Planning your visit to the Seashore will enhance your enjoyment and comfort. Having an accident will spoil any vacation. Please observe all rules and regulations for your safety. Know your limits and understand the hazards.
Do not swim in hazardous surf. Please watch your children in and near the water at all times. Lifeguards are on duty at designated beaches Memorial Day through Labor Day. For more information see the Seashore's swimming page.
Dangerous Sea Life
Sharks are present in the Gulf of Mexico. Do not swim at dawn, dusk or night when sharks are active or feeding. Do not swim in murky waters.
Use caution to avoid jellyfish and stingrays. If stung by a jellyfish apply vinegar and meat tenderizer. Do not touch irritated skin or wash with fresh water. Shuffle feet lightly while wading to scare stingrays away.
In the Florida district observe beach warning flags. They are posted at various locations on Santa Rosa Island and Perdido Key.
Rip currents are strong river-like currents that move away from the shore. Rip currents can occur in both the Mississippi and Florida Districts. If caught in a rip current, stay calm, wave for assistance, and swim parallel to shore. Don't swim against the current. Once out of the current swim directly to shore.
Sunshine is intense. Stay out of the direct sun from 11 am to 2 pm. Use a sun block with a high SPF of 30 and wear longed-sleeved light protective clothing. Drink plenty of liquids. Alcoholic drinks cause dehydration.
During thunderstorms move inside to a building or vehicle. If swimming or fishing get out of the water immediately. If in an open area, move to a low ground area between sand dunes and crouch down. If caught outside during a tornado or water spout, lie flat in a low area and protect your head. Water spouts are tornadoes over water and may come ashore. Do not stay in a car or recreational vehicle.
During hurricane season, June 1 through November 30, please stay advised of tropical weather conditions. The Seashore will be closed if tropical weather such as depressions, storms, or hurricanes threaten the Seashore's offshore islands.
The Seashore has many different kinds of wildlife. Please watch animals including snakes from a distance. If the animal appears to be injured or ill please contact a ranger. Gulls, pelicans, and great blue herons have been injured by becoming entangled in fishing lines. Please dispose of fishing gear including lines properly.
Please do not leave your pet in an unattended vehicle. Inside car temperatures can reach 160 degrees in a matter of minutes, even with partially opened windows. Pets are not allowed on the beaches, (swim beach on West Ship Island, Mississippi), coastal forts, or picnic shelter pavilions. Pets must be on a leash no longer than six feet and owners must pick up and properly dispose of animal waste.
Parking is not permitted on road shoulders at the Fort Pickens or the Santa Rosa Areas. Park only in designated areas. Protect your valuables by leaving them at home. Watch for pedestrian walkways in congested areas and obey speed limits.
Use insect repellent in warmer months or stay inside at dusk or dawn when mosquitos are most active. Gnats and mosquitoes are plentiful. Beware of ants inside Fort Pickens and biting fire ants throughout the Seashore.
Poison ivy grows throughout the park in the wooded area. Remember: Leaves of three, let them be, leaves of five, stay alive. Prickly pear cactus has spines that can cause skin irritation. Watch out for plants with spines or spurs.
Visiting Historic Forts
Climbing is unsafe and may damage historic artifacts that cannot be replaced. Please keep off mounds and the cannon at the forts. Watch your step. Many surfaces are uneven and some areas of the forts are slippery and damp especially in the rain. Some of the stairways have no handrails, so stay close to the wall when climbing the stairs. There are no electric lights in some areas. They may be dark and dangerous. If there is a barrier or posted closed area, please keep out for your safety.
Did You Know?
Gulf Islands National Seashore's Fort Massachusetts, on West Ship Island 12 miles off the Mississippi coastline, was covered by the 30-foot storm surge from Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005. The fort has been reopened to the public.