An early morning run or a brisk walk on gorgeous Navarre Beach. A winding bicycle ride. A gym workout or yoga class. If you’re looking for the usual ways to get your fitness on, you’ll find all of these in Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County.
But if you’re looking to spice up your workout, you can also find other ways to get some exercise while mixing in a little adventure. Best of all, they provide you with fun, new ways to experience and explore Navarre Beach/Santa Rosa County. Here are a few of our favorites:
Paddleboarding — Vacation is the ideal time to take on a new physical challenge, and stand-up paddleboarding (or SUP for short) makes the grade. Men’s Journal hailed it as “an amazing full-body workout that improves your core strength, cardio fitness, balance and flexibility with virtually no impact.” It’s super easy to learn, and it’s very relaxing once you get the hang of it. As a beginner, you might get wet a couple of times, but that’s part of the fun. Whether you’re a novice or experienced, you’ll find a wide array of scenic spots to drop in. Top of the list is Santa Rosa Sound — which runs along Navarre Beach to the north and has water that’s calmer than the Gulf of Mexico’s — along with its various bays and inlets. In the northern part of the county, the Blackwater River is as smooth as it is scenic, and you can launch in or near Historic Downtown Milton. When you’re ready to give it a try, you can easily rent a board at Sage Paddle Co. or Navarre Beach Ski & Sail, both of which are located on Navarre Beach.
Surfing — In the opinion of Braden Smith, owner of Gulf Coast Surf School, Navarre Beach is the “perfect place to learn how to surf.” That’s because the area, especially at the Pier, consistently generates waves that are just the right size and intensity for beginners. Smith and his team of instructors meet groups large and small at the place of their choice (usually the Pier). They even bring along colorful soft-top boards, which are better for beginners. He prefers to teach on days with calmer conditions, when “most everyone will stand up and ride on the first day.” GCSC has effectively turned learning to surf into a fun — not intimidating — endeavor. Smith intends to add paddleboard lessons to his program by March 2020. By the way, GCSC operates year-round.
Kayak the Blackwater River — Of the Blackwater River’s 57 miles, 31 are navigable by kayak, canoe or small boats. The Blackwater winds and twists through the Blackwater River State Forest and the Blackwater River State Park, with new discoveries and sights around each bend (keep an eye out for playful river otters, white-tailed deer, turkeys or bobcats). The water averages two-and-a-half feet deep with a leisurely current of just two to three miles per hour, so don’t expect a particularly challenging paddle. (If you’re looking to work up a sweat, simply pick up the pace.) Perhaps the Blackwater’s most charming feature is the many stretches of white sand that dot the riverside. These spaces are ideal for taking a quick break, lounging in the sun or having a picnic. A good place to rent a kayak is at Blackwater Canoe Rental in the state park, 12 miles northeast of downtown Milton and a mile-and-a-half from the river.
Hiking in the Blackwater River State Forest — This 210,000-acre woodsy wonderland includes 75 miles of hiking trails, some of them raw and deep in the wilderness, others closer to civilization with boardwalks. We advise first-timers or inexperienced hikers to introduce themselves to the trail system at Blackwater River State Park on the forest’s southern edge. The best place to start is with the Chain of Lakes Trail, a 1.5-mile tour of the Blackwater River in all its splendor, including its sandy hills. In all, there are a dozen named trails in the park, ranging from a half-mile to the 16.6-mile Jackson Red Ground Trail. There’s plenty of camping areas available in the state forest, but if a warm bed is more your style, the Harold trailheads are just 15 miles from downtown Milton and 27 miles from Navarre Beach.
Ziplining at Adventures Unlimited — Contrary to what you might think, zipline courses involve way more than shoving off and letting gravity do all the work! Stamina, balance, strength, and coordination — not to mention a little courage — are required to tackle the four zipline courses at Adventures Unlimited Outdoor Center. This unique complex is 15 miles north of downtown Milton and also offers river excursions and rustic resort lodging. The courses generally take roughly three hours to complete (allow four-and-a-half for the Ultimate Double Dip), and require climbing, walking and even traversing a sky bridge. The actual ziplining is the fun payoff for all the exercise — one of the lines stretches 900 feet! You’ll soar over creeks, tree canopies and vast expanses of greenery as far as you can see. That first push-off might cause newbies some jitters, but the adrenaline rush — and the knowledge that your guide’s number one priority is your safety — will have you scrambling to get to the next one. Getting fit was never so fun!