Fort Pickens Campground Review at Gulf Islands National Seashore

View of Fort Pickens Campground

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a fantastic place to camp in Florida. If you are interested in camping at Fort Pickens, this article is for you. Tucked behind the sand dunes of Pensacola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, the campground is wonderful.

We have visited the island on two separate occasions — here’s our honest Fort Pickens Campground review.

Where Is the Fort Pickens Campground?

Views of the Gulf Islands Fort Pickens area
The Gulf Islands Fort Pickens campground and beach area.

Gulf Islands National Seashore is a National Park Service site located near Pensacola, Florida, along the white sand beaches of Santa Rosa Island. It is located roughly 30 minutes from downtown Pensacola.

The park protects roughly 26 miles of shoreline along the Gulf of Mexico and almost 28 miles of shoreline along the bay.

Things To Do Nearby

View of Fort Pickens Beach
Fort Pickens Beach

Within the national seashore, Fort Pickens Campground is known for its beautiful and well-managed campsites and amenities catering to recreational activities such as camping, fishing, swimming, and hiking. It is within driving and walking distance of the Fort Pickens historic fort.

Fort Pickens Campground Details

Fort Pickens Campsite

The Gulf Islands National Seashore Fort Pickens Campground is a tent, van, motorhome, camper, and RV-friendly.

  • Reservations: Camping on the Gulf is prime real estate – you’ll want to reserve your trip months in advance.
  • Campsites: Designated campsites
  • Water/Electric Hookup: Available
  • Sewer: Dump Station Available
  • Restrooms: Yes, with running water, hot showers, and flushing toilets
  • Cell reception: Good enough to send texts, call, and email
  • Laundry Room: No
  • Campfires allowed: Yes
  • Pets: Yes, pet friendly

How To Make Reservations

View of Camp Area E

Reserve a campsite at We like using the app. Make a reservation for the campground before you show up because there might not be a spot available.

Once you show up at the park, check-in at the Visitor Center (little wood house). A park employee will check you in. Then you can head to your reserved campsite.

Fort Pickens Campground Review

Hiking at Fort Pickens
Hiking at Fort Pickens

What We Love: The hiking trails are nice, it is quiet, and the beach crowds aren’t bad. The biggest highlight is that you are within walking distance of the most beautiful beaches.

The historic fort is interesting to explore. And, depending on when you visit, you might be able to see the Navy’s Blue Angels practice as they fly over the bay.

Hiking trail from the campground

Things To Consider: Consider the weather. The first time we stayed on the island, it was insanely windy. The Gulf had red flag warnings, so we didn’t get in the water. The second time we visited, the weather was absolutely perfect — sunny and no wind.

Be sure to plan ahead in case of road closures. The Park’s Weather Hotline is (850) 934-2656.

Be mindful of hurricane season (June through November) when planning holidays or road trips along the Gulf of Mexico.

Other Questions You May Have While Planning

How far is the beach from Fort Pickens Campground?

Pensacola Bay: is literally steps away on the other side of the sand dunes near Camp Areas B, C, D, and E.

Beaches on the Gulf Side: Campers can hike along the boardwalk to the Gulf side of the island within a short walk (depending on where your campsite is). The entire island has beach access areas.

Langdon Beach (Gulf Side): You can ride a bike, drive, or walk to the beach to swim and hang out at Langdon Beach on the island’s southern side facing the Gulf of Mexico.

It is kind of a far walk if you’re taking beach gear to Langdon Beach – I wouldn’t walk there from the campground. Langdon Beach is about 1.3 miles (one-way) from the Fort Pickens camping area. This is roughly a 5-minute drive.

Stay on the trails: Visitors must stay on designated trails and shouldn’t cut across the dunes. This is to protect nesting shorebirds and the dune ecosystem.

Can you see the ocean from the Fort Pickens Campground?

There are no direct ocean views from the campground (at least when we stayed at Camp Area E and drove around). The sand dunes block the view. However, you can see Pensacola Bay easily if you hike the trails from the campground.

Visitors can also clearly see the Gulf of Mexico hiking the trails and driving along Fort Pickens Road. The views are incredible.

Are the campsites shaded?

Only a few campsites are shaded. Most are not.

