Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apalachicola, FL

The Native Americans referred to Apalachicola as the "land beyond", "those friendly people over there", but this area is still referred to by most people as "The Forgotten Coast".

Apalachicola River Bridge

Welcome to Apalachicola - Home of the Florida Seafood Festival 

Old oyster processing plant - Apalachicola
Before we get too far from Apalachicola, FL, there are a couple of things to point out about this interesting area.  RV and I are at the end of our 7 month road trip and heading back to our daughter's home in Green Cove Springs, FL before we go on to our winter home at the Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort in Webster, FL.  Because of a prior commitment we're going to miss the Apalachicola Seafood Festival, the oldest maritime event in Florida.
Apalachicola Downtown Area 2013

Apalachicola, FL
 I must have been absent the day my 5th grade teacher talked about how important the city of Apalachicola has been in Florida history.  I missed the fact that Apalachicola was the first sea sponge capital of Florida, then Carrabelle, then Cedar Key, and then the entire sea sponge industry finally settled in Tarpon Springs, Greek divers and all.
Historical Sponge Exchange Buidling - Apalachicola
Owl's Nest Restaurant - #1 restaurant according to Trip Advisor 2013

Eclectic Shopping - The Tin Shed - Apalachicola

Old Seafood Processing Plant - Apalachicola

Grady Market - Apalachicola - 2013

Grady Market - since 1884 in Apalachicola

There are more than 900 homes in the Apalachicola historic district.  There are also eclectic shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants tucked away everywhere.   Proof of the importance of this town in Florida history lies in historical markers and memorials throughout the city.  Everywhere you go there are people exploring the endless bays, rivers and waterways by kayak, canoes, riverboats, power boats, or sailboats.
Ormon House - Apalachicola, FL

Apalachicola, FL Home

Apalachicola Home - 2013

Apalachicola Riverfront Home 2013

Historical Apalachicola Home 2013

Apalachicola Historical Home 2013
Around 1831 Apalachicola was the third largest port on the Gulf for cotton exports.  By the late 1800's railroads had expanded throughout the United States and as a result steamboats all but disappeared.

Dr. John Gorrie is considered the father of refrigeration and air conditioning.  In 1851 he was issued U.S. Patent No. 8080 for an ice machine which proved revolutionary to Apalachicola and many parts of the world.  He was a physician, scientist, inventor, and humanitarian.  A state museum is located here and recognizes his numerous accomplishments during his relatively short lifetime.  He died at age 52. He is buried in Gorrie Square in Apalachicola.
John Gorrie Memorial - Apalachicola, FL

Dr. John Gorrie State Museum - Apalachicola, FL

Trinity Episcopal Church - near John Gorrie Memorial - Apalachicola
The commercial oyster industry began around 1850 and the industry has been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times after experiencing several devastating hurricanes.  Apalachicola Bay provides 90% of the oysters provided in Florida and 10% for the entire United States.  This area has a huge commercial Gulf fishing and fresh shrimp industry.
Apalachicola Riverfront - 2013

Apalachicola Select Oysters - The Best!

Historical Oyster Skiff - Apalachicola, FL 2013
 Once you visit Apalachicola, you'll see why the term "forgotten coast" applies to this area.  Many of the people are third and fourth generation oystermen as well as fishermen. Although the cities of Apalachicola and East Point and surrounding communities are not flourishing, they still continue to work hard to survive and overcome the challenges of a changing industry.
The Forgotten Coast of Florida - 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013


About ten days ago we traveled from Topsail Hill Preserve RV Resort in Santa Rosa Beach, FL to St. George Island, FL, with our friends, Fred and Evelyn Wolf, from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort in Webster, FL.
5 mile bridge to St. George Island, FL

Fred and Evie Wolf in front of us going to St. George Island, FL

Welcome to St. George Island - The Uncommon Florida

St. George Island Lighthouse

Fred and Evelyn Wolf - Oyster Experts

Fred and Evelyn Wolf
  We are parked beside each other and have enjoyed some of the best times ever these past couple of weeks at their tent affectionately known as Halloween Central.   
Halloween /Central - St. George Island State Park, FL
St. George Island has about 9 miles of undeveloped beaches and dunes, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay.  St. George Island State Park occupies 1,962 acres at the end of a long narrow barrier island. 
Dr. Julian G. Bruce - St. George Island State Park
Tomorrow we leave one of the most beautiful and best preserved state parks in the state, maybe even the United States of America.  St. George Island is a state treasure and the state park is being maintained in such a manner that future generations will enjoy it just as much as we have.  The park rangers are very serious and knowledgeable about their jobs as well as how fragile this area is from an ecological standpoint.
St. George Island, FL - Sugar Hill Beach Access

