15 Best Things to Do in Gulf Breeze, FL

Gulf Breeze, FL
Colin D. Young / shutterstock.com

In 2021, the National Research Center’s National Community Survey named Gulf Breeze, Florida, as the best place to live with a #1 overall quality of life.

It’s a booming bedroom community in Pensacola, and it’s got the highest household income in the metro.

All these qualities make Gulf Breeze a terrific suburb to settle down in and an excellent place to visit.

Visit Gulf Breeze to catch some sun, ride the waves, and see some animals.

You can also go snorkeling there.

If you’re planning to visit, a good itinerary will cover the Gulf Breeze Zoo, where you can see hundreds of animals, and the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where you can enjoy the water.

Do you want to know more about Gulf Breeze, FL?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Learn Local History at Fort Pickens

Green grass with the old looking fort pickens.
Robert Kearney / Shutterstock.com

Your visit to the Gulf Islands National Seashore is incomplete without stopping by the historic Fort Pickens.

It was one of the forts built to defend Pensacola Bay and the Pensacola Navy Yard from enemy attacks.

The old walls of fort pickens with a bed of green grass.
Krumpelman Photography / Shutterstock.com

Likewise, Fort Pickens is just one of many forts built along the 3,500-mile Florida seaboard under the initiative of the US government that began in 1816.

Today, Fort Pickens stands as a patriotic symbol of the United States and its government’s commitment to protecting democracy.

It is also a terrific place for exploration and wildlife viewing.

Old brick arches of fort pickens.
Colin D. Young / Shutterstock.com

Bring Your Kids to Fast Eddie’s Fun Center

Enjoy an active and fun afternoon with your kids at Fast Eddie’s Fun Center, where you can ride go-karts all day.

The center has four tracks, where you can let your kids race each other or race against you.

Likewise, they also have a Crazy eight ride with a bridge and some sharp turns.

You can also try the Spinnin’ and Grinnin’ ride for a wild slip-sliding adventure.

If you’ve got toddlers, then you can put them in Junior Racers.

You could also take them on a double-ride go-kart with you.

Competitive kids who are 16 years old and above can drive on the Fast Eddies Superkart Speedway, outfitted with computerized scoring and time-tracking.

Enjoy the Sea at the Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf islands national seashore welcoming sign.
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

One of your first stops at Gulf Breeze should be the Gulf Islands National Seashore, where you can enjoy various activities on and off the water.

For example, you can go out on the deep ocean and go snorkeling if you’re feeling adventurous.

Otherwise, you can simply go fishing for a relaxing time.

White sands, blue skies, and tall green grass.
forestpath / Shutterstock.com

If you’re a landlubber, you can go hiking along the property, where you might get the chance to spot local wildlife.

Who knows?

You might spot the gopher tortoise or one of the over 300 bird species living there.

Dive into the sea and see sand dollars, starfish, and crabs.

Likewise, take your kayak to the deep sea and watch pods of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swim alongside you.

Water waves on the clean white sand.
forestpath / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy Your Private Beach at Deadman’s Island

Deadman’s Island is a terrific place for swimming, kayaking, fishing, and camping (only with a permit from the city of Gulf Breeze).

However, this island is most known for being everyone’s private beach.

Why?

You can only reach this island by boat, so not a lot of tourists can get there.

In fact, only a handful of residents can access this place from their homes on Highpoint Drive.

If you can get there, you’ll see a unique coastal ecosystem featuring unspoiled bayous and saltmarshes.

Thanks to restoration efforts, the native oyster habitat has begun thriving again, leading to an increase in the local oyster population.

Chase the Dolphins along the Chase-N-Fins Dolphin Cruise

If you want to spend the day chasing after the playful dolphins swimming in Pensacola Bay, book a tour with the Chase-N-Fins Dolphin Cruise.

You’ll take a tour on a converted 50-foot twin-diesel Navy Launch that can seat 49 passengers.

During the cruise, you’re free to walk around the deck to take photos of the dolphins.

Likewise, you can also head to the shaded area and watch the dolphins leap and play alongside the boat.

