Birds nesting!”

You may see the birds. You may not, but let me assure you they are there and we on Navarre Beach are so excited!

From little least terns to large black skimmers, these guys show up on the beach just about the time the tourist season kicks up.

Terns and black skimmers both nest in colonies, working as a collective to keep an eye out for predators. When a potential threat is spotted, the birds will dive bomb and swarm until the predator, or innocent bystander, is forced to flee.

Each nest contains two or three eggs that blend in perfectly with their surroundings. That means in a few short weeks, dozens of chicks – also well camouflaged — will be running around on the beach. If you spot these fluffy little guys, snap a picture!

It is critical that locals and visitors do what they can to help out these guys thrive. A big part of that is respecting the posted nesting areas. Even if you can’t see the birds, trust me, they are there and very, very well camouflaged. Just avoid the roped off portion when visiting the beach.

Keeping pets like cats and dogs away from the nesting areas will help as well by reducing disruption of the nesting birds and preventing the killing of chicks.

And if the birds start to swarm or seem agitated, give them more space.

Traffic on nearby roads is also a threat. Reducing your speed to 20 miles per hour when crossing the bridge onto and leaving the beach really helps out.

That may seem slow, but when one of those goofy beaked black skimmers darts in front of your car you’ll be glad you were cruising. (Happens to me all the time!)

If we all work together we can ensure all our beach babies get to fly to South America at the end of the nesting season.

Get up close with Navarre Beach sea turtle

Gigi the loggerhead sea turtle had a rough life.

In 1998, Gigi washed ashore in central Florida after a storm. Covered in barnacles and badly emaciated, she would not have survived very long. Despite being an otherwise healthy turtle, she had not been eating for some time, and the stress had taken its toll.

The problem lay in her eyes. Either through illness or injury, Gigi had become completely blind.

Fortunately, Sea World rescuers found Gigi and brought her to their rehabilitation center. Through antibiotics and months of care, they got her back to a healthy weight.

But her vision never returned.

Without her sight, she could not be released into the wild because she would be unable to locate food or avoid predators.

For 17 years, Gigi remained in the rehabilitation center, receiving upstanding care, but awaiting a forever home. With her disability, Gigi would need a special setup and a special team of people to care for her.

That is where the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center comes in.

The center welcomed Gigi to her new home in August 2016. Now she spends her days educating thousands of yearly visitors about sea turtle conservation. She swims around her state of the art, saltwater pool greeting visitors with a friendly breech when she hears them approach.

To say the sea turtle center is my favorite place on Navarre Beach is an understatement. This beachfront center is just inside the Navarre Beach Marine Park one left turn away from the Navarre Beach Bridge.

Once an abandoned state park information center, the building now displays brightly painted sea turtles. The center is the only one of its kind in the Florida Panhandle.

Along with Gigi, the center is home to a variety of other species. Pumpkin the diamondback terrapin sometimes greets visitors in her out door abode or splashes a hello from her indoor tank.

Native species of fish swim around a mock-up of the Navarre Beach reef, and another tank houses invasive lionfish to illustrate to visitors why invasive species threaten our ecosystem. Interactive displays teach visitors young and old about the life cycle of sea turtles from eggs buried in the sand to hatchlings scurrying to sea to adults swimming the deep for 100 years.

There are also lessons on how humans can limit their impacts to threatened and endangered sea turtle species.

The gift shop offers unique and handcrafted souvenirs themed around the Gulf of Mexico and its creatures that cannot be found anywhere else.

But Gigi is the star of the center. She loves to devour her favorite foods of mackerel and squid and swim close to children pressing close to her pool’s glass. She has stolen the hearts of her caregivers as well as the locals.

Come fall in love with her, too.

Visit the sea turtle center and all the great ecotourism stops on Navarre Beach while staying beachfront at one of our great accommodations.

Science station delights on Navarre Beach

It’s no secret that Navarre Beach is a hub of ecotourism. From our man-made near shore snorkel reef to our unique-to-the-area Sea Turtle Conservation Center, we have more than a few opportunities to get up close with the Florida’s beach wildlife.

But the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station takes it to another level.

The station offer events throughout the year that get families engaged in activities focused on beach fun and conservation.

Do you want to touch one of the oceans prehistoric inhabitants? Meet the stations resident horseshoe crab, a family of animals that have existed for nearly 445 million years.

