Nestled along Florida’s picturesque Forgotten Coast, the small fishing village of Carrabelle offers an abundance of Old Florida charm. With sugar-sand beaches, fascinating history, and natural wilderness beyond, visitors will find this seaside town has sights to satisfy every interest. From climbing a historical lighthouse to hunkering down to fresh seafood baskets, these eight attractions and activities showcase the best ways to experience authentic coastal life in Carrabelle. Get ready to soak up the flavor of this undiscovered gem along the Florida Panhandle.
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1) Carrabelle History Museum
Address: 106 SE Ave B, Carrabelle, FL 32322
The Carrabelle History Museum opened in 2009 in the historic 1933 Old City Hall building constructed by local mason Marvin Justiss. Generous community members have donated thousands of items over the years, starting with beloved midwife Tillie Miller’s medical bag. Exhibits showcase the area’s Local Heroes, the Steamship Tarpon that built early 20th century Carrabelle, and ancient indigenous First People. Volunteers continually process new artifacts in the collections ranging from genealogy and household objects to old photographs and work implements. The museum provides a glimpse into the lives that shaped this Florida Panhandle town through these precious donated relics of the past.
2) Carrabelle Bottle House
Address: 604 SE Ave F, Carrabelle, FL 32322
The Bottle House art installation in Carrabelle, Florida opened to the public in 2012 and continues evolving with new elements added over time as funding permits. Visitors are welcomed anytime to explore the property’s creative structures like the Light House and Bottle House which illuminate at dusk. The recent additions include a large multi-geodesic sphere sculpture representing phases of life and a spinning, light-filled kinetic piece meant to evoke movement and the artist’s memories of once living in a dome. Guests can sign the visitor book and are encouraged to return to see what imaginative new creations emerge next at this ever-changing roadside attraction.
3) World’s Smallest Police Station
Address: 102 Ave A N, Carrabelle, FL 32322
The tiny police station originated in 1963 when the city moved the police call box into an old phone booth to protect officers from weather and stop tourists from making unauthorized long distance calls. The novelty booth built by St. Joe Telephone employee Johnnie Mirabella was placed under a chinaberry tree on Highway 98, with the dial removed to prevent misuse. Despite vandalism and hurricane damage over the decades, the quirky landmark has endured, attracting coverage in travel shows, films, and TV programs such as “Real People”, “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”, “The Today Show” and “Johnny Carson”. Though now retired from duty, the original booth is on display while a replica continues working as Carrabelle’s iconic roadside curiosity.
4) Crooked River Lighthouse
Address: 1975 Hwy 98 W, Carrabelle, FL 32322
The Crooked River Lighthouse, also known as the Carrabelle Light, was built in 1895 to replace the destroyed Dog Island Light and serve as the rear range beacon for the channel west of Dog Island, guiding lumber ships entering the area. The grounds originally included homes for the keeper and assistant plus outbuildings. The tower was painted entirely dark red except for the black lantern room until 1901 when the bottom half was painted white against the pine forest backdrop. After electrification in 1933, the light was automated and unmanned by 1952, and all structures except the tower itself were removed by 1964. Though added to the National Register of Historic Places, the Coast Guard decommissioned the light in 1995 and planned to auction it until the Carrabelle Lighthouse Association formed to preserve the historic lighthouse. Through fundraising and grants, the Association restored and relit the tower, which shines its original 1894 lens reacquired in 2020.
5) Carrabelle Beach
Address: 1786 Big Bend Scenic Byway Coastal Trail, Carrabelle, FL 32322
Along Highway 98, this curved stretch of white sand beach offers a convenient getaway west of downtown Carrabelle along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. Amenities include plentiful parking, outdoor showers, restrooms, and picnic pavilions. Visitors can soak up sun or shade, swim in the Gulf waters, or stroll along the shore. A historic marker commemorates Camp Gordon Johnston’s nearby World War II amphibious training site. With easy access, unspoiled vistas, and natural appeal, Carrabelle Beach invites all to enjoy the timeless pleasures of sea and sand.
6) Camp Gordon Johnston Museum
Address: 1873 Hwy 98 W, Carrabelle, FL 32322
This free admission museum chronicles the vital role of Camp Gordon Johnston in preparing amphibious forces for WWII’s D-Day invasion. Opened in 1941 along twenty remote Gulf Coast miles as an Amphibious Training Center, the Camp put a quarter million troops through grueling maneuvers during its operation. Exhibits expand across over 4,000 square feet complete with artifacts, archival materials, and military vehicles document the soldiers and “Alligator Navy” war machine that trained here until 1946. The museum, funded by the Franklin County Tourist Council, honors the service and sacrifice of those who passed through the once sprawling base, now returned to sandy shores and pine forest. Visitors gain a window into America’s war efforts and the impact that Carrabelle played in WWII.
7) Tate’s Hell State Forest
Address: 290 Airport Rd, Carrabelle, FL 32322
Tate’s Hell State Forest spans over 200,000 acres of Franklin and Liberty Counties along Florida’s Gulf coast. Local legend claims the unusual name came from homesteader Cebe Tate after becoming lost for 7 days in 1875 while hunting a panther who had been killing his livestock. He had entered the forest with only his hunting dogs and shotgun. When he finally emerged from the forest a week later, he only survived long enough to utter the words, “My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell.”
The expansive preserve contains at least 12 distinct ecosystems ranging from pine ridges to titi swamp thickets. Its watershed feeds freshwater sources like the New River and Apalachicola Bay. Beyond folklore, Tate’s Hell provides critical habitat and hydrologic benefits. Visitors can experience a biodiversity bonanza along the trails and waterways of this rugged, aptly named forest.
8) Take a Ferry to Dog Island
Address: 700 Marine St, Carrabelle, FL 32322
Dog Island offers pristine wilderness just 3.5 miles off Florida’s Forgotten Coast in Franklin County. Nearly the entire 7-mile-long, mile-wide barrier island constitutes a Nature Conservancy wilderness preserve with strictly protected bird nesting areas bookending the east and west ends. Weekend ferry service delivers visitors to the island’s vacation homes, though amenities are scarce. The former Pelican Inn hotel closed in 2016, leaving no stores, restaurants, or public facilities outside of electricity, trash service, and a volunteer fire department. Despite its lack of development, during World War II various facilities of nearby Camp Gordon Johnston utilized Dog Island for amphibious and airborne attack simulations. Today, the island remains a fragile sanctuary dependent on low-impact recreation by those stocked with supplies who treasure its seclusion and natural splendor enough to pack out what they pack in. With access limitations and environmental sensitivity, Dog Island retains its primitive, peaceful essence.
From its diverse history to sunny beach, Carrabelle provides an unspoiled Florida getaway teeming with culture and nature. Visitors can tailor trips to suit relaxation or adventure with this well-rounded selection of must-see attractions. Those seeking quintessential coastal vibes without crowded destinations will feel right at home in Carrabelle. So wrap up a stay by watching a sunset, satisfied by warm hospitality and salt-tinged memories to last until your next Forgotten Coast escape.