Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches across 160 miles of coast between Mississippi and Florida. The seashore borders the Gulf of Mexico and preserves a diverse ecological area of beaches, forests, marshes, bayous, and marine life.
For 40 years, America’s largest national seashore has been a popular destination for tourists and locals looking to enjoy the warm gulf waters and historic sites.
Swimmers can enjoy a variety of sandy beaches along the shoreline, four of which are manned by lifeguards. Experienced boaters can travel from the shore to the outer islands. Fishermen can catch a variety of fish, crabs, and shrimp.
Wildlife enthusiasts can spend the day scanning the skies for over 280 species of birds that call the area home.
Be sure to visit historic Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas, large military forts that have defended the Pensacola Bay since the 1800s.
Gulf Islands National Seashore offers two campgrounds for RV camping. Davis Bayou Campground is located in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The area features 52 sites with electric and water hookups. The Fort Pickens Campground is located in Gulf Breeze, Florida and features a total of 169 sites with electric hookups and 42 additional sites without hookups for RV camping.
Gulf Islands National Seashore stretches across 160 miles between the states of Mississippi and Florida. The park boundary begins and ends at Cat Island, Mississippi, and Okaloosa, Florida.
Visitors can reach the seashore from many points along the coast by car, public transportation, and by boat.
Most roads leading into park areas and into campgrounds are paved, making them easy to navigate by RV or while towing a trailer.
Parking is available at each site in the campgrounds. Additional parking can be found in day use areas, at the historic sites, and at most of the smaller park areas. Park only in designated areas, and do not park along roadways. The area features several multi-use paved paths that are wheelchair accessible and a variety of additional trails that connect guests with other sectors of the park.
Biking is allowed on roads and trails. All bicyclists must wear a helmet.
The Fort Pickens Campground is located in Gulf Breeze, Florida, and is arranged on five connecting loops. These loops feature a total of 169 sites with electric hookups and 42 additional sites without hookups for RV camping. There is a dump station available year-round. Guests have access to drinking water, restrooms, and hot showers. Portable grills and fire rings are approved for use at all sites. Picnic tables are available.
Davis Bayou Campground is a campground for tent and RV camping in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The area features 52 sites with electric and water hookups. There is a dump station available year-round. Guests have access to drinking water, restrooms, and hot showers. Portable grills and fire rings are approved for use at all sites. Picnic tables are available.
Gulf Islands National Seashore is home to many historic sites. Visit Fort Barrancas on a bluff that overlooks the Pensacola Bay. The fort was built in 1844 with six million bricks. The walls are 20 feet high and four feet thick. Fort Barrancas was also an active fort during the Civil War and saw combat. Or visit Fort Pickens, Pensacola Bay’s largest military fortification. The fort was built in 1828 and at that time was the largest brick structure on the Gulf of Mexico.
Fishermen visiting Gulf Islands National Seashore will not be disappointed by the selection of seafood for the catching. The gulf waters are home to a variety of fish, crabs, and shrimp. If you’re fishing on the Mississippi side, you’ll need to have a Mississippi State Saltwater Fishing License. A fishing pier is available for use near the Davis Bayou Area visitor center. If you’re fishing on the Florida side of the park, you’ll need a Florida fishing license. These licenses are sold at many local bait and tackle shops, the county tax collector’s offices, and over the phone.
Bird watchers visiting Gulf Islands National Seashore can catch a glimpse of more than 280 species of birds. The diverse environments within the park’s boundaries make it an ideal location for land and sea birds to nest and live. The islands offer beaches, marshes, and wooded areas, as well as sand dunes. Migratory birds also stop in the area on their route south for the winter. Bird checklists are available at the park visitor centers.
The waters of the Gulf Islands National Seashore can be great for boating but also very challenging. Rangers remind boaters to be prepared and be familiar with boating regulations for Mississippi and Florida. To safely navigate the Gulf of Mexico and the areas around the islands, the Coast Guard recommends a 20-foot or longer watercraft. The Coast Guard deems other popular inland boats like bass boats or pontoon boats unsafe to travel from the mainland to the islands.
Gulf Islands National Seashore features many beaches and swimming areas along its 160 mile coastline. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer months at the following beaches: the south shore of West Ship Island, Langdon Beach at Fort Pickens, Johnson Beach at Perdido Key, and Opal Beach at Santa Rosa. When swimming in areas without lifeguards, swimmers should exercise caution and never swim alone. The warm gulf waters are also popular spots for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The seashore offers hiking enthusiasts miles of opportunities across the gulf shore islands of Mississippi and Florida. Near the Davis Bayou Campground area, guests can travel the half-mile long Nature’s Way Trail. The trail is set on a loop that takes guests through scenic overlooks of the bayou. Near the Fort Pickens Campground area, campers can connect with the 1300 mile-long Florida National Scenic Trail. Most hikers enjoy the first seven and a half miles of the trail which travels through the Gulf Island National Seashore.