Well, there may be more visitors to my favorite part of the Panhandle. It looks like Sports Illustrated did a good part of the photoshoot for the 2012 calender in the area. Don’t think it’ll result in hordes of people, but a tourism boost would be welcome, especially after the Gulf oil spill. By the way, hardly affected us, come on down!
Last week, we left off as we were arriving in Apalachicola. Let’s wander around now that we’re here.
They have a large historic district; you could easily spend the better part of a day exploring it. A couple of state parks here, both museums. The most important one, to my mind, is the John Gorrie State Museum. Because he helped make living in Florida bearable, by inventing air conditioning.
Well, not quite. But the cooling device he created contributed to air conditioning’s invention. The museum will tell you all about it. Call ahead, though. Like most museums, hours are limited, and state budgeting might mean they’re closed when you want to see it.
There are some other museums in town, and below are some of the significant highlights. I want to stay here some weekend, as it’s ideally situated as a home base to see the local sights. Off season is better, since rates at most hotels are significantly reduced. If you want to contend with hordes of people, I suppose you could come during the seafood festival. I’m half-tempted, since I’ve photo’d most of what I want in town, and you can’t beat a good seafood festival. (see Google map)
- Apalachicola Historic District (Roughly bounded by Apalachicola River, Apalachicola Bay, 17th and Jefferson Streets) (NRHP)
- Chapman Elementary School (155 Avenue E) (AGFHA)
- George Ruge House (133 Avenue B) (AGFHA)
- Richard G. Porter House (127 Avenue B) (AGFHA)
- Hoffman House (101 Avenue B) (AGFHA)
- Chestnut Street Cemetery (88 Chestnut Street) (AGFHA)
- Chapman House (Broad St. and Chestnut Ave.) (AGFHA)
- John Gorrie State Museum (46 Broad Street)
- Trinity Episcopal Church (Avenue D and 6th Street (Gorrie Square)) (NRHP)
- David G. Raney House (Market Street and Avenue F) (NRHP)
- Orman House
- Apalachicola Maritime Museum (103 Water Street)
- Cotton Warehouse (Water Street) (AGFHA)
- Sponge Exchange (115 Market Street) (AGFHA)
- Gibson Hotel (51 Avenue C) (AGFHA)
- Franklin County Courthouse (33 Market Street)
- Whiteside House (Locust Street) (AGFHA) (couldn’t find)
Somewhere that those passing through could easily miss is St. George Island. Their loss, since it has one of the nicest bridge drives in the state. The one I mentioned earlier, rivaling the Seven Mile Bridge. Turn right on SR 300, and it doesn’t seem like much. Then the trees clear and there’s nothing but water and bridge. It’s only about three miles to the island. Unlike the Seven Mile Bridge, this one takes a couple of jogs. So you get to see things at different angles. Best is an hour or so before sunset, with the sun low on the horizon to your right.
Just past the end of the bridge is the reconstructed Cape St. George Light. It was at the west end of the island, but collapsed several years ago. But volunteers recovered the bricks, and rebuilt it in this safer location. Parts of the inner wooden stairwell are salvaged lumber from the demolished old Bay Line Railroad Depot in Panama City. The view from the top is great, and safe, since you’re completely enclosed by glass. Look north and you’ll see the bridge back to shore. Wow. Just… wow.
Go east on Gulf Beach Drive. Really low speed limit, since it’s condos and such the rest of the way. But eventually it clears and you’ll reach St. George Island State Park. It’s a bit like St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, but more flat. It’s pretty much one long beach that goes on for miles. If you really like beaches, this would probably be a great place to spend the day. If you don’t, it’s still pretty and worth an hour or two of your time. If you find a place to stay on the island, the sunrises and sunsets are probably pretty amazing here too. (see Google map)
- Cape St. George Light (Franklin Boulevard and Gulf Beach Drive) (NRHP)
- St. George Island State Park (1900 E. Gulf Beach Dr.)
Once you’re back on the mainland, you’ll be driving along the most Pacific Coast Highway part of US 98. Tate’s Hell to the left of you, Gulf to the right, road gently curving ahead. If you can, stop by the roadside at a spot where you can get to the beach. Walk out on the sandbars and look back. Take a minute. Take two, even.
There’s an optional major detour along here, to the site of Fort Gadsden. I mentioned it in the SR 20 post, if you want to check it out. You’ve got a 23 mile drive each way on SR 65, so it’ll take a good chunk of travel time.
- Fort Gadsden Historic Memorial (6 miles southwest of Sumatra) (NRHP)
On US 98 again. Trees eventually crop up on the right, but you can still see the Gulf on and off through them. Keep an eye out for the signs for the old lighthouse, the turnoff comes up rather suddenly. The lighthouse is climbable, though I’ve not done so, and there’s a kid’s playground next to it, should you have young’uns and they need to let off steam.
The road curves north, and you’re on the periphery of Carrabelle. You’ll cross a bridge that goes over the mouth of the Carrabelle River. Slow down if you can to take in the scenery. Once you’re over, you’ll be in Carrabelle proper.
The town’s main claim to fame is the World’s Smallest Police Station. Ironically, the one on US 98 isn’t the original one, as I’d always thought. In doing research for this post, I discovered that one is in the Chamber of Commerce offices across the street. ‘Cause it keeps getting vandalized, doncha know. I’ll have to go in next time I’m there. And maybe find out a bit more about the area. Like Dog Island. I’ve only wandered a bit off US 98, but I bet there’s more to see than the few interesting bits I’ve seen. (see Google map)
- Crooked River Light (1975 Hwy 98 W) (NRHP)
- Dog Island
- Richard W. Ervin monument (Curtis Ave and 4th St)
- World’s Smallest Police Station (Curtis Ave and Tallahassee St (old one in Chamber of Commerce office at 105 St. James Ave ))
- Camp Gordon Johnston Museum (302 Marine St SE)
The next stretch of US 98 is similar to the last several dozen miles. A relaxed and mellow drive until you get into Wakulla County and closer to Tallahassee. But that’s for another post. That’s it for now, and see you on the road!
Route length: 200 miles