From St Augustine, it was an uneventful 4.5-hour drive across the top of Florida to Eastpoint, on the so-called Forgotten Coast of Florida’s panhandle. This area feels completely different to other parts of coastal Florida we’ve visited: quiet villages, uncrowded beaches, no high-rises or strip malls. We focused on the center of the Forgotten Coast, eating, drinking, and exploring our way around the communities of Eastpoint, Apalachicola, and St George Island.
Our home in Eastpoint was Coastline Campground, the neighbor and sister of the more amenity-packed Coastline RV Resort. Coastline is a large but peaceful campground with easy access to Apalachicola and St George Island, both a 10-15 minute drive away. Our campsite was in the front row with a water view, but the highway between the campground and Apalachicola Bay meant we got some road noise. In the off season there wasn’t a ton of traffic so the noise was bearable, and we loved our spot.
[Note to selves: before putting up the main Airstream awning, watch the freaking video. We only set up the awning up a couple times a year, and with so little practice should not be as confident as we are in our awning-handling abilities. The lovely fellow in the Airstream next door saw us struggling and gave us a hand. A half hour later the wind kicked up and we got paranoid, having been burned before, so we took it down. At least it was good practice.]
The #1 activity to do in Eastpoint, according to the experts at AirstreamDog, is eating seafood! Eastpoint is a working fishing village, and Apalachicola Bay is known for oysters–90% of Florida’s oysters and 10% of the country’s oysters are from the bay–shrimp, blue crabs, and all sorts of fish including grouper, which was our favorite of the local fishies we tried. There’s actually a seafood restaurant adjacent to the campground, like 100 feet from our campsite, but with all the eating options in the area it didn’t rise high enough on our to-do list to warrant a visit. Can’t beat it for convenience, though!
Before you eat anything else, go to Lynn’s for local oysters. We stopped for a half-dozen oysters as a snack and they were so good we ended up getting a second round. We took a tub of mahi fish dip back to the Airstream, and that was also so good we had to go back for more. In addition to the no-frills restaurant and raw bar, Lynn’s has a fish market selling all kinds of of fresh local catches.
Island View Seafood Market is a big room filled with cooler after cooler of the freshest local fish you can imagine. It was fascinating and I didn’t get a photo so you’ll just have to go see for yourself. We chose grouper and broiled it up in our little Airstream oven and it was delicious.
Tiny Eastpoint has a brewery! We didn’t love the beers we tried at Eastpoint Beer Co, but sitting on the bayfront deck with a talkative barred owl for a neighbor was a treat. The brewery offers a surprising amount of social activities for such a small town, including live music and trivia nights, and a food truck selling burgers, dogs, and other comfort food is often parked outside.
The one regret I have from our time in Eastpoint is that we didn’t go to the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve nature center. As a wannabe environmental scientist and an oyster habitat rebuilding enthusiast I should have made the time. The center’s exhibits and programs teach visitors about scientific research, resource management, and environmental stewardship across the Apalachicola River and Bay habitats. Their research is especially important now, because the oysters are in trouble.
St George Island
Drive ten minutes across the long bay bridge from Eastpoint and you arrive on St George Island. The beaches there are wide, powder-sandy, uncrowded (at least in early January), and dog-friendly. It’s easy to park and walk to the beach–we turned left on the main drag and parked on the road near the end of E Gorrie Dr where there’s beach access. Bugsy was in heaven.
For a different walking experience, keep heading east to St George Island State Park. Pay $6 and get access to miles of hiking trails and undeveloped beaches. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches, but they are allowed on the trails, so we hiked Gap Point trail from the back of the campground. It was wonderful: peaceful trees, sugar sand beaches, a million birds, no people.
As seems to be theme with this Airstream destination, we enjoyed it so much we went back a second time for a trail run. To primitive campsite 1 it’s about 4.6mi total, and if you add in campsite 2 it’s an extra mile.
Treat yo’ self after sweating in the State Park with donuts at Weber’s Little Donut Shop! Oh yes! Check their hours and go early as they often sell out because they’re so good. Here’s a secret tip: get a free cup of coffee to go with your donut(s) at Island Grocery and pick up some groceries in the clean, airy store.
On our final night we had a front row view of the sunset over the beach as we ate dinner on the deck at Blue Parrot. More grouper, please, and you can’t go wrong with hush puppies at a seafood restaurant. The fish tacos were uninspired but the other food plus that sunset made the meal a winner.
Compared to quiet Eastpoint and St George Island, Apalachicola, about a 15-minute drive from Eastpoint, is a buzzing, happening, artsy town full of shops and restaurants. It was a fun place to stroll by day, and eat and drink by night (which for us, means like 6pm). Bugsy’s favorite store was Oysterbones, a doggie boutique where she bought a ski cap and a Princess Leia headband. Apalachicola also has bigger-town conveniences like CVS and Piggly Wiggly if you need to restock staples on your trailer.
We picked up a historic walking tour map from the visitor center and followed it around town, pausing for photo ops at the Three Soldiers Monument, honoring Southern soldiers who served in Vietnam, and cast from the original molds used for the Three Soldiers statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC; and at scenic Lafayette Park near the water.
Any visitor to Apalachicola will notice the gorgeous, stately Gibson Inn at the entrance to town, and any visitor who enjoys a cocktail on a wraparound porch will stop by for a beverage. The Inn, built in 1907 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is absolutely lovely, but man, the bar service was poor.
As all cool towns do, Apalachicola has a brewery! Oyster City Brewing is a happening spot in the middle of town with good beer and a great atmosphere. Our favorite part of the brewery was the resident dog, known as the Mayor of Apalach, who shortly after we met him took a solo walkabout around town. He was the coolest.
For dinner in Apalachicola we studied various internet rankings and chose The Station Raw Bar. The building is a renovated old-timey gas station and the menu has the usual seafood suspects, but it’s heavy on fried food. We ordered raw oysters, of course, and tried a couple types of oysters baked with cheese–which I know is a thing, but I hadn’t had them before, and while they were tasty treats, the oysters under the cheese weren’t really detectable. Maybe that’s the point?
The Forgotten Coast was such a happy surprise and we highly recommend a visit to anyone who loves quiet beaches, fresh seafood, and a relaxed atmosphere.