Gulf Islands National Seashore
Lonely Planet review for Gulf Islands National Seashore
Stretching 150 miles between West Ship Island, Mississippi, and Santa Rosa Island, Florida's section of this national seashore covers Perdido Key, two sections of Santa Rosa Island (extending to the NAS across the Fort Pickens State Park Aquatic Preserve) and a clip of coastline around Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
In the Pensacola region, there are visitors centers at Fort Barrancas, Naval Live Oaks (a few miles east of Gulf Breeze) and Fort Pickens (about 10 miles west of Pensacola Beach). Head to the Naval Live Oaks area for more than 7.5 miles of hiking trails and a calm, family-friendly beach. The Fort Pickens area has miles of bone-white beaches – driving the road down the narrow island feels like driving through snow.
The Fort Pickens area's highlight is the pentagonal brick Fort Pickens, begun in 1829, completed in 1834 and used until around the end of WWII. The fort, which was damaged by an accidental gunpowder explosion in 1899 and again by hurricanes throughout the 20th century, has a fascinatingly ruined quality. Bring a flashlight to explore the eerie, narrow mine tunnels.