By Bob Difley
On Florida’s Forgotten Coast – the Gulf of Mexico along the Florida Panhandle – the Apalachicola River empties into the Gulf through the Apalachicola Natural Estuarine Research Reserve at Apalachicola Bay. At the state-of-the-art Nature Center, you can explore a variety of educational, interactive, and live exhibits of a unique estuarine environment. Aquariums highlight a connected watershed with local fauna from the river, estuary, bay, and Gulf.
Canoeing and kayaking, birdwatching and hiking also attract outdoors RVers, and for foodies, the bay’s oysters, the source of ten percent of the nation’s oyster supply, have a reputation for sweetness.
History buffs can fill their days strolling the streets of Eastpoint where oystermen bring in their burlap sacks of oysters in this authentic working fishing village, like a step back in time, that is still the heart of the commercial oyster industry. About 200 antebellum buildings and sites, more than anywhere else in Florida – many listed on the National Register of Historic Places – now hold galleries, shops, and restaurants.
Adventurers who find their way to St. George Island will find sand dunes of blinding white sand and St. George State Park, with its ghost crabs and dwarf pines. On the ocean beach side, giant sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs. The park covers 2,023 acres at the end of a long, narrow barrier island, and is a combination of sandy coves, salt marshes, shady pines, and oak forests supporting an abundance of marine and birdlife. There are 54 reservable campsites for RVs and trailers.
Charter boats leave every day for the terrific fishing and to take canoers and hikers to remote islands, including to St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for rare and native animals (54 loggerhead sea turtle nests this year ), including red wolves.
And there‘s more to tempt you to visit this magnificent part of Florida: Port St. Joe (known for their scrumptious scallops), the laid back town of Mexico Beach, Cape San Blas’s remote state park and 1,650-acre wilderness area, and the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway through the half-million-acre Apalachicola National Forest.
This is an area perfect for snowbirds away from the more popular, and more crowded, destinations at Fort Myers, Orlando, and Fort Lauderdale.
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