I’d say Apalachicola is the nicest small town I visited along the Florida panhandle’s coastline. It strikes a nice balance between having the stuff a tourist wants, and not having too much. If you’re headed west, US 98 gets progressively more crowded and congested on the way to Panama City, and if you’re headed east, long stretches of wilderness await.
So it seems, Apalachicola is perfectly balanced in the middle.
The John Gorrie Memorial Bridge brings US 98 into Apalachicola (more about Dr. Gorrie in a moment). The high bridge drops down into the middle of downtown. Before driving through downtown, you can turn back, and drive underneath the bridge to Battery Park, where there’s a nice view of the bridge, and a fishing pier.
Apalachicola’s downtown is tiny and easily walk-able, but still packed with stores and restaurants.
Apalachicola is the county seat for Franklin County, Florida. The imposing courthouse seems just a bit out of place amongst the other buildings.
US 98 makes a left turn from Market Street (Apalachicola’s Main Street) onto Avenue E. Instead of making a left at the flashing light, hang a right…
… and go two blocks to reach the town’s waterfront. There’s an old greek boat, the Venezellos, on display here…
… right next to the Apalachicola Sponge Exchange building. The first Sponge Exchange went into business here in 1831, before it was relocated to Carrabelle, then Cedar Key, followed by Tarpon Springs.
[tmt_info =””]Greek sponge traders did a lot to help Apalachicola’s economy in the town’s early days. Nowadays, the seafood industry is critical to Apalachicola. More than 90% of Florida’s oysters come from Apalachicola Bay.†[/tmt_info]
Just north of the 4-way stop, the Raney House now holds a museum that looks at Apalachicola’s history as a major cotton port (the third largest on the Gulf coast). The home was built in 1838. As the legend goes, the house didn’t burn during the civil war, when the Union took Apalachicola, simply because the wind was blowing in the wrong direction.
[tmt_info =””If you have some spare time in Apalachicola, check out the Dr. John Gorrie Museum. He’s the guy who figured out the process of refrigeration, and patented the world’s first ice machine (way back in 1850!). In addition to the museum, there’s a monument to Gorrie near Trinity Episcopal Church.][/tmt_info]
Here’s my time-lapse dash-cam video of the drive through Apalachicola and further west: