Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, UWF is minutes from the emerald waters and white sand of some of the world's best beaches. Convenient to both I-10 and I-65, the university's main campus in Pensacola is only 3 hours from Tallahassee, less than 4 hours to New Orleans, 4 ½ hours to Birmingham and about 5 hours to Atlanta.
The area is home to numerous attractions both scenic and celebrated—among those are the Gulf Islands National Seashore, the U.S. Oriskany, the U.S. Navy's Blue Angels, the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Historic Pensacola Village and St. Michael's Cemetery.
Pensacola waters provide a wealth of opportunities for activities on the water including swimming, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, fishing and diving. The white sands and warm, emerald waters along the Gulf of Mexico attract thousands of local and vacationing visitors to the beach from spring break to well past Labor Day. One of the area’s prized attractions is the U.S. Oriskany, sunk 24 miles offshore to create a 130-foot-deep artificial reef for sport divers.
The Gulf Islands National Seashore encompasses Fort Pickens and several Spanish-American War batteries. The fort is also noted as the prison home of the Apache chief Geronimo.
Pensacola is known as the "Cradle of Naval Aviation," and today's modern navy is represented by Pensacola’s world famous flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels. The Blues perform two shows annually in Pensacola, at the beach in July and aboard Pensacola Naval Air Station in November. American air and space history is also on display aboard Pensacola NAS at the National Museum of Naval Aviation. One of the most visited attractions in Florida, the museum features more than 140 restored military aircraft.
Downtown Pensacola offers glimpses of the city's history in museums such as the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum and the museums of Commerce and Industry in Historic Pensacola Village. The site of Pensacola's third settlement near Seville Square features 24 historic properties maintained by the University of West Florida.
The downtown area also is the site for numerous special events during the year such as the Pensacola Seafood Festival, the Great GulfCoast Arts Festival and SpringFest. The Pensacola Civic Center books major concerts throughout the year and hosts the Pensacola Ice Flyers hockey team.
One of America's most historic cities, Pensacola is known as the "City of Five Flags" and the "Western Gate to the Sunshine State." Spanish influences dominate the city with place names such as Palafox, Seville, Cervantes, Zaragoza, Intendencia, Gonzalez, Aragon and Ariola.
The Spanish flag flew above the city for more than 300 years beginning with the Spanish expedition led by Don Tristan DeLuna that first attempted to settle on Pensacola Bay in 1559. The location was abandoned two years later after destruction by a hurricane.
Spain created the first permanent Pensacola settlement in 1698. Between 1698 and 1821, when Andrew Jackson accepted Florida as a U.S. territory, it was the scene of ongoing colonial battles.
The settlement was burned by the French in 1722. Rebuilt on Santa Rosa Island, Pensacola was again destroyed by a hurricane in 1754, and the city made the final move to the mainland. The British gained control of Florida and Pensacola in 1763 following the French and Indian War, but returned it to the Spanish again following the Revolutionary War in exchange for the Bahamas and Gibraltar. In 1803, Pensacola became the capital of Spanish West Florida.
The city was incorporated in 1824 under the flag of the United States, and construction began on the Pensacola Navy Yard two years later. Beginning in 1829, three forts were built to guard Pensacola Bay — Pickens (1829), McRee (1837) and Barrancas (1839). The first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Barrancas on Jan. 8, 1861, two days before Florida seceded from the Union. In October 1861, southern forces surprised and routed Union troops garrisoned at Fort Pickens in the Battle of Santa Rosa.
Following the Civil War, Pensacola rich natural resources, particularly timber and seafood, became the catalyst for growth.
Today the city's historic past and natural coastal beauty combine to make it an ideal vacation destination.