While the town attracts vacationers of all stripes with its unique shops, galleries and restaurants, as well as the beautiful beaches and resorts on nearby St. George Island, boaters in particular will find the Junk-to-Treasures shop housed in the original Wefing’s Marine building and the Tin Shed fascinating. You could spend a day sifting through the nautical oddities and antiques in search of the perfect treasure for your home or boat.
A stroll through town will reveal an ongoing program of renovation, preservation and revitalization. Not far from empty, rundown commercial buildings, some of which are scheduled for a face-lift, are three attractive waterfront parks. Lafayette Park is in the center of Apalachicola’s historic district, where antebellum and Victorian homes dating from the 1830s have been lovingly restored to their original magnificence. New home construction tastefully fits into the historic scene. Battery Park, near the John Gorrie Bridge, is across from Municipal Marina and Boat Ramp and is home to the annual Florida Seafood Festival, a two-day event held in early November. And along Water Street, you can check out one of the shrimp boats docked at the city bulkhead while you sit and watch the action on the river.
Walking the commercial fishing docks at what is locally known as Mill Pond, one senses that the seafood business is struggling, thanks in large part to the BP oil spill. Although oil never reached Apalachicola Bay, the perception of oil-damaged oysters has devastated the local fisheries industry. While some local fishermen were hired by BP to help protect the waters, others suffered without alternatives from a severe drop in demand, which also had a domino effect on local packinghouses, distributors and the entire hospitality industry.
Casual cafes, family restaurants and oyster bars on the waterfront are part of the Apalachicola scene.
Little by little, though, the town is recovering. The world-famous Apalachicola oysters remain healthy and delicious. During my recent visit I witnessed busy tables at Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar and Boss Oyster, a steady stream of dinner patrons at Tamara’s Café and a full house at the historic Gibson Inn. The art galleries, antique shops and outfitter stores all seemed to be busy, and the marinas had only a few empty slips. Even more encouraging was hearing that my boat dealer, Wefing’s Marine, which specializes in Ranger Tugs and C-Dories, was selling boats again after having survived a disastrous one-year drought.
Apalachicola might be part of Florida’s Forgotten Coast, but its authentic waterman’s heritage — and a discerning nod to the future — make it an unforgettable stop along the Gulf Coast.