Forested wilderness meets coastline along the Florida Panhandle at Big Lagoon State Park. Located just east of the busy streets of Downtown Pensacola, Big Lagoon offers visitors the chance to get away from the city without stepping far from their comfort zone. Bird watching, kayaking and canoeing, paddleboarding, boating, hiking, and fishing can all be enjoyed within the park’s 665 acres and surrounding waters. Saltwater marshes, trails, and pavilions offer a variety of activities and sights.
What Makes It Great
The sleepy lagoon and neighboring lands promise more than just a relaxing day on the water; although, that too can certainly be found. Picnic pavilions along the water’s edge give park guests a home base to keep coolers and host friends without ever having to feel too far away from the adventure. Kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, and boats can all be slipped into the water at periodically placed ramps, with most folks choosing to tie up their vessels close to whichever pavilion they select for the day. Camping is another popular option at Big Lagoon, with both full camping---RV inclusive---and primitive group camping available. Trails throughout the park are ripe with opportunities for bird watching, particularly during the spring and fall migrations, and a four-story observation tower makes for an excellent wildlife watching spot from a bird’s-eye vantage point. In fact, the park is considered to be the gateway for the Great Florida Birding Trail. Bicycling is yet another available activity, though with a limited number of bike-friendly trails, cyclists will find a little under 3 miles of eligible paths to set their wheels upon.
Who is Going to Love It
Recreation and wildlife enthusiasts can come together to enjoy Big Lagoon State Park. Paddle the marshes, bring a camera for birding, or launch the boat and search for dolphins in the waters surrounding the park’s acreage. Families can enjoy the pavilions, while large groups can host events---including weddings---at the amphitheater. The park is home to several endangered species, such as the gopher tortoise and least tern, and the state of Florida’s official State Reptile, the American alligator. Big Lagoon’s arguably most valuable quality is its peacefulness. The seclusion of the lagoon is perfect for those looking to avoid the crowds.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Big Lagoon State Park is open from 8 AM to sunset daily, and fees for vehicles range from $4-6. Pedestrian entryway fees are $2, and this does include cyclists. Camping costs $20 per night with an additional reservation fee, and water and electricity are provided. Campers coming in after sunset are asked to call the park in advance to receive gate instructions. Some pavilions are first-come, first-serve while others do require a fee, so an early start is advisable. Other rules include designated areas for alcohol consumption, cycling etiquette, and the standard nature and wildlife guidelines: view wildlife from a respectable distance, leave no trace, and take only pictures.