Gulf Islands National
Seashore offers nature lovers eight miles of federally
protected, undeveloped shoreline – the longest
continuous stretch of protected coast in Northwest
Florida, perfect for sun seekers, birdwatchers and
outdoor enthusiasts. This region is home to three sections
of the Gulf Islands National Seashore: Fort Pickens
Area, Santa Rosa Island, and Naval Live Oaks Area.
Santa Rosa Island & Fort
Pickens Area: The barrier island provides
habitat for wildlife and buffers the mainland from
storms. Near the water,
plants such as sea oats and cordgrass, which
are tolerant of high salt levels, flourish. Behind the primary dunes,
shrubs and some trees grow, but they stand little higher than the dunes
that protect them from salt spray. In the island interiors, marshes collect
fresh rainwater and support diverse communities of plants and animals.
Behind these islands, waters of the sounds, bay, and bayous are less
salty than the waters of the Gulf. Here creatures such as herons, egrets,
alligators, shrimp, fish, and fiddler crabs reproduce and flourish.
Live Oaks Area: This part of the Gulf Islands National
Seashore is located on the mainland across from Santa
Island. The park is named after the beautiful
oak trees that grow along the Intracoastal Waterway, Santa Rosa Sound.
Draped at times in Spanish moss, these huge trees can grow up to 50
feet in height and live as long as 300 years. This
mainland forest community
offers hikers and bikers a likely encounter with wildlife.