If you long for a pristine, amazingly little-used beach with startlingly sugar-white sand that seems to go on forever, Fort Pickesn Beach is it. Located on one of a series of narrow barrier islands near Pensacola, this breath-takingly beautiful, yet secluded, beach is the best of many fine beaches in the area. There is actually a fort still on the west end of Santa Rosa island, built in the early 1800s to protect the area from British and Spanish naval incursions into the area. Nowadays,this seemingly-unspoilt and untouched beach and others nearby are part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a protected natural ecosystem under the purvue of the National Park Service. When my wife and I strolled this jewel a few winters ago, while on vacation in the Biloxi/Pensacola area, we had the vast expanse of pure white sand all to ourselves! Not a soul in sight anywhere, just us two, the sparkling surf, a few sea gulls wheeling lazily overhead and a bright sun that warmed our souls.
Siesta Key one of the barrier islands of Sarasota has equally nice white sandy beaches. As a matter of fact, it is said that Siesta Key is one of the World's 10 best beaches. The sand there is made up of quartz and it is the most amazing thing to find the sand cool to your feet when the temperature at noon reaches 90+ degrees. Unfortunately, the Siesta Key was plagued by red tide most of the year, a most offensive smell that makes it hard to breath. How does Fort Pickens Beach fare up there? Are they also plagued by the red tide?
Nope. It probably attacks the more southerly spots. So far, the beaches along the most westerly end of the Florida panhandle around Pensacola and west to the Mississippi state line have been free of the stinky 'pest'. Let's hope the invasive intruder doesn't ever get to these pristine stretches of sand.
Hi curtiejoe, Thanks for your reply. It is good to hear that Fort Pickens Beach and the beaches of the pan handle have not been affected by the red tied. It's a most unpleasant event whenever the wind blows from the Gulf. Furthermore, it affects the sea life. One day we saw literally hundreds of thousands of fish, large and small, washed up on the beach. What a pitty to see all these fish that will never be able to grow to their full size to feed the population. This phenomenon is quickly depleting the sea. I guess this is just another by-product of global warming.
According to Wikipedia, the incidence of red tide in the world and its frequency and severety has often been linked to increased nutrient loading due to human activities. Agricultural run-off into the oceans and other water bodies may be a contributing factor. Other factors, including increased water temperatures are not ruled out, though scientists aooarently can't make a definitive link between red tide and any specific causal trigger.
Thanks for your reply and and for your trouble to actually look up the causes for red tide on the Wikipedia. In any case, red tide is quite unpleasant when it is active. Haven't had much of a problem though in Sarasota in the last few weeks.
Glad to hear that, as I spent quite a lot of time in and around Sarasota in the mid-1990s when my sister lived there for a couple of years with her husband and children before they moved down to Lima, Peru (where they are now). Really loved Siesta Key and the beaches there, though the winter home of the Ringling Bros. Circus was quite a place. Is it still there?
Yes the Ringling Museum is still there, bigger and better than ever. We just became members of it which allows us to visit the art museum at our leisure, go to the different guided lecture tours, and other functions. They also have a new Circus Museum, and the Ca d'Zan is now fully refurbished and shines. The Asolo Theather is also freshly redone and has a wonderful winter program. Sarasota has become quite the place to be.
Great news! When I was there a few years ago, some of the Ringling's winter facilities seemed a bit "down-in-the-mouth", which made me think that the venerable old circus outfit may have seen better days and had started a slow slide into decline. So, it's very heartening to hear that the opposite is true and that Ringling is stronger and livelier than ever. Perhaps this merits a trip down to your neck of the woods sometimes in the near future.
Yes the Ringling Museum is thriving. It is part of the University of Sarasota and they are doing a fine job. Yes, you should put Sarasota on your list to visit, it has become a delightful place and the weather is great, this time of the year.