On Saturday June 27, 2015 I took my son to Gulf Islands National Seashore to meet up with some family, do a little SUP and just get out of the house for a bit.
Gulf Islands National Seashore isn’t my first choice for hitting the beach, but now that my little one is in and out of the water, it’s a better choice.
Growing up in Fort Walton Beach I’ve been to this park what seems like a million times, so it was definitely a surprise to find out that the park now charges a parking fee.
It Was Dead At 10:30am
We had to hit up Walmart last minute which caused us to be slightly behind schedule. I wanted to hit the beach early and try to miss some of the traffic in Downtown Fort Walton.
We ended up arriving around 10:30am and the place was dead. With a capital D-E-A-D!
As we unloaded we were greeted by a gentleman who was with the park. He asked if we had a parking pass, or had purchased a parking pass. We obviously said no since you’ve never had to pay to park before.
He informed us that as of June 14, 2015 there is a $15 parking fee. This fee grants you a parking pass for 7 days and covers the entrance fee for Perdido Key, Fort Pickens, and Santa Rosa (Opal Beach).
Taken back by the now mandatory fee, we asked the guy where we were supposed to pay. He said there was a new sign upon entering where you drop your money and get your parking pass.
We were 2 cars deep so I was a little pissed that it was going to cost us $30 to park for a few hours. Graciously, a friend of the family covered the cost since we were already there.
The gentleman working was super nice but I felt bad for the guy. His entire day consisted of him informing everyone who pulled in about the change…and unfortunately, he had to take the heat.
By 11am that park is always pretty packed. But on this day there were maybe 11 cars total.
- Per Person – $7
- Per Motorcycle – $10
- Per Private Vehicle – $15
- Annual Pass – $80
- Available to everyone
- Can be obtained in person at a federal recreation site, or by calling 1-888-ASK USGS (1-888-275-8747), Ext. 3 (Hours of operation are: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm Mountain time), or online.
If you don’t want an annual pass for all 2,000 federal recreation sites, I did find that there is a Gulf Islands National Seashore Annual Pass:
- Gulf Islands National Seashore Annual Pass – $30
- Covers all areas in Gulf Islands National Seashore charging an entrance fee until the end of the month one year after purchase. This pass can be purchased at the Fort Pickens Entrance Station, Perdido Key Entrance Station, and Davis Bayou Campground.
I did see that there are Free Days available throughout the year.
- January 19 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- February 14–16 – Presidents Day weekend
- April 18–19 – Opening weekend of National Park Week
- August 25 – National Park Service Birthday
- September 26 – National Public Lands Day
- November 11 – Veterans Day
I Get It…I Really Do
I understand that in order to maintain and keep parks like this available, there needs to be money. I get it! I’m not mad.
For my family, we might find a new place to go on a regular basis and keep Gulf Islands National Seashore as Plan B.
According to NPR.org, The National Park Service says 106 of the 128 parks that charge entry fees are raising those fees or planning to do so in the coming year.
The Washington Post reported that, “Park officials say the increases are needed to help them get to a backlog in construction projects, many of them vital to the visitor experience.”
Again…I get it. We need roads, we need to make repairs, etc.
I just hope that the park doesn’t suffer too much.