On Friday, regular ferry service begins in Pensacola Bay, bringing to reality a dream that dates back more than four decades. Here’s everything you need to know.
Where does it go?
The ferry service links downtown Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, and Fort Pickens in a roughly triangular, three-stop route. Passengers will board and disembark at one of three locations: downtown Pensacola’s Commendencia Slip, located between Plaza de Luna and the Port of Pensacola; Quietwater Beach, the main commercial area of Pensacola Beach, featuring a boardwalk, shops, and restaurants; and historic Fort Pickens, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Two 149-passenger ferries — named Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch by local fourth grade students — will run between the three stops, with one ferry running clockwise and the other counter-clockwise. Each trip between destinations will last about 45 minutes.
Who’s running it?
The ferry service is operated by the National Park Service through a contract with Pensacola Bay Cruises. The company’s owner, Capt. George Aswad, is a veteran of the ferry business who also operates the Island Express Ferry Service, a National Park Service ferry running between Beaufort and Harkers Island, N.C. and Cape Lookout National Seashore.
The National Parks Service has partnered with the City of Pensacola, which will operate the downtown Pensacola landing, and Escambia County, which will operate the landing at Pensacola Beach.
When does the ferry run?
The ferry will operate seven days a week beginning Friday, June 22 through Sunday, August 19. From August 22 to September 28, ferries will operate Wednesday through Sunday only, and from September 29 through November 4, ferries will only run on Saturdays and Sundays.
Ferries will run between three and five times daily from each of the service’s three destinations to the others. For a full departure schedule, visit pensacolabaycruises.com.
How much does it cost?
All-day ferry tickets will cost $20 for adults, while tickets for children 15 and under will cost $13. Discounted tickets for active duty military and seniors are offered for $18.50. Children under 2 will ride free. Each ticket includes unlimited same-day trips between the ferry’s three destinations as well as admission to the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which normally costs $10 per person.
Groups of four or more will also received reduced ticket pricing, and three-day passes will be available for $50 for adults and $30 for children.
While some critics have argued tickets prices are too expensive, similar private-sector water excursions are priced in the same range.
Passengers are allowed to bring small two-wheel folding luggage carriers, bagged chairs, small bagged tents, umbrellas, small coolers, folding strollers, and plastic & aluminum beverages.
Wagons, dollies, large tents and umbrellas, large ice chests, and glass beverage bottles are prohibited.
Passengers are welcome to bring their bicycles, with bike racks located at the stern of the ferry vessels.
Pets are also welcome aboard the ferry, so long as they’re leashed and controlled. Be advised, though, pets aren’t allowed on Gulf Islands National Seashore beaches or in Fort Pickens. Pets are welcome on trails, multi-use paths, and park roads, but while within the Gulf Islands National Seashore, pets must remain on a leash no longer than six feet at all times.