Slash Pine Forest - St George Island State Park

Shoreline on St. George Island Sound at Sunset

St George Island State Park Campground - 2013

St. George Island State Park - 2013

St. George Island State Park Dunes

 We have enjoyed the beautiful white confectioner sugar sandy beaches and dunes, forests of slash pines and coastal scrub, the sunsets on St. George Island Sound, shore birds, oyster beds, sunrises, and we'll accidentally but affectionately take lots of the sand back with us in our shoes, clothes, car and coach.  The shore fishing was my favorite part.  You can buy bait if you want but sand fleas are plentiful and the fish love them.  I had several strikes each time I used a sand flea.  I didn't catch any fish, but I definitely had a lot of fun trying.
Serious Fisherman - St. George Island State Park

Getting bait fish  in St. George Island State Park

St. George Island Sound - Dolphins

East end - St. George Island State Park
We bought a day pass to go out to the protected east end of St. George Island and enjoyed the beaches in a very secluded area where the ocean meets the St. George Sound.  B.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l!  You aren't allowed to do anything but look and fish unless you want the park rangers to write a ticket in your honor.  Unfortunately, I didn't have bait, but we found a small green frog in one of our chairs and I fished with him for about an hour.  Something really big hit my line, but no fish.  Seriously.   The state park allows only 20 vehicles out at this area daily at one time and we understand why.  A combination lock is at the gate to this area which is changed every day, so they know who and what is out at the end of the island at all times.   Needless to say, we will be back again.  Seeing the fishermen catching Spanish mackerel even had me hooked!
Spanish mackeral 

East end - St. George Island State Park

St. George Island State Park

East end - St George Island State Park - Dog Island in Distance 

St George Island State Park - 2013
We had a special opportunity to spend the day with our high school friends Bob and Jennifer Nix who have had the good fortune to retire from Nashville, TN to Port St. Joe, FL.  At the end of our visit it was hard to leave such gracious friends, but we're looking forward to seeing them at our 50th high school reunion in St. Augustine, FL in 2014.  Honestly, being with Jennifer is better than watching the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network!  

We've probably eaten more Apalachicola Select oysters in the town of Apalachicola in the last week than we've eaten in our entire lives!  This  may look like what we have left behind:  

They've asked us to leave ...
We ate that many oysters - no kidding!
  We enjoyed fresh caught red snapper which Fred Wolf grilled to perfection on his birthday.  We had fried oysters one night that had been swimming in the Apalachicola River the day before.  We have filled our freezer with fresh gulf shrimp to be enjoyed at a later date.  While we would love to bring back bushel bags of oysters to share with our friends, it really is a mess to transport in the coach, so we'll probably just buy a couple of pints of oysters and reminisce about St. George Island when we decide to eat them... somewhere down the road.

Please don't take our word that this is the most beautiful state park in Florida.  Take an opportunity to visit and see for yourself.     


Monday, October 21, 2013


If what they say is true, time flies when you're having fun, and we've had a great time visiting one of our favorite campgrounds in Florida, Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida.  As is the case in all Florida state parks we are allowed to stay 14 days and then we have to leave.

Topsail Hill Preserve State Park - Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Lake at Topsail Hill State Park

Outside Theatre at Topsail Hill State Park

Flowers growing in Sand Dunes at Topsail Hill

Santa Rosa Beach, FL

We met a pesky little rascal that had become a permanent resident of our site at Topsail before we arrived.    His apartment resembled a squirrel nest but the difference is that every time he turned over in his bed a shower of leaves and debris fell on us.

Raccoon resting 

Raccoon peering out of nest

Raccoon getting ready for a night on the town
We alerted the park rangers who said to keep our eyes on him and if he becomes a nuisance or exhibits strange behavior to call.   We were warned upon registering to beware of the Florida black bears in the campground, however, we never encountered them.  They will enjoy the campground as long as people continue providing nourishment.
Tucker Bayou off Chocktawhatchee Bay

Pier at Eden Gardens State Park

Kayaking on the Gulf at Sundown

Surf Fishing at Santa Rosa Beach at Sundown
There are several State parks within about a 20 mile radius of Topsail that are definitely worth visiting.  Admission is minimal, and if you're in the area of Topsail it is worth noting that each park has its own personality and appeal.  We decided to visit Eden Gardens State Park one afternoon, and now we understand why this park is such a treasure to the State park system.  There is quite a history to the Wesley House, an antebellum home in the park, as well as the fact that the house still contains the second largest collection of Louis XVI furniture in the country.   The property is on the Tucker Bayou which flows out of the Choctawhatchee Bay.
The Wedding Tree at Eden Gardens State Park

Wesley House at Eden Gardens State Park

Wesley House at Eden Gardens State Park
The Emerald Coast still has miles of natural unspoiled beauty.  What appears to be indiscriminate zoning and disrespect for the beauty of the area is an issue now.  There are times of the day when traffic is a challenge traveling east or west on US Highway 98.  Big box stores, tourist traps, high rise condominiums and McMansions threaten what once was a scenic and tranquil setting.   Commercial and residential development is alive and well and sometimes it isn't a pretty picture.
Sundown at Santa Rosa Beach, FL

Leaving Topsail we are headed east toward Apalachicola and will go from one extreme to the other - St. George Island State Park, a barrier island off the coast.  All we hope to leave until next year are our footprints.
Footprints in the Sand