Nestled along Florida’s Panhandle, the charming town of Apalachicola offers the perfect blend of laid-back coastal vibes and lively history. From strolling its historic downtown streets to boating through pristine estuaries, Apalachicola beats with a rhythm all its own. For travelers seeking an authentic Old Florida getaway filled with natural beauty, maritime culture, and faded Southern grandeur, Apalachicola promises discoveries around every corner. Here are 12 of the best things to do in this Gulf Coast gem.
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1) Discover History at the John Gorrie Museum State Park
Address: 46 6th St, Apalachicola, FL 32320
The John Gorrie Museum State Park in Apalachicola honors the innovative legacy of Dr. John Gorrie. Arriving in the 1830s when Apalachicola was a major Gulf Coast port, Gorrie became deeply involved in the community as postmaster, treasurer, councilman, and bank director. Concerned for his yellow fever patients, Gorrie pioneered refrigeration and air conditioning technology by inventing an ice-making machine in the 1840s, receiving the first U.S. patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. The museum displays a replica of Gorrie’s prototype along with exhibits about the history of the Florida Park Service, which preserves the state’s rich heritage. Visitors can learn about Gorrie’s ingenuity and Apalachicola’s past at this unique site.
Also, directly across 6th Street from the John Gorrie Museum lies a memorial in his honor. This monument was erected in honor of his achievements in science, medicine and for the people of Apalachicola.
2) Visit the Orman House Historic State Park
Address: 177 5th St, Apalachicola, FL 32320
Built in 1838, the Orman House Historic State Park offers a glimpse into Apalachicola’s past. This stately antebellum home was constructed by prominent cotton merchant Thomas Orman and used for business and social events. Orman’s success helped transform Apalachicola into a major 19th-century cotton exporting port. The house exemplifies Federal and Greek Revival architectural styles with ornate details like wooden mantels, plaster moldings, and wide pine floors. The park also includes the adjoining Chapman Botanical Gardens honoring famed 19th-century botanist Dr. Alvan Chapman. Visitors can explore the gardens’ pathways, open spaces, and a Vietnam Veterans Memorial statue. The historic Orman House and botanical gardens provide a window into Apalachicola’s heyday as a Gulf Coast port city.
3) Tour the Raney House Museum
Address: 128 Market St, Apalachicola, FL 32320
The historic Raney House in Apalachicola, built-in 1838 in the Greek Revival style, is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes. Owned by the city and managed as a museum by the Apalachicola Historical Society, the house belonged to the Raney family from 1838 until 1914. The Raney’s were prominent local Confederates during the Civil War, with three sons serving, including Confederate marine David G. Raney Jr. Artifacts, documents, and 19th-century furnishings exhibited at the Raney House Museum provide a glimpse into the life of this influential Apalachicola family and the city’s past as a Dixie port town. The stately architecture and local history on display make the Raney House a must-see Apalachicola landmark.
4) Learn about Ecosystems at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center
Address: 108 Island Dr, Eastpoint, FL 32328
Located just a short drive east over the John Gorrie Memorial Bridge, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center immerses visitors in the rich ecosystems of the Apalachicola River and Bay. Exhibits include a replica oyster boat, watershed maps, a detailed mural of regional habitats, and tanks displaying local fish, shellfish, and reptiles. The Bay Discovery Room contains hundreds of skeletons, fossils, and preserved marine specimens to examine up-close. Historic artifacts and oral histories recount the area’s traditional industries and those who worked in them. A 12-minute film tours the entire Apalachicola watershed from the Appalachian foothills to the Gulf of Mexico. Through interactive displays and media, the Nature Center brings to life the interconnected environments that make Apalachicola an ecological wonder.
Boat and Fishing Charters
5) Hop aboard for an Airboat Tour
Embark on an exhilarating adventure with the county’s longest-running airboat tours, Apalachicola Airboat Adventures. This tour explores marshlands that elude traditional boats. Pioneers in the industry, they pride themselves on accessing areas beyond the ordinary, unveiling the hidden gems of Apalachicola’s natural landscape. Visitors can see a wide variety of wildlife while enjoying some time on the water.
6) Go on a Fishing Charter
Embark on a fishing journey in Apalachicola, where there is a large selection of fishing charter options, catering to every angler’s preference and skill level. Whether you fancy the thrill of off-shore adventures, the serenity of in-shore expeditions, or the finesse of fly fishing excursions, this coastal haven provides a diverse array of experiences for avid fishing enthusiasts.
