Diane is a transplant southerner who has lived in the South about half her life. She moved to the Atlanta area about 10 years ago.
Things to Do
Panhandle Butterfly House
Conveniently located on the mainland, right before you cross over the bridge to the barrier island of Navarre Beach, the Panhandle Butterfly House allows visitors to experience Florida butterflies feeding from native plants. The Butterfly House is open seasonally, from May through August, Thursdays through Saturdays, with a special "Monarch Madness" event in October celebrating the migration of monarch butterflies.
The suggested donation amount is $5 per person to help cover the cost of purchasing butterflies for the Panhandle Butterfly House.
In addition to the live habitat, you can also visit the gift shop and museum to see butterfly specimens from around the world. Private and group tours are also available throughout the week as long as you plan ahead; visit the website for details. Plan on staying at least 30 minutes at the Butterfly House in order to experience everything.
Navarre Beach Pier
Take a walk on the Navarre Beach Pier for a different perspective on the beach experience.
The Navarre Beach Pier stands 30 feet above the water and is over 1,500 feet long. Walk-on admission price currently runs at $1 for everyone 6 years and older, and children under 5 years old are free! Daily fishing passes run from $4 to $7 (depending on your age) and include the price of a fishing license; children ages 5 and under are free. Annual fishing passes can be purchased as well. Visit the souvenir and bait shop for admission to the pier.
A walk on the pier might sound boring, but it's actually great. Not only will you get to see people fishing on the pier, you'll also learn about the local wildlife and what to do if you encounter an injured critter through signs posted along the pier. Make sure you walk to the end of the pier to see the large octogonal design and see the fishermen looking for the largest fish in deeper waters.
Views from the pier are spectacular. Peer over the edge to spy sea turtles, or take a look along the horizon to see if you can spy a pod of dolphins. You'll likely see jumping fish and other sea creatures as well!
Places to Eat
Johnny Huston's Grill & Bar
Johnny Huston's Grill & Bar is a favorite with locals and tourists alike. The restaurant features tons of large television screens, so your favorite sport is likely to be playing. And the food and service are on point!
When we last visited Johnny Huston's, we ordered the fried pickles appetizer. The portion was fantastic, and the taste was incredible! My husband had the Heavenly Burger and said it was probably the best burger he'd ever had in his life. I ordered the Cuban Sandwich and it was definitely the best sandwich I'd ever had too—the applewood smoked ham gave the sandwich the best taste! I'm also a big french fry fan, and these were scrumptious and BOTTOMLESS! Prices were good, and the food was great! Not too much more you can ask for. My main tip would be to get there early since it is a favorite hot-spot of locals.
The Twist Ice Cream Shop
After your evening meal, or frankly anytime you are looking to cool off, stop by the Twist Ice Cream Shop for a fun treat. The Twist offers hand dipped ice cream, soft serve ice cream, shakes/malts, sundaes, banana splits, floats and more! Flavors vary from week to week, but you'll be sure to find something you like. If nothing on the menu inspires you, ask them to make a soft-served treat especially for you; they take requests.
The place always seems to be packed, so be prepared for a wait in line. But don't worry, this is a testament to the great flavors and yummy options at this establishment. Sit inside at the counter or at a table, outside at a picnic table, or inside your car in the parking lot. Anyway you eat your ice cream you'll be sure to enjoy it!
Skip the Fast-Food
Skip the traditional fast-food places while visiting the beaches at Navarre, consider getting your food on the go from Winn Dixie grocery store instead. Stop by the deli to pick up some chicken tenders (or fried chicken) and a side or two such as baked beans or potato salad. Add a bag of chips, some cookies, and maybe some fruit (such as grapes) for a simple meal with little clean up. The meal will run you about the same price a traditional fast food route, but it will be better for you and much more satisfying.
Consider eating your meal outdoors under the covered picnic tables to really enjoy your day at the beach. We recently ate near the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station. Restrooms are easily accessible, as are trashcans, to make cleanup quick and easy. Plus while eating under the covered tables you'll be protected from the elements if a pop-up shower hits. Covered eating areas are a short walking distance from both the sound and gulf side of the island.
Don't Stay Directly on the Beach
Sure, staying at a hotel directly on the beach is super convenient. You can walk out of your room and pop on down to the beach in a moment's notice. And if you get too hot, or if the kids get bored and you want watch TV you can pack up quickly and head to the room. The problem with staying directly on the beach it is expensive. That's why on our latest trip to Navarre we stayed off the beach, but at a very convenient location, the Hampton Inn. The Hampton Inn was still minutes away from the beach, literally, but for about $100 less a night. As a bonus, the clock radio in the room had a pre-set station to sounds of the ocean, so even though we weren't directly on the beach, we still had the sound of it. Talk about a win-win!