20 Best Things to Do in Apalachicola, FL
Apalachicola, Florida, is a warm, welcoming port town nestled on the mouth of the Apalachicola River, charming with its hometown appeal, rich maritime history, friendly folks, and smiling faces.
This is the usual feel-good vibe that visitors feel upon stepping foot on the place, saying that Apalachicola is “brimming with warm hospitality and smiling faces, making everyone feel at home.”
The name “Apalachicola” is a combination of Hitchoti Indian words “apalachi,” which means “on the other side,” and “okli,” which means “people.”
Meantime, for the Apalachicola locals, the name simply means “land of the friendly people.”
This picturesque town, affectionately called “Apalach” by its locals, gifts its visitors with a delightful taste of Old Florida, retaining its historic charm while morphing into hip society teeming with its modern art and culture.
As a city and county seat of Franklin County, visitors observe its laid-back hometown charm yet laced with eclectic boutiques and contemporary fashion, art galleries offering modern art, upscale dining and casual beachfront café bars, and more.
Apalachicola offers a unique destination offering the best of both worlds: old-world charm and new-world cool!
Let’s dive in on the best things to do in this beautifully restored historic district like none other in the Panhandle.
Fishing and Boating at Apalachicola Bay
Nestled in Franklin County, the Apalachicola Bay, also known as the Forgotten Coast, is a 208-mile stretch estuary and lagoon that has been a fishing favorite of enthusiasts for many years.
Fishing habitues delight in the richness of the Apalachicola River, bringing a wealth of sportsmen’s favorites, such as the tarpon, red, fish, trout, a variety of oysters, among others.
You can set forth sailing and launching your boat on the waters, or rent one if you wish to go on your own.
The best tip though is to take a charter and get an expert who knows all the good holes, providing all the licenses and the fishing gear.
And yes, great water tours for those who simply want to enjoy the scenery, and perhaps check out an alligator or two along the way!
Enjoy Live Music and Theatrical Shows at the Dixie Theatre
This is a historic theatre with its original infrastructure dating back to 1912 and said to be built by an enterprising ex-sponge diver who imported some traveling theatre troupes and called the place “Dixie.”
Dixie Theatre was an entertainment center for Franklin County until its closure in 1967, then later revived in 1993 with new owners Rex and Cleo Partington, who coincidentally had a daughter named “Dixie.”
After its demolition and reconstruction in 1997 and reopening in 1998, the Dixie Theatre Foundation now has produced over 40 professional theatre productions, and fabulous musical events, including the ever-popular “The Dixie Does Nashville Series.”
Dixie Partington still runs Dixie Theatre after many decades, with the help of her mother, Cleo.
With limited funding, the Dixie Theatre Foundation Inc is now a not-for-profit organization and is only able to operate within its three-month professional season, running from January to March.
Shopping at Downtown Apalachicola
If you’re an avid shopper for souvenirs such as contemporary fashion, jewelry, accessories and shoes, swimwear, gifts, and home accessories, then check out Apalachicola’s downtown shopping!
The Oystercatcher, built in 2013 and located at 79 Market Street, is a quaint shop with an abundant array of shopping items to choose from.
Deep Southern Boutique at the Beach, meantime located at St. George Island, also within Franklin County, is “the place where fashion makes friends,” with their smiling staff urging to enjoy a beachy boutique adventure.
For the fishing and boating enthusiasts, there’s Taylor’s Building Supply and Jolly Roger Beach Shop.
Both are great for good finds, such as fishing and boating accessories, sunglasses, and apparel, and also a full line of home building and repair items such as plumbing and electrical tools and hardware, outdoor power tools, among others.
Indulge in the Arts With Apalachicola’s Art Galleries
Artistry abounds has over 25 select artists work on various mediums, from watercolor to oil, pastels, fiber, ceramic, sculpture, and even jewelry and decorative accessories.
Bowery 2 Art Gallery And Studio is a unique gallery featuring local artists like Jaime Llewellyn Liang, Catherine Christie, and Leslie Wallace-Coon.
Over at 49 Avenue G, there’s 49 Palmetto Gallery with its contemporary art emphasizing local and regional folk art: with its year-round workshops, events, and rotating exhibits.
If you’re into photography, marvel at the beautiful and dramatic art pieces by photographer Chantel Burdette, with her gallery located at 123 Commerce Street.
Meantime, Richard Bickel’s award-winning photography artworks are available for the public at his gallery along 81 Market Street.
