Navarre Beach from the balcony.
A balcony view of Navarre Beach.

A Ten-year-old’s Trip to Florida’s Gulf Coast

This is the story of how I went to Navarre Beach, Florida, this fall. We had a lot of fun there, but before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story. First, the night before we went, we packed everything up in the car. After we woke up in the morning, we all got all of our sleep stuff and all the stuff we would take in the back seat with us – all our devices, pillows and blankets. We got in the car and rode for hours.

Cotton Fields and a Grist Mill

Eventually, we got to a huge cotton field. We got out and picked a piece. We had a lot of fun doing it and at the end of doing it, we had a little cotton ball fight. And, then after we drove some more, we ended up at the Kymulga Grist Mill. It had a really old bridge and grist mill. We got out and we got a really cool tour. We got to ride in a golf cart and got a tour of the facility. We got to see a really old tree that was a few feet wide, which means it was over 100 years old. Fun Fact: The rings on a tree are the old xylem and phloem. The xylem is what is used to carry the nutrients from the roots up to the plant and the phloem is used to carry the food down to the roots, kind of like our veins. And every time the xylem and phloem die, it creates a tree ring. It happens every one to five years.

Cotton pickin' time
Some of the cotton we picked on our side trip.

Hot Dogs and Shrimp

Next, we at lunch at the Grumpy Dog in Wetumpka, Alabama. They had really good hot dogs, chips and sandwiches. At the Grumpy Dog, on Pokémon Go, we caught a Diglet, which are extremely rare. So, if you go there, you might be able to catch one too. Then, we got back in the car and we finally got to Navarre Beach. We got settled into our condo, and we took a sunset walk on the beach and found so many shells. If you are looking for augers, which are the pointy ones that kind of look like unicorn horns, come to Navarre Beach, there are plenty of them. I also noticed that the water was very clear and that was a surprise to me because we usually go to Edisto Beach where you can’t see into the ocean.

Next we ate at Juana’s Pagodas/Sailors’ Grill and I ordered shrimp because I had decided to order shrimp everywhere.

Touring Coldwater Gardens

The next day, we got up early and had some time to walk on the beach and find more shells. I found a dragon fly. Since I am a bug collector, this was a good thing. After our walk on the beach was done, we went to Coldwater Gardens where you can do glamping, which is camping in a little tent that is already set up where you can put beds and a refrigerator. It’s like staying in a house out in the woods. There were lots of cabins there. They were all really good cabins. I would suggest staying in any of them. I liked the treehouse more because it had a hot tub, but it didn’t have as much room. So, any of them would be a good option. They all had a fire pit, which would be good for s’mores.

They fed us a very healthy lunch, and after that, which was my favorite part of lunch, they fed us a brownie sundae. I put caramel on mine, but they had strawberry sauce and almonds for toppings. They gave us a tour of their greenhouses where we got to feed the fish that fertilize the plants. When we put in the food, a feeding frenzy started.

Aquaponics at Coldwater Gardens
One of the greenhouses at Coldwater Gardens. See the fish?

Kayaking with Adventures Unlimited

After we were at the garden, we went to Adventures Unlimited and we all kayaked down a stream. We had lots of fun. It was my favorite thing that day. I was a bit scared because my first time kayaking, I had gotten into the worst position possible – stuck between two trees. Luckily, it was on a different river with a different kayak, so this time, I did not have the possibility of doing that again. It was a very slow stream without much current. So it was very easy to navigate. It was never very deep, so when I got stuck, I could always get out and touch bottom and move my kayak off the sandy bank.

The water was very clear and we got to see the Lorax Loft, which was one of the houses that was for rent there. It was a treehouse designed and built by The Treehouse Masters guy.

Kayaking with Adventures Unlimited
Kayaking with Adventures Unlimited. Notice the ziplines through the trees.

More Shrimp and a Little Relaxation

We went back to the condo and got cleaned up and went to TC’s Front Porch for dinner. I ordered shrimp. The shrimp was delicious.

I was ready to get back to the condo. I was exhausted. The condo had a little brown recliner that was perfectly my size. That was my favorite spot to sit because it was cushioned and I could tilt it back like a bed. I liked to sit there and play my DS.

On to the Gulf Breeze Zoo

We got up early in the morning and walked on the beach. Again, we found a lot of shells. Then, we went to the Gulf Breeze Zoo and got to feed a giraffe, goats, lamas, pigs and budgies. The lamas stole two cups of food by grabbing the cup with their mouths and yanking it out of our hands. You have to hold the cup from the bottom and not let go. Piece of advice: feed budgies in the afternoon. We fed them in the morning and at first they were all fighting over one stick of food. Eventually, they all calmed down and I was able to hold one on the stick.

