Day Use and Boat Ramp Areas: Limited Parking Available
St. Joseph Peninsula’s beach day use and boat ramp parking area will operate at a limited capacity due to ongoing hurricane recovery efforts and construction projects. Parking spaces will be limited, especially for boats, trailers and larger vehicles on busy days, weekends and holidays. There are other boat ramps that can be utilized in the area if needed. Please call the park office at 850-227-1327 for updates or information.
Park Status After Hurricane Michael
The Maritime Hammock Nature Trail, a favorite of many visitors, has reopened.
The park suffered significant damage from Hurricane Michael in October 2018. It will be some time before camping or rental cabins will be available. Visitors wishing to camp or stay in a cabin should make arrangements at another park. The southern end of the park, including the Eagle Harbor boat ramp, along with a stretch of St. Joseph Bay beach and the immediate Gulf beach, is open for day use. There is limited parking space during busy times.
The hurricane created a breach that connected the Gulf to the Bay, severing the park just north of the boat ramp in Eagle Harbor. That breach was filled in by sand deposited by natural processes in May 2019. Since then, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has arranged additional sand deposits in the area, allowing for the rebuilding of dunes and a future access road. The camping facilities and cabins will reopen in the future.
Native Americans were the first to enjoy the beauty and bounty of St. Joseph Bay. The peninsula was settled by hunter-gatherers of the Weeden Island and Mississippian, Fort Walton Cultures.
Remains of shell tools and pottery of these cultures have been found in the park.
Spanish explorers named St. Joseph Bay in the early 1500s, but did not settle here until 1701 when they built a fort, Presidio San Jose, and a mission at the tip of the peninsula. After a few years the settlers abandoned the fort and returned to Pensacola. Nothing remains of the settlement today.
As the Florida Panhandle became an important part of shipping routes in the 1800s, settlers from Apalachicola moved here hoping to establish a competing port. St. Joseph’s Point Lighthouse was built on the peninsula in 1839 to serve the shortlived town of St. Joseph across the bay. After the town’s population was decimated by yellow fever in 1841, the lighthouse was dismantled.
In 1868, the Stone family purchased much of the land surrounding the bay, including the peninsula. They sold it to the U. S. government in 1940 to use for military training. St. Joseph Peninsula State Park opened in 1967. It was dedicated to the former owner, T. H. Stone, a respected community leader in Gulf County.