PENSACOLA, FL — A wild respite in an endless chain of condos, Big Lagoon State Park (about 10 miles southwest of Pensacola) offers a square-mile showcase of the Panhandle’s unspoiled beauty that is easily explored by kayak. The kayak launch near the base of the park’s four-story observation tower puts you right into the thick of things, with the option of heading out into the Big Lagoon or turning inland into the shelter of Grande Lagoon. (If your choice is the latter, watch the tide so that you don’t find yourself stuck in the mud when you run out of water.)
The observation tower alone is worth the trip. From its vantage point you’ll get an outstanding view of Perdido Key and Big Lagoon to the south, and the Wilde Grande Lagoon inside the park. The scenic salt marshes, sand dunes and pine scrub of Big Lagoon mark the gateway to Great Florida Birding Trail, a 2,000-mile self-guided highway trail that connects 514 birding and wildlife stations throughout Florida.
If your plan is to do some birdwatching by kayak the park recommends coming during the spring and fall migration periods. Kayak fishing for redfish and sea trout is reported to be good. Other local parks worth a visit are Perdido Key State Park and Tarkilyn Bayou State Park.
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Big Lagoon State Park Information:
The park is located 10 miles southwest of Pensacola at 12301 Gulf Beach Highway, Pensacola, Florida 32507. Phone: (850) 492-1595. Open daily 8 a.m. until sunset. Fees: $6.00 per vehicle., camping is $20 per night