Pensacola Beach has white sand because it is mostly composed of grains of quartz crystals.
The fine sugar-white sand at Pensacola is typical of many beaches along Florida’s Gulf. The quartz originated further north in the rocks of the Appalachian Mountains and over many thousands of years, little fragments broke away through erosion and were carried by rivers down to the Atlantic Ocean.
Over time, the action of waves, ocean currents and abrasion against other rock granules have worn the fragments down, until only little grains of more erosion-resistant quartz crystals remain. These quartz crystals were carried by ocean currents down to the Gulf of Mexico and deposited along the shoreline, forming the white sandy beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast.