General Trip Planning Information
Gulf Islands Wilderness is accessible via watercraft vessel (i.e. motorboats, sailboats, kayak), primarily private motorboat. Numerous charter boat services are permitted throughout the national seashore to transport passengers on a "for hire" basis. Please check the park website for more information. There are no bridges connecting the mainland to the barrier islands.
The Gulf Islands Wilderness provides many recreational opportunities. Visitors to the wilderness will enjoy a preserved natural area, clean water and habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife including rare and endangered species.
Visitors can also enjoy rewarding recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, wilderness camping, bird watching, fishing, swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, photography, and stargazing. Surf fishing is a popular activity among visitors with the potential to catch mackerel, red drum, and sea trout. A saltwater fishing license is required and temporary licenses are available.
No motorized vessels are allowed on the interior ponds and lagoons of the islands and restrictions on navigation are enforced for critical seagrass habitat protection.
Wilderness camping is available year-round and for groups over 10 individuals a permit is required. Late fall through early spring offer the best time to camp to avoid the harsh summer conditions as well as mosquitoes and gnats. Campfires are permitted below the extreme high tide line. Drift-wood is available for this purpose, however dead and down wood from the island's interior should not be used as this decaying organic matter nourishes the maritime forest. Fires should be extinguished with water.
The wilderness areas and the adjacent waters are designated as Pack It In and Pack It Out areas. Do not litter, dispose of human waste properly, and carry out all your trash with you. Consider also carrying out additional trash in your vicinity as marine debris and litter are a major issue for this coastal landscape.
Safety and Current Conditions
As you plan for your visit, consider the weather and marine weather forecasts, tide conditions, and familiarize yourself with the lay of the land.
While in Gulf Islands Wilderness, be aware of poison ivy, changing weather conditions, sun stroke, heat exposure, cold exposure, ocean conditions, rip currents, and small craft warning. Swimming is at your own risk. Never swim by yourself; beware of signs of hypothermia and exertion, and always be wary of the weather.
Be sure to visit the Davis Bayou Visitor Center in Ocean Springs, Mississippi to speak with Park Rangers to better orient and prepare you for your trip. For more information, please visit the park's website at http://www.nps.gov/guis