There are few places in Florida where you can experience solitude on an abandoned beach while watching the sun set over the Gulf. However, a small town on the Forgotten Coast is just the place if you're looking to get away from the crowds, traffic and endless displays of Florida t-shirts. Carrabelle is located about an hour south of Tallahassee, along Highway 98. Recently we decided to take a look for ourselves and see if this small fishing village had anything to offer. With the boat in tow, we made the 4-hour trip from Jacksonville with no preconceived notions.
Carrabelle is not exactly forgotten, it's just not talked about much. (Its claim to fame is the world's smallest police station.) Why does this quaint little town seem removed from the mainstream of Florida’s tourism industry? Is it the fact that it was a haven for pirates who ambushed ships in St. George Sound in the 1700s? Or maybe it's because captains avoided the area in the 1800s due to rumors of bears, wildcats and other life-threatening animals? Whatever the case, Carrabelle is still one of Florida's best kept secrets.
Upon arriving in this enchanting little town, I couldn't help notice the marinas and bait shops that line the Carrabelle River. There were a few hotels and even a condo or two, but you won't find a Walmart or a fast food chain for miles. No worries though, a local grocery store and the hardware store next door will meet most needs just fine. Small quaint restaurants tucked away along the waterfront serve some of the best seafood I have ever tasted. The town itself is charming and full of charters. It seems as if everyone owns a boat and a truck -- and everyone fishes.
For our lodging, we chose a condo at Pirate's Landing. The three story, one bedroom unit with two balconies and a screened porch was more that I could have hoped for. Not to mention the price tag! Ranging from $99-150 a night, the accommodations couldn’t be beat. The property next door is a full service marina, which makes this an outstanding choice for the boating enthusiast. Carrabelle River Marina and Fish Camp provided just the atmosphere we needed for a weekend getaway. There's great boat ramp, gas, dockage, ice, bait and a restaurant that will even prepare you a box lunch for your day on the water. The staff was friendly and made us feel like part of the community. We never even took the car out of the garage. Everything we needed was accessible by water.
Of course, as a writer for Florida By Water, my task is not just to explore the town but also to experience the water. Boating in the area is some of the best I have found. Fishing is abundant, whether it be inshore, near shore or offshore. Every location could be accessed within minutes. The beautiful emerald green water and white sands along the beaches were alive with activity. Personally I'm not much of a fisherman, and even I managed to catch a fish or two in this bountiful habitat.
If you're more into cruising or spending an afternoon anchored in a secluded cove, this is your place as well. The first island you should explore is Dog Island. Accessible only by boat, Dog Island is located about 3.5 miles from the mouth of the Carrabelle River. The island is about 1/2 mile wide and 7 miles long, and serves as one of the barrier islands between the Gulf of Mexico and St. George Sound. Places like Skipper’s Cove or Tyson's Harbor are just the spots to spend an afternoon relaxing, swimming or just walking along the shore. Also, a few more active boaters seemed to find this a great place to pull a tube around and entertain the kids.
Across the channel to the west, you will find the sixth best beach in America (rated by Dr. Beach, 2011). St. George Island State Park is the ideal beach for solitude. On our visit, we anchored on the Gulf side and waded a few feet to shore. On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in June, we found ourselves to be the only ones on the beach. No foot prints but our own dotted the seashore. Nature watching and shelling were great activities for this location.
Carrabelle, Florida is truly not what I expected. It was much less -- and that’s exactly what I was hoping for. A small Florida town with open waters and tall pines, this is truly the Forgotten Coast and if I had my way…. I would keep the secret. (Shhh!)
For More infomration go to http://carrabelle.org or call 850-687-2585
By Rusty Gardner