Camp Area E with some shade

Are campsites close together?

Yes, actually. The campsites are close together.

There are RVs, motorhomes, and pop-up campers in Camp Areas B, C, D, and E.

Is there a tent-only camp area?

Yes, there is a tent-only camping area at Fort Pickens.

Does Fort Pickens Campground have showers?

Yes, the campground has hot showers, flushing toilets, and running water. The bathrooms are very basic and get the job done.

Trip Tip: Be sure to look for the little green tree frogs outside of the bathrooms. They are so cute.

Are pets allowed?

Yes, pets are allowed at the Fort Pickens Campground. However, they are required to be on a leash. Dogs are allowed on all the trails (but not the beaches).

Hiking trail from the campground to Pensacola Bay

Is there cell phone reception?

Yes, we could easily call, send texts, and check email. However, streaming was a little slow for working online.

Is there an entrance fee for Fort Pickens?

Yes, there is an entrance fee to enter the park. The campground reservation does not cover the entrance fee to explore the island and see the inside of the fort.

  • Cost to enter the park: $25 for the week, or an annual National Park Pass accepted.
  • Camping: $26/night (standard nonelectric) or $40/night (standard electric)

Make sure the road is open

Due to the nature of Gulf Coast storms and how low-lying the barrier islands are, always check with the Fort Pickens Area National Park Service before planning a trip to be sure the campground is open.

When we visited in May 2021, the road actually flooded, and the island was closed temporarily. Make sure you have enough food and water when camping here in case the road closes for a day or two.

What else is there to do while camping here?

If you are looking for fun activities to do while visiting, you’ll love these popular articles:

Where can I camp if there are no spots available here?

If you have trouble finding a campsite, consider checking out Big Lagoon State Park near Perdido Key. It is about 30 minutes west of Pensacola.

From Big Lagoon State Park, you are about a 10-minute drive from the Gulf Islands National Seashore Perdido Key (link to watch our YouTube video) area or an hour’s drive from Fort Pickens.

Are there other places to camp in the Gulf Islands?

Yes, Davis Bayou Campground in Mississippi. Davis Bayou is located roughly two hours west of Pensacola.

Boat-in camping is also allowed on the islands.

Final Thoughts

The Fort Pickens camping area offers affordable camping facilities close to white sandy beaches for active people who enjoy outdoor activities.

It is a beautiful place to enjoy Florida’s famous Emerald Coast and the Pensacola area.

Safe travels.

Ashlee & Pablo

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. Travel A-Broads on January 30, 2022 at 10:28 am

    I haven’t camped much since I was a kid, but it’s such an affordable and fun way to travel. We visited Gulf Shores, Alabama in 2020 since it was a drivable location for us but didn’t go as far as Pensacola. I’d love to visit sometime! I love that there are good hiking trails and beach accessibility from the campground – two of my favorite things :). Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Xx Sara

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Sara! Thanks for sharing your experience! We love Gulf Shores too! Hope you can make it back along the Gulf. So much to see and do in Florida and Alabama.

  2. Carrie Ann on January 30, 2022 at 7:28 am

    We’ve been thinking about a Florida camping road trip, so this post is so helpful! It’s good to know that some of the sites fill up way in advance. I guess I’d better get cracking on my plans!!

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:06 pm

      Hi Carrie Ann – A Florida camping trip along the Gulf is amazing! Start looking for campsites way in advance! You can get lucky and find a spot here and there at some of the state parks if you’re lucky last minute. But, generally speaking, we usually book around 6+ months in advance if you want to stay more than a day somewhere.

  3. Katia on January 29, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    Love it! You two look like you have a blast. Me and my husband enjoy hiking tons but haven’t done any camping in Florida yet. We really want a little camper. Yours looks perfect!

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:05 pm

      Hi Katia! We love to camp, hike, and explore local gems. Camping on the Gulf is one of our favorite budget friendly things to do! Hope you and your husband find the perfect camper to compliment your outdoor adventures! 🙂

  4. Krista on January 29, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    I love the style of camper you chose! I haven’t seen one like that before. This looks like a beautiful area, close to the beach, to go camping!

