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The Ultimate Guide to Apalachicola, Florida, A Hip Historical Coastal Town

For many people Apalachicola, Florida means one thing: oysters. At its peak, Apalachicola Bay supplied roughly 10% of all the  oysters across the United States and 90% of oysters to the state of Florida. However, those thriving days are gone, even if only temporarily, due to a freeze on the industry imposed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. After years of over-harvesting, the hope of the initiative is that the five-year break will allow oysters to repopulate a 1,000-acre area and return the area to its prime eventually.

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Naturally, this is taking a toll on many who reside here and depend on the industry to make their living. Of course, there are plenty of other types of seafood that are continuing to attract people to Apalachicola and also to its annual seafood festival each November, with the 57th year approaching this fall. Though the area two hours south of Florida’s capital of Tallahassee has been a remote and quiet destination for families for decades, tourism is continuing to expand thanks to the rustic, spacious beaches of nearby St. George Island. With the addition of a few new restaurants and stores, there’s never been a better time to visit.

Where to Stay

Beach access Airbnb: Beach 2 Bay

Those looking for easy beach access will love this apartment located in the center of St. George Island. While there are tons of large houses for rent on the island, this apartment is just right for a weekend getaway with a friend or partner. You can easily walk two blocks to the beach and then walk two blocks to the bay to watch an incredible sunset across the bay.

The comfortable studio located atop one flight of stairs includes a comfortable bed and bath as well as a few kitchen appliances such as a fridge, microwave, and a coffee pot. There’s also a rooftop deck where you can soak up the sun. Other amenities include beach towels and chairs, a wagon to pull your supplies to the beach, an outdoor shower, and a rental kayak for $25 per day.

  • Nearest airport: Tallahassee International Airport
  • Time: 1 hour 35 minutes via car
  • Distance: 75.5 miles

Best Airbnb: Scipio Creek Condo

Visitors who are lucky enough to sail to Apalachicola on their own sailboat can book this condo near the Scipio Creek Marina. The comfortable condo includes a slip for your boat, but it also comes with a wonderful view of the marsh. The entire condo can accommodate up to five guests with two bedrooms and two bathrooms. It also features a full kitchen, a spacious living room with a flat-screen television, and a washer and dryer. Guests can also kick back and enjoy the enclosed porch in the evenings or pool access on scorching afternoons.

  • Nearest airport: Tallahassee International Airport
  • Time: 1 hour 34 minutes via car
  • Distance: 75.7 miles

Best Budget: Coombs Inn & Suites

Coombs Inn exterior
Coombs Inn & Suites

The Coombs Inn & Suites is an old-school bed and breakfast filled with antiques and plenty of charm in central Apalachicola. Set in an old-world Florida house, the yellow inn offers a wonderful breakfast each morning and a wine and cheese hour on Friday and Saturday nights. Free Wi-Fi is available as well.

Each of the 23 rooms is spacious and is equipped with a flat-screen television. The large bathrooms are perfect for relaxing with their clawfoot bathtubs or whirlpool massage spas depending on the room. Multi-room suites are available. Some suites include kitchenettes or personal verandas that offer plenty of privacy for a secluded happy hour before heading out to dinner.

  • Nearest airport: Tallahassee International Airport
  • Time: 1 hour 34 minutes via car
  • Distance: 75.5 miles

Best Mid-Range: The Consulate

The Consulate sits on the north side of Apalachicola and offers guests great access to the town. The hotel is actually located atop Grady Market, a series of boutique shops, and offers great balcony views out over East Bay toward Eastpoint. The all-suite hotel set in an 1880s French consulate building includes spacious rooms with sitting areas and full kitchens. Pressed-tin ceilings and cozy furniture give the suites a relaxed atmosphere. Walk passed art galleries and other unique stores on the way into the center of Apalachicola. Many of the best restaurants are also within walking distance.

  • Nearest airport: Tallahassee International Airport
  • Time: 1 hour 34 minutes via car
  • Distance: 75.3 miles

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Trendiest Hotel: Gibson Inn

Gibson Inn suite

Located just over the bridge on the southside of downtown Apalachicola, the Gibson Inn is one of the town’s institutions. Built in 1907, the historic three-story hotel offers light and airy rooms with a mid-century modern flair. Double and king rooms are available with luxurious marble bathrooms, and Wi-gFi and breakfast are included.

From the Gibson Inn, all of Apalachicola is walkable, though the beaches of St. George Island will require a car. No matter how you spend the days, return to a comfortable room to freshen up before visiting the full-service bar at the hotel’s own fine-dining restaurant, The Franklin, for a pre-dinner cocktail on the wrap-around porch.

