Florida’s forgotten coast: five destinations to visit in Franklin County
Dubbed Florida’s 'Forgotten Coast' due its unspoiled, pristine Gulf Coast beaches, Franklin County offers up quirky, culture-rich towns, world-class seafood and Victorian architecture in spades.
Hugging the Apalachicola Bay, in Florida’s underrated Panhandle region, this slice of the Sunshine State offers up paradisiacal beaches, seafood feasts and exciting outdoor adventures. Marinas buzz as fisherfolk pull in the catch of the day and quaint downtown areas are filled with 19th-century buildings and boutiques. The region also conjures up a rich maritime history in its museums and at lighthouses, and manages to whisk you back to the nostalgic, bucket-and-spade holidays of yore. But its imaginative arts spaces, breweries and a robust food scene mean Florida’s 'Forgotten Coast' is never stuck in the past. Here are five must-visit places.
Best for culture and craft beer
A neat port town with a deep-rooted fishing tradition, Apalachicola is both historic and effortlessly hip. Begin your explorations in the Downtown area, which is knitted with elegant Victorian-era buildings. Here, you’ll also find a medley of independent shops, stellar seafood restaurants and quirky music venues — a highlight is the satisfyingly down-to-earth High Five Dive Bar, an old warehouse that now offers its stage to emerging local musicians. It’s also worth ducking into River’s Edge Art Gallery where you can pore over delicate ceramics, watercolours and photography by a range of forgotten coast artists. Beer-lovers will be satisfied in Apalachicola, too. Drink suds at the Oyster City Brewing Company, which carefully crafts fruity pale ales and German-style lagers, and serves them at shady sidewalk benches.
Best for fishing adventures and unique attractions
Fishing is the lifeblood of this charming port town, and you can feast on seafood plucked right from Apalachicola Bay. Chartered fishing tours strike into both fresh and salty waters on the tail of mullet, tarpon and grouper, or you can ease out of the readily equipped marina on your own independent adventure. Back on dry land, there are quirky sights aplenty. Snap a picture at the 'world’s smallest police station', built into an old phone booth in the 1960s, or stop by the Carrabelle Bottle House — a whimsical home conjured from some 6,000 antique bottles. Picnic tables also dot the grounds around the striking 103ft Crooked River Lighthouse, which watched over forgotten coast waters for almost a century; the Keeper’s House is now packed with relics including barometers and pages from the watch book, plus detailed historic exhibits.
3. St. George Island
Best for beach adventures
Life moves at its own relaxed pace on St. George Island — a sweeping barrier isle that’s fringed with inviting white sands. The strands here are unspoilt and uncrowded. Families will enjoy paddling in or kayaking on the mellow Gulf of Mexico, or tucking into plates of seafood at laidback beachside restaurants. The island’s crowning jewel is the photogenic Cape St. George Light and visitors who tackle the 92 steps are rewarded with sweeping views over the Apalachicola Bay and St George Sound. Looking for something slightly more intrepid? Head out east to St. George Island State Park, where hiking trails and boardwalks wiggle across a landscape of dunes, marshes and bay forest.
Best for culinary delights
Eastpoint dishes up some of the best seafood in all of Florida. The docks are a hive of activity, with oystermen bringing in their fine and fresh catches from the Apalachicola Bay. Watch the action unfold from Lynn's Quality Oysters, a waterside bar and seafood market that hawks scallops, shrimp and crab, and serves deliciously warming gumbo and oysters on the half shell. The cheerful Family Coastal Restaurant is another top stop, dishing up generous seafood platters alongside Southern sides like hushpuppies and fried green tomatoes.
5. Alligator Point
Best for wildlife watching
Alligator Point is a slither of a peninsula that juts into the salty Gulf of Mexico — and its top-drawer attraction is Bald Point State Park. The park is a picturesque tangle of marshes and pine flatwoods, and it’s home to an impressive array of bird species. In autumn, keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles — these raptors migrate south to escape winter’s snowy clutches. You might also spot piping plovers, marsh wrens and American oystercatchers throughout the year, while other park residents include deer and elusive bobcats. There are various ways to get to the heart of the park. Some 18 miles of hiking trails slice through the eclectic ecosystems, or a kayak launch at Tucker Lake lets you strike into the park’s watery interior.
For more information and to plan your trip, visit floridasforgottencoast.com
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter