Gulf Islands National Seashore

#4 in Best Things To Do in Pensacola
Gulf Islands National Seashore picture
Joseph Sohm/Getty Images

Key Info

1400 Fort Pickens Rd.

Details

Recreation, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 4.0Value
  • 4.5Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

This undeveloped and preserved stretch of sand and sea in the Gulf of Mexico, which reaches from Cat Island in Mississippi to Okaloosa in Florida, is beloved by locals and visitors for its pristine shoreline. 

Recent visitors call the Gulf Islands National Seashore a beautiful, wild stretch of sand, referring to it as a "treasure" among the more developed beaches in the area. 

You can reach the Gulf Islands National Seashore by taking U.S. Route 98. Keep in mind, there is a toll. Once you reach the national seashore, you'll need to pay $15 per vehicle or $7 per person arriving on foot or bicycle, etc. You can also pay for your pass in advance here. Although there are restroom facilities located inside the Gulf Islands National Seashore, there aren't places to buy drinks or food, so you'll need to pack your own supplies. While here, you might consider a jaunt over to Fort Pickens, located at the westernmost side of Santa Rosa Island. This military fort was in use for more than a century, from 1834 to 1947, and now the National Park Service operates it as part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. For more information, visit the NPS website

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1 of 5
#1 Pensacola Beach

Pensacola Beach outlines the Santa Rosa barrier island and offers visitors two very different beach experiences. On the Gulf side, visitors are treated to unparalleled Gulf Coast views, as well as a powdery white shoreline and emerald waters. The soft sands that ribbon the Santa Rosa Sound side of the island are popular among families since they offer gentle waves and access to a boardwalk filled with fun shops and restaurants. 

Keep in mind that although the entire island's beaches are known as Pensacola Beach, there are also names for the smaller strips of sand therein. For instance, Quietwater Beach is located on the sound side, stretching from the Portofino Boardwalk to the Pensacola Beach bridge tollbooth, and it's very family-friendly with its lifeguard protection and its "quiet waters." Casino Beach is located on the Gulf and has a host of amenities, including restrooms, changing rooms, lifeguards, a fishing pier and more. You'll find this beach just south of the intersection of Via de Luna and Fort Pickens Road. 

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