My little tour through Florida ended on a cold morning, a 24 degree morning when the grass crunched under my feet. The morning this horseshoe crab seemed more like the stuff of the frozen seafood isle than my parent's Gulf side backyard. Mmmm, horseshoe crab over whole wheat linguini - very Lean Cuisine. I think I'll pass.Despite the drop in temperature the trip was very rewarding. I saw and did so many interesting things but alas there's only so much blog speak you'll listen to in one post before you stop scrolling. I thought however, I might just give you a little bit more to sum it all up.
As you probably noticed I have avoided the neon tourist icons of Florida again. There's so much written about the tourist hot spots throughout the state. Although I can give you good information on them as well, right now I preferred to give you something different. We will eventually get to Disney, South Beach, etc. but I think it is important to point out parts of Florida that are still old Florida. Areas that have a grasp on their history and by virtue of embracing it they have managed not to dry up and blow away. Some would say they aren't very interesting but for those who pursue a different kind of adventure small towns have a lot to offer. In particular something the bustling tourists meccas usually lack – they have authenticity. It is in these places that you'll find the true Florida. I haven't made it to all of them yet, but I hope I can give you enough of a glimpse to intrigue you.
In the Florida Panhandle there is an area known as the Forgotten Coast. It is were my parents moved to escape the crowds of SE Florida. There you'll find a string of tiny fishing towns each with a couple shops, a restaurant and if you're lucky a hotel. Some have been around since the 1800's and are among the places you should not miss. These are places where you can pull up to an oyster house and buy a bushel of the freshest oysters you'll ever eat or a few pounds of the freshest shrimp. There is nothing like getting together with friends and throwing some oysters right on the grill. When they're done you can eat them straight out of the shell. If you've never had a fresh steamed oyster you are definitely missing out! I actually prefer them steamed. But there are a multitude of ways to fix oysters from raw to Rockefeller to stew. Check out the Oysters Rockefeller segment on TravelVision on YouTube. My mother's recipe for Oyster Stew has been a family favorite for decades and it's one of the simplest meals I've ever made. If you prefer not to have to shuck or fix them there are a dozen or restaurants happy to accommodate you along the coast. One of the best is Boss Oyster on the river in Apalachicola. There you can have your oysters fixed many different ways. The Oyster St. Jacob and the Oyster Monterey are two of my favorites.
Apalachicola is a great little town to start exploring and is home to The Owl Restaurant (see previous post), The Gibson Inn (pictured above - established in 1907 and on the Nat'l Registry of Historic Places) and The Oasis Bar (pictured at top). It sits at the mouth of the Apalachicola River and was once a bustling seaport. It is now a simple fishing town and a wonderful place to visit. There's lots to see in the area including the beautiful beaches on nearby St. George Island. And should you choose to head east from there don't miss out on Carrabelle, Panacea and St. Marks. St. Marks is home to the St. Marks Nat'l Wildlife Refuge where you can spend the day bird watching, boating and fishing. Boating in these parts abounds and not getting out on the Gulf or up one of the rivers would be a crime.
St. Marks is also where you'll find the Riverside Cafe a rustic fun place on the water with good food and good music. It's where the locals hang. So in your plans to travel to Florida don't forget all there is to see and do on this part of Florida's vast coastline.