10 Best Things To Do In Apalachicola, Florida

Take time to discover the wonders of this charming Florida river town.

You know you're on the brink of sweet discoveries as Florida's U.S. 98 slides southeast down the coast from Panama City. After heading inland briefly past flanks of longleaf and slash pines, you find yourself rolling more slowly past stately antebellum homes until you arrive at a pristine 19th-century downtown. Just beyond is a sky blue waterway dotted with shrimp boats.

You meander downtown, amazed by what you see: a craft brewpub; a Charleston, South Carolina-worthy boutique with beautiful clothing; an upscale outfitter with fishing rods and fashionable outdoor wear; antique stores; and art galleries. On a corner is a deep-porched inn that feels like the coolest spot to stay on the Panhandle.

Welcome to Apalachicola, Florida's stunning surprise, the little up-and-comer. Here lies a tiny city that has endured booms and busts. First a thriving cotton and lumber port, then a center of the Gulf's oyster fishery (which crashed precipitously in 2012), it has, in the last decade, quietly built itself up.

Inventive entrepreneurship has turned it into a sweet and stylish getaway that blends those downtown delights with proximity to some of the coast's most remarkable wild beaches. Make no mistake: Apalachicola is having a moment.

Apalachicola Florida
John Coletti/Getty Images

Relax In The Historic Charm Of The Gibson Inn

Built in 1907, this historic property was bought in 2018 by a pair of thirty-something siblings—Steven Etchen and Katharine Couillard—who grew up coming here with their parents and enjoying Shirley Temples on these very porches. With the design-savvy vision of the pair, the interiors now vibrate with a modern sensibility that nods to nostalgia—deep leather sofas in the lobby, the occasional taxidermy, plus nautical and Florida motifs in the wallpapers.

Cocktail recipe: Bee’s Knees
© Lucas Allen

Sip A Bees Knees Cocktail In The Parlor Bar

Chill out with a Bees Knees (Barr Hill gin, local honey, and lemon) or a longneck beer at The Gibson Inn's Parlor Bar, part of the Inn's seafood-forward restaurant The Franklin. Old-timers parked at the bar mix with happy travelers who know they're onto something really special.

Treasure Hunt At The Tin Shed Nautical & Antiques

At the home of "the most comprehensive maritime collection East of the Mississippi," you can rummage through a vintage wonderland of glass fishing floats, ship wheels, diving helmets, and buoys. There's more: browsing through baskets of shells, sea-inspired wood carvings, and maps and flags will keep you occupied for hours.

St. Joseph Peninsula
Robbie Caponetto

Explore The St. Joseph Peninsula

There's perhaps no wilder place than Cape San Blas and the St. Joseph Peninsula, a delicate spit of sand that arcs out from the mainland just west of Apalachicola and parallels the coast for about 20 windswept miles of high dunes and untrammeled beaches.

Partway out the peninsula, in fact, is where 2018's Hurricane Michael came ashore with such ferocity that it carved a navigable channel across the spit before it savaged Mexico Beach. Already, though, the slash is filling back up with sand as nature resets itself, and now the place feels wilder than ever.

Oyster Roast FAQ and Etiquette Guide - Oyster Cluster & Oyster Knife
Oyster Cluster & Oyster Knife. Doug DuCap

Order Oysters By The Dozen

After the oyster crash of 2012, a new wave of farmers is bringing the beloved delicacy back. Get local varieties consistently at The Franklin and Up the Creek Raw Bar. This is also shrimp country, and the catch is done up right at Apalachicola Seafood Grill, a historic corner-store-style lunchroom with just enough kitsch to keep it real (don't miss the mustardy potato salad). Nearby, the Oyster City Brewing Company has excellent craft beers.

Travel Back In Time

In 1836, Apalachicola was one of the top three cotton ports on the Gulf Coast, and the wealth and importance attached to the city made it a mid-19th century hub. The Raney House, the former home of a prosperous family that produced government officials, including a Florida Supreme Court Justice, is the place to learn about Apalachicola's past and see artifacts from the city's early days.

Coconut Pie With Whipped Cream
Coconut Pie With Whipped Cream. Katie Cawood/Moment Open/Getty Images

Tuck Into A Slice of Coconut Cream Pie

Taking a delicious forkful of coconut cream pie while spending a day in a delightful Gulf Coast town sounds heavenly, right? Let's make it even dreamer: at the Apalachicola Chocolate & Coffee Company, coconut cream is just one option. How about pecan pie, key lime, peanut butter cream, chocolate cream, and even chocolate coconut cream? The gelato is great too.

Discover In Apalachicola's Eclectic Boutiques

From the fashionable but approachable boutiques Becasa (featuring owner and designer Emily Raffield's timeless and trend-forward pieces) and SGI Threads, downtown has every retail niche covered. Your shopping list: Bee Inspired Too Apalach Outfitters, The Grady Market, and Downtown Books & Purl, and Riverlily. Keep your eyes peeled for the local variety of Florida tupelo honey, rare and highly valued for its silky texture and rich flavor.

boats near mouth of Apalachicola River in Florida
Docked boats await the day at the mouth of the Apalachicola River in Florida. (Photo: patchattack [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Flickr)

Hop On A Boat

You haven't really visited Apalachicola if you've only been on land. The options for getting on the water are endless. You can kayak along the Apalachicola River Blueway, charter a bay or offshore fishing trip, add some adventure to your day with a zippy trip on an airboat, or end the day on a perfect note with a sunset cruise.

Live Like A Local

Want to pretend this special place is home? Book an Airbnb right in the heart of things and live like an "Apalach" local. An adorable cottage, a unique apartment converted from a historic bank, or even an amazing houseboat could give your trip unique insight into what it's like to live in Apalachicola.

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