Johnson Beach 2020, sandy passage to the beach
Gulf Islands National Seashore offers recreation opportunities and preserves natural and historic resources along the Gulf of Mexico barrier islands of Florida and Mississippi. The protected regions include mainland areas and parts of seven islands. Some islands along the Alabama coast were originally considered for inclusion, but none is part of the National Seashore.
The color of the sand in the region is exceptionally white, as seen in this 1957 photo at Pensacola Beach, Florida, adjacent to the protected area designated in 1971.
The Florida District of the seashore features offshore barrier islands with sparkling white quartz sand beaches (along miles of undeveloped land), historic fortifications, and nature trails. Mainland features near Pensacola, Florida, include the Naval Live Oaks Reservation, beaches, and military forts. All Florida areas are accessible by automobile.
The Mississippi District of the seashore features natural beaches, historic sites, wildlife sanctuaries, islands accessible only by boat, bayous, nature trails, picnic areas, and campgrounds. The Davis Bayou Area is the only portion of the National Seashore in Mississippi that is accessible by automobile. Petit Bois, Horn, East Ship, West Ship, and Cat islands are accessible only by boat. The 4,080 acres (16.5 km2) Gulf Islands Wilderness offers special protection, within the seashore, to parts of Petit Bois Island and Horn Island, Mississippi.
Considerable damage to public infrastructure occurred as a result of storms during the 2004 and 2005 Atlantic hurricane seasons. In subsequent years, infrastructure was fully repaired. All roadways, parking areas, campgrounds, and visitor centers have been repaired and are fully operational. A few trails and associated boardwalks and dune crossovers were still under repair as of late 2010, especially near the Fort Pickens campground.