Visiting Gulf Islands National Seashore with Toddlers

Intro

Hi everyone.  It’s Tyler here from TheTravelingToddler.com.  As you probably know, we recently went on a short trip fo the Gulf Coast.  We stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel in Biloxi, Mississippi, and visited a number of attractions along the coast.  Today I’m going to tell you about Gulf Islands National Seashore (https://www.nps.gov/guis/index.htm).

Tyler walking around the Visitor Center at Davis Bayou
Tyler walking around the Visitor Center at Davis Bayou

Location 

Gulf Islands National Seashore encompasses locations in two states: Mississippi around Ocean Springs, and Florida around Pensacola.  The majority of the attractions are in Pensacola.  

Since it is a national seashore, some of the more remote islands can only be reached by boat.  However, the main attraction, Fort Pickens, is easily accessed by car.  

Please note that Fort Baraccas is located on an active naval base, so entry will require that all adults have a photo ID and entrance is only through the west side of the base (double check your GPS)



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Cost

Most of the locations in Gulf Islands NS are free, except there is a $20 charge to visit Fort Pickens.  The entrance fee is good for up to a week.  

If you decide to take a boat to any of the remote islands, obviously that is a separate cost.

Tyler and Daddy climbing narrow stairs to the second level of Fort Pickens
Tyler and Daddy climbing narrow stairs to the second level of Fort Pickens

Attractions 

Naval Live Oaks (Florida) – This is the main headquarters for Gulf Islands NS.  There is a small Visitor Center with exhibits about the live oak tree and a short nature boardwalk trail around the visitor center.

Fort Pickens (Florida) – Probably the highlight of a visit to Gulf Islands NS, Fort Pickens is a unique historical and military attraction that will also appeal to toddlers.  You can walk around and on top of the fort, and you can also learn about the national seashore through some exhibits.



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Beach access is also available at Fort Pickens, and it’s a good option for those seeking less crowds versus the nearby Pensacola beach.  Camping is also available at Fort Pickens

Fort Barrancas (Florida) – Less expansive then Fort Pickens.  If you visit here, plan to visit the other attractions on the naval air base, such as the Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse, to make it worth your while.

Davis Bayou (Mississippi) – A small Visitors Center and trail are available here.  There is a fort but it requires taking a ferry from another location.  Not worth a separate drive from Pensacola in my opinion.

Tyler at Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center
Tyler at Naval Live Oaks Visitor Center

Toddler Tips 

Naval Live Oaks – There is a boardwalk trail that loops around the Visitor Center which is a nice easy half mile walk for toddlers.

Fort Pickens – Toddlers will love exploring the nooks and crannies of this historic fort.  Keep a close eye on them, however, as they could get easily lost in the maze of tunnels and rooms.  

You can also go up to the 2nd level of the fort.  Pay extra special attention to your kids if you do this as the stairs are extremely steep and there is no safety railing.

Playing in the sand and water is always a fun activity for toddlers

Tyler and Dad exploring tunnels at Fort Pickens
Tyler and Dad exploring tunnels at Fort Pickens

 

Fort Barrancas – Easy and assessable for toddlers.  Steps and a elevated portion do require some adult supervision.  

If you’re going to take the time to visit Fort Barrancas, I would also make sure to visit the Naval Aviation Museum and the Pensacola Lighthouse.

Davis Bayou – A paved trail around the Visitors Center is easy for toddlers to do.


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Cancellation Stamps

A wide variety of cancellations stamps are available.  Each location has a unique stamp.  

Summary 

While I wouldn’t consider Gulf Islands a destination national site, it’s worth a visit if you’re in Pensacola.  A good itinerary is to go to Fort Pickens in the morning, and Fort Barrancas (and the other attractions on the naval base) in the afternoon.

Related Content

Check out my other national park information.

Thanks for reading.

Tyler@TheTravelingToddler.com

Have you ever visited Gulf Islands National Seashore?  Do you have any tips about visiting?  Leave your comments below.

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