Located at the end of a long road on the tip of a peninsula is a unique and pristine state park nestled between Saint Joseph Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This hidden gem of the Forgotten Coast is definitely well off the beaten path but well worth the trip for those willing to make the drive to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Here visitors can find a treasure trove of activities to satisfy their quest for fun or they can just spend a leisurely day relaxing on a sparsely populated beach watching the waves and wildlife.
The park’s official name, T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, was given in 1967 to honor the former owner who sold the property to the U.S. Government in 1940. The site has a rich history extending as far back as the Weeden Island and Mississippian cultures to its use as a Spanish Fort in 1701, a Lighthouse in 1839, and training ground for the military in the 1940s. Nature reclaimed the area leaving virtually no trace of its former history.
The park offers 10 miles of white sand beaches, 3 nature trails, picnic pavilions, bicycling, kayaking, and gulf and bay fishing. There are two campgrounds available with electric and water hook-ups as well as 7 cabin rentals within the park. There is a park store located at the boat launch in case visitors forget something or just want to grab a quick bite to eat before heading out for a full day of fun. The fun carries on into the night with unobstructed stargazing or grab a flashlight and search for ghost crabs and other nocturnal creatures.
Wildlife watchers and photographers alike will enjoy the many opportunities here to see and photograph the many birds and animals that call the park home. It’s not uncommon to see White-tailed deer, raccoon, and the occasional Bald eagle. Along the shore visitors can spot dolphin, rays, and wading birds. To explore what lies beneath, bring a waterproof camera and some snorkel gear and head out into the bay.
While St. Joseph Bay may be best known for the succulent scallops it produces, it also contains an entire magical world beneath its waves. The St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve encompasses the entire bay and contains over 55 thousand acres of protected waterways and surrounding salt marsh vital for nesting migratory birds. Five different species of seagrasses thrive here creating an extensive nursery for fish and shellfish. The diversity of this area creates one of the best snorkeling opportunities the Florida panhandle has to offer.
To reach St. Joseph Peninsula State Park take Hwy 30A just east of Port St. Joe to the intersection of 30A and 30E. Turn right on 30 E and drive six miles to the park. Admission at the time of this article is $6 per vehicle up to 8 persons, $4 per vehicle for single person, pedestrians and bicyclists $2 and boat launch fee is $5. For more information visit the park website at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.