His published books showcasing his artworks are entitled “The Last Great Bay” and “Apalachicola, An American Treasure.”
Further, Bickel’s work has also been published in Travel and Leisure, Newsweek, Conde Nast, and The New York Times.
Bask Under the Sun at Apalachicola’s Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas, or just ‘the Cape,’ as the locals call it, has 17 miles of pristine and uncrowded white sand beaches and is connected to the Florida peninsula by a sliver of land, stretching along the Apalachicola Peninsula.
Cape, home to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park and located near Port St. Joe along the Florida Panhandle’s Emerald Coast, is what travelers dub as “truly a vacation paradise.”
Cape habitues suggest that new visitors can spend the day basking under the sun, collecting seashells and making sandcastles, or go hiking the coastal trails.
“Cape has that kind of peace and quiet that’s virtually impossible to find in Sarasota or Miami, “ says beach insiders.
And if you’re the outdoorsy type, rent kayaks or pick up a couple of fishing rods to get a load of the various fish species you can catch. Surely you’ll catch some even as a beginner!
And before you drive back to the mainland, remember to check out the museum at the historic St. George Cape Lighthouse, a 72-foot high brick infrastructure that stood for 153 years, yet toppled into the Gulf of Mexico in October 2005 and rebuilt from scraps salvaged from the sea as a new lighthouse in April 2008.
Nature Tripping at the Chapman Botanical Garden
At the Chapman Botanical Garden, time seems to be at a standstill where you can relish the peaceful quiet morning; it can be a place of solitude where you can read a book or paint.
Perched in this nature cove, located on North Market Street adjacent to the Orman House Historic State Park, is also a butterfly garden where you can watch those butterflies on cool afternoons to veer away from the stress of your working day.
The garden is named in honor of the esteemed pioneering 19th-century botanist from the Southeast, Dr. Alvin Wentworth Chapman.
Chapman is the author of “Flora of the Southern United States,” which is the first comprehensive description of plants in any region of the U.S. outside of the northeastern states.
Being one of the premier botanists from his time, he was also the discoverer of a huge variety of rare plant species in Florida.
The park features period lighting, seating areas, a gazebo, and a boardwalk.
The accessible half-mile loop is a peaceful natural escape located within the downtown district.
A paved walkway leads to an elevated boardwalk that meanders over a wetland area.
Enjoy the Night Life at High Five Dive Bar
High Five Dive Ba is an eclectic beer and wine bar that brings to life a little piece of old Apalach!
Located in the historic Bowery district, the bar features live music and a fun outdoor patio area.
In recent months music fans flocked to the bar to watch the Jerry Thigpen Trio, composed of North Florida regional favorites Jerry Thigpen, Pete Winder, and Jimmy Bone, known for their strong vocals and engaging live performances.
High Five Dive Bar habitues quip that the trio is reminiscent of high-energy trios like ZZTop and Cream and “delivers the goods like a band twice its size."
Try Airboat Adventures at the Apalachicola River
Get up close and personal with exotic forms of wildlife, flora, and fauna, and even check out alligators on the way with exciting airboat adventures!
These are eco-tours aboard the airboat rides, letting you discover the Apalachicola River’s vibrant and unique backwater wilderness amidst the pristine beauty of “the largest food-producing estuary in the Northern Hemisphere.”
You’re sure to enjoy this scenic and exciting two-hour ride while skimming across the uniquely beautiful swamps and bayous with speeds of up to 40mph.
Get a chance to see more migratory birds (e.g., waterfowl and bald eagles), deers, and even wood storks.
The Bay is also a major nursery for shrimp, blue crabs, and more than 131 species of fresh and estuarine fish living in the river, including speckled trouts, flounder, sturgeon groupers, red fishes, snappers, striped bass, and more.
Spirit of the River Yoga at Battery Park Community Center
“My Hatha Community yoga held Wednesday evenings is my only public group class offered at this time in Franklin county," affirms Kathleen Jansen, heading the “Spirit of the River” yoga classes.
Jansen mentioned that while the community has many free or donation classes at local churches and senior centers with other teachers, there are no patrons for paid yoga classes other than the Franklin county seasonal beachgoers.
She further affirmed that she also offers private yoga lessons, with advanced and unique instructions focused on her students’ needs, as compared to general benefits from group yoga classes.
Mountain Biking at the Apalachicola National Forest
You can get to know downtown Apalachicola by pedaling away yet slowing down in its city streets, cruising through its quaint shops and busy marketplace.
