Back in the waterway south and west of Pensacola, you pass through the turning basin and inlet area, where you share water with the Navy, then pick up the ICW again south of the point occupied by the Naval Air Station.
Following the Waterway west, you pass Fort Pickens to the south, cross the inlet (with an eye out for its swells), then follow a short landcut into Big Lagoon, where many of the local boatmen spend their weekends and holidays on the water and the beach.
Big Lagoon is an attractive body of completely sheltered water — Perdido Key on the south is undeveloped, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, and narrow enough to dinghy ashore and walk across to the Gulf beaches. On the north shore are Southwind Marina and Lost Key Marina & Yacht Club with dockage for up to 60'. They share the area with two private facilites: the Navy's Sherman Cove and Grand Lagoon Yacht Club.
There are good anchorages east of Redfish Point and inside Spanish Point, and another on the south shore across from the Big Lagoon State Recreation Area.
At the west end of the lagoon, near the high Gulf Beach/Perdido Key bridge, is Perdido Key Oyster Bar Restaurant & Marina, a seafood place. The fuel dock has gas & diesel and the restaurant has great food and a beautiful view of the waterway.
The area just east of the Perdido Key Beach Bridge is now a NO WAKE ZONE, all the way westward to just beyond the Holiday Harbor Marina. It is often patrolled by a wide variety of Law Enforcement Agencies including the USCG. It is a long distance and will affect your cruising-time considerations. The waterway is clearly marked by 5' x 8' white signs with black letters than can clearly be seen from the water facing both directions, day or night. The approaches to the bridge are highly constricted and an extreme hazard for barge traffic. There have been numerous collisions in this stretch, mostly due to poor judgment or operator impairment. Be alert, especially in windy or poor visibility conditions. It would be prudent to listen to the VHF traffic in this area and keep track of the barges enroute. The barge skippers are very good in keeping traffic aware of their positions and cooperating as best they can with boat traffic around them They do not have any great choices in this constricted area about entering or exiting the very narrow bridge approaches. YOU OFTEN DO. (Emphasis by the editors!!!)
Perdido Key Oyster Bar Restaurant & Marina and its near-neighbor, Holiday Harbor (also with a restaurant — fuel and a store) are the westernmost facilities on the waterway in Florida, and therefore the very last in this Directory. (They share the beautiful Perdido Key sand and scenery, too.)
West of Perdido Key the waterway winds through yet another narrows, past the Old River and some inviting anchorage possibilities, then into Perdido Bay and northward to the upper bay and the Perdido River. The Florida/Alabama border runs down the center of the river and marks the end of our territory.
Our editors suggest that particular attention be paid to waterway buoys and markers in the vicinity of the mouth of Perdido Bay.
Heading to Alabama from Florida along the ICW (which goes north/south at this point) there's another channel that continues directly west to the pass at Alabama Point. There's some extremely thin water along the way, the marks are far apart and may be difficult to follow, but you'll find several marinas and restaurants in the vicinity of the pass if you decide to visit the area. You'll have to retrace your course back to Perdido Bay to continue your cruise on the ICW, unless you decide to go outside for the approximately 40-mile run to Mobile Bay. Both routes go through Orange Beach, Alabama which is just west of the state line.
Whether you're coming to Florida from Alabama or heading to Alabama from Florida, be aware that the cut just west of Pensacola Pass (Caucus Channel) is narrow and may be congested with large and small vessels transiting or playing there. Careful!