What to do in St Joseph Peninsula State Park

Native Americans once inhabited the peninsula and gathered shellfish for meals from the bay's shallow waters. Before the area was purchased for development as a state park, it was used as a U.S. Army training facility during World War II.

Named for lifelong community leader and settler T.H. Stone, the park is teeming with wildlife and marine life. Noted as an excellent birding area with sightings of 209 species currently recorded, it is a premier location in the eastern United States for observing hawks during fall migration. Many species can be seen including the endangered peregrine falcon. The monarch butterfly is also on the wing in autumn, making its long migratory journey from northern states to wintering sites in Mexico. Shore and wading birds are in abundance throughout the year.

The best areas of the park to observe birds are along the beach and bayshore, while the sandpine scrub, pine flatwoods and dunes offer protective habitat. The shallow waters of St. Joseph Bay are alive with a variety of marine life. Frequently encountered are bay scallops, hermit, fiddler and horseshoe crabs and octopi. Shelling is a popular activity on the peninsula, however, it is important that no live shells be molested or removed.

Just before the park entrance on County Route 30-E, a 1-mile nature trail loops through a pine scrub. The area is well marked with trailhead parking. Once inside the park, visitors first arrive at Eagle Harbor. This is a large day use area with huge parking lots, boat launch, seasonal visitor center (open in winter), picnicking, and snorkeling opportunities located bayside. Boardwalks traverse the 25' high sand dunes, some of Florida's tallest, over to the Gulf waters for a variety of water sports.

As visitors travel beyond Eagle Harbor, the road forks. Bearing right takes travelers over a small tidal inlet arriving at another large parking area with picnic tables and the 1-mile Bay View Trail. Aptly named, the trail travels though a forest of hollies, wax myrtle, wild grape, and saw palmettos. A smattering of tall pines offers little shade. This is a wonderful area for viewing a variety of wading birds that feast on the abundant crabs, oysters, and scallops. Folks enjoy the picnic area with immediate access to snorkeling and swimming waters. Canoeing is very pleasant when the bay is calm. Rentals are available through the park. This is also a great area for beachcombing, surf fishing, and cast netting. Bay scallops are plentiful and make a great evening meal for both humans and birds. Just beyond Bay View Picnic Area, a road bears left to Shady Pines Campground. At the end of this road lies the youth / group camping area and the cabin community. Beyond that, is the 1,650-acre wilderness preserve. Primitive camping in the preserve is by permit only.

Bearing left at the fork takes campers to Gulf Breeze Campground. A boardwalk links it with Shady Pines Campground and an observation deck overlooking the tidal inlet.

Recreation
Visitors to St. Joseph Peninsula enjoy fabulous scenery, beachcombing, snorkeling, sunbathing, camping, canoeing, boating, saltwater fishing, hiking and bird watching. A cabin community offers eight fully furnished units. A primitive campground accommodating up to 25 people is located seven miles "in" to the tip of the peninsula. A boat launch is available in the basin within Eagle Harbor.

Location
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is located between Port St. Joe and Apalachicola. Access is on County Route 30-E.

Climate
The panhandle area of Florida experiences mild, comfortable winters and warm to hot, humid summers. The average summer temperatures reach well above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild with temperatures averaging below 52 degrees Fahrenheit (below 11 Celsius). The average precipitation for the panhandle area is more than 60 inches per year. August and September are peak months of the hurricane season that lasts from June 1 through November 30.

Address
8899 Cape San Blas Road
Port St. Joe, FL 32456

Phone: 850-227-1327

  • St Joseph Peninsula State Park Travel Q&A

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