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The Forgotten Coast


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    Musings: Authors do it Write!

    Published 8-1-2021

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    It earned the name "The Forgotten Coast" when it was omitted from a map depicting the local businesses in Florida. Once you visit, you won't forget it. It's in the Big Bend area of Florida and has around 200 miles of uncrowded beaches and fantastic attractions. The food, especially the seafood, is heavenly and so fresh. The local oysters are the best in the world. What you won't find are crowds, traffic, and theme parks. This is REAL Florida.


    Carrabelle is near the mid-point of the Forgotten Coast and is a great place to choose as your hub. My choice of a place to stay? No question, The Old Carrabelle Hotel. Hosts Kathy and Skip Frink have remodeled this historic property so it keeps its old-fashioned charm but has all the comfort and amenities you need. They provide a voucher that you can use at local restaurants for breakfast. Each room is unique and named for a Florida person or thing. It is walking distance from downtown, the Riverwalk, and several great dinning spots. The Old Carrabelle Hotel is one of the oldest buildings in Carrabelle dating back to 1900. For RVers there are campgrounds all over.

    Rent an RV from RVshare

    Take a stroll on Carrabelle's Riverwalk and you'll feel the authenticity of a working waterfront. Once this was a tiny fishing village. Today you'll find lots of recreational fishing and boating. Crooked River Lighthouse, dating back to 1892, is unique. Its structure is steel beams rather than the typical masonry tower. The keeper's house serves as a museum and gift shop. If you wish to brave the openness and ruggedness, you can climb to the top.

    Carrabelle History Museum tells the town's history as a fishing port. You'll learn about all the hurricanes that struck this area of the coast over the years, and all about its past residents.

    A popular selfie spot is their police station. No, not the current one. They preserved a telephone booth which was once the World's Smallest Police Station. They have featured it on Real People, Ripley's Believe It or Not and the Today Show.

    If you're a history buff interested in World War II, Camp Gordon Johnson Museum is a hidden treasure that retells the story of the World War II amphibious assault forces.
    As you drive along  98, you'll see signs directing you to some places in Tate's Hell State Forest. My favorite, so far since I have not taken all of those mysterious roads yet, takes you to Ralph G. Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk, a stand of centuries old dwarf bald cypress all under 15 feet tall.

    Tate's Hell is a state forest between Carrabelle and the Apalachicola National Forest comprising 144,508 acres of wild forest and swamp filled with wildlife, including snakes, bears, wild turkey, deer, unlimited bird life, and lots of insects. You can canoe or kayak, hike, watch wildlife, or do primitive camping in it. You may see a rare Red-Cockaded Woodpecker or a bald eagle. There's an interesting story about how it got its name. Cebe Tate, a local farmer, had been loosing his cattle to a roaming panther in the late 1800s. He took his shotgun and his dogs and went into the woods after the panther. The panther killed the dogs. Tate fell into a bog, got bit by a water moccasin, and lost his shotgun. When he finally emerged ten days later, near Carrabelle, he was near death and incoherent. His hair had turned white, and he kept saying, "My name's Tate and I've been through Hell."
    It's an amazing place. Just don't wander way off the trail. Remember Cebe Tate.

    Carrabelle has some great dining choices. Carrabelle Junction is just about a block from the hotel and perfect for breakfast or light lunch. St James Bay Golf Resort's Crooked River Grill is more upscale and is perfect if you are planning on a game of golf in your day. Fathoms Steam & Raw Bar about a two blocks from Old Carrabelle Hotel offers dining outside on the Carrabelle River Sitting on the deck you can enjoy delicious oysters or other choices while you listen to live music. It's very Key West-ish.

    For night owls, Harry's Bar is another nightspot that feels like it's on island time.


    Driving west on Highway 98 to Eastpoint, you'll discover the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center. It's a fun aquarium with exhibits about the habitats in the reserve, the river, bay and Gulf. You'll meet a few live animals there as well.
    For lunch or dinner, The Red Pirate Family Grill and Oyster Bar is the place for good food and a mini-golf course.


    If you head east, Apalachicola has a fantastic historic district. There are lots of Victorian and Antebellum homes and museums that tell the area history. The Raney House Museum, built in the 1830s by a wealthy cotton merchant, David Raney, shows life along the river, both before and after the Civil War. It's city owned and free to tour.

    Orman House Museum directly on the Apalachicola River is another interesting museum. It's part of a state park and has a $2 fee. Thomas Orman was also a cotton merchant. Chapman Botanical Gardens with a beautiful butterfly garden and a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, D.C., "Three Soldiers Detail" is part of your tour.

    If you appreciate air conditioning, you want to pay your respects to Dr. John Gorrie. While attempting to keep his yellow fever patients cool, he invented a machine that made ice. Dr. Gorrie patented the first U.S. method of mechanical refrigeration that today we call air conditioning in 1851. He has a state park near the historical district but currently, because of the pandemic, the grounds are opened, but the museum is temporarily closed.

    The Gibson Inn, built by James Fulton Buck in 1907, is a good dining choice in Apalachicola.. The inn was originally called The Franklin. Today, its restaurant is named The Franklin Café in memory of the original inn.

    You will find a fun shopping district here with locally made crafts and boutiques.

    Saint George Island

    Be sure to exit south off Highway 98 and visit Saint George Island. The Cape Saint George Lighthouse is much larger and totally different from the little Crooked River Lighthouse, but equally fun to visit. It's 72 feet high and has seen many hurricanes. It needed to be restored and moved to the center of the island due to the beach erosion. You can climb to the top if you wish.

    Most of St. George Island is part of Saint George Island State Park. The undeveloped beach is well worth the park fee. It's so relaxing, with random pieces of driftwood lying among the dunes. It's a great shelling spot. You have access to the gulf side of the island; with splashing waves, lots of white sand, and occasional dolphins swimming past; and the bay side, where the marshes throng with wading birds.

    The park is a birdwatcher's dream with least terns, snowy plovers, black skimmers, pelicans, gulls, red-cockaded woodpeckers, and bald eagles.

    The park has picnic shelters, boat ramps, campsites for RVs or tents with hookups, and a primitive campsite accessed by trail or private boat.

    The Forgotten Coast is a place you will not forget once you visit it.

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