Camping on the beach is not as popular as you would think in Florida, but one of the few places where it is allowed is in Gulf Shores National Park at Johnson’s Beach. The beach sits on the western sliver of Perdido Key, an undeveloped slice of beach in between Big Lagoon and the Gulf of Mexico. A night of primitive camping at Johnson’s Beach will connect you with the beach in the most intimate way, as you can hear the rolling waves of the ocean, taste the salty breeze, and feel the grains of sand in between your toes.
What Makes It Great
Camping at Johnson’s Beach is primitive, located ½ mile from the parking and void of bathrooms or running water. The hike to the beach captures views of both the Gulf to the south, and Big Lagoon and its dunes to the north.
The Pensacola Lighthouse is the only real light you’ll see over the dunes when the sun goes down, but with the beach’s darkness, you’ll have a beautiful view of the stars glistening above. Johnson’s Beach is one of the few beaches where fires are allowed to be built on the beach, and it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy a fire with the beach waves rumbling in the background. Just be sure to build no more than five feet from the high tide line and below any vegetation. It’s recommended to bring your own wood, as only driftwood can be used to burn.
Who is Going to Love It
Primitive camping at Johnson’s Beach is truly a remote experience, ideal for those who have experience camping without the frills of bathrooms or running water. The hike to the camping area is 0.5 miles over loose sand, which proves just as challenging as a hike with elevation, particularly when you have camping gear. A few boardwalks lead to the road, so that you can cut your journey on sand shorter if you choose to walk along the road. Depending on the wind, cooking on the beach can be difficult, so be prepared with food that doesn’t need to be heated. When you wake up to see the sunrise, it’s a welcome reward. Anyone who has camped on the beach should know that you learn to love the sand, as it will end up in your sleeping bag, tent, clothes and even food.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Johnson Beach is on Perdido Key, part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, so you’ll have to pay the $7 admission fee, valid for one to seven days, but primitive camping is free. The only restrooms are at the large parking area near the entrance. From there, you’ll drive your car and park at the end of Perdido Key Road. Camps must be set up at least a ½ mile east of this point. You must register for a free self-registration camping permit, available at the entrance station. Set up your campsite on a flat beach, as camping on the dunes or vegetation is not allowed. For additional information, call (850) 934-2600.