Fun in the Sun at Gulf Islands National Seashore

Who wouldn’t love to feel the sun on their face, the sand in their toes or the wind in their hair? The Gulf Islands National Seashore is the perfect place to feel just that. In the 2012 visitation report, the National Park Service ranked the Gulf Islands as one of the top ten most visited recreation sites in America. Adventurers across the nation are drawn to these white sandy beaches for a direct encounter with nature in this beautiful and exotic location.

Visitors can plan a trip to either the Florida District or to the Mississippi District. Each district provides recreation, barrier islands, salt marshes, historic structures and wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico.

The Mississippi District is open year-round. With over 400 acres, visitors have a variety of activities to choose from in the Davis Bayou Area including camping, fishing, hiking, biking, boating, attending ranger-led programs and group camping. There is a ferry trip offered from March to October, and visitors to the seashore’s remote barrier islands can enjoy island camping after a boating trip as well. This area is filled with adventure and fun on the water.

Americans can enjoy a blast from the past at the Naval Live Oaks Center, Fort Massachusetts, Fort Pickens or Fort Barrancas on the National Seashore. The forts of Gulf Islands National Seashore span almost 150 years, from the Spanish colonial Bateria De San Antonio (1797) to the World War Two-era Battery 234, reflecting the historic value of the anchorages at Pensacola Bay, Florida and Ship Island, Mississippi. These sites offer adventures into our nation’s military history and tours are available for those interested in seeing how America protected one of its most important harbors during the Civil War. The National Park Service will commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War this year, and special events and programs will be presented at Gulf Islands National Seashore and other National Park sites.

Pensacola, Florida, the City of Five Flags, is the closest city to the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is the home of the Blue Angels. Sites to visit in the Florida District include the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola's Museum of Art, the Civil War Museum, and Historic Pensacola Village. Parades, fairs and festivals occur all year, especially during Mardi Gras. The Florida District also has unique opportunities for those interested in snorkeling, wildlife watching and primitive camping. Visitors are also welcome to hike more than 35 miles of trails in the district and experience the beauty of these islands first-hand.

Visitors are also invited to learn more about their impact on the environment at the Gulf Islands. Park rangers lead summer programs that help Americans learn about the variety of natural resources of the seashore. Visitors can observe some of the nation’s most precious threatened and endangered species on the islands and can learn how to protect these creatures as well. Guests can educate themselves on the impacts of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and see the results of the National Park Service’s efforts to protect the Gulf Islands’ wildlife and environment. These opportunities will help Americans learn how they can give back to such a beautiful place.

Image courtesy of NPS