Saturday, May 14, 2016

Coasting, Beaches of the Florida Panhandle - Updated

We planned to sample the Florida Panhandle Coast (as it is called locally, "The Forgotten Coast") at various places. Here are some findings.
Cedar Key - not a condo in sight!

Cedar Key. We visited here on the way to Tallahassee. It sits at the southern end of the bight where Florida joins the mainland. The town has served as a seaport during times of conflict when access to the interior for lumber and agricultural goods increases. Otherwise is is a sleepy village of about 800 at the last census. We felt it looked like Florida used to be. We had ice cream on the fishing pier and watched. I recommend as a novel destination.

St Mark's. Due South of Tallahassee, St Mark's mainly serves commercial fishing interests. It is even smaller than Cedar Key. We found a wonderful trail there, like in Gainesville, paved shaded and flat. The town offers little else to the visitor but the ride felt worth it.

Typical beach scene on St George's Island
St. George Island. Near Apalachicola, this island extends for miles along the coast. The central part of the island nearest the bridge is typical of beach towns. However, to the east of the bridge, a large state park occupies the whole eastern end of the island. We rode out to walk the beaches late in the afternoon. We hardly saw anyone. The water along this coast seems surprisingly clear to us barely green near the shore and blue just beyond the surf. We learned from the locals that summer time has the most crowds. During the winter it is mostly closed. I gather that most of the visitors are local.

Apalachicola. While we did not stop long, we liked what we saw there. The town seemed completely authentic. No tourist stuff in evidence. We took a loop through a residential neighborhood and wondered what it would be like to winter-over in the town. Maybe we will find out.

St. Joes. We took a detour to visit the St. Joseph's Preserve. It took quite a while to get there but I
could see the attraction. The beaches seemed a bit more crowded but not by much. The State Park requires permits for the northern part of the Park which is open to extensive hiking and camping with more than 7 miles of trails. We didn't have time for more than a short visit. Excitement of the day, a controlled burn at the park to clear off a section of "duff".

Panama City Beach. Reminds me of Myrtle Beach. I think that is all I need to say.

Panama City Beach to Pensacola. The beaches in the Pensacola area (Navarre Beach, Pensacola Beach, Perdido Key) rival those of St George Island in quality. But they have many more visitors. Even at that, the actual number of people on the beach seems smaller than that seen in Daytona or Clearwater. We stopped for lunch at Navarre Beach and had no problems finding a picnic table or space on the beach itself. However, the sun felt too hot for us lame northerners and we did not stay long. These beaches could present a good alternative beach destination if the crowds are not a factor out of season.

Update: I decided to consolidate the beach reviews. I remain captivated on the color of the water cannot be compared to the east coast water and the sand is clean. If the climate is even remotely acceptable in say, March, and of these beaches would be preferable to the madness of the normal destinations.

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