You’ll take a trip through the Pensacola Bay area, passing through Fort Pickens, the Pensacola Pass, and the Lighthouse at the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The whole cruise lasts for two hours, so you don’t need to feel antsy about seeing dolphins.

They always come around because they love to play.

See the Animals at the Gulf Breeze Zoo

Picture of a giraffe behind a wooden fence.
Stormy Brown / Shutterstock.com

The 50-acre Gulf Breeze Zoo features more than 850 animals gathered from around the world.

It’s the largest animal attraction in the area, so you’ll miss out on a major attraction if you don’t stop by.

During your visit, you’ll find around 137 species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.

Look around and observe the monkeys, squawkers, big cats, tortoises, and kangaroos.

A Blue-and-yellow Macaw and a Green-winged Macaw on a piece of branch.
Britt Reints from Orlando-ish, Florida, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you want to see the bigger animals, the zoo lets you ride the Safari Line Limited train to see them up close.

You can watch the gorillas and hippos in their habitat and then ride along herds of free-ranging animals on the plain.

Then, you can feed the sheep, goats, pigs, birds, and llamas.

Try the Spirits at the Rollins Distillery

The father-son duo of Paul and Patrick Rollins operate the Rollins Distillery, the first licensed distillery in the Florida Panhandle.

Both Paul and Patrick share a fiery passion for distilling and innate skill in crafting of spirits.

Before starting the company, they simply dreamed of running their own distillery.

Today, they have found success and realized their mutual ambitions.

Likewise, the Rollins Distillery crafts every batch of spirits from scratch in order to satisfy only the most discerning palates.

Moreover, they distill every batch by hand.

They source only the freshest and highest-quality ingredients to produce the best drinks each time.

Explore their options of drinks, from vodka to rum, and enjoy them with friends.

Explore Nature at the Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve

Beautiful golden hour sunset reflecting on the still waters of the beach.
S Brewton / Shutterstock.com

This preserve belongs to the massive 135,000-acre Gulf Islands National Seashore that covers the Florida and Mississippi Gulf coasts.

However, that doesn’t mean the Naval Live Oaks Nature Preserve isn’t worth visiting in its own right.

If you’re curious about history and ecology, this property is the place for you.

In 1828, President John Quincy Adams and the secretary of the navy classified the area as a Naval Live Oak Reservation.

Tree roots silhouette with the sun setting on the back.
S Brewton / Shutterstock.com

The government used the southern live oaks there to build their wooden warships, mainly for hulls and decking.

For example, these oaks helped the USS Constitution survive a fierce battle versus the HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812.

Today, you can hike through the Naval Live Oaks area, following the property’s 7.5-mile trails.

Take a break and enjoy a nice picnic inside the covered pavilion or the other picnic tables on the grounds.

If you’ve got kids interested in camping, the preserve offers a youth group campground that’s available for organized camping.

Go Hiking along the Gulf Breeze Parkway Trail

Bring your bike, or just go on foot, and travel the Gulf Breeze Parkway Trail for a dose of adventure in the Florida Panhandle.

This trail is a side path that runs alongside the Gulf Breeze Parkway south of Pensacola.

So, if you wish to navigate this route without getting into it with cars and trucks, you might want to check out this trail.

You’ll also see the fantastic beaches and the seaside communities flourishing along the way.

If you need some shade, the trail leads you through the majestic Florida woods to the south.

Bring your camera with you to capture some magnificent nature shots, too.

Check Out Opal Beach, the Hidden Gem of Northwest Florida

In 1995, Hurricane Opal ravaged the dunes of Northwest Florida, flattening the sand and turning the shoreline into a smooth beach the color of sugar.

You’ll find various amenities there, such as outdoor showers and a picnic shelter.

Likewise, you can go out on a boat for some fishing, or you can hike along the dunes to spot some local wildlife like native birds.

You can also spot some interesting sea creatures in the water.

Take a Photo at the Pensacola Beach Sign

The bright yellow, green, red, and white colored pensacola beach sign.
Derek Gordon / Shutterstock.com

One of the major landmarks in Gulf Breeze is the Pensacola Beach Sign, a great backdrop for family photos.

