Miles of white sand beaches and emerald waters, untouched ecosystems and historic sites make Gulf Island National Seashore the “Best Beach in Florida.”
Gulf Islands National Seashore has been voted “Best Florida Beach” and “Best East Coast Beach” in USA Today’s “10Best Readers’ Choice” awards, chosen by voters of USA Today and 10Best. Johnson Beach, in the Seashore’s Perdido Key area, was voted “No. 2 Best National Park Beach” in the same poll.
Not only is the sand of Gulf Islands National Seashore almost-blindingly white – it also talks.
Why, you may ask? The answer is quartz. The beaches here are like a bar of Ivory soap, 99.4 percent pure quartz crystal. The bleached mineral is the result of thousands of years of erosion of the Appalachian Mountains and nature carrying its remnants down rivers and streams around the south, eventually powdering the shorelines of Florida’s Panhandle.
Visitors to Florida’s Gulf Islands National Seashore soon discover the sand speaking to them as they walk in the softer areas. To some the sound may be more like a squeak, but a barefoot walk on our beaches proves the sand talks back.
The Seashore provides endless opportunity for solitude and relaxation and miles of unobstructed views and access to the Gulf. A short hike, bike ride, or kayak trip always ensures a swath of beach to call your own, sans humans.
Even without people, you are never truly alone. A thriving ecosystem of marine and terrestrial wildlife surrounds you. Osprey and great blue herons are often overhead, their huge nests visible in the treetops. Dolphins, sea turtles and rays are commonly spotted swimming near the shore in the crystal-clear waters.
And at varying seasons throughout the year, the seashore provides a nesting and hatching ground for shorebirds – like the beautiful black skimmers and tiny least terns – and sea turtles, particularly loggerheads.
For adventure seekers, the Seashore offers a wide range of recreational activities including snorkeling, kayaking, boating, fishing, wildlife viewing, biking, camping, fort tours, ranger-led programs and more.
Launch your kayak from one of several ocean-side parking lots and make your own itinerary. Watch for the gopher tortoise, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, and more than 300 bird species. Snorkel to see sand dollars, starfish, crabs and fish. Join a ranger-led nature tour to explore life in the brackish marshes or hidden in the shade of tall pines and gnarled live oaks.
For history buffs, the Seashore offers a unique look into the military significance of Pensacola going back before the American Revolution.
Explore three forts designed to fortify Pensacola Harbor – Fort Pickens, Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee – all are included within the Gulf Islands National Seashore and administered by the National Park Service.
If you have dreamed of spending a day or two exploring a deserted island, the Gulf Island National Seashore is your ideal destination.
The rare wonder of watching dozens of baby sea turtles emerge from their nest and make their way to the shore is truly one of the most magical things you’ll ever see, and it’s all about timing.
Tourists who’ve traveled to Pensacola Beach to experience its natural beauty and the creatures that inhabit it now have even more to discover when they take advantage of the Footprints in the Sand Eco-Trail.
Snorkel in our emerald waters right off the beach or dive in to explore the world’s largest artificial reef, the USS Oriskany. Water temperatures from the mid 80s in summer to the mid 60s in winter, when visibility is generally at its best, allow for year-round diving.
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