If you want to see some gorgeous undisturbed beachfront, you want to visit Gulf Islands National Seashore. Here you can enjoy nature uninterrupted. From swimming and snorkeling to hiking, shelling, biking and birdwatching, Gulf Islands National Seashore has it all. Among its many wildlife claims to fame, four of the seven species of sea turtles make their nests in this area. Let’s take a look at the Florida district, shall we?
Most folks around the Birmingham area need no directions to head for Gulf Shores, so if you already know how to get there, just hit the beach road and keep driving east – you’ll soon find yourself in Perdido Key, Florida and the first stop along the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Located off Florida Route 292 southwest of Pensacola, the Perdido Key day use area is open from 8am to sunset daily and offers swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, and primitive camping.
You’ll find the Naval Live Oaks Area on U.S. 98 east of Gulf Breeze. Also open daily (except Christmas Day) from 8am to sunset, amenities include a visitors center with a bookstore, exhibits and a short film about the area. More than seven miles of trails stretch through Naval Live Oaks along the Santa Rosa Sound and picnic tables plus a covered pavilion area available for visitor use.
The Santa Rosa Sound shoreline provides an ideal spot for families with small children or anyone who wants to enjoy the water without the waves. There’s a nice beach, plus restrooms and outdoor showers.
The largest of the four forts that were constructed to defend Pensacola Bay in the 1800s was Fort Pickens. Now a part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, Fort Pickens was used and modernized through World War II. Today it stands as a wealth of U.S. history just waiting to be explored.
Another historic spot along the Gulf Islands National Seashore is the Fort Barrancas Area on Taylor Road about a half mile east of the Museum of Naval Aviation. Here you’ll see the historic Water Battery, Fort Barrancas itself, the visitors center, picnic areas and a half-mile trail leading to the Advanced Redoubt, a separate section that was created specifically to defend this military station from a land-based assault.
The Santa Rosa Day Area of Opal Beach is between Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach. This delicate barrier island is home to many shorebirds, small animals and nesting sea turtles. Open 8am to sunset, Opal Beach is a fabulous place to relax, swim, fish, collect shells or watch nature. If a seven-mile stretch doesn’t scare you, you can enjoy a walk from one end of the beach to the other. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, an entrance fee is charged.
The Okaloosa Day Use Area is fee-free year-round and is located on U.S. 98 near Fort Walton Beach. You’ll find beautiful sand beaches, picnic tables, a boat launch and public restrooms with outdoor showers.
While you’re in the area, don’t miss the National Museum of Naval Aviation; Pensacola’s Museum of Art, the Civil War Museum and Historic Pensacola Village. Find out more at: www.VisitPensacola.com.