Where it All Started
The modern era of Santa Rosa Island began in 1931 with Casino Beach. After the first bridges opened, locals flocked here to experience a brand-new casino built by the Pensacola Beach Company. Although there wasn’t any gambling going on, there was no shortage of good times.
For decades, the casino played host to beauty pageants, boxing matches, fireworks displays, and boat races. There was also a bath house, banquet hall, dance pavilion, restaurant, and 1,200-foot pier. In 1972, the site was demolished, but you can still find some of its salvaged wooden beams at Apple Annie’s in the Seville Quarter.
That fun-loving spirit lives on today in the stunning area we still call Casino Beach, which is marked by a giant water tower painted to look like a beach ball. This beloved icon is hard to miss as you drive south from Bob Sikes Bridge or west from Navarre. Once there, you’ll find lots of free parking, but be sure to grab your flip flops because the asphalt will be sizzling hot in summer.
If it’s high-energy excitement you’re after, Casino Beach is the place to be. And yes it’s true, you can BYOB. There’s also an alcohol-free zone just slightly west for a family-friendly vibe.
Guarded by the Best
Lifeguard headquarters for Pensacola Beach are located at Casino Beach. The shore east and just west of the pier is guarded by some of the best life savers around. We always recommend that you “swim with the lifeguards,” meaning when there are active guards on duty. Full-time lifeguard duty runs from April to September, 9:30 am to 6 pm. Look for flags of varying colors that will tell you about water conditions and any warnings you should heed.
Experienced swimmers can get their strokes in nearly year-round without ever having to push off the wall. Plus, saltwater does wonders for your skin, mood, immune system, and more. The cooler waters of spring and fall will even stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. A host of benefits from open ocean swimming await your next dip in the Gulf of Mexico.
It’s always a good idea to swim with a friend, but rest assured that your safety is priority number one to our seasoned lifeguards.
Gulf Fishing Pier
Here, you can outfit your tackle box, catch your dinner, sportfish, and sightsee all from one of the longest concrete piers in the world. At just over a fourth of a mile, the Gulf Fishing Pier on Pensacola Beach is a must see when you visit our little piece of paradise.
Fishing on the pier is excellent as its length provides anglers of all skill levels the chance to land a variety of delicious fish like pompano, redfish, mahi mahi, flounder, whiting, sheepshead, and even cobia. For catch-and-release sport fishers we’ve got tarpon, blue fish, sharks, and even the occasional sailfish when darker waters reach the pier. From the mackerel family we’ve got a yearly run of king and Spanish. Hauling in a 30-pound king is not uncommon, which makes a tasty smoked fish dip with plenty to share. Spanish mackerel are typically caught in droves and make the perfect homemade po-boy.
With our south facing location the sun rises and sets over the gulf nearly year-round. It’s worth the $2.25 walking access fee to watch the sunset over the shimmering emerald water from the end of the pier. At certain times of the year you’ll see awe-inspiring displays of colors as the bright orange ball dips below the horizon. And just feet below are dolphins, sharks, rays, and maybe even a manatee passing by.
Sunrise to Sunset
- $2.25 All Day Pass
- Adult $7.50
- Senior $6.50
- Military $6.50
- Youth $4.50
- Children under 6 Free
Bait and Tackle
- Based on Availability
- Rental Rods $14.50
- Carts $9.00
Air Shows, Fun & Games
There’s nothing quite like catching the Blue Angels precision acrobatics from a beach chair at Casino Beach. Short of being in the cockpit, it’s as close as you can get to the roaring engines of the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron. For those who may not know, Pensacola is home base to the Blue Angels. You can catch them practicing on certain Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (a great spot is Ft. Pickens) and every July they perform a dazzling air show for thousands of locals and visitors.
The Gulfside Pavilion at Casino Beach welcomes beachgoers with free concerts, movies, and other live shows. Just to the right of the stage you can usually find top athletes digging jump serves out of the sand on the volleyball court. But if putt-putt and arcade games are more your style, UFO’s Pensacola Beach (right next to Hampton Inn) has aliens and ice cream awaiting your arrival.
Food & Drink
If catching your dinner doesn’t appeal, fresh gulf seafood is served up at a number of nearby restaurants. Casino Beach Bar and Grille offers Caribbean-style dishes, Crabs On the Beach is the “go to” for fresh crustaceans and gorgeous gulf views, and Drift is the perfect spot for modern coastal cuisine (or even a first date).
Eager to try one of our famous Bushwackers (think creamy, chocolate Piña Colada)? You’ll find those and plenty of other unique adult beverages at Casino Beach Beach Bar and Grille. From there you can keep the party going long into the night at The Dock, known for its lively and super casual atmosphere.