The Smithsonian Magazine confirms that Pensacola is “the site of the nation’s oldest European settlement.” Tristán de Luna, a Spanish explorer, sailed into Pensacola Bay in 1559, making the settlement over 450 years old. The military has been in Pensacola Bay since 1826 when construction of the Pensacola Navy Yard began. Its mission included suppressing piracy, but today’s mission of training aviators began in 1913, only two years after the first seaplane flight. NAS Pensacola is now home to over 16,000 military officers and enlisted personnel, most of whom are involved in naval aviation.
NAS Pensacola is where all naval aviators begin their training. In addition, NAS Pensacola also educates talented enlisted personnel who are training for aircraft support positions. Among other tenants, NAS Pensacola is home to the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC), Naval Education Technical Training Command (NETTC), Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC) and the Blue Angels.
Across Pensacola Bay Bridge lies the startlingly white sand of Santa Rosa Island. Along with the usual beach attractions — like WaveRunners, parasailing and deep sea fishing — a drive westward ends in the secluded Fort Pickens and Gulf Island National Seashore. Even more remote, Perdido Key State Park is just across Big Lagoon from NAS Pensacola.
Children who live in navy housing will attend one of these Escambia County schools: Navy Point Elementary, Blue Angel Elementary, Warrington Middle, Bailey Middle, Pensacola High and Escambia High.
In addition, many private schools are located throughout Escambia County. The largest private high school is Pensacola Catholic High School.
Medical care at NAS Pensacola is convenient. For primary care, residents can visit the Naval Hospital Branch Medical Clinic. For specialists, emergency care and inpatient care, the Naval Hospital Pensacola is located near the Navy Exchange.
Family housing at NAS Pensacola is administered by Balfour Beatty Communities, a network of 549 homes in 11 neighborhoods. Since the number of families assigned to NAS Pensacola exceeds availability, however, a waiting list for housing is available. Unaccompanied military members will find modern, comfortable housing in dormitories and barracks.
NAS Pensacola has two temporary housing options: the Navy Lodge and the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites. The Navy Lodge has 97, newly renovated, beachfront rooms. And the Navy Gateway Inns and Suites is a large facility with nearly 700 rooms and 180 suites.
Fresh, Gulf seafood is easy to find in Pensacola. Military families can usually find oysters on the half shell, grilled or fried shrimp, PoBoys and key lime pie on any local menu. Offering both daytime fare and nighttime fun, the Mustin Beach Club and Lighthouse Point are conveniently located on base.
Those looking for fun in town will find that Pensacola has plenty of nightlife. McGuire’s Irish Pub and Rosie O’Grady’s offer good times downtown. Several beachfront locales, such as Shaggy’s, Bamboo Willie’s and the Margaritaville Hotel, are known for fun. And no stay in Pensacola is complete without a visit to the Flora-Bama on Perdido Key.