A Tween’s Take on a Trip to Navarre Beach, Florida
We ventured to the Gulf Coast over Fall Break. Luckily, we were spared the winds and rains Hurricane Matthew dumped across the East Coast, and we enjoyed absolutely perfect weather in the mid-70s while staying in Navarre Beach, Florida.
GPS says it is only an 8-hour drive from Knoxville, but they are not accounting for a 10- and 12-year-old in the backseat and two parents who love roadside stops. We managed to turn the 8-hour drive into about a 14 hour drive. So, we split the trip at about the half-way point and stayed a night near Birmingham, Alabama. We researched our route ahead of time, but you never know what you’ll spy when traveling the backroads.
Sidetrip to Kymulga Mill and Covered Bridge
We chanced upon the Kymulga Mill and Covered Bridge and were treated to a VIP tour (because they weren’t busy). The only employee zoomed up in a golf cart and gave us a rundown of the history of the bridge, which had once been used by the Native Americans and in later years by the Government as a route to the Powder Plant. A connection to East Tennessee, the Powder Plant made Heavy Water for Oak Ridge in the production of the atomic bomb for World War II.
This trip, the field after field of cotton ready to be harvested piqued an interest in the kids and we pulled over for a hands-on lesson.
Crossing the Line
Once we crossed the Florida state line, Finnian swore he could smell the ocean salt air already! Crossing the bridge from Navarre to Navarre Beach was exciting, and not just because of all the PokeStops. The tall white water tower proudly proclaiming “Navarre” and the grouping of high rise condos gave the barrier island a sense of importance. It was quickly apparent that this beach was not at all like the beaches the kids had visited before.
Checking Out Navarre Beach, Florida
We checked in at the Caribbean Resort through ResortQuest Wyndham Vacation Rentals, unloaded and immediately went for a walk on the beach. The sugar white sands, the crystal clear water and even the seashells along the shoreline were completely different from the East Coast beaches.
Even though it was October, the weather was warm with a nice breeze and the water was refreshing, but not chilly. The kids played along the water’s edge and eagerly picked up auger shell after auger shell.
We did find a few jellyfish – clear and larger than a dinner plate – washed up on shore and floating along the shoreline, but that didn’t deter us from wanting to swim.
Snorkeling for the First Time
Swimming was an amazing experience because we could see clear down to our toes. We had snorkeling gear, purchased at Target for $20-$25 (also available in local gift shops). We saw tiny fish, shells and even a stingray. This was our first time snorkeling and the kids had a hard time getting the hang of the eye and nose mask and the snorkel tube and the flippers, and scaled down to just goggles and the snorkel tube. We might need a little more practice, but they still really enjoyed the experience. My dad waded out a little deeper than the rest of us and was still only up to his waist, but was at least 50 feet out from the shoreline. Other vacationers were farther out on pool floats, inflatable kayaks and small boats.
Gulf Breeze Zoo Visit
While on the island, we visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo. At some zoos, you walk miles and miles and only get far-away glimpses of the animals, but this zoo had all of the really exotic animals up close to the pathways so that it was easy to view the animals. Maybe it was the time of day or maybe it was the time of year, but the lions were very active and alert, which we found fascinating since we knew they usually sleep 20 hours per day! We felt that seeing them move around and eye a roaming peacock in a nearby field was a special treat. Additionally, a new zookeeper was in training and we happened to follow her along her route to feed the animals. The monkeys were particularly playful and fun to watch as she fed them frozen strawberries and raspberries.
The highlight of the zoo trip was getting to feed the giraffes.
So Much More to Say
There’s a lot more to say about our great trip to Navarre Beach, Florida. Click here to read my brother’s description of the trip. Click here to see what my dad has to say about learning opportunities in and around Navarre Beach.