The Naval Live Oaks Reservation in Gulf Island National Seashore in Gulf Breeze is a great place to escape the traffic, the heat and some peace and quiet.
Located not far from Fort Pickens and the Gulf-facing part of the Seashore, Live Oaks is a great place for a walk and picnic.
Although not secluded or isolated from US Route 98, Pensacola or Gulf Breeze, the Live Oak canopies on the Santa Rosa Sound side of 98 can leave you feeling as if you’ve been transported to a remote forest, if only for a small part of your day.
Naval Live Oaks Preservation Area in Gulf Breeze
Naval Live Oaks Area is a national park located in Gulf Breeze, Florida and part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which spans across 160 miles of coastline in Florida and Mississippi.
The area is situated on a peninsula between Pensacola Bay and Santa Rosa Sound, and is located just a short drive from Pensacola, Pensacola Beach, Gulf Breeze, and Navarre.
There are two entrances to the park which offer views of both the Pensacola Bay and the Santa Rosa Sound on the south side of US Route 98.
Live Oaks and shipbuilding
“The live oak is a supply “of the best quality,” because it is superior in strength, resistance, and hardness, to the celebrated British oak which forms “the wooden walls” (Royal Navy) of England.”Samuel S. Southland, President Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of the Navy to the United States House of Representatives in 1832
The area was originally set aside by the US government in 1828 to establish a naval live oak reserve, which ensured a steady supply of high-quality timber for the construction of naval vessels.
The live oak trees in the area were highly valued for their strength and durability, which made them ideal for use in shipbuilding.
The Live Oak, known for its strength, durability, and resistance to rot and insects, making it a valuable resource for shipbuilding and construction. It’s native to the southeastern US.
Live oak trees have a distinctive appearance, with dense, spreading canopies that provide shade and shelter for wildlife.
The U.S.S. Constitution, also known as “Old Ironsides,” was built using live oak lumber for its structural components.
In 1828, President John Quincy Adams and his Secretary of the Navy Samuel S. Southland established the Naval Live Oak Reservation Program, which was the first national tree farm in the United States.
The program was established to ensure a steady supply of high-quality timber for the construction and maintenance of navy warships.
By 1831, the United States had a virtual monopoly on the supply of live oak trees, and most large groves were controlled by the federal government.
Today, the Naval Live Oaks Area is a protected park and part of Gulf Island National Seashore national park system that preserves the natural resources and cultural history of the area.
Brackenridge Nature Trail in Gulf Island National Seashore at Live Oaks Naval Area
The Brackenridge Nature Trail is a convenient and picturesque loop trail situated directly behind the Gulf Islands National Seashore Headquarters on Gulf Breeze Parkway.
The trail is located just behind the park office and the sea turtle sculpture on the south side of US Route 98.
At the trailhead, you’ll find a 30-foot wide wooden deck and benches with views of the Santa Rosa Sound and Pensacola Bay Bridge.
The boardwalk loop winds through a coastal forest and passes by several informative waysides detailing the wildlife inhabiting the area.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll hear lots of rustling and moving about under foot as well as in nearby, both on the ground and in the trees.
Aside from the normal “watch out for” things like snakes in the summer along any trail, be careful if you have a dog with a strong prey drive and nose.
The armadillos like to hide underneath and to the side of the trail planks. They really seem to enjoy hanging out under the planks which makes it tricky when your dog catches their scent.
Or it is just my dog?
The fully accessible portion of the trail spans 0.3 miles in total, but you can hop off the accessible trail and extend your walk down the coast.
You’ll meander back and forth and change elevation several times and may even have to turn around due to tides, but extending your walk towards Pensacola offers some great vantage points and sweeping views of the coast and live oaks.
Parking at Live Oaks
You can park in the lot situated directly in front of the headquarters building in Naval Live Oaks.
Although there is no fee for entry, the gates to this area open at 7am and close at 5pm.
The exit gate is automated after hours but the park closes at sunset.
If the traffic on 98 gets hung up with construction, I’ll stop here for a walk and if my dog needs to burn off energy after a day at The Dog Stop, we’ll come here to chill out before headed home.
For RV travelers and Airstreamers like me, I like this parking lot and area as a rest stop.
It’s a really good stopping point along 98 after either driving over the 3 Mile Bridge Bridge in Pensacola or from the stop and start action that can occur coming from Walton County.
The parking lots on both sides of 98 offer some shade, picnic areas and enough space to just relax for 20 minutes or so before heading back in the Airstream or RV and back. on the road.
Andrew Jackson Trail in Gulf Island National Seashore
The Andrew Jackson Trail is an excellent choice for those seeking to exercise by running or hiking in Naval Live Oaks, Florida.
The trail runs through the northern section of the park and can be accessed from several trailheads.
It boasts a wide and sandy path that winds through a variety of coastal forest types, from pines to oaks, and offers visitors the opportunity to explore many side trails or extend their hike to see the bay.
If hiked as an out-and-back trail, the total distance is 4.8 miles or 2.4 miles one way.
The trail spans from the Group Campsite to Bayshore Road, covering a distance of 1.4 miles. Visitors can bring their dogs and horses along for the hike, as they are allowed on the trail.
Trailhead locations include the intersection with Group Camp (North Bay) Trail, the Naval Live Oaks Group Camping site, the northwest of Gulf Breeze Hospital, and Bayshore Road, just north of Highway 98. Plan to spend 1.5 to 2.5 hours on this trail to enjoy its beautiful surroundings and get in some great exercise.
Live Oaks Naval Area Photos
Naval Live Oaks Reservation in Gulf Island National Seashore
The nice thing about Naval Live Oaks Reservation in Gulf Island National Seashore in Gulf Breeze is it’s an easy stop off and place to catch a break, whether you’re traveling down the coast or a local who just need want a break and get back to nature.