This post is in partnership with Santa Rosa County.
When you're looking for a family vacation destination in Florida, Santa Rosa County has got to be on your list. You know I love the theme parks, but honestly, after a few days at the parks, I need a vacation! This is especially true if you have young kids. I remember trips to the parks when my kids were young, and even they needed a rest after running around for days. So many people think of Orlando when looking for a Florida vacation destination, but there is definitely more to do in this fabulous state. In fact, discovering Florida's Playground may be the best vacation you've ever had!
7 Days of Vacation Ideas for Santa Rosa County
Day 1: Day one is always for relaxing. How about building sandcastles and chilling at the beach? After all, that is the real Florida treasure! After a day in the sun and sand, get cleaned up and head to one of the great restaurants for fresh Florida seafood. With so many places to choose from, finding something for everyone will be easy.
Day 2: Day 2 is for adventure! The learning opportunities at Navarre Beach Marine Park will get the kids thinking about what goes on in the great big beautiful ocean. Visit the Navarre Beach Marine Science Center, the Sea Turtle Conservation Center, and the Marine Sanctuary and artificial reefs, where you and the kids can see the reefs up close. Bring your snorkel gear or rent at one of the many dive shops. Download and print a reef map before you go by visiting the Diving/Snorkeling tab on the Santa Rosa County website. Clear bottom kayak tours are available, too. You can even find printables for learning fun by visiting the Education tab on the Santa Rosa County site!
Day 3: On Day 3 you may need to rest up a bit. After all, this is vacation! How about a morning on the beach, and after a yummy lunch at one of the local restaurants or sandwich shops, a visit to the Panhandle Butterly House? Stroll through and see the gorgeous butterflies, learn about their life-cycle, and even see the butterfly nursery.
Day 4: Ready for another day of adventure? Head to the Gulf Island National Seashore. There is so much to do, including visiting Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas, and the Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas. History buffs will be amazed at the parts these forts played in our coastal defense system. And I've never seen kids not have fun running through and exploring a fort! With 2016 being the Centennial for the National Parks, there's not a better time to experience all they have to offer. Be sure to get the kids a National Park stamp book. We've had the best time getting stamps at all the parks we've visited. After a day of exploring, take a break and catch the sunset.
Day 5: The Gulf Breeze Zoo is 50 acres of wild adventure! Take a Safari Express Train ride through the park to explore all there is to do. See Rhinos, deer, antelope, zebras, gorillas and hippos. Thrill the kids with the chance to feed the giraffes! Stroll the boardwalk to see the zoo from another perspective. Check out the animal encounters at 11:15, 12:15, 1:45, 2:15, and 3:15. The kids will love the petting zoo for more up close animal interaction. Visit the Watering Hole Cafe for lunch or a snack. There's so much to see at the Gulf Breeze Zoo!
Day 6: Head back to the beach for the day. If you're up for more activities, check out the many kayak rental facilities and go exploring, or head to the Navarre Beach Pier for fishing fun. Even just a walk on the pier makes for an enjoyable morning or afternoon activity.
Day 7: I know you don't want to go home, but make the best of your last day in Santa Rosa County! Enjoy the morning on the beach before packing up to head home. Make a list of what you missed so you can add it to your itinerary for the next time you visit.
There really is so much to do in Santa Rosa County. The great thing is, you can decide how much or how little you want to explore, and you can choose just to sit on the beach and build sand castles. Either way, you're making unforgettable memories in Florida's Playground.