If you are looking to experience the “Real Florida” the secluded Big Lagoon State Park located just ten kilometers southwest of Pensacola on Gulf Beach Highway is a great way to start. This 705 acre park circles the northern boundary of Big Lagoon as it snakes toward Pensacola Bay to the east. Within the boundaries of the park you’ll find the Wild Grande Lagoon and its minor tributaries and the Long Pond (a man made alligator-inhabited fresh water pond).
Big Lagoon Park is home to nine distinct natural communities including mesic flatwoods, estuarine tidal marsh, wet flatwoods, and is dominated by scrubby flatwoods and features a number of threatened and endangered species such as the gopher tortoise, the large-leaved jointweed, migratory shorebirds, one of which is the snowy plover, least tern among some twenty other listed species.
We arrived early in the morning expecting to see more people but as we drove the winding road through the beautiful park we soon realized that we might just be lucky enough to have it all to ourselves that day. Maybe because of the early hour or possibly because we were visiting during off season, but this is the place to be if you are looking to stay away from the tourists and find a quiet and beautiful spot to watch the birds and calm your soul.
We parked our car and took the stroller out. The boardwalk is perfect to push a baby on or just to take a walk along. The stairs up the four story observation tower led us to spectacular views of the Long Pond and Grande Lagoon and we found a bench to sit on and have a quick snack before continuing exploring the rest of the park.
Visitors can take a stroll on the boardwalk by the untouched pristine beaches, bike down the 2.6-mile park drive, boat from a boat ramp on the Intracoastal Waterway. You can bring your own or rent a canoe and kayaks and go along the Big Lagoon and Grande Lagoon, bring a fishing pool and sit by the water. There are numerous hikes along the 4 miles of trails in the park. Blue Lagoon State Park is the ‘gateway site’ for the Great Florida Birding Trail and we highly recommend it to everyone who loves bird watching.
We learned from the rangers that there are 75 electrified camping sites and a group camp. You can call in advance and reserve a spot fro $20 and also consult with them which site would be the best as some of them get flooded when it rains.
Each campsite varies in size, they are very well maintained, there is water and electric (no sewer) and each site has it’s own clothing line which we thought was pretty neat. There are bath houses that are acceptable and clean and the rangers make regular trips through the campsites, so campers can feel quite secure staying here.
After coming off of the boardwalk we continued our adventure on the wooded path, passing many wooden bridges and picnic areas. We love bringing our own lunch and having it at our convenience at a beautiful spot that we find while exploring in nature. After hearing about all the alligators living in this area we were hopeful that we would see one and we did indeed catch a quick glance of a little one swimming by the shore, but he quickly swam away and disappeared in the water before we can snap a good picture of him.
We did however see a ton of turtles, few snakes, lots of lush vegetation, tons of wildlife and plentiful of birds. We were told that if we sat long enough quietly we might be able to spot a hawk, bald eagles or egrets just to name a few. We would’ve loved to do this however we were only here for a day, but will be sure to return and rent a campsite and spend some quality family time here once the kids get older.
If you are ever in the area Big Lagoon State Park is open from 8 a.m. until sunset daily. It offers shelling, surfing, tubing, swimming, wildlife viewing, roller blading, snorkeling, scuba diving, star gazing and tours. It costs $6 per vehicle and $2 for Pedestrians, bicyclists and extra passengers. For full list of prices check here. The park has an amphitheater which holds about 125 people for concerts, lectures, etc. and offers a variety of events for visitors. You can be found the Park here: