When visitors, snowbirds, and residents travel around Florida, they are confronted with Chamber of Commerce produced symbols: Miami is in the Gold Coast; Clearwater is on the Sun Coast; St Augustine is the First Coast; Fort Pierce is the Treasure Coast.
Few people know where the Forgotten Coast is despite the fact it offers some laid-back vacations options and dozens of activity opportunities. This is the busy season for Franklin County, but it is a great spot for trips in the early fall months.
The St. George Inn on St. George Island
The Forgotten Coast actually has four barrier islands, one of which – St. George Island – has one of the most exclusive and expensive gated vacation communities in North Florida. It also has two moderate inns and dozens of new rental condos. Most owners stay here in the cold months and rent in the summer and fall. You get those pearl white Panhandle beaches without the noise and hustle of Panama City or Pensacola Beach.
The mainland center of Franklin County is Apalachicola, a historic town that was once one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico. Here are some delightful inns and bed and breakfast spots as well as a large historic district of pre-Victorian mansions.
Oyster Boats in Apalachicola Bay
If Miami Beach is famous for stone crabs, oysters are kings of the many waterfront seafood places. Apalachicola Bay has since the days of the Apalachee Indians been one of the world’s major oyster reefs. Taking a boat tour whether to fish or learn about area oysters is an attraction.
Some of my favorite Apalachicola sites include: the 1838 Trinity Episcopal Church, built in New York, and shipped pre-fab; the John Gorrie State Museum, honoring the physician who built the first air-conditioning machine; and the 1837 City Hall, one of many waterfront warehouses which includes a Sponge Exchange and Maritime Museum.
The Gibson Inn Has Restaurant, Bar, Two Ghosts
To get in the full atmosphere of the town, I suggest you consider the 1907 Gibson Inn, a full service hotel, or the Water Street Hotel and Marina with condo facilities and a pool.
Nearby Carrabelle, home to the world’s smallest police station (it is a phone booth), has lots of restaurants and access to many recreation sites. Apalachicola National Forest, Florida’s largest at 632,890 acres, offers hiking, fishing, horse-back riding, and off-road ATV usage.
The Carabelle Police Station
St. George Island, connected by a four-mile bridge from Eastpoint on the mainland, welcomes visitors to its public beach, restaurants, bars, and small shops. There are two small inns, with my favorite being the modernized St. George Inn. The island is 28 miles long but one-third is the exclusive St. George Plantation and one-third is nature preserve.
The Blue Parrot Restaurant on St George Island
The other Forgotten Coast barrier islands are accessible by boat unless you have an airplane to land on Dog Island. There are 100 houses and a tiny inn, but this is not a tourist destination for most.
I first remember this island, when a few jokesters created a website that stated Dog Island was a refuge where lost dogs to stay and live freely. They even sold T-shirts about Dog Island. It was amusing, but highly illegitimate.
The most unusual island is St. Vincent Island, now a National Wildlife Refuge. When it was privately owned, exotic animals from Africa and Asia were put here as a game farm. People boat here to see the 500-pound Sambar deer from Southeast Asia and to perhaps catch a glimpse of the rare red wolf population, an endangered species brought here.
If you are driving along the Panhandle of Florida, and want a place where Old Florida dominates and you will not fight for beach space, the Forgotten Coast is a great location.