Pensacola Bay Ferry System
Gulf Islands National Seashore Ferry Project Downtown Ferry Landing
Unless you own your own boat, there's only one way to get to Fort Pickens and that's by land. The problem is, that road - State Road 399 (aka Fort Pickens Road) - frequently washes out and becomes impassible for days, weeks, even months at a time. Since you can't actually pave a road with good intentions, repairing it costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year. In the modern age of government "belt tightening," officials with the National Park Service, which owns and operates the historic Fort and the campgrounds, beaches, picnic areas and other public amenities surrounding it, knew that sooner or later the day would come when funding to continue repairing Fort Pickens Road would evaporate, so they set out to ensure public access to the Fort would continue even if the road was gone.
There are now two new ways to get to Fort Pickens, both by sea. The Turtle Runner and Pelican Perch are the Park Service's new 150-passenger, catamaran-style ferry boats. Purchased with money from fines and settlement payments resulting from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The ferries shuttle folks between downtown Pensacola, Fort Pickens, and Quietwater Pier on the Santa Rosa Sound side of Pensacola Beach.
But a ferry boat isn't much good to anyone without a nice place to dock. That's where the Downtown Pensacola Ferry Landing comes in. Located at the head of Commendencia Slip between the Port of Pensacola and Plaza de Luna/Palafox Pier, the new $3.5 million dock and terminal building will be iconic additions to Pensacola's downtown waterfront and will serve as the homeport location for the two vessels.
The ferries are operated by Pensacola Bay Cruises, a concessioner selected by the Park Service. One vessel will operate clockwise, Pensacola - Quietwater Pier - Fort Pickens; the second will run counterclockwise, Pensacola - Fort Pickens - Quietwater Pier. Each leg of the journey will last 35-45 minutes and will include narration by interpretive guides. All-day, hop on, hop off ferry tickets will cost $20 for adults and will include admission to the Gulf Island National Seashore. Children's tickets will be $13, with discounted tickets for active duty military and seniors offered at $18.50. Children under 2 ride free. You can find the schedule and more information at the Pensacola Bay Cruises website.