Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Apalachicola, Florida

Apalachicola is someplace I have always wanted to go. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because the name sounds cool as it rolls off your tongue, maybe because of where it is located, or maybe because it is a sleepy little fishing community along a stretch of Florida proudly called the “Forgotten Coast.” It lies in a narrow belt of what seems like inhospitable land between the Gulf of Mexico and nearly a million acres of forest.

This town is a fishing community. While shrimp, bay scallops, and finfish are plentiful, the name Apalachicola is synonymous with oysters. The fertile shallow water bays and rich gulf waters provide the bounty that keeps this town going. The downtown waterfront is a scenic blend of tree lined streets, historic brick buildings, and outstretched arms of fishing boats holding tangled nets. You know you are in a true working waterfront when in Apalachicola. Eclectic stores selling nautical artifacts, natural sponges, and marine artifacts are interspersed among the seafood restaurants, B&B's, shrimp packing plants, and historic 19th century buildings. “Apalach” (so called by the locals) has over 900 historic homes and building listed in its extensive National Register District, and the city was selected as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Designations by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Downtown flower shop.
Chocolate store downtown.

On our way to Apalach we drove through Port St. Joe, Indian Pass, and Cape St. Blas. All sleepy little fishing towns compared to the Apalach. The St. Joseph Peninsula wraps around and protects these areas from the Gulf of Mexico and creates the shallow back bay that provides optimum conditions for oysters and scallops.

The Cape St. Blas lighthouse stands guard at the southern end of the peninsula. Originated in 1847, the lighthouse was quickly destroyed in 1851. After being rebuilt the structure was moved farther inland to protect it from the invading gulf and two lighthouse keeper residences were built. The lighthouse was deactivated in 1996 and is open to visitors along with the residences and has a gift shop.
Cape St. Blas lighthouse.
Lying just off the coast is the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a 12,300-acre uninhabited barrier island the provides habitat for endangered sea turtles, bald eagles, snowy plovers, migrating wood storks, and red wolves. An unexpected, pleasant surprise occurred when we went to the visitor center in downtown Apalach. Shelley Stiaes, a former coworker (from when I worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) is the refuge manager and met us at the door. We were both surprised to see each other but quickly got caught up with recent personal happenings and then she enlightened us about the refuge. Among her many challenges managing a National Wildlife Refuge was the difficulties that arose during last summer’s gulf oil spill. The refuge is the breeding ground for endangered sea turtles during the summer. Eggs had to be collected, packaged, and transported from the barrier island (via ATV and boat) back to the mainland. There they were picked up by FedEx and transported to a refuge on the Atlantic side of Florida. All the while extreme care had to be given to avoid rotating, jostling, or changing the temperature of the eggs. Eggs were hatched and released into the Atlantic last summer. As it turns out, there was no oil that impacted the beach or waters adjacent to the refuge.

Two places where we had so much fun in downtown Apalach that are “must go sees” are the Boss Oyster house where we had lunch and The Tin Shed that is just across the street and has the most eclectic collection of nautical items for sale that you will ever find. We had the most wonderful selection of large, juicy oysters that we’ve ever had. Some baked with cheese, bacon and hot sauce, some fried with blue cheese and celery and also buffalo shrimp. The restaurant sits on the Apalach River and offers a great view of the working waterfront.
Boss Oyster seafood restaurant.

Yum, baked with cheese, jalapenos, and bacon.

They must have been good!

Betsy ready to dig in.

The Tin Shed is tough to describe. Photos can’t even capture its true ambiance. It is just a huge old barn-like shed with all kinds of wonderful nautical items to explore. We can’t buy much on this trip because the moho is full but if we had a house we surely would have added to the collection that we just put into storage!

The Tin Shed.

How appropriate!

More pictures below.

Outside deck at the Boss Oysters Seafood Restaurant.
Shrimp boat at the downtown dock.

Laughing gull taking a break from bothing fishermen.

We found a new driver for the bus!

Downtown soda fountain.

Historic Port Gibson Inn.

Pile of shucked oysters with seagulls picking at the remains.

View of marsh near Apalach.

This is a true fishing town.

Old railroad used in logging.

1 comment:

  1. Before I-10, one had to drive through Appalachicola to get from South Florida to New Orleans. Loooonnnngggggg trip.. No comments about how long ago that was, thank you. At least, I was still a kid. Jody


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