Perdido Key is a community located in Escambia County, Florida between Pensacola, Florida and Orange Beach, Alabama. The community is located on a barrier island in southeast Alabama and northwest Florida. The Gulf Island National Seashore’s Florida District includes the east part of the island as well as some of the other Florida islands. Perdido Key stretches 16 miles from Pensacola to Perdido Pass Bridge near Orange Beach, and in some places is no more than a few hundred yards wide.
From the start of the 17th century, Spanish and French explorers began colonizing the Gulf of Mexico's northern coast in hopes of finding riches. One Spanish expedition settled on what later became known as Santa Rosa Island. The French settled along the coast near Maubila (Mobile, Alabama). Both the French and the Spanish had heard of a mysterious body of water somewhere to the west of Pensacola but were unable to locate the entrance.
In 1693, the Spanish government sent Carlos de Sigüenza y Góngora, a cartographer and scientist, to find the entrance. While Carlos was able to find the mouth of the bay, he was still unable to find a deep enough waterway to sail through. Legend has it that his ship had been blown off course as he was searching for deep inland waters. An Indian chief and his tribe camped at Bear Point spotted the ship and offered to guide Carlos and his men to a connecting channel from the Gulf of Mexico to the tranquil bay. When the explorers located the bay, at last, they called it Perdido, which means “lost” or “hidden” in Spanish.
Early maps show that the pass was located near today’s boundary between Florida and Alabama. However, hurricanes and other forces both natural and man-made have moved the pass back and forth several times. The pass is now located in Orange Beach, Alabama, 3 miles from the Florida boundary.
Things to Do & Places to Visit
South of Perdido Key lies the Gulf of Mexico, with its beautiful white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. In fact, this is a great place to see local wildlife, such as dolphins, sea turtles, and many different species of birds. Rock Bottom Charters offers dolphin tours and fishing charters, so you can get outdoors and have a fun adventure with your family on the water.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
On the eastern end of Perdido Key lies the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is open from 8 AM to sunset. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do at the Seashore, such as biking, bird watching, boating, camping, fishing, hiking, snorkeling, swimming, and so much more. There are also indoor exhibits that are available throughout the National Seashore that get you out of that summer heat. You can also view historical sites such as Fort Barrancas, Fort Pickens, and Fort McRee.
Perdido Key State Recreation Area
This area is located on a barrier island that buffers the mainland from winds and tides while also providing a wonderful habitat for shorebirds and other coastal creatures.
Big Lagoon State Recreation Area
This area borders a body of water called the Big Lagoon. The park was opened in 1978, and the natural habitat includes raccoons, opossums, herons, gray foxes, skunks, and a variety of birds. The park has campsites, picnic areas, an amphitheater, boat dock, boardwalks, nature trails, and an observation tower.