When planning a trip to the Florida Panhandle and Pensacola area, it can be a good idea to schedule some valuable decompression time. This could be time away from the crowds, closer to nature and quality time that could also be a bit more budget-friendly. It’s good to know that Pensacola has some 93 parks, open spaces and neighborhood resources that are perfect for some “throttle-back” time. Two of these are the “twin” areas known as the scenic Wayside Park West and Wayside Park East.
Located just South of Downtown Pensacola along the shores of Pensacola Bay lies Wayside Park West. This sprawling waterside park offers visitors the chance to take a scenic, leisurely stroll, go fishing or just enjoy some of the natural vegetation and wildlife. Other than the paved walking trail itself, there aren’t a lot of amenities at Wayside Park West, but what it lacks in facilities it more than makes up in stunning sunset Bay views. It is a terrific locale to end the day.
It’s sibling, Wayside Park East is perfectly situated at the North end of the Pensacola Bay Bridge, and offers exceptional views of the Bay and Gulf. It is a place where the family can take some time to regroup, talk and enjoy a picnic lunch or dinner. It is a superb place to relive what you’ve done so far and to make plans for the days ahead. It provides an opportunity to have a real conversation without worrying about buying tickets or standing in line. Whether it is spending an hour or an afternoon, time at Wayside Park East recharges the batteries and rejuvenates the spirit.
With picnic tables and grills, Wayside Park East can serve as a terrific atmosphere for a picnic lunch, even if that lunch just comes from one of the area’s sub shops, fast food locations or includes a pack of hot dogs from a local grocery store. Don’t forget the charcoal if you plan on grilling! There’s a gazebo/pavilion on grounds should the weather threaten.
Take a stroll to the Visitor Center to learn more about what the Pensacola area has to offer. There’s a fishing pier where locals and visitors alike try their luck in the beautiful bay waters. Many prefer a large rock to use as their perch. There always seems to be at least a small group of anglers with lines in the water. Watching the various watercraft dance slowly across the waters is a show of its own. On any given day you can see everything from kayaks to million-dollar yachts.
The park is a superb location for birding. Visitors often spot a variety of gulls, terns and loons depending on the season. Check the Bay for Red-breasted Merganser, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead and Horned Grebes in the winter months. Find Spotted Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone and Savannah Sparrows along the rocks during the winter as well.
Wayside Park East has walking paths and offers plenty of free parking. Perhaps its best asset, however, is the remarkable sunsets it provides. This is an excellent place to take that scenic shot or selfie that will become your next screensaver or feature photo on your social media. Just when you think the perfect moment to take an image arrives, another quickly follows.
-Feel free to bring your dog to any Pensacola City park, keeping in mind two factors. You should pick up after your pet, and except for designated dog parks, animals must be kept leashed.
– Alcoholic beverages are prohibited from city parks, except for some special permitted events.