Looking west, across the Pensacola Pass sits a submerged war fort that has since transformed into a chain of sandy islands. Protected by the National Park Service, Ft. McRee is a beautiful, uninhabited island that is only accessible by boat. This majestic space is a favorite amongst locals for its preserved beauty, sand bar access, and fusion of tropical watercolors. Although the pair of sandy islands is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, there’s no requirement for admission to visit. Sand Island and Ft. McRee are also known for being pet havens for our beach-loving furry friends. With miles of preserved shoreline, protected coves, towering dunes, and shallow flats you and doggo are sure to stake your claim to paradise!
How to Get There
Getting to Sand Island is a nautical adventure, as the islands are only accessible by boat and requires some moderate boating skill. Although a seafaring vessel is your only means to navigate this stretch of coast, we highly recommend this aquatic adventure. After all, the journey is half the fun and you’ll take in our coastal habitat in a way that must be experienced. If you’re highly adventurous, put on your captain’s hat and rent a party boat from one of the vendors on Quietwater Beach or Pensacola Beach Marina, this way you’ll arrive and explore the islands at your own pace. If you’d rather sit back and relax while an expert is at the helm, we recommend booking one of the local charters. Many of the charter boats specialize in day trips to Sand Island and welcome pets aboard their vessels.
What to Expect/Activities
Upon arrival at Sand Island, you’ll feel like you’re idling to a less known Caribbean island with the spectrum of water colors and stark white sand. You’re likely to see a variety of foliage and wildlife, along with varied depths and shifting tides that produce alluring water. Once you’ve anchored, you’ve stamped your ticket to exploration. Whether it’s long walks through the iconic dunes or wading in the shallows, your canine is sure to be in a state of bliss! If your pup is a waterbug, there’s plenty of coves for doggy paddling or playing fetch. The sand bars offer optimal depths for swimming or wading, depending on your preference. Once your pup has had its fill of sand and sun, respite can be found from the shady deck of your vessel or beachfront canopy. Keep an eye (and ear) to the sky as you may just catch the Blue Angels up close and personal! Feeling like a day trip to this island paradise just isn’t enough?, you’re in luck as boat and tent camping are permitted on Sand Island and Ft. McRee!
Rules & Regulations
Depending on the day, Sand Island can feel like an undiscovered paradise, however it can still get very busy during the peak season and holidays. With this in mind it’s important to follow the rules and regulations of Gulf Islands National Seashore. The customary rules apply such as cleaning up your pet’s waste, keeping your dog on a leash especially in crowded areas, and respecting other visitor’s space. As in most pet friendly zones, use your best judgment and respect others to maximize the fun for all. These islands and the Gulf Islands National Seashore at large have maintained their unspoiled charm through decades of preservation, so be sure to follow all regulations and leave only your foot and/or paw prints.