Apalachicola: Protected Oasis; Outdoorsman’s Paradise
Apalachicola: Protected Oasis; Outdoorsman’s Paradise
Apalachicola – a protected oasis recognized worldwide for its fresh oysters and nature-based tourism – is an outdoorsman’s paradise extending more than 250 miles of the Florida coastline.
Unplug and reconnect in the quiet coastal Franklin County communities of Apalachicola, St. George Island, Carrabelle, Eastpoint, and Alligator Point, located 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee, FL.
Connected like pearls along Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, there are more than 250 miles of coastal beaches and quiet bayfront – a protected oasis with white-out sand beaches, wooded trails, and scenic paddling sloughs – is an outdoorsman’s paradise. Known for its nature-based tourism, more than 80 percent of Franklin County’s 545 square miles is publicly-owned. With hundreds of miles of rivers, creeks, and coastal shallows to explore, guests and residents alike enjoy numerous outdoor activities, including camping, biking, and hiking as well as fishing, swimming, kayaking – and, of course, eating fresh Apalachicola seafood.
Take a walking tour along picturesque tree-lined streets and see more than 900 historic homes and cotton warehouses dating back to the 1830s. Apalachicola’s working waterfront is a testament to its dynamic history and maritime way of life with buildings once serving as 19th century ship chandleries, net factories, and a sponge warehouse.
Franklin County features more than 40 boat ramps, primitive canoe/kayak launches, and ten commercial marinas. Sunset tours of Apalachicola’s historic waterfront are available on one of several eco-tour boats, while offshore fishing charters regularly launch from the docks in Carrabelle.
Family and Pet-Friendly Beaches
The beaches of St. George Island, Carrabelle, and Alligator Point – with kayak, boat, bicycle, and scooter rentals readily available – are family-friendly and welcome leashed pets.
History buffs will love the 72-foot Cape St. George lighthouse rebuilt in 2008. Originally established in 1833, reconstructed in 1848 and again in 1852, the lighthouse collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico in 2005 after surrendering to decades of beach erosion and pounding surf. Thousands of old bricks were restored from the destroyed structure and reused in the 2008 rebuild.
St. George Island State Park Beach ranks among the top beaches in the country. The beach park features nine miles of undeveloped shoreline and has some of the region’s most beautiful primitive camping facilities. There are fun beachfront restaurants and a lively nightlife on St. George Island with overnight accommodations ranging from quaint beach cottages to luxurious beach homes.
Midway along the Franklin County coastline, the City of Carrabelle and nearby Carrabelle Beach are an outdoorsman’s paradise featuring protected deepwater access to the Gulf of Mexico and retro 50s-style beach pavilions along the scenic highway.
Just a stone’s throw from the beach stands Franklin County’s second historic lighthouse – the 103-foot Crooked River Lighthouse and Museum. For nearly 100 years, the Crooked River Lighthouse stood as a guiding light for ships and fishers navigating the treacherous pass between Dog and St. George Islands. Today the lighthouse and keepers’ house museum stand on the mainland where the light initially stood in 1895.
Alligator Point peninsula is located on the eastern-most end of Franklin County and is home to Bald Point State Park Beach. Seated along the U.S. migratory bird and butterfly path, nature lovers and birders alike enjoy birdwatching opportunities with over 300 identified native species, including the endangered piping plover, black rails, boat-tailed grackles, merlins, Peregrine falcons, least terns, American oystercatchers, and more. Alligator Point also features many beachfront accommodations as well as a marina/restaurant.
Serving up Oysters and Fresh Caught Seafood
Food critics and restaurants agree that Apalachicola Bay oysters are some of the best, if not the best, in the world. The unique, nutrient-rich bay produces oysters that are plump with a mellow taste. In addition to wild-caught oysters, a growing number of harvesters are turning to aquaculture farming – a more sustainable way to produce oysters. Wild-caught and farm-grown, fresh oysters along with shrimp and daily-caught fish are available at more than 30 area restaurants and seafood markets.
Eat Where You Play
Franklin County restaurants feature casual fare with local seafood. Relax beachside at the Blue Parrot Bar and Grill and enjoy a basket of steamed shrimp while watching dolphins play, or visit the region’s largest open-air tiki bar at Doc Myers’ Island Pub.
Across the bridge in Eastpoint, watch harvesters from the docks at Lynn’s Quality Seafood while enjoying boat-to-table oysters as well as some of the best gumbo in the region. Head east to Carrabelle and take in a fun, upbeat atmosphere while savoring excellent seafood and live music at Fathom’s Steam Room and Raw Bar overlooking the Carrabelle River. East of Carrabelle, play a round of golf at the Crooked River Bar and Grill then enjoy a meal at the Crooked River Grill.
In Apalachicola, the Owl Café and Tap Room – located in the heart of the historic downtown district – are at the epicenter of a culinary rebirth that has occurred in recent years. The upstairs Café features relaxed yet upscale dining with an excellent selection of fine wines. Downstairs, the Tap Room features a similar menu with a more relaxed atmosphere. Apalachicola’s newest eatery, the Up To No Good Tavern, overlooks historic downtown from its pet-friendly balcony, and features, pizza, subs, and salads.
Festivals and Live Music
The beer and food along the Forgotten Coast is event worthy. Apalachicola hosts several annual food festivals, including the Florida Seafood Festival, the Apalachicola Oyster Cook-off, Eastpoint Fire Department Rib Cookoff, and the three-day St. George Island Regional Charity Chili Cook-off & Auction. Not to be outdone by its culinary counterparts, St. George Island also hosts SGI Brewfest, an annual beer tasting event that features a broad selection of craft beer from, among others, two local breweries.
Florida’s Forgotten Coast – a protected oasis and outdoorsman’s paradise – is home to year-round art exhibits, concerts, theater, and festivals that highlight the region’s natural resources, culture, and history. Visit Floridasforgottencoast.com for a complete schedule of events and early Spring activities.