Cruise over to Riverfront Park watching the shrimp boats, then further bike away to check out the nearby galleries and museums, the beachfront café bars and restaurants, while enjoying the sunshine and sea breeze in this beautiful waterfront city!
Or you can also go for a bigger adventure by exploring the popular mountain biking trails in the Apalachicola National Forest.
There’s the Munson Hills Trail, a 13.4 kilometer heavily trafficked loop trail that features a lake, accessible all year round with its variety of activity options.
And there’s GF & A Trail, a 7.7 kilometer lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Crawfordville, Florida, good for all skill levels with its number of activity options and available for mountain bikers all year round.
Start the Day by Touring around the Raney House Museum
The majestic Greek Revival home constructed in 1836 is a part of the National Register of Historic Homes.
The house was built for residents David and Harriet Raney, who later moved in with their son David G. Raney, Jr., a Confederate marine commander taken by Union forces at the Battle of Mobile Bay.
The Raney family lived there until 1914.
The City of Apalachicola bought it in 1973, then turned it into the Raney House Museum, displaying items from the 19th century, such as furniture, records, and antiquities.
The residence is open for morning and afternoon tours every Friday and Saturday and afternoons of Sunday through Thursday.
Snap a Photo of the Three Servicemen Statue
The Three Soldiers Statue in Apalachicola, Florida, honors the Southern soldiers who fought in Vietnam and serves as the centerpiece of a lovely park.
The magnificent Three Soldiers Statue by Frederick Hart, located at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., served as the model for the monument.
Frederick Hart is a famous sculptor born in Atlanta in 1943.
The Three Soldiers Statue depicts soldiers who seem to be coming out of the shadows and into the light.
The Chapman Botanical Gardens, the Orman House Historic State Park, and the memorial park's shared parking area are all accessible from the Apalachicola sculpture, officially entitled "Three Soldiers, Detail."
Buy New Clothes at Grady Market
Grady Market has a lovely selection of clothes and accessories and one-of-a-kind items you won't find anywhere else.
You may discover sophisticated and casual apparel and decorative accessories for men, women, and kids.
Shop for unusual presents, t-shirts, luggage, home furnishings, and decorative items.
At the Market, a range of children's merchandise and presents is available to customers.
It is set in the gorgeously renovated Grady Building, previously the French Consulate, and is positioned in the center of the Historic Riverfront District.
View Displays at John Gorrie State Museum
John Gorrie, the man who received the first American invention of the cooling system in the mid-19th century and had a significant impact on the advancement of air conditioning equipment, is remembered at the John Gorrie State Museum, a park, and museum.
The museum has displays of John Gorrie's life and innovations.
John Gorrie State Museum has a copy of his ice-making device and other relics.
The museum's temporary displays trace the Apalachicola region's evolution and cultural heritage along with Florida Park's history.
Year-round, John Gorrie State Museum is open to visitors in the morning and afternoon on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
Sample Seasonal Brews at Oyster City Brewery
In the historic Florida city of Apalachicola, Oyster City Brewery was established in 2013 and welcomed guests in 2014.
Hooter Brown, Mangrove, Tates Helles, Apalach Ipa, and Mill Pond Dirty are a few examples of ales and lagers that are recognized as flagship beers.
Sample some of their seasonal brews and beers on tap to ensure a fun evening with your friends.
Oyster City Brewery is open every day from 12 to 7 o'clock.
Locals and visitors alike come to meet at Oyster City Brewing Company to drink some very excellent beer.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Paddling and Kayaking at Tate’s Hell State Forest
Tate’s Hell State Forest covers more than 200,000 acres of public land, bordering the east by the Ochlockonee River, and on the west by the Apalachicola River.
And even if you’re a beginner kayaker or paddler, you’re sure to enjoy the long list of canoe and kayak trails within the forest with 35 miles of streams, creeks, and rivers.
Safety tips from the experts: Be mindful of the dangers!
Snakes, they warn, are quite active in coastal environments, even in salt marshes.
And be careful not to touch plants that can be found along the trail, especially poison ivy, poisonwood trees, and others that may cause allergic reactions.
Further, for beginners, be sure to be with expert kayakers and paddlers to guide you.
And more safety advice: File a float plan that contains your departure location, time and date, and the exact time and date of your arrival.
No need to proceed to the open waters if there are weather condition forecasts and warnings.
They further point out to stay well-hydrated during the fishing tour.
And the need for a whistle?
Yes, just in case you need to send five short whistle blasts -- which is the international signal for an emergency.
