When most people think of Florida, they probably conjure images of beaches with palm trees and semi-clothed sunbathers, Disney type theme parks filled with touring families, and big cities clogged with traffic. Yet if you drive through the state, you realize that most of it is quite different from that. There’s a lot of forest, lakes, hills, agriculture, and small towns.
Apalachicola is one of those places that is quite unique. Located on the North Gulf Coast, it has a character and pace that makes one feel as if in another time period. I lived there for four years, and got a pretty good familiarity with it. One of the interesting things about it is that after about a year living there, I got to know many of the people. I could go just about anywhere in town, and run into someone I knew. This just doesn’t happen in Miami, my hometown, where I have spent more years than elsewhere. Of course ‘Apalach’ (as its called there) only has about 2400 residents, but the point is, most of them are friendly.
Oysters are the central theme here. Many locals work in the industry; harvesting, processing, and transporting the voluptuous bivalves. There are many fine seafood restaurants to choose from. There’s even one called ‘Boss Oyster’, which serves oysters in many creative delicious ways. The local shrimp is also excellent. The biggest event of the year is the Florida Seafood Festival held every November. It’s a lot of fun, with great fresh seafood, entertainment and rides.
The little town incorporated in 1827 has quite a bit of interesting history. It was once the third busiest port in the Gulf of Mexico. Botanist Alvan Wentworth Chapman settled in Apalachicola in 1847. Dr. John Gorrie discovered the cold-air process of refrigeration and patented an ice machine in 1850, while trying to help fever patients, which led to advances in modern refrigeration and air-conditioning. The city erected a monument to him, and a replica of his invention is on display in the John Gorrie Museum.
There are a few special little hotels in Apalachicola, and the Coombs House Inn is a real pearl. It has an authentic historical ambiance, the breakfast is fantastic, and the Innkeepers make you feel like at home.
The small downtown area is an easy and pleasant walk. It is filled with eclectic shops, eateries, and historic sites, as well as picturesque vistas of the working riverfront. Anyone who wants to see the ‘other’ Florida should visit Apalachicola.