When the weather turned cold and windy on a Spring Break visit to Panama City Beach, we loaded into the car and headed 60 miles east to explore St. Joesph Peninsula State Park. We had heard about its beauty and lack of crowds. We had also heard that it had been damaged in Hurricane Michael in 2018. We were curious to see it for ourselves and maybe do a bit of hiking.
The beaches are indeed very beautiful. The wide, white sandy shore is filled with shells. The limited parking and minimal development on the peninsula make it an oasis of serenity in a stretch of Florida that can be extremely crowded. As you can see from the photograph above, the gulf was quite churned up from the wind and its usual emerald color had turned a steely grey-green. The park is open from 8:00 am till sunset 365 days a year. There is a $6.00 per car entrance fee. There are restrooms and Kayak, Canoe, and Pontoon Boat Rentals available on the bayside of the parking lot. There are no other services. Make sure you pack a cooler with water and other drinks, lunch, or snacks and lots of sunscreen.
In October of 2018, Hurricane Michael ravaged this section of the northern gulf coast. He caused a breach in the peninsula from Gulf to Bay. This breach severed the park just north of the Eagles Roost Boat Launch. In May of 2019, the breach was filled with sand deposited by natural processes. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has arranged for additional sand deposits. This will allow for the rebuilding of the dunes and a future road. Until the road is complete the campgrounds, cabins, and Eagle nesting areas are not accessible and closed. For more information and updates on reopenings, head over to www.floridastateparks.org .
Maritime Hammock Nature Trail
Maritime Hammock Nature Trail is a one mile, out and back, easy trail near the entrance to the park. It is partially boardwalk, partially sandy trail. The turnaround is at a small beach on St. Joseph's Bay. There are frequent plant markers that describe the ecosystem of the wooded area between the Gulf and Bay. The views of the bay are gorgeous along the trail.
Ready to book your trip to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park?