Making an arc through Gulf Islands National Seashore on Perdido Key, the Perdido Key Discovery Trail provides interpretation of coastal habitats while offering a pleasant destination for birding.
Location: Perdido Key
Length: 0.6 mile loop
Trailhead: 30.3027, -87.4149
Address: 13233 Johnson Beach Rd, Pensacola
Fees: $10 pedestrian / cyclist, $20 vehicle (good for one week)
Restroom: at the main beach pavilion
Land manager: Gulf Islands National Seashore
Open 5 AM to sunset. Leashed dogs permitted.
From Pensacola, follow SR 292 west around Pensacola Naval Air Station. After the traffic light at Gulf Beach Highway, SR 292 crosses the bridge onto Perdido Key. Turn left onto Johnson Beach Rd after a half mile. Continue to the park entrance gate and pay the entrance fee. At the first road junction, make a left. Be cautious of people walking along the road. The road ends at the far trailhead.
There are two entrances to the boardwalk, both along the short road down to Big Lagoon. The road becomes a connector to make the loop.
We started our walk at the trailhead closest to the lagoon, which provided a nice, slow introduction to the habitats of Perdido Key starting at the lowest point.
The boardwalk traverses a coastal pine forest for the first short stretch, with puddles of wetlands visible between the trees.
At a trail junction, a short side boardwalk leads out to an expansive marsh. To its north you can see the arc of the SR 292 bridge from the mainland.
Although several locations provide benches along the boardwalk, this is the best one for birding. Sit and watch the sweep of the marsh towards the lagoon.
As the trail turns away from the boardwalk, elevation increases. Scrub forest begins to invade the understory of the pine flatwoods.
After a quarter mile, you are firmly in the scrub, the boardwalk bridging dunes topped with open stretches of white sand where diminutive oaks and Florida rosemary thrive.
As the boardwalk curves again, you catch a glimpse of condos at the edge of Johnson Beach before the path points you back towards Big Lagoon, with more immersion in the scrub forest.
The boardwalk ends at another kiosk along the road to Big Lagoon. Johnson Beach sits off to the right within walking distance. Turn left to walk back to the parking area at Big Lagoon.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
As part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, the windswept tip of Perdido Key goes on for miles at Johnson Beach. Discover natural habitats and wild shores along its length
Big Lagoon State Park
At Big Lagoon State Park, enjoy exploring the sweep of coastal forest and wetlands along one of Florida’s largest lagoons
Gulf State Park
Stretching west from the tip of Perdido Key, Gulf State Park encompasses more than 6,000 acres of natural habitats on barrier islands between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Perdido Key State Park
With sand as white as fresh fallen snow, Perdido Key State Park offers Florida’s westernmost public beach
Trout Point Nature Trail
A hidden treasure inside Pensacola Naval Air Station, Trout Point Nature Inside Pensacola NAS, Trout Point Nature Trail showcases fragile coastal habitats from a 1.5-mile boardwalk hike with scenic views of Big Lagoon and Perdido Key
Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park
Conserving a vast swath of wetland habitats in low-lying areas along the Perdido River floodplain, Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park is home to four species of Sarracenia – pitcher plants – unique to the Gulf Coast.