Love water sports? Try the glass bottom kayaks and get an amazing view of the underwater ecosystem or stand up paddle board in the Santa Rosa Sound.

Want to pilot an underwater remote operated vehicle or ROV? The station has students build these and lets visitors test drive them. Your child could learn to build one over the summer.

The station students also love to hold dissection demonstrations with species such as squid and starfish.

In the summer, day camps range in themes from Guy Harvey Fishing to underwater remotely operated vehicles to mermaids and pirates.

The center also offers an array of homeschool student activity days, and a Spooktacular in October with creepy science that is can’t miss. Children can make their own slime, learn about bioluminescent species and create smoke bubbles. For children on the autism spectrum, the science station holds an annual Autism Odyssey.

And the station is expanding their reach. A recent IMPACT 100 grant will allow the station to take their activities on the road with a new traveling interpretive center, complete with touch tanks and more. The station offers a variety of classes to local students researching the wide array of marine wildlife found off Navarre’s white sand coast.

Visit for a schedule of upcoming events. Rentals fill up fast. Don’t miss your chance to explore all the science station has to offer this summer and all year-round.

Man-made reefs growing on Navarre Beach

If snorkel, kayak or scuba is your thing, Navarre Beach is your destination.

Navarre Beach boasts man-made reefs just off shore in the Gulf of Mexico that are teaming with life. The Navarre Beach Marine Park is just a short drive west of the Navarre Beach Bridge.

Once on the reef sea turtles abound and a variety of fish school around the “modules” or structures that build up the reef where coral can grow.

If you are lucky you may even see a dolphin or two.

It’s never been easier to get your kayak in the water thanks to the new kayak and scuba friendly walk over in Navarre Beach Marine Park.

This walk over has no rails meaning it’s easier to carry kayaks and equipment down to the water’s edge. A wash down station has also been added to the path for convenience. The path leads directly to Navarre’s near shore artificial reef, one of two man-made reefs in the area.

Glass bottom kayak tours along the reef are a must do, and snorkelers of any skill level can enjoy this reef.

The new walkover allows visitors to keep off the dunes protecting the wildlife that call Navarre Beach home. Shorebirds such as sandpipers often nest in the grasses of the dunes. In late spring and early summer, keep an eye out for the fluffy white chicks along the dunes edge.

After a morning snorkel, there are several large public pavilions that serve as a perfect spot to chow down on a picnic.

Deeper in the Gulf, just off the end of the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier there is a second man-made reef for scuba diving. These reefs are known for their amazing array of wildlife and require a bit more skill to appreciate.

Whether you are a near shore novice or a deep reef pro, there is good news on the horizon. Navarre Beach’s pristine man-made reefs are about to get a whole lot bigger.

Hundreds of new modules will be added to Navarre’s near shore snorkel reef and off shore scuba reefs in the coming year meaning more to love and more for the local wildlife to call home.

Want to preview the dozens of species that call the reef home? Video of the sea turtles and unique schools of fish are available online thanks to the Gulf of Mexico’s first ever underwater live feed camera. Test video is available at Keep an eye out for a rare loggerhead sea turtle swimming on by.

Or better yet come to see it for yourself while staying in one of our beach front condominiums.

Want to touch one of nature’s prehistoric crustaceans or take a cruise in a glass bottom kayak?

The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station offers events throughout the year that get families engaged in activities focus on beach fun and conservation. Summer day camps range in themes from Guy Harvey fishing to underwater remotely operated vehicles to mermaids and pirates. The center also offers an array of homeschool student activity days, and a Spooktacular in October with creepy science that is can’t miss. A recent IMPACT 100 grant will allow the station to take their activities on the road with a new traveling interpretive center, complete with touch tanks and more. The station offers a variety of classes to local students researching the wide array of marine wildlife found off Navarre’s white sand coast. Rentals fill up fast. Don’t miss your chance to explore all the science station has to offer this summer.

Come meet Gigi at the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center


Gigi the loggerhead sea turtle is completely blind, but that doesn’t stop her from snapping up her favorite mackerel or checking out visitors to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center. The turtle center is one of a kind to this area, providing visitors up close encounters with their resident turtle. There are interactive displays throughout the center featuring Navarre’s host of feathered, scaled and furry residents. Tanks with turtles and invasive Lionfish give visitors a lesson in conservation. Come meet Gigi and see all the ecotourism opportunities that Navarre Beach has to offer.