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At the heart of Florida’s forgotten coast lies Apalachicola, or Apalach, as the locals call it. It feels as if it’s been frozen in time, and you can still get a real taste of Old Florida charm here. But it’s not just a nod to nostalgia – this up-and-coming town has been building itself up for years, and now is the time to see it.
From a fizzled-out timber industry to a once-booming cotton shipping trade, Apalach has seen industries come and go over the years. The commitment to preserving its history has been commended by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and earned it a title as a “distinctive destination”.
Wander along the waterfront for a glimpse into the town’s maritime past: weathered net factories and sponge warehouses still stand, and tired old shrimp boats are docked along the river. Head to the Historic District, where you’ll find tree-lined streets with old Victorian houses – there are more than 900 of them and each paints a picture of Apalach’s colorful past. Opt for a local walking tour to properly get to grips with the area, or hit up the Apalachicola Maritime Museum to dive deeper into Apalach’s oceanic heritage.
Thanks to the maritime connection, the seafood scene here can’t be beaten. From holes in the wall serving up oysters to fancy seafood haunts, you won’t be short of places to chow down on world-class cuisine. Try jalapeño-topped oysters sprinkled with melted cheddar cheese or fresh-outta-the-sea oysters with a squeeze of lemon. Don’t be shy about asking where to eat – the locals are more than welcoming and will be able to point you in the right direction.
Chefs all over the world go mad for the oysters here, which are considered among the finest in the world; 90% of Florida’s oysters come from here, and they’re served in upmarket seafood restaurants throughout the US. The quality of the shellfish is down to the unique topography of the Apalachicola River and bays that filter off into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a unique environment that gives them a slightly salty, mellow flavor and makes them beautifully plump.
As well as top seafood, Apalach has miles of untouched beaches, many of which will be empty, so pack for seaside days in the sun with the beach to yourself. For outdoor enthusiasts, head to the nearby Apalachicola National Forest to live out your explorer fantasies. Known for its magnificent botanical biodiversity, this vast space comprises winding rivers, crystal-clear lakes, swamps teeming with wildlife and towering trees.
You could easily spend a week here; just pitch a tent and spend a night under the stars. Swim in clear lakes, take to the water in a kayak or hike along some of the many walking trails. There’s a rich history here, too – visit Fort Gadsden, where more than 300 people, many escaped slaves, lost their lives in a devastating explosion, to pay your respects and learn more about what happened.
Florida remains a top tourist destination and is certain to see holidaymakers return over the next few months. If you’re looking for somewhere away from the crowds with a thriving food scene, Apalachicola is our hot tip this year.