Do you know that Pensacola is the oldest settlement in America? It’s true. Visitors are often incredulous when they discover this fact.
St. Augustine, Florida and Jamestown, Virginia are thought by most to be the oldest towns in the union. However, Pensacola is six years older then St. Augustine and four full decades older then Jamestown.
In terms of tourist attractions, Pensacola history is often overshadowed by our fifty-two miles of blinding white sand and emerald green water. What most people don’t realize is that locals are very passionate about their historical heritage and the city has done an excellent job of restoring and preserving historical buildings in the city’s downtown core. So as tempting as it may be to spend every vacation minute with your toes in the sand, you’re missing out on some of the best local experiences if you fail to explore Pensacola’s rich historical and cultural heritage while you’re here.
Nick Schuck, a local middle school history teacher, understands this more then most. This fall he decided to share his knowledge and passion for local history in a different way – with visitors full-time. Nick owns an eclectic company called Emerald Coast Tours which hosts historical tours of downtown Pensacola with one interesting quirk. They happen on segways.
The segway ‘personal transporter’ is a two-wheeled self-balancing battery-powered electric vehicle. Its name is a homophone of the word segue, which means smooth transition. Nick refers to his tours as a “one hour guided glide into history.”
His tours begin with a brief training session. Once training is complete, rolling participants cruise with a guide along a seven mile loop visiting numerous historical sites, landmarks, and monuments on the route. These include the Belmont-De Villiers Neighborhood, Fort George, The Former L and N Train Depot, Aragon Neighborhood, Veteran’s Memorial Park and the famous Plaza de Luna. Nick says, “We take you off the beaten tourist track and provide rich historical and local insight into the city. Lots of locals come on our tours. Some folks who’ve lived here for 20 years say they learned new things. By the end of the tour our out of town guests usually feel like locals.”
Nick opened Emerald Coast Tours in March 2012 after participating in the Pensacola Business Challenge, a unique local contest for business start up capital. Emerald Coast Tours didn’t win but Nick was nonetheless inspired by the competition to start his own company. Now, a short time later, the company is a top local attraction on Trip Advisor. Visitors are flocking from as far as Panama City and Biloxi to experience his unique tours.
The guided segway tours take place daily between 10am and 5pm and must be reserved in advance. Emerald Coast Tours also offers historical pub walking tours, wine and glides, team building, and event options as well as bicycle rentals. Gift certificates and private parties are available.
And if you just can’t bare to leave the beach, no problem! Emerald Coast Tours is adding a second location to be based out of Tiki Island Golf directly in front of the Hampton Inn on Pensacola Beach. Nick and his team are looking forward to offering a fun, new way to experience the island.
So you can find them on the beach or in the heart of the Palafox historic district in downtown Pensacola. For more information and reservations follow this link to the Emerald Coast Tours Website, like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @ectpcola.