Apalachicola, a step back to a simpler time

Apalachicola or Apalach, as it is known by locals, is far from a typical tourist town. Established in 1831, it was once the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. Wide, tree lined streets are still graced by picturesque homes from the nineteenth and twentieth century that show the wealth and craftsmanship of its early days. Apalachicola has over 900 historic homes and buildings listed in its extensive National Register District and it was selected as one of the nations Dozen Distinctive Destinations in 2008 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Located where the Apalachicola River meets the Bay, the Apalachicola estuary is considered one of the least polluted, most undeveloped, ecologically diverse systems left in the United States. The Apalachicola Estuarine Research Reserve (ANERR) oversees the health of this vast system. The ANERR is the second largest in the nation with over 246,000 acres under its protection.

Vibrant history and rich maritime culture can still be seen on its working waterfront. Buildings that once served as 19th century ships chandleries, old net factories and a sponge warehouse now house a mix of eclectic and trendy shops, restaurants, galleries and meticulously restored hotels and Bed & Breakfasts. These locally owned and operated businesses create a quaint and friendly atmosphere for visitors as well as local residents. A grand theater lies in the center of town. Restored in 1997, the Dixie Theatre hosts professional theater and music January through March.

This unique city is noted for having some of the finest oysters, its bay oysters having a pure, mild, briny flavor that has been recognized by top chefs throughout the country. The Apalachicola Bay provides over 90% of the oysters sold in Florida and 10% of the nationwide supply. Smaller open bay boats, moored or trailered each day, tong for oysters in the many shallow areas of Apalachicola Bay. Fishing vessels displaying proud patinas of years of service line the waterfront and regularly net fresh local shrimp and fish. A diverse selection of acclaimed restaurants feature fresh, local, daily harvested seafood.

Visit the 1840′s era Sponge Exchange, a remnant from the time when Sponges were a principal export, and admire tin warehouses along Water Street. Be sure to visit the John Gorrie Museum State Park for a look at the original prototype of the modern air conditioner. Also worth a visit are the Raney House Museum, Apalachicola Maritime Museum, the Orman House, the Apalachicola Museum of Art and St. George Island State Park.

Apalachicola is a surprisingly interesting town for its small size (about 2300 residents). The people are very friendly, there’s plenty to do, or if you prefer it’s a great place to do nothing and relax, in town or at the beautiful St. George Island beach. It’s a refreshing change from the typical Florida vacation, it’s like taking a step back to a simpler time.