Driving along the Gulf on Highway 98, we felt the tug to make the turn onto Magnolia Bluff, toward our former sweet home on the bay. That’s when the first wave of nostalgia hit, and the true knowing that we have forever closed that chapter of our lives.
Trying To Capture The Feeling
We spent several days in a cozy house in Apalachicola, thanks to the kindness of a dear friend of my parents. It gave us the opportunity to say goodbye to this picturesque, authentic, rough-around-the-edges town that has managed to avoid the blight and the conveniences of progress.
My dad was born in Apalachicola, as was my grandfather. I’ve been coming to Apalachicola since before I was born. And for the past two decades, Eric and I have come here together to visit my folks.
Although we never planned to live here, this was our home for the past three years. Looking back, we’re grateful that we landed in a place that provided safe harbor during a time that was extraordinarily painful and challenging, both personally and globally.
There is much that we will miss about this area—the utter lack of traffic, for one. The peace and quiet and dark night skies. The exquisite sunsets over the bay. The incredible bird life. The uniqueness of a truly small town, where everyone knows everyone, which is delightful—and also means you better watch what you say.
The truth is, I don’t know how to capture in a post all that this town means to us. And I don’t really think it’s possible. I’ve lived many places in my life, and traveled to far more. There are a handful that are part of the fabric of my soul, and Apalachicola is one of them.
A Walk Around Town
So I’m going to take you on a photo tour, much like the walking tour that Eric and I created for ourselves back in 2020. We’ve walked variations of this five-mile meandering loop countless times, always finding something to catch our interest.
A Working Waterfront
Strolling along the waterfront makes it obvious that this is a working fishing town. It’s certainly not prettied up for the tourists who come to Apalachicola to experience the “Real Florida.” But that’s part of what makes it authentic, and picturesque.
Apalachicola was once the third busiest port on the Gulf Coast, first as a major cotton trading center, and later as a lumber producing and seafood processing center. Seafood still reigns as the primary industry here, evidenced by 10-foot tall mountains of oyster shells tossed out by the oyster shucking houses and the shrimp boats docked along the waterfront.
Hurricanes sweep through, and although the town has mostly been spared, buildings along the waterfront that were devastated remain…sometimes for decades. Nothing in Apalachicola happens quickly. It’s just how things are.
The Historic Downtown
The wide streets of Apalachicola’s historic downtown offer expansive views of the waterfront. Former cotton warehouses, ship chandleries, and other historic buildings now house art galleries, eclectic boutiques, bars, music venues, and restaurants. Sadly, although there is fantastic fresh seafood readily available, there are currently no great restaurants in town. Which is why we mostly ate at home for three years. Restaurant owners have a hard time finding help.
Click on photos for a larger image
The Working Fleet
Wandering The Historic Neighborhoods
Apalachicola boasts more than 900 historic homes and buildings dating back to the 1830s. We always enjoy wandering the tree-shaded streets of the historic district, admiring the beautifully restored homes originally built by sea captains, river pilots, and lumber barons. The advent of railroads, the Civil War, and the demise of cotton plantations had an adverse effect on the town’s export trade, which led to its isolation and economic hardship.
A town that is “forgotten” for more than a hundred years has the benefit of retaining its historic personality.
There are always fun things to discover in the neighborhoods.
We’ll Be Back
It was not easy to say goodbye to Apalachicola. And it was not easy to say goodbye to our friends Shannon and Ken, who have been with us from the very beginning of our unexpected long, long stay in the area. We feel certain that we’ve made a good decision in moving to North Carolina…but we’ve already booked a week’s stay at an Airbnb in Apalachicola in October. This is a place we just can’t totally let go of.