Crossing the 3-mile bridge from Pensacola across Pensacola Bay, stay in the right line as you enter Gulf Breeze and curve to the right to cross the toll bridge ($1 for cars) leading to Pensacola Beach. At the intersection go left or right (east or west respectively) until you get past all of the development. Heading to the west will lead towards Fort Pickens, and you will need a pass to enter this area. Heading east will not require any pass. Either direction leads past pristine white beaches only found along a small section of the Gulf Coast.
Parking is limited in this area, and travelers should be careful to park only in designated areas, in order to preserve the natural beauty of the area. Please be careful not to drag dirt or clay from other areas into the beautiful sands of the National Seashore. Be prepared to get wet if you want to photograph any waves, and be aware of the impact of salt water on your equipment.
Early one summer morning, I headed to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola to capture sunrise. It's always a bit of a crapshoot photographing sunrise or sunset in this region because conditions change so rapidly, especially during the summer months. Storms can seem to form over your head while you're shooting, or else clouds you were counting on may disappear suddenly. On this particular morning however, I got lucky. A typical summer thunderstorm was brewing overhead as the sun came up, and the morning light illuminated the clouds as if a nuclear bomb had been dropped in the middle of them. In the distance, a smaller storm dumped rain into the gulf, while behind me the skies were mostly clear, creating colorful waters in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm thankful for the protected land along this stretch of Florida's coast, as it is only that protection that allowed for a view unobstructed by condominiums and beach houses. Separated from the developments further down the beach, the Gulf on this morning displayed the pastel power of nature with vivid clarity.