Perdido Key is a pristine beach destination with gorgeous white quartz sand beaches and emerald waters on the Gulf side, rolling dunes across the middle and calmer beaches on the Sound side. It is the perfect paradise for beach goers who love the unspoiled beauty of the beaches, soft white sand, wide beachfront, warm waters and relaxed lifestyle.
Perdido Key Florida is a 17 mile long barrier island that is the westernmost beach in Florida at the west end of the panhandle. It is connected to the city of Pensacola by bridge and is part of the Pensacola Beaches. The Beach stretches from Alabama through Perdido Key State Park, Perdido Key Beach and Johnson Beach which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
Perdido means "lost" or "hidden" in the spanish and portugese languages, named because the first explorers to this area couldn't find a deep channel into the body of water that was west of Pensacola. An Indian Chief guided them to the pass, which is on the western tip of Perdido Key. Have you ever wondered why Perdido Key has just about 3 miles of it located in Alabama? It's because of the shifting sands of the barrier islands in Florida. It is estimated that the pass at the time was the boundary between Alabama and Florida. Due to hurricanes and the movement of sandy areas across the coast, it has shifted several times moving part of the island into Alabama.
What this Guide covers
This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for vacationing, moving or buying in the area.
See also: Pensacola City Guide - Pensacola Beach City Guide - Ultimate Guide to Pensacola Area Beaches and learn more about and find local businesses in the largest Pensacola area business directory (coming soon).
Perdido Key, Florida is part of the Pensacola area but is the place to go for nature and unspoiled beaches in a relaxed and laid back beach town. The cultural feel of this quaint beach town is enjoying the outdoors, whether walking in the sand, bird watching, hiking on the nature trails, fishing or boating in the waterways. There is a huge Navy presence in the area with the nearby Naval training base that is home to the world renowned Blue Angels. The residents are proud of the Naval presence and of their veterans. And if you are lucky enough to be in the area on their training days, you will see the Blue Angels flying around.
Access the beach at the Alabama-Florida line and head over to Flori-bama, a long-standing icon in the area that offers food, drinks and lots of events. It is the place to go on the island for entertainment and nightlife.
Heading east from the Alabama border, the coast is lined with condos and resorts with a few stretches of beachfront houses and townhouses along the way. Approximately 2 miles from the border is Perdido Key State Park.
This state park area is a beautiful 247 acres stretch of pristine barrier island that is untouched by development with dunes with a huge beachfront area. The park offers picnic shelters, restrooms, parking, shower stations, water fountains, accessible amenities, boardwalks to the beach, hiking trails, fishing and swimming. There are two locations to park and access the beach - West Access and East Access. This is a beautiful spot to visit the park with public bathrooms and good parking.
There are three additional public access points to enjoy a day at the beach. Public Beach Access #1 is the first beach you will see after coming across the bridge onto the key from Pensacola. This is a small beach without much parking so get there early. This beach access has public bathrooms and showers.
Located at Plus Code: 7HWF+X4 Pensacola, Florida
Public Beach Access #2 is a more common stop with pavilions and public bathrooms.
Public Access #3 has bathrooms, a shower and a small lot for parking.
Located at Plus Code: 7GVX+JC Pensacola, Florida where River Rd connects with Perdido Key Drive.
Take River Road to Access Point #4 for the River Road Dog Park to enjoy the water with your furry friend. This is the only designated dog park on Perdido Key and is located on the river side of the key.
Located at: 14484 River Rd, Pensacola, FL 32507
The eastern side of Perdido Key is Johnson Beach National Seashore, which is the developed part of Gulf Islands National Seashores. It is a perfect location for family outings, picnics, with lots of room to play and explore. You do have to pay a small fee to drive into and park inside the park. There is plenty of parking, covered pavilions, grills, bathroom facilities, outdoor showers, and seasonal lifeguards and concessions.
Parking is also allowed along Johnson Beach Road unless otherwise posted. Johnson Beach Road ends about 3 miles in across the barrier island. The remainder of the island can only be accessed by foot or by boat. Note that the above photo was taken a month after Hurricane Sally swept away many of the tall dunes and destroyed many of the boardwalks. The hurricane also breached the eastern tip of the island splitting it into 3 parts.
The Park also offers camping a mile hike further down past where the road ends. You can hike from the end of the road or go to the camping areas by boat, which is most common.