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Krista! Thank you so much. We love our Aliner hard-sided pop-up camper. It is really easy to tow and store – but has the perfect room for us when it is popped up!

  5. Polly on January 29, 2022 at 5:23 pm

    I love the Gulf Island National Seashore area – one of my favourite beaches in the world is there – Johnson Beach. I have never gotten to Camp at Fort Pickens but knowing how beautiful the area is I am sure you had a great time.
    Also, you were so lucky to get to see the Blue Angels!

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:03 pm

      Hi Polly! We love hearing about your visit to Gulf Islands National Seashore. Thanks for sharing about Johnson Beach. We’ll check it out! Seeing the Blue Angels is just awesome!

  6. kmf on January 29, 2022 at 4:37 pm

    The Gulf Islands National Seashore is so beautiful! And the Fort Pickens Campground looks like the perfect place for campers and glampers.

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      Hi KMF – it sure is! Lots of people camping in tents, RVs, and motorhomes! We loved the proximity to the Gulf and Bay.

  7. Bea on January 29, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Love that the beach is so close and that we can stay in a tent. That’s our favourite way to camp. Adding this one to the bucket list!

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:01 pm

      Hi Bea – it is an awesome island and area to explore!

  8. Josy A on January 29, 2022 at 12:07 pm

    This looks like a fun place to stay. It is a bit of a shame the sites are so close together, but I love it when campgrounds have tent-only areas…and flushing loos/running water is always a nice touch. Fort Pickens looks fab (and so warm in May!!) 🙂

    • Ashlee Fechino on January 30, 2022 at 12:00 pm

      Hi Josy – yes, the campsites are close together but we thought being able to walk right to the bay was worth it. Make reservations ahead of time since the island fills up quickly!

  9. Cris on December 31, 2021 at 11:41 am

    That’s a beautiful area to go camping. I’m not sure how hard it is to get reservations there now. Most of the state and county parks fill up fast so your readers who want to go camping at Fort Pickens should probably also plan several months in advance. I always grab reservations as soon as they open 11 months in advance, especially for the winter months when the weather is nicer for camping in Florida.

    • Ashlee Fechino on December 31, 2021 at 11:50 am

      Hi Cris! Yes, that has been our experience if folks want to stay more than 1 night along the coast – plan in advance!

  10. Erin from Pina Travels on December 29, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Fort Pickens looks like a great campground! I’ve done lots of camping around Canada, and eventually I want to start camping across the US, especially the southern states. Will keep Fort Pickens on my radar for future US camping trips!

    • Ashlee Fechino on December 29, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Erin – thanks for reading. You’ll love camping in the USA! Florida is awesome because you can camp next to the ocean!

  11. Chelsea on December 29, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    I love all your reviews and this one doesn’t disappoint! Thank you for including all the information I’ll need for a trip to Fort Pickens. I didn’t realize I could buy a National Parks Annual Pass from REI. Will definitely be checking that out too!

    • Ashlee Fechino on December 29, 2021 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Chelsea! Thanks for stopping by. Get the National Park Pass ahead of time!

  12. Jill on December 29, 2021 at 12:49 pm

    This sounds like a great spot to camp at, thanks for sharing! Out of curiosity, which water sports do they have available in the area for rentals? Or is mostly bring your own gear?

    • Ashlee Fechino on December 29, 2021 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Jill! Gulf Islands is 10 minutes from Pensacola and there are lots of places to rent SUPs, boats, and kayaks. Just do a quick google search. We bring our own SUPs with us on trips.

  13. Burt Randall on October 27, 2021 at 2:13 pm

    I remember swimming at Galveston Beach (Texas) when I was younger.

    This was a brilliant article to read, Ashlee & Pablo !!

    • Ashlee Fechino on October 28, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      Hi Uncle Burt! Awww, thanks for reading and commenting. We love you! 🙂

  14. Cristina Sala on October 25, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    Ashlee querida como me gusto leer y ver este Campamento que realizaron.
    Ustedes estan tan bellos y el lugar realmente muy muy hermoso .

    • Ashlee Fechino on October 27, 2021 at 12:40 pm

      ¡Hola Cristina! Gracias por leer nuestro artículo y dejar un comentario tan agradable. ¡Te apreciamos! Abrazos