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Gulf Islands National Seashore

Gulf Islands National Seashore - BEST Places to Picnic

Florida District
Park Headquarters
Gulf Islands National Seashore
1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway
Gulf Breeze, FL 32563

Mississippi District
Gulf Islands National Seashore
3500 Park Road
Ocean Springs, MS 39564

By Phone
Visitor Information - Florida
(850) 934-2600
Visitor Information - Mississippi
(228) 875-9057, extension 100

Explore The Changing Landscape at Gulf Islands!

Beautiful beaches, historic forts and recreational opportunities are plentiful. Open year-round, the Seashore is in Mississippi and Florida.

Gulf Islands National Seashore offers recreation opportunities and preserves natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi. Islands along the Alabama coast were originally considered for inclusion, but as of 2006 none is part of the national seashore.

The Florida portion of the seashore features offshore islands with sparkling white sand beaches, historic fortifications, and nature trails. Mainland features near Pensacola, Florida, include the Naval Live Oaks Reservation, beaches, and military forts. All Florida areas are accessible by automobile.

The Mississippi portion of the seashore features sparkling beaches, historic sites, wildlife sanctuaries, islands accessible only by boat, bayous, nature trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds. The 4,080 acres Gulf Islands Wilderness offers special protection within the seashore to parts of Petit Bois and Horn Islands.

Outdoor Activities

Whether you visit the Seashore for a day or a week there are many activities and places to explore. Activities include swimming, bicycling, snorkeling, fishing, hiking, beach combing, wildlife watching, boating, and primitive camping.

Mississippi District

Headquarters for the Mississippi District is located at the Davis Bayou Area which has a temporary visitor contact center, boat launch, playground, nature trails, and boardwalks. Private boaters can visit all the barrier islands. At West Ship Island visitors can swim at the designated swim beach.

Florida District

Naval Live Oaks has nine hiking trails including the historic Andrew Jackson Trail and sections of the 40-mile bike loop. There is a picnic table area, covered picnic pavilion, restrooms, and outdoor showers. The Santa Rosa Sound shoreline is popular for people with small children who want to avoid the rough surf at the beach. Visitors may also enjoy fishing from the shore (license required).

The Fort Pickens "Loop A" Campground has reopened. Camping is on a first-come, first-served basis. You may self-register at the campground entrance. It is approximately 5 miles from the entrance gate of the park to the campground area. Water taxi service is also available to the Fort Pickens "Loop A" Campground. You may take a self-guided tour of Fort Pickens. The fort is approximately a 2-mile, one way hike from the campground. Fort Pickens also has beautiful hiking trails.

Perdido Key Area has picnic tables, restrooms, a life-guarded beach, boardwalk trails and access to the Gulf Beach. The Okaloosa Day Use Area near Fort Walton, known for the quiet water and sandy beaches, has picnic tables, restrooms, boat launch, and plenty of parking.

On board Pensacola Naval Air Station visitors can tour Fort Barrancas, the Advanced Redoubt, and hike trails.


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. This reflects the historic value of the anchorages at Pensacola Bay, Florida and Ship Island, Mississippi. Most striking among these are the American Third System forts: Fort Pickens, Fort Massachusetts, Fort Barrancas, and the Advanced Redoubt, all of which saw action during the Civil War.


Gulf Islands National Seashore is a park rich in natural resources. There are sparkling blue waters, magnificent snowy-white beaches, fertile coastal marshes, and beautiful winding nature trails.

More than 80 percent of the park is submerged lands teeming with marine life. Marshes collect fresh rainwater and support diverse communities of plants and animals. Live oak forests are home to resident and migrating bird populations.

Millions of visitors enjoy America�s largest National Seashore every year. The National Park Service serves as guardian to these precious natural resources and asks that visitors treat their national park with care. With your support, special places like Gulf Islands National Seashore will continue to delight, educate and inspire future generations.

Places to Picnic

  • Fort Massachusetts
  • Okaloosa Area
  • Opal Beach
  • Rosamond Johnson Beach

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