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Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Albuquerque, New...
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Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Hi All,

Will be traveling in November to Birmingham, AL for a yearly visit to relatives. My Mother and I have never taken the southern route.

I was planning on staying somewhere near Mobile, but then had an idea. I have never been to Florida, 1 of only 7 of the states I haven't been in.

So figured it might be worth the extra drive to go into Pensacola or near about, maybe Milton or Crestview, and stay the night before heading North.

After doing all the research here on TA about hotels, I'm not so sure it's a very good idea. Just going by reviews about bad locations, too pricey, dirty and rude.

Plus I will be traveling with a small dog and pet friendly accomodations make it even harder.

So is it worth it to see the area???

If so once I see it and stay overnight, any suggestions on the trip North???????

How is the drive up 29 by the Escambia Wildlife area?

or drive from Crestview up through Yellow River and/or Blackwater River??

Would love some input from people that know the area. Thanks in advance, much appreciated!!!

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Mobile
Mobile
Alabama
Florida
Florida
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Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach
Florida Panhandle, FL
Blackwater River
Blackwater River
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Milton, FL
Pensacola, Florida
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1. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Okay, let's get you oriented.

Pet wise, you will need to do your own research for pet-friendly lodging.

The #1 attraction for natural areas is Gulf Islands National Seashore. This is THE most visited national seashore in the U.S. I would recommend you start at the visitor center just east of Gulf Breeze on US 98. Cross the SR 399 bridge to Pensacola Beach ($1 toll) and turn right on Ft Pickens Road. Pay the $8 entrance fee and go explore the pristine beaches, maritime scrub forests, and fort. Look for dolphins in the surf. No pets on Florida beaches, however. Don't be spooked by oil rumors. Tar balls are present, but widely spread out.

Good birding can be found around Ft Pickens during migration. Also, look for sea birds on rocks at the north end of the Pensacola Bay Bridge as you leave Pensacola for Gulf Breeze.

As far as rivers are concerned, you may want to pay a visit to Blackwater River State Park, and Blackwater State Forest. These are located in Santa Rosa County just east and north of Milton. These rivers are popular canoe areas. The sand bars are white and magnificent. Along with Big Juniper, Coldwater, and Sweetwater Rivers, they are prime examples of shifting sandy bottom Blackwater creeks of the Gulf Coastal Plain. Be mindful of rattlesnakes in pine woods, and water moccasins in stagnant backwater areas. Blackwater River State Forest is a 181,000 acre multi use forest area. It is managed to replicate the pre-European appearance of the 99% lost Longleaf Pine ecosystem. A stop at BRSF HQ in Munson will get you information about the unique ecology and species of the area.

Escambia and Yellow Rivers are alluvial rivers (muddy). They have very unique species, especially a variety of map turtles. Swamps are very deep. Heavy cypress and tupelo forests. Access points are generally at boat ramps. The best place to observe the deep swamps like this, with a guide, are not in Florida. I would instead contact Five Rivers Delta Reource Center in Spanish Fort, Alabama. The offer a paddle tour in a beautiful deep swamp north of Spanish Fort. Great nature center at Five Rivers, too.

As you are departing BRSF, you may want to go up FL 187, which becomes AL 113, north of Baker, FL. You will pass through Conecuh National Forest. About 8 miles north of the state line is Open Pond. This is a western geologic extension of a limestone karst feature present further east at Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna. The lakes around Open Pond are natural sinkholes. More abrupt geologic karst can be found at the Auburn Univerity Solon Dixon Center on US29. Take AL 113 to the junction of US 29 and turn left (southwest) to Dixie. Solon Dixon is on the right. Go to the center's office and ask for directions to the rise and sink behind the center, a one mile or so hike. It has been dry this year, but perhaps the creek is still kicking strong.

Edited: 3:45 pm, October 08, 2011
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Auburn
Auburn
Alabama
Pensacola, Florida
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2. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

One more comment. If you are willing to camp, Ft Pickens has a nice campground. Cost is $20 per night with electric and water. Open Pond campground in Conecuh National Forest is one of the quieter places on earth, and with electric and water is only $12 per night. No problem with the pet at either campground as long as it is on a leash.

Edited: 3:56 pm, October 08, 2011
Albuquerque, New...
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3. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

WOW!!! Thank you soooo very much for the information, much appreciated, and a lot to look into.

So NO dogs at all allowed on any beach???

pensacola
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4. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Warning: The Florida that you see so often on postcards is not the world of NW Florida. Palm trees are not native here....they are imported for show! We have rolling hills and green forests and it does freeze here about every winter. The beaches are fantastic and sugar white. Florida is a very long state....from Pensacola to Orlando is about 9 hrs...Miami over 15 hrs.(800 miles).

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Pensacola Beach
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Florida Panhandle, FL
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Central Florida, FL
Tallahassee, FL
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5. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Yeah, Pensacola has a staggering number of dumpy hotels. Even the national chains, where you would at least expect a regular old clean room, get terrible reviews. It's baffling.

I've never been to Milton, but... its location makes it difficult to recommend. Crestview may as well be any small city in America; it has a Hooters and a Hardees. The draw to NW Florida is the beach, and maybe some of the nature-related activities that OverinPensacola recommended. I would stick with the coast if I were you.

One thing that I would add is that you probably don't need to go too far east. Developed vs. undeveloped excepted, the beach is basically the same from Pensacola all the way to Panama City. The inland areas will appear to be the same woods/swamps to a casual observer. My answer may be different if you were visiting the area for a reason other than as a quick jaunt to say you've been in state number 44. ;)

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Pensacola Beach
Florida Panhandle, FL
Hooters
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Panama City Beach
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Albuquerque, New...
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6. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Thank you all for the wonderful information, very much appreciated.

Decided we would drive the coast just to say we did.

Found a decent place in Destin. Now just have to pick a yummy place for dinner.

Any suggestions??

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Destin
Destin
Florida Panhandle, FL
Illinois
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7. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

You should treat yourself to the drive from Pensacola Beach to Navarre Beach along the national seashore. It's about 7 miles of the most beautiful untouched coastline you'll ever find.

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Pensacola Beach
Pensacola Beach
Florida Panhandle, FL
Navarre Beach
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Navarre, FL
Albuquerque, New...
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8. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Awesome Thanks! Would this be the road 399?? Looking at Google looks like it's about 20 miles so just want to make sure this is the road you are speaking of.

Opp, Alabama
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9. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Yes, that's the road. You'll never forget that scenery! There are actually less developed stretches of coastline, but since they don't have roads, you can't see them by car like this island.

Montgomery, Alabama
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10. Re: Wondering If It's Worth the Extra Miles???

Worth the Extra Miles??? Yes It Is We come all the time !!