Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Quick Facts

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Florida

(850) 934-2600

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

More than 80 percent of Gulf Islands National Seashore is under water, but the barrier islands are the most outstanding features to those who visit. The Seashore stretches 160 miles from Cat Island in Mississippi to the eastern tip of Santa Rosa Island in Florida. There are snowy-white beaches, sparkling blue waters, fertile coastal marshes, and dense maritime forests. Visitors can explore 19th century forts, enjoy shaded picnic areas, hike on winding nature trails, and camp in comfortable campgrounds. In addition, Horn and Petit Bois Islands located in Mississippi are federally designated wilderness areas. Nature, history, and recreational opportunities abound in this national treasure.

All of the Mississippi islands in the Seashore are open to park visitation unless posted. All areas here close by 10 p.m. All areas of the Florida District are open year-round unless posted. Operating hours vary seasonally and from unit to unit. Because of hurricane damage all areas are closed at dark. However, visitors with back country camping or Night Owl permits on Perdido Key or campers at the Naval Live Oaks group campground may access the areas after dark.

Map of Gulf Islands

Latitude, Longitude: 30.360730, -86.984940

READ MORE

Activities

  • Boating

    Safe boating at Gulf Islands National Seashore requires a 20-foot or longer craft. Inland water boats such as bass boats or pontoon boats are not suitable for travel to the islands. Bringing an updated nautical chart of your travel area will help you identify shoals, obstructions and shallow water. Understand the current personal watercraft regulations (PWC) for the park, available on the park website. Do not anchor in sea grass beds. Watch for posted beach closures and stay out of those areas. Certain sections of beaches may be closed from March to August to protect nesting osprey and beach-nesting shorebirds.

  • Bicycling

    Mississippi District: Mississippi's 15.5-mile round-trip Live Oaks Bicycle Route connects the Davis Bayou Area of the Seashore to the town of Ocean Springs at the Old Louisville and Nashville Train Depot. Follow the green and white bike-route signs on the right side of the city streets. Live Oaks Bicycling Route maps are available at the Gulf Islands Visitor Contact Station and the Ocean Springs Chamber of Commerce. Florida District: Naval Live Oaks: Visitors can cycle on the paved 2.5 mile section of the 40-mile bike loop that is adjacent to U. S. Highway 98. Fort Pickens: The designated bike lane starts at the entrance to Fort Pickens up to the Ranger Station and is approximately four miles. The Florida Historical Trail starts from behind Battery Langdon and has an oyster shell top and goes to the Fort which is approximately three miles. J. Earle Bowden Way (Santa Rosa District): There is a designated bike lane that is approximately seven miles in length. Visitors can cycle on a paved road from the entrance gate to the end of the Perdido Key Road. Round-trip is approximately five miles.

  • Camping

    In the Mississippi District tent or recreational vehicles campers can experience a wooded area next to Davis Bayou. In the Florida District campers can experience tent or recreational vehicle camping on a barrier island where they can walk to the Gulf of Mexico or the Santa Rosa Sound from their sites. There is a youth group campground at the Naval Live Oaks Area in Gulf Breeze, Fla. Reservations can be made by calling 850-934-2622. For information about the group campground at the Fort Pickens Area in Florida, call Reserve America at 1-877-444-6777. For information on the group campground at the Davis Bayou Area located in Ocean Springs, Mississippi call 1-228-875-3962. For primitive island camping visitors may camp in the Mississippi District on Horn, Petit Bois, East Ship Islands, and government owned land on Cat Island. In Florida, visitors may camp on Perdido Key.

  • Fishing

    The waters of Gulf Islands National Seashore are home to many species of fish, shrimp and crabs. Daily tides blend nutrient-rich bayous and estuaries with the Gulf of Mexico, creating an ideal habitat for a wide variety of undersea creatures. Visitors interested in fishing in the Mississippi District and the Florida District have many options, from spending a lazy afternoon fishing on the bayou to battling spirited gamefish offshore or learning the traditional art of throwing a cast net. Be sure to check in with a visitor center about permits and regulations.

  • Hiking

    There are miles of hiking opportunities throughout the Gulf Islands National Seashore. In the Florida District there are over 35 miles of designated trails and in the Mississippi District at Davis Bayou there are two miles of trails. In addition you can walk miles on the beautiful white sandy beaches. Guided trails help hikers discover the park's natural resources.

  • Horseback Riding

    There are many stables nearby the park that offer guided rides in the area.

  • Picnicking

    Davis Bayou Area: Three pavilions are available for reservation for group activities. Pavilion reservations can be made Wednesday through Sunday by calling (228) 875-3962. Naval Live Oaks: A covered picnic pavilion is available on a first come, first served basis and additional picnic tables are located nearby. Enjoy your lunch while enjoying the sparkling waters of Santa Rosa Sound!

  • Water Sports

    Because of the miles of shoreline and water access, opportunities to swim throughout the Seashore are numerous. However, it is better to swim in lifeguarded or designated swim beaches that are located at Johnson Beach, Langdon Beach, Opal Beach and Perdido Key Area in Florida and at West Ship Island in Mississippi. The Southside of Santa Rosa Island has sandy bottoms exposed to tidal changes and surf action. Many marine creatures swim or drift through the waters or live on or within the bottom sands. Most divers find these areas to be a "barren desert." On the bay side of the island are shallow areas of scattered marine grass in which the snorkel can find pinfish, pipefish, seahorses and other interesting species. Some popular sites are: the jetties at the northwest corner of Fort Pickens seawall. Depths can drop to 50 feet, and currents can be treacherous. The 1906 wreck of the tugboat Sport, 0.9 miles east of the Fort Pickens Ranger Station on the bayside. The USS Massachusetts is a 550 feet battleship sunk by the military in the 1920s 1.5 miles outside Pensacola Pass. Due to storms sites may change.

Seasonality/Weather

The Seashore is sunny and warm most of the year. June through September are the most humid months and afternoon thunderstorms are common. Visitors should be prepared with rain gear and appropriate clothing. Hurricanes form in the tropics, over warm ocean water and close to the equator. Hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30.

Park Partners

Ship Island Excursions

The passenger ferry to West Ship Island, MS operates spring through fall and leaves from the Gulfport Yacht Harbor at the intersection of U.S. Highways 90 and 49. Trips are subject to cancellation based on weather and number of passengers (25 people are needed to cruise).

(228) 864-1014

Directions

Driving

Gulf Islands National Seashore is in Florida and Mississippi and both districts are south of Interstate 10. In Mississippi use Exit 57 or 50 to US Highway 90 to Ocean Springs. In Florida use Exit 12 to I-110 or Exit 22 to the Garcon Point Bridge to US Highway 98.

Florida District: The Perdido Key Area is off Florida Route 292, southwest from Pensacola; turn east on Johnson Beach Road. Naval Live Oaks is on U. S. 98 east of Gulf Breeze, Florida. The Okaloosa Day Use Area is on U. S. 98 east of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. To reach Fort Barrancas and the Advanced Redoubt onboard Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, use the Blue Angel Parkway (Florida Route 173). For the Fort Pickens and Santa Rosa areas, take U.S. 98 east across the Pensacola Bay Bridge.

Mississippi District: The Davis Bayou Area is on U.S. 90, east of downtown Ocean Springs, MS. Use Exit 50 or 57 south from I-10.

Public Transportation

Florida District: The Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) operates 7 days a week in the community. It does not stop inside the Seashore. For more information please call 850-595-3228.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(850) 934-2600

Links