Fort Pickens Campground Review – Amazing Island Camping on the Gulf

If you are interested in camping at Gulf Islands National Seashore at the Fort Pickens Campground, this article is just for you! Tucked behind the sand dunes of Pensacola Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other, Fort Pickens Campground makes for a delightful island escape on a visit to Florida. This article shares everything you need to know to camp within steps of the emerald coast! Continue reading for an honest Fort Pickens Campground review!

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Fort Pickens Campground campsite next to beach trail

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Gulf Islands National Seashore Camping

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

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

Within this national seashore, Fort Pickens Campground is renowned 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 Fort Pickens historic fort.

If you have an RV, small camper, or hard-sided pop-up camper (like us), Gulf Islands National Seashore is a fantastic place to camp in Florida.

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Fort Pickens campsite photo

Gulf Islands National Seashore Fort Pickens Campground Details

Gulf Islands National Seashore Fort Pickens Campground is tent and RV-friendly.

  • Reservations: Camping on the Gulf is prime real estate – be sure 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

Fort Pickens Campground Reservation

Be sure to make a reservation for the campground before you show up! The Park Service is really good about managing reservations (in our experience).

First, reserve a campsite at recreation.gov or call 1-877-444-6777.

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

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View of Camp Area D

Fort Pickens Campground Review

All opinions are our own; this is not a sponsored article.

What We Loved about Fort Pickens Campground

Camping at Fort Pickens was great! We would definitely go back.

The hiking trails were beautiful, it was quiet, and the crowds weren’t bad.

Hiking trail from campground to Pensacola Bay

We visited in May during the week.

Fort Pickens historic fort was fun to explore.

We also had a blast watching the Blue Angels practice! This was a major highlight of our trip!

Things to Consider While Visiting Fort Pickens Campground

Be sure to consider the weather.

When we visited, it was really windy, and the Gulf had red flag warnings, so we didn’t get in the water. Be flexible and agile with your stay.

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

Also, consider hurricane season when planning holidays or road trips along the Gulf of Mexico.

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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.

Campers could 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 – but doable. Langdon Beach is about 1.3 miles (one-way) from Fort Pickens Campground. This is roughly a 5-minute drive.

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

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Trail from campground to Pensacola Bay

Can you see the ocean from Fort Pickens Campground?

There are no direct ocean views from the campground (at least when we stayed at Camp Area D and drove around). The sand dunes block the view.

However, when walking over the sand dunes, visitors can see Pensacola Bay easily. Visitors can also clearly see the Gulf hiking the trails and driving along Fort Pickens Road.

Are the campsites shaded?

Only a few campsites are shaded. Most are not.

Are campsites close together?

Yes, actually.

The campsites are pretty close together.

There mainly were 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!

Look for the little green tree frogs outside of the bathrooms!

Are pets allowed at Fort Pickens Campground?

Yes, pets are allowed at Fort Pickens Campground. However, they are required to be on a leash.

Dogs are also allowed on all the trails (but not the beaches). So, bring your fur baby!

Is there cell phone reception?

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

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Beach near Fort Pickens and Pensacola Bay

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.

Buy the Annual National Parks America the Beautiful Pass online from REI before your trip! Save yourself time in line!

Click Here to Shop REI.com!

Is Fort Pickens Campground 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.

We visited in May 2021, and the road actually flooded, and the island was closed temporarily.

With this in mind, make sure you have enough food and water when camping here in case the road closes for a day or two.

We like to keep a few dehydrated camp meals on hand for quick meals or if we end of staying places longer than intended. Our favorite brand is Good-to-Go! The Smoked 3 Bean Chili and Pad Thai are legit delish!

What else is there to do while camping at Fort Pickens?

If you are looking for fun activities to do while visiting Fort Pickens Campground, you’ll love our articles on things not to miss while visiting Fort Pickens.

Final Thoughts on Fort Pickens Campground Review – Gulf Islands National Seashore

The Fort Pickens camping area offers affordable camping facilities close to white sandy beaches for active people who enjoy many outdoor activities such as camping, hiking, and water sports.

Don’t forget to book in advance since camping along the Gulf Coast is prime real estate!

It is a beautiful place to enjoy Florida and the Pensacola area along the world-famous emerald coast and home of the Blue Angels!

We hope this article helps you plan your next camping trip to Florida!

Thanks for reading.

Ashlee & Pablo


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Are you searching for outdoor things to do along the Gulf of Mexico? Then, we’ve got you covered!

Check out our other article on the Gulf of Mexico and camping.

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We’d love to hear from you!

We’d love to answer any questions you have about camping in our Aliner, road tripping along the Gulf of Mexico, and visiting Fort Pickens Campground.

Feel free to leave us a message!

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

28 Comments

  1. 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



  2. 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! 🙂



  3. 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.



  4. 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!



  5. 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!



  6. 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!



  7. 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!



  8. 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!



  9. 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.



  10. 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!



  11. 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!



  12. 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! 🙂



  13. 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.



  14. 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.