Hiking the island offers beautiful scenery with sand dunes and water all around. Be sure you are ready to walk in the sand because the entire island is soft white sand that is both fun and challenging to walk on for long hikes. The sound side of the island offers a nature trail while the gulf side offers coastal bird watching, shelling and surf fishing. Johnson Beach is known for its nature and beauty and it doesn’t disappoint.
Johnson Park was named for Rosamond Johnson who was the first black serviceman from the area to die in the Korean War. Before desegregation, this beach was the only beach in the area open to African Americans.
Something Unique about Perdido Key is that on some days, you can see (and hear) the Blue Angels flying nearby from their training facility.
Birding in Perdido Key If you are a bird lover, the Perdido Key area is your paradise. Water and shore birds are abundant as well as native birds and seasonal northern birds making their way south frequenting the area. With so much protected land surrounding the area including the Big Lagoon State Park to the north, Perdido Key State Park, the Tarkilin Bayou Reserve State Park and preserve, and Gulf Islands National Seashore which is the longest stretch of protected seashore in the country and the first stop for hundreds of migrating birds, Perdido Key is a haven for over 300 species of birds and a top location for Bird Watchers.
All across the panhandle of Florida, residents love and protect the Sea Turtles! Four species of sea turtles, Loggerhead, Green Sea Turtle, Kemp’s Ridley and less commonly, the Leatherback Sea Turtle, nest on these beaches. Sea turtles nest in Florida from May through October.
The Perdido Key Beach Mouse protection is an important topic in the area as Perdido Key is the one and only home for this species of mice. It is currently on the critically endangered list and efforts are being made to help protect them and their habitat.
It is a small nocturnal mouse that only comes out at night and important to the ecosystem on the island. Check out this video documentary about the Perdido Beach Mouse. for more information.
The Monarch Butterfly is also common particularly during times of migration.
Pure white sandy beaches line the entire Perdido Key. Every beach area features the gorgeous sugar white soft sand. This sand is the outcome of finely ground quartz that was washed down from the Appalachian Mountains 25 million years ago.
Did you know that is why it squeaks when you walk? It is the quartz in the sand.
Perdido Beachfront is super wide and flat all along the shoreline with all of the natural areas featuring a backdrop of dunes.
The Shoreline is pleasant with soft sands and a small line of shells along the waters edge making it enjoyable to walk barefoot.
The Water is a beautiful mixture of emerald and ocean blue. The emerald color comes from a combination of both the pure white sand that allows the colors to better reflect the ocean water that is enriched with micro-algae that brings out the green color.
Johnson Beach is a beautiful place to spend the day with family and is a great choice for small children and for those who like a more quiet and less crowded beach experience.
The beaches on Perdido Key offers good swimming with a long slope that allows you to swim out further. Always check the beach flags for warnings of rough waters, undertows, and dangerous sea life.
While there are not typically big waves for surfing, you can grab a surf board and join the few who surf the area. Most of the surfing is body surfing and riding the small waves in on a body board.
Surf fishing is popular among both residents and visitors to the area. Know the rules before you surf fish and if there are fishers along the shore, be sure to walk around their area. Watch for birds, particularly blue herons, who love to hang out around the surf fishers.
On every beach in Florida, you will see shellers looking for that treasure from the ocean. Shelling is a favorite pastime of many beach-goers. While Perdido is not known as a popular shelling beach, there are a ton of shells that wash up on the shore everyday.
With the Sun rising in the east and setting in the west and the panhandle beaches facing south, the sunrise and sunsets on Perdido Key are breathtaking. It's worth visiting the beach during these times to enjoy the beauty of the scenery.
When visiting or moving to Perdido Key, you will find options for both Gulf front and River front homes, condos, town homes, hotels, and beach homes. The area brings visitors and residents mostly from northern locations who are looking to retire with a relaxed lifestyle or those who work in nearby Pensacola. It is also a popular location for those who are looking for their winter home or vacation rental investments.
Visiting Perdido Key
Perdido Key offers hotels, condos, town homes, and beach homes all along the stretch of commercialized beaches on the Gulf of Mexico and Ole River. Staying or Buying on the Gulf front side of the island is for beach lovers who love to walk, swim, play, fish, shell and enjoy the beachfront. Staying or Buying on the River side is for those who love boating and boating activities or just love the view of the river. Either way, the whole island is only a couple blocks wide so the other side is easily accessible.
Vacation rentals and hotels offer everything from beach front, beach access, waterfront to bring your boat, communities with an abundance of amenities and budget friendly rentals a block or two from the beach.
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