We were surprised to learn how many things there are to do here at this barrier island, Perdido Key, FL. More than 60% of it’s 16 miles is set aside as protected land and off limits to development, making it one of the last remaining unblemished stretches of wilderness in the Florida panhandle. This means opportunities for outdoor fun are plentiful. Aside from boasting some of the purest, whitest sand anywhere in Florida, they also lay claim to some of the best trails and parks around. Naturally, we were excited to do some exploring. The Key is truly off the beaten path, for there were no crowds at any of the places we checked out – even though spring break was still in full force!
Although the first few days were very chilly and breezy, I braved the weather to visit the Big Lagoon State Park, a five minute drive from where we stayed. It’s located along the Intercoastal Waterway and offers narrow beaches, shallow bays, open woodlands and lots of recreation activities. There are only two trails to follow, one being the 3.5 mile long Sand Pine Trail which is mostly sand-based with some grasses. The other is the Estuary Trail, 2 miles long and also sand based with boardwalk portions. This park is also a gateway site to the Great Florida Birding Trail 🙂 If you like birds, click here to see my Florida bird shot collection.
I climbed the 3-story observation tower located along the east beach and was wowed by views of the park, Gulf Islands National Seashore and Perdido Key.
After several days we finally awoke to warm and sunny skies, yeah! So, off for another nature trek, this time to Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park , also a five minute drive from our park. This preserve offers three hiking trails with wildlife viewing. Wish we had seen some! But the trails were beautiful and we didn’t see another human until almost the end of our walks.
The Tarklin Bayou Trail is 1.3 miles (round trip) on an elevated boardwalk that meanders through prairie, cypress and titi forests and ends at an observation area that provides a scenic view of the bayou. It’s a nice place to stop for a private lunch!
The 7 mile Perdido Trail winds through pine and mixed hardwood. It crosses seepage streams and some muddy areas, but we managed to cross them without getting muddied up. On this trail beautiful butterflies were encircling us and I managed to get one good shot.
Lastly, the Wet Prairie Trail is 2.5 miles long and as the name suggests it winds through a wet prairie ecosystem. It was the most difficult to walk, with a fairly long section of bumpy, moist soil that could use some improvement.
Perdido Key is also one of the six Principal Islands that make up the Gulf Islands National Seashore. It makes this place very attractive as an active destination. Our last few days here were spent, where else, on the beach! Rosamond Johnson Beach is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is considered among the whitest, most beautiful sand beaches in America. Whether that’s true or not, we thoroughly enjoyed our days at the beach. The $8 admission fee at Gulf Islands National Seashore was good for 7 days, and we made use of it. If you go here, be sure to buy the pass as soon as you arrive so you can, too.
Florida and fresh fish are synonymous, of course. The sight of a huge array of seafood at Joe Patti’s Seafood Market – not your average seafood market – prompted us to buy a lot more than we should have. Thanks Erin, we were so delighted with your suggestion to go there. To end that trip, we stopped at one of the roadside vendors to buy boiled peanuts. We got both the regular and cajun spiced, and couldn’t wait to get home to gobble them up with a nice cold beer. Yum!
I also spent a day with my cousin Annie and her husband JD, who graciously gave me a tour around ValParaiso, Eglin AFB, and Destin, including a delicious lunch at a Filipino Restaurant. I had a great time, thanks so much.
We were forewarned about some of the pricey RV parks in Florida, so the cost to stay at Perdido Cove RV Resort and Marina was not a surprise. We liked the park because of its proximity to the things we wanted to do, and we also enjoyed the diverse sights and sounds that we experienced. Small and large boats/yachts, barges and canoes, dolphins cruised by, and the Pelicans gave it just the right feel. But it was also under an approach to the naval base, with LOUD jets coming in often. Click here to read Steve’s park review, if you’re interested.
What a busy week we had, it was our last time at the beach for several months.
Finally, a sunset taken from Big Lagoon.
Next up: Our first US Army COE campsite – loving it!