An Oyster Story With NO Pearl – And a Haunted Hotel?
Apalachicola, Florida has been a quaint, but rich in culture, coastal town since the 18th century. Known as the oyster capital of the world, Apalachicola never changed much for a couple centuries. That makes Apalachicola a perfect Florida road trip.
Where is Apalachicola?
The simple answer is that Apalachicola is 75 miles southwest of Tallahassee, Florida. That location doesn’t explain that Apalachicola is in one of the most beautiful areas of Florida.
Located in the panhandle of Florida along the Gulf of Mexico, Apalachicola is at the mouth of the Apalachicola River that flows south from Chattahoochee, Florida where the borders of Florida, Georgia and Alabama converge.
At one time the Apalachicola River was essential to transporting goods from the port of Apalachicola to northern portions of Florida and beyond. The river was even more important as a source for almost 90% of the oysters produced in Florida. That ended as water quality declined in the 1990s.
Nearby Apalachicola is St. George Island that has one of Florida’s best beaches. Route 98 that runs through Apalachicola leads to towns like Miramar, Seaside and Rosemary Beach – all with well known beaches.
Things To Do in Apalachicola Florida
The bay across the Apalachicola River is no longer crowded with oystermen using their rakes to harvest some of the best oysters in the country. The face of the city has changed, but the inhabitants are resolved to bring back their fishing culture.
For visitors, there is still much to see. We can assure you each person is welcome, since the demise of the oyster business. The shops in downtown Apalachicola continue to be a collection of art, novelty and maritime treasures.
The restaurants are still serving their unique area seafood entrees, but just not as focused on the oyster trade. The waterfront on the river is active with shrimp boats and grouper fishermen bringing in their daily catch along Water Street to wholesalers.
We recently visited Up The Creek Raw Bar along Water Street and found many of their customs hadn’t changed much. The oysters may be from around the bend in Louisiana, but the hospitality is unmatched.
Up the Creek was named as one of the best small-town restaurants. A couple blocks away is the Apalachicola Seafood Grill – more aptly named “your local diner”. Breakfast was superb, but old southern-style hospitality may have influenced us. When taking a Florida road trip, you find some great food options.
What happened to the oysters in Apalachicola Florida?
The real story here is what has happened to their world-renowned oyster reputation. For almost 40 years restaurants have been buying oysters from Apalachicola oyster purveyors. Raw bars from Pensacola to Key West and much of the southeastern United States relied on this highly acclaimed resource that 50 years ago seemed unlimited.
On a visit to Apalachicola some 15 years ago there was an active riverfront with numerous oyster houses and hundreds of well-seasoned oystermen peddling their daily catch daily at one of the wholesalers. A more recent visit found a vacant waterfront, closed shops, boats in dry dock, and the town’s oyster trade economically depressed, but trying to evolve.
A change was coming even before the BP oil spill in 2008. It seemed restaurants had to find other sources for oysters on a more frequent basis. And then, in the last two years, they were gone!
Now it appears the generations of oystermen can produce barely enough for the local restaurants in Apalachicola, let alone the demand from a handful of other states around the country.
What happened? What is the future? Is aquaculture the answer? Read the whole story here in an article developed by Laura Riley of the Tampa Bay Times. It’s a story about a tragedy that starts upstream but with a new generation of hope! The story may be the harbinger of other seafood delicacies.
The Gibson Inn – Apalachicola Florida Haunted Hotel?
We have to mention a place that intrigued us on other Florida road trips. The Gibson Inn is in the heart of town. It looks like a stately mansion, and that is just what it once was.
The legend (and there is more than one) is that the hotel is haunted. A cocktail or two at the ornate but small bar is enough to draw out the story of a couple of sisters who once lived here. We won’t ruin the ending, but my wife heard enough to be very vigilant, to say the least! This is one of the great Florida hotels from the 1800s.
Apalachicola is just one of the many interesting and eventful day trips in Florida. The panhandle of Florida is rich in history and has plentiful places to go Florida.
Check out these other Florida road trips nearby.