Saturday, April 13, 2013

Discovering the Forgotten Coast

April 10-11, 2013
Carrabelle, Florida
Sunset Isle RV and Yacht Club

Okay, straight out—Sunset Isle RV is no yacht club, but it is a more than decent place to stay while exploring the Forgotten Coast of Florida—a trademark name referring to this relatively undeveloped section of coastline stretching along the Apalachicola Bay.

forgotten coast map

We chose this park because of the unlimited Passport America discount bringing down the price for full-hookups to a daily rate of $27. We were interested in staying at St. George Island State Park, about 25 miles from Carrabelle, but we did not plan far enough in advance to score a three-night reservation. This park turned out to be just fine as a base to explore the area.

Shown below is a zoomed-in view of the bay just south of our campsite. The park has a boat ramp with access to a more open part of the bay which looks pretty good for kayaking if you are up for dealing with a fairly strong current (according to our neighbors who have a tandem Hobie kayak with pontoons and a sail also pictured below). The photos make the place look better than it actually is as much of the park is in varying states of disrepair except for the amazing road made of brick pavers. I will just leave my commentary at that.

After studying a map of the Panhandle last year, Vic and I both wondered what this stretch of coastline would be like so we planned to check it out this year. We had, of course, heard of the famous Apalachicola oysters that come from this area and that fact alone drew us to this place. Another attraction to stopping here is that our drive to Carrabelle from Jasper was just a little shy of three hours. Vic’s idea of a perfect traveling day. As we arrived, the weather started to turn with major thunderstorms forecast overnight so we decided to get settled in our site and take a quick tour of the town of Apalachicola, about a 30-minute drive, before the rains came.

Apalachicola seems to be the most interesting town along 98--the Forgotten Coast highway. The town’s history includes a steamboat era, Civil War blockades, and cotton, lumber, and seafood industries. By the early 1900s, Apalachicola was the sixth largest city in Florida. The current population is only about 2500 residents, but seems to benefit from tourism due to the town’s effort to retain its once thriving historic charm and architectural appeal.

One of the prominent historic buildings on Apalachicola’s waterfront is the Grady Market building which used to be a cotton warehouse prior to the Civil War. There are little shops on the first floor now with luxury vacation suites on the second floor.

Another landmark building in town is the Dixie Theater. The theater opened in 1912 as a venue for traveling theater troupes, then it became a motion picture house that ran movies until 1967. In 1992, the theater was restored and reopened as a place for live theater and musical performances. A local couple saw us taking photos there and told us there are vintage-style vacation rentals above the theater. Seems like those apartments would be an interesting place to stay.

A town like this just has to have an old time soda shop. Shockingly, we did not stop for an ice cream soda here (Vic rarely passes up any kind of ice cream), but temptations were everywhere as we then we found an amazing chocolate store.

What used to be a haberdashery back in 1910, is now the Apalachicola Chocolate Company. Not only was the building incredible, but the chocolates, made with tupelo honey and Madagascar vanilla, were exceptional. Yes, this time we gave in to a sweet indulgence. Vic went for a milk chocolate turtle and I went for a dark chocolate one. We did pass on their homemade gelato though which is usually something we fall for every time. (There's always tomorrow. . . .)

By the time we returned back to the campground, the wind was blowing with gusts near 30 mph and the Weather Bug app on my phone showed a tornado warning in this area until 4 a.m.  Our dog Jetta was getting very nervous too as she sensed the storm brewing;  it looked like it could be a long night.  Strong winds in a motorhome are not fun, and it sure can make for a sleepless night. We seemed to wake up every couple hours to look at the Doppler Radar and wind gust speed. The highest gusts were about 40 mph but by 4 a.m. the storm had moved east and things started to quiet down.

Our plan  for day two,  after a somewhat sleepless night, was to check out St. George Island, a 22-mile barrier island. The island’s most recent claim to fame was being featured as the setting for the 2012 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

The island was surprisingly undeveloped with modest beach homes, a few restaurants, and gift shops on the western end and a beautiful state park taking up most of the eastern end of the island.  We opted to go to the state park to check out the beach area there.

Because of the stormy weather the night before, the water was quite churned up and muddy looking, but the beach itself was quite alluring with white soft sand, beautiful sea grasses, and a natural untamed feeling.

We liked the remote and uncrowded feeling of the beach—but this is off season here in the Panhandle.  Their high season begins in May-October.

After a few hours on St. George, it was time to find some of those tasty Apalachicola Oysters. On the way back to our campground, we stopped at the Beach Pit in Eastpoint, a small town almost exclusively known for its seafood. Vic had pan fried oysters with corn meal breading and I ordered baked oysters with shrimp, bacon, and parmesan cheese. The oysters were delicious but we both agreed that we prefer baked ones with just garlic, butter, lemon and hot sauce.

apalachicola oysters

We lucked out with the weather turning sunny and warm (in the low 80s) but we have noticed the no-see-ums are out in full force in the early evening.  Someone recommended baby oil as a preventative for bites—we are simply avoiding sitting outside that time of night. Our campground sits near a marshy area with saw grass which is apparently a major breeding ground for these biting gnats. Other than the no-see-ums, we have been impressed with this part of Florida and would like to plan a longer stay here next year closer to Apalachicola or on St. George Island. 


  1. Your post brings back fond memories. We love Apalachicola. The fried oysters at the Apalachicola Seafood Grill are the best! You made a great choice to go for the chocolates!
    Glad the storms passed on by with no harm done...except for little sleep.

    Enjoy your stay!

  2. Great post, Judy and I will have to take a ride along Hwy 98. Wishing I could be enjoying some delicious seafood. :-(

  3. I guess we're one of the rare ones who don't like the Forgotten Coast. We think it was forgotten for good reason. It's the brown water that turns us off and most every time we've been there we've found brown muddy water, instead of the emerald green they boast of.

    I guess one day, we'll try it again.

  4. 27.00 a nite is a great price! The site looks huge.

    The town looks adorable. But...No ice cream! Chocolates will do me fine also.

    The oysters look delicious.

  5. Thanks for all the tips on what to see while we are here. Now I won't have to post about it, I can just give a link to yours. :-)). See you soon!

  6. What a neat area! Glad you explained the condition of the park because I saw your concrete pad and that wonderful paver road. I thought it looked great...then closer observing showed the true pad conditions.

    We have stayed in Miramar Beach twice for the month of April but never got over your way. We will have to check it out next year. I love those little quaint towns. Ice cream, chocolate, and seafood...what else is there!!

  7. Great tour, we really enjoy that part of the coast of FL!

  8. There are Tupelo Honey stands along the roadways there too! I always pick up a supply when we're in that area. There is a very nice campground at Carabelle Beach (right on Highway 98) where we stayed last November. The beach is across the highway from the campground -- dogs are allowed on it. That was the first time Ozzie and Lexie had been able to get on a beach since we left Oregon. Hope all four of you enjoy your visit. We did.

  9. I'd better keep this post away from Mui or the chocolates and gelato will be enough for him to re-think our plans for this year ;-)) Hopefully today's storms are also past you by now. Too bad all these storms don't seem to do much to get rid of the no-see-ums.


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