Deadman's Island in Gulf Breeze is only accessible by boat and is rich in both history and wildlife, both on the island and in the surrounding water. There have been artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries found on the island and the Florida Archaeology Network offers a historical tour of Deadman's Island. Recently, the island has been there have been efforts to restore the Juncus salt marsh (which will restore the sportfish in the area as well) and the oyster bed. Part of the tour will also educate visitors on how to help with the preservation of the island.
What Makes It Great
One of the best things about Deadman's Island is its accessibility. Even though you can only get to it by boat, it's an easy .5-1 mile paddle along the Pensacola Bay. Once at the island, there is a lot to do! You can relax on the white sands beach or go snorkeling and look for fish or one of the oyster reefs. Many visitors enjoy looking for birds, crabs, or even dolphins swimming out in the bay.
The island also has a bit of historical significance. According to Nicole Grinnon from the Florida Public Archaeology Network, “bits and pieces of artifacts will still wash up on the island from time to time.” Artifacts from the 19th and 20th centuries have been found on the island from shipwrecks. There's a big shipwreck off the island in Old Navy Cove that was uncovered in 1989, but there are many shipwrecks throughout Gulf Breeze, ranging from the 17th century to World War I.
There is also some mystery around how the island was named. In 1764, the island was used as a place for ship maintenance, so some believe it was named after the large "deadman" anchor that was left behind when the maintenance operations ceased. In 1891, the island was a yellow fever quarantine station (a.k.a. it's the place where men were sent to die), leading some to believe this is actually why the island is named "Deadman's Island".
Who is Going to Love It
Deadman's Island is a fun day trip for a novice or experienced kayaker. The island itself is rich in history and has a variety of ecological habitats, as well as opportunities for snorkeling off the shore. Because it's only accessible by boat, it's also a great place to go hang out on the beach for the day, with less crowds than the popular mainland beaches.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
There are two launch options to get to Deadman's Island - the public boat ramp at Wayside Park in Gulf Breeze or Woodland Park. Get more information about where to launch here.
If you want to stay the night, contact the City of Gulf Breeze for more information about camping permits.