Dine at Franklin County's Restaurants
After your shop-till-you-drop adventure, why not unwind at the fabulous restaurants of Franklin County?
The county’s restaurants have them all, offering a wide array of choices, whether casual beachfront restaurants and riverfront oyster bars, the six-course chef’s tasting menus, coastal specialty restaurants, seasonal wine dinners, and those upscale cafes which showcase continental cuisine.
You’re sure to be delighted at Mango Mike’s Sports Bar & Grill with its beachy sea-breeze ambiance, sporting a beautiful outdoor dining area with a sports bar, grassy courtyard, and a family-friendly full-service restaurant.
Sometimes It’s Hotter Seasoning Co, has been around for 24 years, providing fine, all-natural seasonings for its patrons and everything for a spicy feast.
Blue Parrot Oceanfront Café, a classic St. George Island staple, seduces you for its charming beachfront dining experience with an outside tiki bar serving wine, beer, and other specialty drinks.
Get a load of their cuisine specialties, from steak and chicken to fresh seafood and burgers, from soups, salads, and sandwiches to oysters and delicious homemade desserts that will make you come back for more!
Insiders say that more than thirty area restaurants feature, what else?
Nutritious and delightful seafood cuisine, fresh picks from the pristine Apalachicola Bay, Alligator Harbor, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Yet, apart from serving fresh seafood from the local markets, Franklin county chefs also patronize its local livestock farmers, vegetable suppliers, and local dairies, which supply them with the freshest coffee, organic produce, meats, cheeses, and honey for their restaurant habitues.
Bird Watching on the Forgotten Coast
Migrating shorebirds are here on their first landing at Franklin County during springtime; both warblers and songbirds abound in a dizzying array on our barrier islands and beaches.
By summer, the Forgotten Coast is home to many nesting species, such as rails in the salt marshes to eagles and osprey in the highest trees.
And by autumn, these masses of birds migrate from the north to the south with the onset of cool weather, also followed by a gathering of raptors preying on them.
Experts say that many birders and butterfly enthusiasts choose the cool and breezy afternoons of fall to enjoy this outdoor hobby.
St. Vincent Island, located at the westernmost end of Franklin County in the Gulf of Mexico region, is a federally owned National Wildlife Refuge, a stop-off point for migratory birds, including the majestic Wood Stork.
Bald Point State Park, located at the extreme eastern tip of Franklin County, is one of the best areas in the Southeast to view the annual bird and butterfly migrations.
So whether you choose to marvel at these migrating bird species during the cool breezy afternoons or quiet mornings, you may encounter Bald Eagles, hawks, warblers, Peregrine Falcons, and a lot more.
Golfing at St. James Bay Golf Resort
Wetlands and water hazards are present at every hole in this 18-hole par 72 world-class championship golf course, designed by renowned course designer Robert Walker in coordination with the Audobon Society.
St. James Bay Golf Resort is located six miles east of Carrabelle and is the Forgotten Coast’s premier coastal golf experience, winding through a pristine wetlands environment surrounded by 90 acres of unspoiled beauty.
Being the only golf course in Franklin County, insiders exclaim that the first-class golf practice facility “blends nature and lifestyle into a unique coastal golf experience.”
With two putting greens and a full driving range, St. James Golfing Resort amenities include lodging options via clubhouse villas and luxury condominiums, pro shops, golf apparel, rental clubs, and snack bars.
The world-class golf resort is also home to the Crooked River Grill, offering a large array of regular menu daily, with its chefs sure to prepare special mouth-watering cuisine including Surf-and-Turf, Gulf Fresh Crabs, street taco dishes, and much more.
Apalachicola is the place to be: whether you are looking for some fun adventure on the beaches, yearning for some delectable seafood cuisine, or excited to try outdoor sports such as kayaking, golf, fishing, or simply bird-watching along Apalachicola’s Forgotten Coast.
A beautiful city and seat of Franklin County in Florida nestled on the mouth of the Apalachicola River, this coastal city, albeit small, is home to weather-worn shrimp boats, stately historical buildings and museums, and bustling seafood houses which tickle your palates to come back for more.
So many reasons why Apalachicola is visiting, a great place to visit if you are yearning for exciting outdoor adventures and fun getaways that will bring out the thrill-seeker in you.
Go ahead and book that adventure tour you wish to have in Apalachicola now; for sure, you won’t be disappointed with all the myriad things to do in this historic town.
We hope you have a wonderful time enjoying your Apalachicola getaway!
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