7) Explore Florida’s Wilderness with the St. Vincent Island Shuttle
Address: 690 Indian Pass Road, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456
St. Vincent Island National Wildlife Refuge is a pristine 12,300-acre barrier island not to be missed when visiting Florida’s panhandle, reachable by the St. Vincent Island Shuttle that departs about 18 miles west of downtown Apalachicola.
The undeveloped island features beautiful habitats, hiking trails, and 9 miles of empty beaches. Archaeological evidence shows Native peoples inhabited the island over 2,000 years ago before Spanish Friars named it in 1633. Privately owned until 1968 when it became a Federal Wildlife Refuge, the island is home to an introduced herd of Sambar Deer as well as diverse native wildlife. The island serves as a successful breeding ground for the endangered Red Wolf recovery program.
The island offers excellent seasonal recreation from birdwatching and wildlife viewing to beachcombing and fishing. Experience the serenity of an untouched beach stretching as far as the eye can see. Self-guided exploration is allowed year-round, with guided habitat tours offered seasonally through the Friends of St. Vincent NWR volunteer group.
Other Popular Things to Do
8) Grab a Beer at Oyster City Brewing
Address: 25 Ave D, Apalachicola, FL 32320
Oyster City Brewing Company in Apalachicola is a passionate craft brewery proudly influenced by its waterfront location. Their flagship beers include Apalach IPA, Hooter Brown Ale made with tupelo honey, Mangrove Pale Ale, Mill Pond Dirty Blond Ale, and Tates Helles Lager. Located across from the Owl Cafe, Oyster City’s dedication to quality handcrafted beer shines through in every sip.
9) Visit Chestnut Street Cemetery
Address: 96 6th St, Apalachicola, FL 32320
The historic Chestnut Street Cemetery is Apalachicola’s oldest burial ground, dating back to the 1830s. Around 540 marked graves contain individuals significant to the area’s history, with much more unidentified. Tombstones range from plain vertical slabs to elaborate marble monuments. Some graves are marked only with wooden crosses or shell blankets. At least 79 Confederate veterans and 7 Union veterans lie here. A somber yet fascinating glimpse into the past, Chestnut Street Cemetery provides a record of Apalachicola citizens over nearly two centuries.
The Apalachicola Area Historical Society provides a Chestnut Street Cemetery Walking Tour Brochure that tells the history of the cemetery along with the location and stories of notable graves.
10) Embark on a Ghost Tour
Known for its large Victorian houses and spooky old cemetery, Apalachicola is bound to turn up some paranormal lore from visitors and locals alike. The Apalach Ghost Tour offers guided walking tours around the city to some of the most notorious locations while sharing stories of strange occurrences.
Read more about the 4 Most Haunted Places in Apalachicola.
11) Go Shopping
Apalachicola is home to many local shops downtown ranging from old-fashioned gift shops to local artwork to fishing and outdoor supplies. There are enough stores to spend at least an afternoon strolling about and exploring each of these small businesses.
12) Try Some Oysters
Apalachicola Bay on Florida’s Panhandle produces 90% of the state’s oysters, with its 30 miles of shallow, pristine habitat making it an oyster paradise. The remote western section near St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, called Big Bayou, may yield the finest Apalachicola oysters. Unlike other warm-water oysters, Apalachicola takes around three years without nurseries to reach a market size of 3 inches. Uniquely, Apalachicola legally mandates harvest by hand tonging from small boats, an old-fashioned yet mesmerizing sight. The town has preserved its traditional bay livelihoods and prevented development, protecting the superior flavor and reputation of Apalachicola oysters. Many restaurants in the Apalachicola area serve oysters in a variety of flavors that are baked, grilled and raw.
From world-class oysters plucked fresh from the bay to ornate 19th-century mansions, Apalachicola rewards visitors with a taste of iconic Florida. Outdoor adventurers, history buffs, and foodies alike will find their bliss in this unexpected coastal town. Its small size and relaxed pace make Apalachicola an ideal place to unwind or use as a home base while exploring the surrounding Gulf region. With so many ways to embrace authentic coastal life, Apalachicola delivers an experience that harkens back to the real roots of the Sunshine State.
Also, be sure to check out these 7 Best Places to Stay in Apalachicola, Florida.
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