Located at the very far end of the panhandle, Pensacola is a perfect location for anyone looking to enjoy Florida’s perfect weather and those beautiful Gulf Coast beaches, without relocating to one of the popular tourist destinations.
Between the outstanding fishing opportunities, the adventure of canoeing along the Blackwater River, and the history of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, there is a never-ending supply of activities to keep residents busy here. But at the end of the day, life in Pensacola is a pretty close match to the relaxing Florida retirement lifestyle you have alway envisioned for yourself.
Pensacola was originally home to a people known as the Muskogean. The area was then discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, but the first real attempt to settle the area didn’t take place until 1698.
This area also holds a significant place in United States military history. Pensacola was the location for the very first US Naval Air Station, which was commissioned in 1914. Famous astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong were trained here, and it is also home to the world famous Blue Angels.
While most of Florida has been growing at a rapid pace for decades, Pensacola has actually seen its population numbers decrease over that time. The city had a population of just over 59,000 people during the 1970 census, but that number had fallen to 51,938 people during the 2010 census. It is estimated that more than 53,000 people currently call Pensacola home.
The 2010 census also noted that 24.6% of the households in Pensacola included children, while 32.9% of the households contained people over the age of 65. Diving a bit deeper, 11.7% of the households in Pensacola are made up of people over the age of 65 who are living alone.
Like many cities along the Gulf Coast, the Pensacola lifestyle revolves around making use of its gorgeous white-sand beaches and exploring all of the nearby parks and nature preserves.
The beaches at Santa Rosa Island, Perdido Key State Park, the Pensacola Beach Gulf Pier, and the Gulf Islands are all popular choices. One of the favorite inland destinations is Blackwater River State Park. If you are into canoeing or kayaking, this is a perfect place to start exploring the local waterways.
Since the area has such a rich military history, the Pensacola lifestyle also includes a large number of museums and historic landmarks. Visitors should absolutely make a point to check out the National Naval Aviation Museum, the Pensacola Naval Air Station, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum, and historic Fort Barrancas.
When it comes to shopping in Pensacola, there are three different directions to pursue, depending on what type of store you are looking for.
There are two large shopping centers located in East Central Pensacola. Between the Cordova Mall and University Town Plaza, you will be able to find all of the popular chain stores you are looking for.
Downtown Pensacola is where you will find a more unique selection of shops and boutiques. Start on Palafox Street and you can spend an entire day looking through all kinds of local artisanal products.
Lastly, Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key is where you will find everything you need for a day at the beach. With lots of stores selling everything from swimwear and beach accessories to sun tan lotion and souvenirs, this is the place to get your beach shopping on!
Like most of the great cities along the Gulf Coast, there is a plethora of fantastic restaurants to choose from throughout Pensacola. Three of the ones that you absolutely must try are Taqueria El Asador, Joe Patti’s Seafood Company, and Restaurant IRON.
Taqueria El Asador is literally a shack on the side of the road, but this is where you will find the best tacos in town. They are known for selling amazing food at ridiculously low prices, so you can expect this to be a regular lunch stop once you decide to call P-Cola home.
Another popular lunch option is Joe Patti’s Seafood Company. This place is more of a seafood market than a restaurant, so it is a great spot to pick up some ultra-fresh seafood for your next dinner party. But they also have a sushi counter that is a dynamite spot for a quick lunch with some of the best priced and freshest sushi in town.
If you are looking for a dinner of high-end cuisine in a casual environment, Restaurant IRON should be at the top of the list. You’ll definitely want to try their Sweet Home Farms Organic Cheese Tasting and just about anything that happens to be on special that day.
Nearby Retirement Options
This part of the Panhandle remains one of the least developed parts of Florida, but that is set to change soon.
The St. Joe Company has announced plans to develop pockets of “The Villages” style retirement communities in Northwest Florida, beginning with Watersound Origins.
Touching the banks of Lake Powell, one of Florida’s largest coastal dune lakes, Watersound Origins is a 1,400-acre community with uncompromising ideals and standards in planning, architecture, aesthetics and amenities.
Watersound Origins offers a relaxed setting amid the natural beauty of Lake Powell and towering pines with the convenience of quaint shops, lively eateries and local activities of famed Scenic Highway 30-A just three miles south.
Influenced by maritime architecture of year’s past, the Watersound Origins community’s architectural design re-imagines and modernizes the coastal shingle home into a vernacular building style that is distinctly Florida.
A variety of floor plans ideal for families, individuals or seasonal residents are offered starting in the mid $400’s.
In celebration of its natural surroundings, this community will promote an array of outdoor recreational activities.
Kayak on Lake Powell, play with your children or grandchildren in the neighborhood parks, or walk along the trails and paths winding throughout the community.
Between the rich history, the beautiful beaches, and all of the great shopping and dining options, there isn’t much more you could want out of life here in Pensacola. Which is exactly why it is one of the best kept secrets of the Gulf Coast!