Feeding giraffes at the Gulf Breeze Zoo.
I wasn’t quite tall enough to reach the giraffes, so my mom helped out.

A Train Ride and Gift Shop Stop

We also got to go on a train to see Silverback Gorillas, a hippo, and camels. The train is the only way to see some of the animals. It was a good time to rest our feet and still see animals. One of the things I liked about this zoo was that the animals were up close so we could see them really well.

There was a lot of stuff in the gift shop. I bought two things: a spear and a boomerang. The spear was a Native American spear. It had a bunch of feathers on it and looked cool. Later, I tried throwing the boomerang on the beach, but I couldn’t quite seem to get the boomerang to come all the way back to me, but I will keep practicing.

Beautiful Butterflies

After we left the Gulf Breeze Zoo, we made a quick stop at the Monarch Madness butterfly festival that only happens once a year. We toured the Panhandle Butterfly House and a butterfly tried to land on my phone. We got to release a tagged butterfly. I already knew a little bit about Monarchs because I tagged a Monarch last year, but this time was special because if that butterfly makes it to Mexico, they are going to email us.

Releasing tagged monarch butterflies.
We’re releasing tagged monarch butterflies. I hope they make to Mexico!

We ate lunch at Lagerheads at the Pier. Once again I ordered shrimp. Once again it was delicious. I concluded that if you order shrimp anywhere in Navarre Beach, Florida, it would be delicious.

Holley Hill Pottery

Then, we went to Holley Hill Pottery. I bought a little cup that had a skull and crossbones on it and said Navarre Beach. We got to see a lot of old kilns that they use to make the pottery and we got to see them unloading a bunch of finished pieces.

Holley Hill Pottery kiln
Finished pieces in the kiln at Holley Hill Pottery.

Seeing a Sea Turtle

We went to the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center and got to see the blind turtle, Gigi, breathing, which was pretty cool. I got to see in her mouth when she came up for a breath of air. Normally, she stays on the bottom of the pool for a full hour, so we arrived at just the right time. We saw a bunch of turtle displays there and at the gift shop, I bought a wooden puzzle box with a turtle design on the top, and my sister bought turtle earrings.

Audrey, Finnian, and Gigi the sea turtle
Audrey and I are watching Gigi the sea turtle swim around.

Some Snorkeling and Some Pizza

In the afternoon, we put on our swimsuits and went snorkeling. My dad saw a bunch of jellyfish, a stingray and some fish. My sister and I were looking for shells and I saw little fish swimming around our feet. Then we spent some time in the condo pool and hot tub and got cleaned up for dinner.

Finn with mask and snorkel
Mask and snorkels work great in Navarre’s clear water!

We ate dinner at Ye Olde Brothers Brewery, where I ate some of the best pizza I have ever had. It was wood fired pizza, which made the crust just the right balance of crunchy and soft. We got to tour the brewery which was a lesson in chemistry and engineering. They did say for the kids out there, that they were going to add root beer and root beer floats on the menu soon.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

On our last day on Navarre Beach, we did one more walk in the morning and saw a bunch of sea slugs washed up on the shoreline. We drove through the Gulf Islands National Seashore and stopped at all the PokeStops and saw a wild turtle. We spotted a dark circle in the waves and soon realized it was a turtle. I saw its head come up for air and its flippers. It wasn’t very deep. It was close to shore.

We drove all the way down the barrier island through Pensacola to Fort Pickens. We found lots of bugs there, but we couldn’t keep any of them because we didn’t have anything to keep them in. We saw where the prisoners were kept and the giant cannons. One of the prisoners was Geronimo, a famous Native American. The cannons could shoot 17 miles out into the ocean.

Gulf Shores National Seashore sign
Gulf Islands National Seashore: miles and miles of white sand and clear water.

The Best Shrimp of All

We ate lunch at Peg Leg Pete’s and I think it was the best shrimp I had the whole trip. It was served in a little beach pail and came with french fries. There were two PokeStops and a Gym there, which made it a really good location. We caught a Seel, which was also rare.

This was my first time in Florida and it was an exciting trip. I hope that we can go back to Florida someday.

Read about my sister’s take on our trip to Navarre Beach, Florida here.

Click here to read my dad’s rundown of learning opportunities around Navarre Beach.

 

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One Kid’s Trip to Navarre Beach
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