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One of Florida’s best-kept secrets, the Forgotten Coast is full of natural splendors and outdoor adventures. This part of the Florida Panhandle includes the coastal communities of Apalachicola, St. George Island and Eastpoint. Here you can enjoy a slower pace of life, as this stretch along the Gulf of Mexico is not yet overrun by high-rise hotels and tourist traps. Visitors can explore the region’s collection of uncrowded beaches and lush forests, and also get an authentic taste of Florida’s Gulf Coast at local seafood joints. From hiking and horseback riding to the world’s smallest police station, here are the best things to do on Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
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Mexico Beach is one of Florida’s smallest towns, where you’ll find a preserved natural beauty and a shoreline full of colorful seashell treasures. Spend your afternoon looking for unique souvenirs, watch pods of dolphins from the shore as you spot bald eagles, osprey, and pelicans. Outdoor excursions like diving, kayaking, surfing and eco-tours are popular, while those who manage to peel themselves from the beach can browse the eclectic collection of locally owned shops and boutiques.
Have some fun in the sun at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park near Port St. Joe. This park is home to Florida’s beloved loggerhead turtles, migrating hawks and 9.5 miles of spectacular white sand beach. Surrounded by natural landscapes that are popular for kayaking, hiking and fishing, you can come here and simply relax on the beach that has been consistently referred to as one of the best in the United States. Spend your afternoon enjoying the simple pleasures of swimming in the aqua-blue waters and watching Mother Nature’s colorful sunset.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park is a popular place for swimming, as it is home to one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world. Its sprawling 6,000-acre park offers a glimpse of Old Florida, where kids delight in doing cannonballs in the cool spring waters off its two-story tower. Wildlife viewing is another popular pastime, where you can see migratory birds, deer and turtles on the park’s 45-minute glass bottom boat tours of the downriver ecosystem.
If you’re looking for an overnight adventure, head to St. George Island State Park. Located on the east end of a barrier island that wraps around Apalachicola Bay, the park showcases over nine miles of pristine white beaches for visitors to enjoy. From swimming and hiking to birdwatching, it is an outdoor lover’s paradise where you can rest and recharge at one of the campsites that are nestled near a canopy of pines and rolling dunes less than a quarter mile from the beach.
Around 2 million pounds of oysters from Apalachicola get shucked in seafood joints around the country each year, so it would be a shame to visit the Forgotten Coast and not sample a few yourself. Harvested by hand by oystermen in tiny wooden boats, these salty treasures are best tasted from one of the local raw bars.The Indian Pass Raw Bar features a casual atmosphere with live music and shared tables, and has been serving locals for over 100 years.
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931, making it one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the country. It features over 68,000 acres of diverse coastal environments that include estuaries, islands, marshes and tidal creeks. Explore the natural habitats and the St. Marks Lighthouse, the second oldest lighthouse in Florida. This area is perfect for birdwatching, while fishing enthusiasts, hikers and cyclists will find an array of natural beauty to explore.
Take time to explore Port St. Joe, one of the lesser known jewels adjacent to the Emerald Coast. Known as a “Small Town with a Big Heart,” you’ll find beautiful stretches of coastline, friendly locals and a downtown area lined with sidewalk cafes and antique shops. Make your way down Reid Avenue, a half-mile stretch in the center of town, to browse local stores like Persnickety, Joseph’s Cottage, and The Fuss Boutique before visiting seafood restaurants around the marina.
Perfect for when you want to soak up the surrounding natural beauty, head to Tate’s Hell State Forest for a day of hiking. Covering more than 200,000 acres, this park has a wide array of habitats and is home to bald eagles, Florida black bears and gopher tortoise. There are a variety of recreational activities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy, from scenic hikes to 35 miles of rivers, streams and creeks where you can go on canoeing, boating and fishing excursions.
One of Florida’s most popular roadside attractions, in the small town of Carrabelle you can see the “World’s Smallest Police Station.” This phone booth-sized municipal building has been a piece of police property for more than half a century, as it was built in 1963 and was originally a police phone box before being promoted to a full station. It’s been featured on several television shows like “Ripley’s Believe It or Not,” and is a piece of Florida’s history.
Whether you’re on a romantic trip or exploring the area with friends, a horseback ride along the beach is a memorable Florida experience. You can ride alongside each other on one hour guided rides on the beach with Broke A Toe excursions. The rides depart from Salinas Park, between Indian Pass and Cape San Blas, and offer added touches like sunset rides, photo and beach bonfire packages.
Bring your four-legged friend with you for some fun in the sun at Cape San Blas, as this area is often regarded as one of the best pet-friendly beach destinations in Florida. You’ll find a rare stretch of beach without high rises or tourist crowds, where you and Fido can play catch, frolic in the water and soak up the sunshine.