Want a new, fun word? Try, Apalachicola. I like to say it like a chant a few times. Maybe even throw a little jig in with it. “Apalachicola, Apalachicola.” It’s a small port town on the Gulf Coast; historical, quiet, rustic… our daughter asked, “How do you come up with these places?” And, I guess that it is a pretty good question, because most everyone we met along the way has asked the same.
I Think We Uncovered a Hidden Gem
We have discovered a slice of Florida that might be considered a secret, at least to those west of the Mississippi: Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, and Apalachicola. There are others in the mix, but these three are the ones we tackled. Mexico Beach had sand textured like brown sugar, but white. There was every indication this beach attracted tourists, however we didn’t see any, and during our visit, most everything was closed Sunday through Wednesday, leaving a paltry three days for business. So that left us with a picnic which we had to scrounge from the bottom of our coolers, and a “romantic” opportunity to exploit a long empty beach.
There are others in the mix, but these three are the ones we tackled. Mexico Beach had sand textured like brown sugar, but white. There was every indication this beach attracted tourists, however we didn’t see any, and during our visit, most everything was closed Sunday through Wednesday, leaving a paltry three days for business. So that left us with a picnic which we had to scrounge from the bottom of our coolers, and a “romantic” opportunity to exploit a long empty beach.
We spent the night at Port St. Joe. Sadly, the beaches were less dog-friendly, so we focused on street strolling, and found a nice visitor center that welcomed our four legged companion. From their lookout tower we saw two perched bald eagles. I found it interesting, (maybe even symbolic – though I haven’t grasped the significance, if any) that we saw this grand bird at the start of our journey in Oregon, and only again, at the furthest stretch across the country, here in Florida.
The next town we landed in was Apalachicola. A quaint town with a wealth of early American History. As one of the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico in the mid 1800’s, timber and cotton was the mainstay.
Today, the main industry is seafood and oysters, or “oyshters”, as I hear the locals pronounce it – accounting for 90% of Florida’s oysters. Beyond oysters, most “raw bars” offered shrimps, blue crab, mullet (did not try this), and flounder. Yum, yum and YUM!
Then there was the Bed & Breakfast Inn we stayed at. Another “first” for this trip, and a fairly big splurge at $110/night we luxuriated in a two room suite, with a lovely veranda that overlooked the old town cemetery. Talk about atmosphere! The victorian mansion was built for a prosperous timber baron, James N. Coombs in 1900. And, this cemetery is where the Coombs have been laid to rest, possibly watching. It’s been rumored the place is haunted, but we didn’t have any sightings.
Camping in November
Our last Floridian stop before landing in Orlando for Thanksgiving, was a camping opportunity at Manatee Springs State Park. It’s what is referred to as a “first magnitude spring” (has to do with volume of water that pushes through the earth) that feeds to the Suwannee River, far from the old folks at home. The bird wildlife was abundant, but we didn’t have any manatee sightings. . .or alligator sightings!
It was nice to be camping again. We reveled in the craziness of camping in November because it’s just not something we would do in Oregon. And the weather was mild enough that having a good ole campfire felt right too.
We aren’t going to give up on finding the manatees. We’re just too close to not try again. As for the gators – I have a feeling those may be a bit too easy to find!