Perdido Key State Park is a state park located on the island of Perdido Key, in the Gulf of Mexico, across St. Joseph’s Sound from Pensacola, Florida and just north of Destin, near Panama City Beach. It is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore complex. The key is about 1 mile (1.6km) wide by 3 miles (4.8km) long; it has an area of 6 square miles (15km2), all land with no fresh water or beaches. A causeway extends between the mainland and the island.
Florida state parks are open between 8 a.m. and sundown every day of the year (including holidays). Admission is $5 per vehicle, and pedestrians may enter at several points along the perimeter for free. There are also passes that can be purchased.
Visitors may see dolphins almost daily, especially during the winter season. Amenities include boat slips, beach, boardwalks, birding, cabins, canoeing/kayaking, fishing, hiking, picnicking areas, swimming, wildlife viewing, full camping facilities, playgrounds, picnic shelters, bathhouses, dump station, gift shop, bait & tackle shop, liquor store, and marina with 200 slip capacity.
The park offers four trails for walking, jogging, bicycling, and horseback riding. Trail one goes through hardwood hammock, trail two winds past wetlands, cypress domes, and pine flatwoods, while trail three weaves its way through mixed hardwood forests and palmetto thickets. Finally, trail four runs atop the dunes looking out onto the lake and rolling back down into the hammock.
The park has five campgrounds. Cypress View Campground contains only 30 sites but provides full hookup services. Lakeview Campground accommodates 60 tent sites and primitive hike-in campsites. Golden Oak Flat Campground contains 40 sites and provides water and electricity to those who need them. Little Talbot Bayou Campground contains 50 sites and does not provide water or electricity. Spanish Oaks Campground contains 80 sites and provides water and electricity to those who need them. White Oak Flat Campground contains 100 sites and provides water and electricity to those who need them. Each site comes equipped with fire rings and picnic tables.
Boat slips are available at a nominal fee. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, rowboats, and pedal boats are available to rent. Bait & tackle shops, general stores, car-top boat ramps, and nature center are accessible at all six campgrounds. Nature trails are found throughout the park. Horse rentals are available at Spanish Oaks and White Oak Flat campgrounds. Hikers can use the paved quarter-mile walkway to reach the beach at Perdido Key State Park.
The park has a visitor information center, offering exhibits and displays about the ecology, history, culture, and wildlife of the park. Programs and events are held regularly, including interpretive talks, guided nature walks, children’s programs, weddings, receptions, and birthday parties.
The park has a marina with 200 slip capacity, providing ample space for visiting yachts. Sailboating is allowed under permit. All boaters must follow the rules and regulations of the Gulf Coast Boating Regulations and Marine Law. Marina Entrance Sign – $16.00 each Additional signs required if gate is closed – $12.00 each Gate Open Daily – 7am Closing Hours vary by Season – See below Spring – 10pm Fall / No closing hours Winter – 9pm, March – April 30, 11pm May – September 30, 10pm October – February 28, 9pm Closed Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4th, and Fridays in August. If the sign is not removed within 48 hours of the close of business, a $25.00 fine will be assessed per sign per day. Annual Pass – $75.00 single pass valid at any Florida State Park or Federal Recreation Area, including those managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, is offered at no cost to those with proper identification. Passes good for three days or a week are also available.
Group Campsites – Up to 5 groups of up to 50 persons each may utilize the group camp facility. To accommodate large groups, an additional charge will apply. The maximum number of people in a group campsite is 35, plus up to seven more people in private recreational vehicles (RVs) or tents. Tent sites have limited utilities; water is provided, but no sewer or trash service. Full RV sites come with both water and electric power and have sewer and trash pick-up. Half-sites are available in both the regular and overflow campgrounds. Regular sites contain water and electric power, with sewer and trash pick-up.
In 1996, Hurricane Jerry devastated the island, killing three people and leaving thousands homeless. After the storm, local citizens proposed building a barrier to protect the island against future storms. However, because the federal government had already invested heavily in a hurricane warning system for the region, officials declined to approve any major expenditures for new barriers. Instead, they approved construction of a bridge and roadways to allow residents and tourists easy access to the island.
On November 21, 2006, President George W. Bush signed legislation into law which authorized $17 million in funding for a project to construct a bridge and roadway connecting Perdido Key to the mainland. Work began in 2008, costing around $28 million with completion targeted for spring 2011. Although there are plans to name the structure after former U.S. Senator Bob Graham, it will be known as the Causeway Bridge.
The first half of the bridge crosses over the Intracoastal Waterway, while the second half traverses Sandestin Road on the east side of the peninsula. At approximately 495 feet (149m), its length is the longest pedestrian footbridge in the world. It was officially opened May 24, 2011, at 5 p.m., when President Barack Obama made a brief appearance on-stage during his visit to Fort Walton Island.
Heavily guarded, the park saw little tourist traffic until recently. That changed in 2017 when Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” music video came out. The video features scenes shot inside and outside the park, including shots filmed at the old pier where many believed the song referenced drug smuggling. This helped fuel increased interest in the park among tourists who were searching for the off-the-beaten path locations featured in the video. As a result, attendance at the park more than doubled in 2018 compared to the previous year.
According to the Northwest Florida Regional Economic Development Board, annual visitation to the park grew from 56,000 in 2016 to 115,000 in 2017, up from 93,000 in 2015. While still small in comparison to some of the other parks within the seashore, this increase in visitors translates to an estimated economic impact of nearly $3 million per year.
- wildlife viewing
- 18-hole disc golf course
- volleyball court
- miniature golf.
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- gray foxes
- gopher tortoises
- marsh rabbits
- black bears
- river otters
- eastern coyote
- Kemp’s ridley sea turtles
- bald eagles
- owls such
- barred owls
- screech owls
- red-cockaded woodpeckers
- pileated woodpeckers
- American white pelicans
- black skimmers
- sandhill cranes
- least terns
- ring-necked ducks
- common loons