Navarre offers endless opportunities to explore nature.  Our staff at Shehee & Callahan Orthodontics love being on the beach after hours, where we frequently see some amazing marine life.  There are also places for wild animal encounters and butterflies.

On land or by sea, you’re sure to interact with nature at these 7 local hot spots.

  1. Gulf Breeze Zoo
    gulf-breeze-zoo-otter-playing

    Otters happily interact with zoo visitors (photo: Christee Hershberger)

    With 50-acres to explore, the Gulf Breeze Zoo offers many ways to observe exotic animals. You can feed and pet goats, pigs, sheep, llamas, giraffes and parakeets.  The elevated boardwalk allows you to watch animals freely roaming 30 acres of natural habitat.  The exhibits range from lions, tigers and bears to primates, exotic birds, otters and alligators.  You will surely leave the Gulf Breeze Zoo with a new favorite animal each time you visit. [Driving Directions]

  2. Panhandle Butterfly House
    panhandle-butterfly-house-navarre-florida

    Panhandle Butterfly House is amazing experience you will never forget (photo: Christee Hershberger)

    Whether on a walk or working in the yard as soon as you notice a butterfly, you stop to observe their grace, peacefulness and beauty.  The Panhandle Butterfly House is the perfect place to really appreciate their uniqueness.  The vivarium houses butterfly eggs, caterpillars, chrysalis’ and adult butterflies.  The butterflies are native to Florida and feed on native, Florida-friendly plants.  Expect to leave inspired to plant your own butterfly garden at home.  If so, talk to one of the trained docents.  They are always available to answer questions and would love to tell you all about the best plants to attract butterflies.  [Driving Directions]

  3. Artificial Reefs
    east-sound-side-reef-sea-turtle-navarre-florida

    East Sound Reef is a local hot spot to see native sea turtles in their natural habitat (photo: getrelaxing.com)

    Navarre Beach offers three different artificial reefs: East Sound Side Reef, West Sound Side Reef and Gulf Side Reef.  To locate each reef, visit the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary.  They will happily answer any questions.  If you find yourself walking along the beach unable to find the reef, ask a passerby.  Beachgoers are very familiar with their locations and happy to point you in the right direction.

    East Sound Side Reef is the smallest and the most accessible.  Close to shore with 28 structures in shallow water (12 feet), this site is perfect for snorkeling.  The West Sound Side Reef is visible from the beach and is the largest site.  It’s about the size of a football field.  The area is better for divers than snorkelers.  Finally, the Gulf Side Reef.  It was recently expanded to triple the size.  This makes it much easier to find and boasts more marine life.  Expect to see sea turtles, urchins, jellyfish, octopuses, coral and colorful fish.  If you’re not interested in snorkeling or diving, you can still experience the reefs!  Use a paddle board or kayak to check out the incredible marine life.  At the Navarre Beach Marine Sanctuary, you can rent a clear bottom kayak!

    A new, exciting project is the “nearshore” artificial reefs.  Construction began August 2018 with a completion goal of December 2018.  The newest reef is one mile from shore in water 60 feet deep.  Once complete, there will be 27 individual reef sites.  The reefs will improve recreational fishing over time as well as unforgettable diving opportunities.  [Driving Directions]

  4. Navarre Beach Marine Science Station
    navarre-beach-marine-science-station-florida

    Navarre Beach Marine Science Station has something fun for everyone in the family (photo: blogs.ifas.ufl.edu)

    The Navarre Beach Marine Science Station offers all kinds of great nature opportunities.  From award winning summer camps to beach tours, you are sure to find some real marine fun.  Their “Snowbird Sessions by the Sea” offer instructional classes.  Participants engage in crafts, beach combing, artificial reef exploration, lion fish activities and a guided birding walk.  [Driving Directions]

  5. Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center
    navarre-beach-sea-turtle-conservation-center-florida

    The Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center has fun activities for kids of all ages (photo: Christee Hershberger)

    Sea turtles are a local favorite and the Navarre Beach Sea Turtle Conservation Center works hard to protect these amazing animals.  Their mission is simple, “Conservation and protection of threatened and endangered sea turtles through community education programs and partnered research.” Committed to their mission, the NBSTCC staff and volunteers spend the last Saturday of every month picking up trash along Navarre Beach.

    Visitors to the NBSTCC love seeing Sweet Pea, a green sea turtle injured and unable to return to the Gulf of Mexico.  She loves getting her picture taken.  Be sure to ask about the Shark Tooth Treasure Hunt!  Your little paleontologist may find teeth from all kinds of sharks including tiger, hammerhead, great white and mako.  The fossils are real and yours to keep.  The scavenger hunt and magnetic puzzles are always a big hit with the kids as well.  [Driving Directions]

  6. Florida National Scenic Trail
    navarre-florida-nature-trails-for-pitcher-plants

    Pitcher plants bloom in April at the Yellow River Marsh Preserve State Park (photo: floridahikes.com)

    What better way to explore than on foot?  Check out the Florida National Scenic Trail.  This trail winds through the entire state and is approximately 1,300 miles long.  There are five different trails to explore convenient to Navarre.

    Florida Trail-Eglin West gets a lot of use by the men and women stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.  Most people don’t know this, Naval Live Oaks Preserve was our nation’s first tree farm.  Gulf Islands National Seashore trail is a nice walk along the beach with interesting historical relevance.  If you’re looking for a relaxing, relatively short hike, try the Garcon Point Trail [Driving Directions].

    Lastly, the best time to visit the Yellow River Marsh Preserve Trail is in April when the largest concentration of pitcher plants in Florida bloom.

  7. Navarre Beach Fishing Pier
    navarre-beach-pier-signage

    Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is the longest pier on the Gulf Coast. Walk 1,545 feet into the Gulf of Mexico and experience the beauty of the Emerald Coast from 30 feet above the water (photo:  Christee Hershberger)

    The Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is the longest pier in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.  It is 1,545 feet long and 30 feet above the ocean.  You can fish or walk the pier.  This is the perfect place for a sunset stroll.  They also offer an outdoor restaurant with live music throughout the week.  Each time you visit, you will see something new.  Visitors frequently see dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, jelly fish and stingrays.  You never know what anglers might catch.  In February 2015, a fisherman caught a 700-pound Mako shark!  A typical catch includes red fish, Spanish mackerel, king mackerel, cobia, hardtail, pompano, and the occasional sailfish.  You can observe the action and enjoy the excitement! [Driving Directions]

    We hope this list of the 7 Best Places to Interact with Nature in Navarre Florida has inspired you to schedule your next adventure!  There are so many more places to enjoy God’s creation in this beautiful place we call home.

    To learn more about experiencing a birds eye view of marine life on our beautiful beaches in an ultra-light aircraft, read our latest article about Navarre Florida, “The View from Up Here” with Jeff Bell.