With white sands, colorful shells, sand dollars the size of your hand, warm blue green waters gently rolling in and out, and plenty of space to call your own, Pensacola Beach, Florida may be the closest thing to a stateside tropical paradise.
For years, the beach has been a place where I go to reconnect when I’m feeling out of sorts. Standing where the ocean meets the sand and letting the waves wash in and out until my feet are buried and listening to the crash of the waters on the shore has been my way of meditating before I knew what to call it. I could stare out at the horizon for hours and let my mind go blank. When I wasn’t standing at the shore, I was walking along in the surf looking for shells to add to my collection. I love picking up sea shells as much as I do rocks on the road. I live the E.E. Cummings lines, “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)/ it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”
When I cut California off my list of destinations this summer, I promised myself I’d make it to at least one beach in Florida to make up for missing the Pacific. I heard from several people that Pensacola was the most beautiful and since it was just a morning’s drive from New Orleans, I made this seaside Paradise my next stop.
There’s a toll road to get onto the beach, but it’s only a dollar. I drove along the shore and pulled into a turn off with plenty of parking. I took my sandals off as I walked past the dunes and onto the beach. The pristine white sands crunched and squeaked under my soles. Even though the sun was bearing down at close to 100 degrees, the sand didn’t burn the bottom of my feet and felt perfectly warm as I walked on toward the ocean.
There was a short drop to the water from the edge of the sand. The waves crashed in and out in beautiful shades of light green and aquamarine. I was surprised to see clear to the sandy and seashell covered bottom where a small fish swam by my ankles. I was certain I spotted a whole sand dollar larger than my hand. The waters were up to my waist though and for some reason I didn’t want to reach under to retrieve it. I tried to gently kick it closer to the shore to shallower waters, but the incoming waves washed it away. Although I saw many more chunks of sand dollars along the beach, that was the only one not broken to pieces.
After losing sight of the sand dollar, I set my bag down on the shore and decided to venture deeper into the ocean. Back home I’m daring if I let the cold waters reach my calves, but the water at Pensacola beach was so warm and inviting that I knelt in the sand so the waves would reach my neck and even completely submerged my head. How refreshing it was to be in the water without feeling like an L Street Brownie.
After my dip, I stood in the sand and let the waves crash over my feet, walked along the shore collecting shells, and basked in the warm glow of the southern sun. If area motels weren’t so expensive, I would have stayed around for days in this tropical paradise. I’d highly recommend adding Pensacola to your list of beach getaways.