By Carleton Varney- Special to the Palm Beach Daily News
For many of us who call Palm Beach and other parts of South Florida home, the state’s Panhandle is a remote region that seldom finds a place on our travel itineraries.
And that’s a shame because the northwestern most part of the Sunshine State offers plenty of diversions, if you know where to look. With that in mind, may I suggest a visit to Apalachicola, a charming Panhandle beach town about seven hours or so by car from Palm Beach? Apalachicola is about 80 miles southwest of Tallahassee, and I won’t forget my recent visit there anytime soon.
Known as “Apalach” to the locals, this spot in Franklin County gives visitors a chance to step into yesterday with a touch or two of today. Don’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with it. The area bills itself as “The Forgotten Coast.”
Founded in 1831, the city is smack in the middle of the Panhandle at the bay of the Apalachicola River.
Did you know that in the 18th and 19th centuries, Apalachicola was among the largest ports on the Gulf of Mexico? The wide, tree-lined streets of this picturesque village offer a glimpse of the wealth that shaped the city.
The city has are more than 900 registered historic buildings, including a theater, The Dixie, in the center of town. The theater hosts professional musical events January to March, although the schedule this year, like so many other things, was derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
During your trip to The Forgotten Coast, you’ll find sandy beaches and a world so unlike other parts of Florida. This is where the finest bay oysters in the country are served in worth-a-visit restaurants.
Your trip should include a visit to St. George Island — a 22-mile-long barrier island with some of the most beautiful and serene beaches in Florida. The clear Gulf waters are excellent for swimming and fishing. And along the way — after you have visited landmarks such as the Cape George Lighthouse — you’ll see villages shimmering in the sun with houses painted aqua blue, peach, mint green and orange sherbet, to name a few. Of course, pink houses are my favorite, especially those with white trim and bright lime-green doors. The Gulf Coast is an inspiration to those who love happy colors.
Back in Apalachicola, plan to stay a night at the Gibson Inn, an old-fashioned hotel right in the center of town. You’ll find a front desk reception area right out of a movie set, with a wooden staircase ascending to the wood-floored hallways. It’s something out of another era, one that I hope will be cared for and preserved for future generations to enjoy.
I’m so glad I found Apalachicola. My recommendation is that you take to the open road and discover it for yourself, if you haven’t already.