Johnson Beach Two-Fer: My Pensacola
Despite appearances, the main event when we go to Pensacola isn’t eating (and eating) and coffee; it’s the beach! Our favorite beach is locally known as Johnson Beach: our mother grew up going there, we’ve gone to it since we were kids together, and now it’s been a delight to make those same memories for our kids. It’s a pristine beach without massive condo towers to spoil the view, and nary a touristy vibe in sight.
Since it’s a National Seashore you do have to pay to enter: $20 will get you entrance for a week, and an annual pass is $40. As you drive in, you’ll see the main beach area on the right; it has showers to rinse off, restrooms, some covered picnic tables, and lifeguards on the weekends. It can make a great home base for little kids, but does get crowded on the weekends. If it’s too crowded, keep on driving down the beach; the road runs in between two sides of the water — the Gulf side on the right, and the Sound side on the left. The Gulf side can make for bigger waves, and is honestly usually prettier to look at, but if you’re in search of more tranquil waters for your littles, cross the road to the Sound side. (Hot tip: They tell you to park with all four tires off the road. DON’T. They also tell you they won’t tow you out if you get stuck in sand. So if you’re parking on a very sandy side of the road, leave at least the edge of two tires on the road.)
I don’t know how many hours we’ve spent on these beaches, but they never get old. Our favorite treats growing up were the cans of soda we were allowed to have on the beach, but a recent addition to the treat rotation has been a snoball stand less than a mile down the road from Johnson Beach. They bill themselves as authentic New Orleans snoballs, and these NOLA natives can attest that they are indeed authentic!
(They may be double the price of the ones near us, but the beauty of snoballs is that they’re still very affordable. And well worth the beach memories. 😉 ) New Orleans snoballs are hard to describe: they’re NOT snocones at all. Snoballs are made of fluffy, silky-smooth snow, and come in dozens of flavors made of cane syrups. Natives get their favorite flavor drizzled with condensed milk.
Gulf Island National Seashore Johnson Beach
13333 Johnson Beach Rd
13820 Perdido Key Dr
Pensacola, FL 32507
Summer hours: Open daily 1pm-7pm