Spanish for “lost island,” Perdido Key encompasses federal and state parks abundant with wetlands, estuaries and wildlife. The azure waters of the Gulf of Mexico frame the white beaches. These beaches and their dune habitat host a variety of visitors and residents throughout the year. Environmentalists and outdoor enthusiasts enjoy Perdido Key because it is one of the few remaining areas of protected wilderness in the Florida Panhandle. Miles of preserves offer opportunities for hiking, kayaking, and bird watching. Dolphin watch excursions and sailing tours are popular with tourists, as are moonlight cruises on the bay. Perdido Key’s two state parks and an expanse of National Seashore offer chances to spot gray foxes and blue herons in the wild. Local outfitters offer guided tours, and self-guided nature trails at Big Lagoon and Johnson Beach allow solitude. The barrier island features several world renowned parks, including Perdido Key State Park, Big Lagoon State Park and Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The beach dune habitat is characterized by several rows of sand dunes. “Frontal” or “primary” dunes are vegetated with grasses including sea oats, bunch grass, and beach grass. Among other plants growing in primary dunes are Florida rosemary, railroad vine and beach morning glories. “Secondary” dunes, further inland, support saw palmetto, slash and sand pines, and scrubby shrubs and oaks. Growing among the dunes are such species as cordgrass, salt-grass, pine trees, purslane and pennywort. The scrub and grasses growing on the dunes are vital to the health of the beach habitat. Without the critical holding power of dunes and their plants, the beaches would blow and erode away.