During the 1950s, the Santa Rosa Island Authority commissioned the original sign, with designs from Patricia Born of the Dodson, Craddock & Born ad agency.

Lamar Advertising built the sign in 1960.

Relive the loud aesthetic of the 60s under this bright, colorful sign, featuring a sailfish with orange, yellow, and green fins.

The sign points motorists toward the scenic route east along the Gulf of Mexico while advertising the “World’s Whitest Beaches.”

Go on a Sea Adventure with Condor Sailing Adventures

On the other hand, if you just want to coast along the surface of the sea, then hop on a sailboat with the Condor Sailing Adventures.

Various companies offer sailboat charters along Pensacola Beach, but Condor is the only one deploying a luxurious world-class 40-foot Condor racing trimaran.

You’ll feel the breeze whipping your face as you go where the wind takes you along the serene Pensacola Bay.

The Condor trimaran is also perfect for people who have problems with the water.

For example, if you can’t swim, or if you’re pregnant, or if you get easily seasick, this sailboat is for you.

The company says the boat doesn’t rock, making the journey incredibly smooth, you’ll feel like you’re just sitting by the pool.

Honor the Fallen at the Barrancas National Cemetery

White headstones lined up - of the fallen veterans.
Steven Frame / Shutterstock.com

The Barrancas National Cemetery is one of the Civil War Era National Cemeteries scattered across the United States, under the National Parks Service.

If you want to deepen your understanding of the Civil War, you can visit these places alongside museums, too.

During the 19th century, three forts guarded the entrance to Pensacola Bay, one of the Gulf of Mexico’s best natural harbors.

White headstones of civil war soldiers.
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These forts became a Civil War battleground.

The Barrancas National Cemetery stands on the grounds of the Pensacola’s Naval Air Station.

More than 36,000 military veterans rest in this cemetery.

Several of these fallen soldiers have received the Medal of Honor.

Likewise, the cemetery also reserves a section for soldiers buried there during the 1800s.

This section also predates the national cemetery itself by over 50 years.

White headstones of civil war soldiers.
Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take the Plunge with Bay Breeze Dive Center

If you want to go scuba diving or snorkeling without much hassle, then drop by the Bay Breeze Dive Center.

It’s the only dive shop in the whole Santa Rosa County that has direct access to the sea from their backdoor.

Likewise, the shop has a boat ramp sitting just 150 yards from their front door.

You can literally dive into the sea mere yards from the dive shop.

The dive shop charters boats to take you to the popular dive spots in the vicinity.

Explore the spot you want, from the wrecks of the USS Oriskany, a Russian freighter, Pete Tides II, Tex Edwards, and three coal barges.

However, you might need to book a reservation as far in advance as possible for the USS Oriskany dive area.

Visit Another Fortress at Fort McRee

As part of the US government’s efforts to shore up coastal defenses, they built several fortresses along miles of coastline.

Pensacola Bay is no exception.

One of these forts is Fort Pickens, and the others are Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas.

Both Fort Pickens and Fort McRee are within the Gulf Islands National Seashore.

In 1834, construction began on Fort McRee, named after a distinguished officer, Brevet Colonel William McRee, who served in the War of 1812. Five years later, they finished the fort.

Together with Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas, Fort McRee defended the Pensacola Bay and the Pensacola Naval Yard from enemy attacks.

Fort McRee became a battleground during the Civil War when Union forces laid siege to the Confederate forces inside the fort.

Union warships bombarded the fort with artillery fire, nearly destroying the fort, leading to the Confederate Army abandoning the place in May 1862.

Today, nothing much remains of Fort McRee, besides old ruins.

You can see these ruins for yourself and revisit the bloodiest conflict ever fought on American soil.

Final Thoughts

Gulf Breeze, Florida, is one of the best destinations for tourists who want an exciting beach adventure.

Go wet and wild at the various marine attractions in the city, from dolphin watching to snorkeling.

You can even explore some historical sites if you want a change of pace.

Plus, if the place charms you enough, you might even want to live there.

After all, it’s one of the best places to live in America.