Gulf Islands Beach Getaways
Miles of offshore islands covered with powder white beaches, historic structures, nature trails and adjacent open waters are the main attractions at Gulf Islands National Seashore. The dual-state national site provides various ways for visitors to explore and learn about the region. A variety of natural and developed recreations are offered at the 28,976-acre site. Programs, visitor centers and recreations are centered on the historic and wildlife attractions.
Information centers are located at Davis Bayou and West Ship Island in Mississippi and at Naval Live Oaks, Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas in Florida. Primitive camping is permitted on Horn Island, East Ship Island and Petit Bois Island in Mississippi.
There are many options for travel within the park. Roadways connect the six separate geographic locations in Florida. A passenger ferry service from Gulfport to West Ship Island operates from March through October in Mississippi. Boardwalks and designated paths to beaches have been developed to prevent dune erosion. Self-guiding nature trails are located in Davis Bayou, Fort Pickens, Perdido Key, Fort Barrancas, and Naval Live Oaks. The northern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail is at the Santa Rosa area and Fort Pickens area. Bicycle enthusiasts can enjoy Live Oak Bicycle Trail at Davis Bayou and the bike trail in the Fort Pickens area.
Wildlife enthusiasts will find the best viewing opportunities at Naval Lives Oaks, south of U.S. Highway 98 near the visitor center and the entire west end of Santa Rosa Island. These are well known bird-watching areas. Spying over the ocean often rewards tourists with sights of bottle-nosed dolphins.
Swimming, scuba diving, and fishing are also popular. A pier on the bay side near Fort Pickens and surf fishing along the beach rewards anglers with sheepshead, redfish, flounder, speckled trout, and Spanish mackerel.