Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Tel: (850) 227-1327
St. Joseph State Park is a long narrow claw of land pointing north towards Panama City. From the top of the dunes, you can see the both the Gulf of Mexico and the sheltered waters of St. Joseph Bay.
This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful places in Florida, especially during the fall and winter months, when the temperatures are cooler and migrating hawks, shorebirds, warblers and sea ducks are present. Over 240 bird species have been sighted in the park.
In January, an early morning walk along the almost deserted bayside beach (above) yielded sightings of Horse-shoe crabs, kingfishers, red-breasted mergansers, a great blue heron, pied grebes, and the fresh tracks of deer, raccoons, skunk, and otter.
From May to September sea turtles, mainly loggerheads, come ashore to nest on the gulf beaches. The sandy beaches of the gulf side of the peninsula are also one of the few surviving nesting areas for the snowy plover.
In 2002, the beaches of St Josephs State Park were rated Number 1 in the United States by
'Dr Beach'. Hurricane Ivan blew many of the tall dunes away in 2004, but the vegetation has been replanted and the dunes are slowly regenerating. There are more visitors in summer when people come to swim, snorkel, kayak, fish and scallop. There is kayak and canoe rental information at the park entrance.
This is the only State Park in Florida to have a ‘wilderness zone’ designation. The tip of the peninsula can only be accessed by a seven-mile walking trail. In the Park, you can camp, in both RV’s and tents, hike to a primitive campground, or stay at one of the eight superbly sited park cabins that overlook the bay. But beware; the cabins often book up a year in advance. Check the
Park web site for further information. Mosquitoes and other biting insects can be fierce.
More information on their web site
St. Joseph State Park web site
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