Fort Pickens Campground Review – Island Camping

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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We always purchase traveler insurance too.

We like using Travel Insurance Master because you can select specific coverage.

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.

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.

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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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

I’m an outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness. My goal is to help people live their best life by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. I’m married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, and hiking.

4 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! 🙂

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