The signs leading to Navarre Beach, Florida say it! "America's Best Kept Secret" is a little beach community located about 32 miles east of Pensacola, Florida, and Mom, Dad, and I spent a couple of hours there on a sunny and warm December afternoon after Christmas. Several co-workers of mine said Navarre was a nice little place to visit, but I never heard of Navarre Beach until I moved to Pensacola this year. Even Dad never heard about the place until he visited us over the Christmas holidays, and that is the reason why the place is the best kept secret of Northwestern Florida.
Navarre Beach is an unincorporated community in Santa Rosa County, Florida and is located on Santa Rosa Island in the Gulf of Mexico. With its beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise waters, Navarre Beach is a hot spot for locals looking for a quiet day at the beach and for surfers to catch the waves that crash ashore every day.
It was breezy and in the 70's when Mom, Dad, and I went to Navarre Beach. The Navarre Beach State Park is located as you get off the Navarre Beach Causeway Bridge, and we had no problem finding a parking spot in the huge parking lot since it was Monday and some people find 70-degree weather here in Florida a bit cold! But there were a few brave souls surfing in the waters that are about 69 degrees during the winter and other families sunning themselves on the beach. Mom, Dad, and I chose to walk a good stretch of the beach checking out the destroyed pier and collecting shells along the way.
Navarre Beach, Florida has a short, but colorful history. Navarre and Navarre Beach were founded by Colonel Gus Wyman and his French wife Noelle, who named the town after a Spanish province near the French border of the same name. Colonel Wyman met Noelle, who was a nurse, in France during World War I and in order to bring her to the USA and marry her, he had to adopt her first. After marrying and settling in Navarre, the Wymans had trouble making ends meet and eventually fell behind on the taxes to their town and had to sell off Navarre bit by bit in order to catch up on the bills and taxes. Noelle went to New York City to teach French in order to help pay the bills while Colonely Wyman stayed in Navarre, but he wasn't bored and eventually found another woman to keep him company during those romantic beach walks. This affair was the end of the Wymans' marriage, and after the divorce was final (it wasn't very amicable), Noelle was banned from the Wymans' property. Colonel Wyman made this clear when he shot his ex-wife when she came on their property to tend to a pet cemetery she had created, but Colonel Wyman was not convicted of any crime since the courts said he was defending his property.
Colonel Wyman's parents also settled in Navarre and lost a lot of money from the taxes and Depression, but some people thought the parents were loaded and had a lot of money stashed away, and two of these folks, the Roberts Brothers, murdered the elder Wymans when they tried to rob their home. After the Roberts brothers were captured, they were tried in nearby Crestview, Florida, convicted of murder, and hanged.
Did you also know that parts of the 1978 Jaws II were filmed on Navarre Beach? I didn't know either, but Mom, Dad, and I didn't see any Great White Sharks in the water while we were walking, so I guess it's safe to say "it was safe to go in the water!" with no sign of Jaws in the Gulf as people were enjoying the surf and sands of the beach. OK, there were some jellyfish sunning themselves on the beach at the end of our walk, and one had to be very careful to not step on the slimy creatures. Remember that episode from Friends when one character was stung by a jellyfish and another had to do #1 to help take the sting away?!
Dad has this thing when he is near a body of water. He needs to touch the water in order to say he has been there and proves it by touching the water. Dad has done this with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and now the Gulf of Mexico is another famous body of water he has visited and touched. Mom and I found more shells for our collection and enjoyed the breeze and waters while His Lordship Speedy walked way ahead of us. When Mom and I finally caught up to Dad, he was sitting on one of the pier entries waiting for us, but he was calmly enjoying the sea air instead of tapping his fingers impatiently like he has been known to have done.
Navarre Beach is open to tourists and locals from dawn to dusk and is free of charge. No pets are allowed onto the beach and no alcohol or is allowed on the beach. There are several condos and houses for one to rent if you want to sleep over in Navarre along with the Regency Hotel. There aren't many restaurants on the strip of beach we visited, but you can dine across the bridge in Navarre itself or further down the beach.
To get to Navarre Beach from Pensacola, you can take I-110 South towards the beaches or go down Palafox Street to Cervantes Street. From either point of entry, take a right onto Route 98 (Beaches) and then a left onto Chase Street. From Chase, take a left onto Bayfront Parkway across the bridge to Gulf Breeze and bear left into Gulf Breeze and stay on 98 east for 23 miles until you get to Navarre. Once in Navarre, take a right onto the Navarre Beach Causeway Bridge and the State Beach is at the end of the bridge. A day in Navarre Beach is well-worth a day of sun and fun in Northwestern Florida, and I don't think it will be a secret much longer after this journal is read.