  • Nearest airport: Tallahassee International Airport
  • Time: 1 hour 34 minutes via car
  • Distance: 75.3 miles

Where to Eat

Your beach vacation in Apalachicola would not be complete without eating out at these essential seafood restaurants. Most of them offer pick-up services to curb the spread of COVID-19, while others require a reservation. You may dine in, of course, but make sure to follow the restaurant’s safety measures. Below is a short guide to understanding the prices of each dining establishment:

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Hole in the Wall

exterior of Hole in the Wall

This establishment is a classic Apalachicola haunt and one of the waiters, Barbara, is a mighty pillar there. The tiny no-frills restaurant with four tables and a take-it-or-leave-it attitude is practically an extension of Barbara’s personality on a very busy day. With a vibe similar to a dive bar, Hole in the Wall offers all kinds of oysters as well as fried, blackened or grilled seafood. Sit at the bar if you can to watch Danny stand at his post and effortless shuck oysters between laying down beers. Few restaurants have half as much character or better seafood than this joint.

  • $

Up the Creek Raw Bar

A relatively recent restaurant addition to the town compared to the rest of the community’s options, Up the Creek Raw Bar offers all of the classic seafood dishes you’d like and can find at other restaurants. However, you’ll also find other additions to the menu that set the restaurant apart such as tacos and a rotating specials board. The menu also features seasonal items like fresh fruit salad among other additions throughout the year. You’ll have to climb a flight of stairs to reach the restaurant, but once you do you can take a seat on the wrap-around porch for a great view of the bay and Scipio Creek marsh. Even Emeril Lagasse visited Up the Creek.

  • $$

Browse Menu

The Station Raw Bar

The newest restaurant to open in Apalachicola, The Station is nestled in a former gas station near the bridge across the bay. Along with local staples like oysters, Lowcountry boil, fried shrimp, and more, this restaurant offers a few stand-out dishes you won’t find at many other restaurants. Among those are shrimp and grits and fried blue crab cocktail claws. The menu offers tons of other seafood dishes as well as a very reasonably priced cook-your-catch option for those who take a fishing charter. With plenty of seating both inside the retro-inspired restaurant or outside at the picnic tables, this is a great spot for lunch.

  • $

Browse Menu

Tamara’s Cafe

Tamara’s Cafe stands out among the restaurants of the town that rely on the seafood industry. This restaurant with global flair offers a wider menu than simply seafood, sandwiches, or salads. Their options extend to a range of entrees like steaks, pasta, paella, quesadillas, and much more. For an elevated diner, this is a wonderful pick, but it is also a casual spot for a late-afternoon snack with drinks. The tapas menu includes items like prosciutto and fruit, mussels in wine sauce and spicy potatoes among other options. To shake up your seafood routine, stop by this spot one day.

  • $$

Browse Menu

Owl Cafe

The Owl Cafe is another essential option with upscale fare on the second floor of the historic building. Though the tables covered in crisp white linens are refreshing, opt to sit outside on the porch during pleasant weather. The rotating menu includes a host of classic dishes like pan-fried chicken, crab cakes and blackened grouper, as well as salads and pasta. The appetizers at the Owl Cafe cannot be passed over either. From the crab dip to the gumbo, you’ll want to order something to start. Arrive early or leave time to browse the first-floor gift shop.

  • $$

What to Do

Apalachicola and St. George Island are truly places to visit to get away from everything. Neither the town nor the island has a single stoplight. However, that means you can completely relax without any distractions. Though it is the perfect place to bring a book or two that you’ve been trying to read for a while, there are plenty of ways to while away the time.

The first might be quite obvious given the seafood industry that was and still is beyond the bay. You can easily hire a fishing charter for a full or half-day of fishing either just off the coast or many miles out for deep-sea fishing. Snapper season is very popular even though it is brief. But anglers can also snag sea bass, sea trout, red drum, flounder, cobia, mahi-mahi, and more. There is no shortage of fishing charter companies you can hire, too.

Mulling around town is also worthwhile even if it is just on your way to dinner. Apalach Outfitters carries all kinds of great outdoor adventure gear. From lightweight clothing and Yeti coolers to fishing rods and paddleboards, it’s always fun browsing through their latest gear. Grady Market is another high-end store with menswear and accessories as well as home decor and locally-inspired gifts. Finally, the Apalachicola Sponge Company is another shop you have to drop in. The store carries a wide range of natural sponges and locally made soaps among other locally sourced goods. It’s an unusual shop for most out-of-town guests that never ceases to spark curiosity. Cap off your browsing with a cold beer from the local brewery downtown, Oyster City Brewing Company.

A visit to St. George Island should also be on your Apalachicola bucket list. The public beach is just off from its parking lot, making a beach day very easy even if you are staying across the bay. However, if you’ve spent all of the time in the sun that you want to, exploring one of the Forgotten Coast’s barrier islands by bike is an exhilarating way to take in the landscape. The 28-mile long island is just one mile wide and has several rental bike shops. Thanks to the bike path that runs most of the length of the island, you can pedal along for windswept views of the scrappy foliage, sand dunes, and wide white beaches that cover the island. Whether you reach it by bike or by car, the state park is another worthwhile visit while on the island and a great place to look for wildlife.

Editors' Recommendations

Molly Harris
Molly Harris is a freelance journalist, cyclist and outdoor enthusiast. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, Lonely…
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