Apalachicola: A Hidden Gem on the Florida Panhandle


Apalachicola fishing

Looking for a dose of Southern charm and a plate full of oysters? Add Apalachicola to your list of must-see places.

This charming fishing village is located on the shores of Apalachicola Bay, an inlet on the Gulf of Mexico that is often referred to as the “Forgotten Coast.”

The coast may be forgotten, but Apalachicola itself is becoming very un-forgotten, as more and more visitors stream into this small town to stay in a quaint bed-and-breakfast, gorge themselves on oysters, and browse unique shops.

Apalachicola’s History

The name “Apalachicola” comes from the Apalachicola tribe, and is a combination of the words apalahchi, which means “on the other side” and okli, which means “people”; the original meaning probably meant “people on the other side of the river.”

European settlers began arriving in 1821, and by the middle of the 19th century, Apalachicola was a thriving port town. The town was once home to a successful cotton industry; after that slowed, oystering took over. In fact, the town’s streets were built extra wide to make room for all the bales of cotton that were awaiting transport.

Apalachicola also had several notable residents. Botanist Alvan Wentworth Chapman, author of Flora of the Southern United States, settled in Apalachicola in 1847 and published this important work in 1860. In 1849, physician Dr. John Gorrie discovered the process behind refrigeration and patented an ice machine the following year, which was an important step in the development of modern refrigeration and air conditioning. There is a monument to him in the town and a replica of his ice machine at the John Gorrie Museum.

Oysters and Other Seafood

Apalachicola has a long history when it comes to seafood. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Greek immigrants were leaders in a thriving sponge trade, until sponge colonies were depleted.

Nowadays, a variety of seafood workers, including oyster harvesters and shrimpers, use Apalachicola as a home port. Oysters have long been a major industry for Apalachicola. In fact, more than 90% of Florida’s oysters are harvested from Apalachicola Bay.

If you’re a seafood lover, a good time to visit Apalachicola is during the Florida Seafood Festival, which is often the first week of November. And for oyster lovers, anytime is a great time to head down to Apalachicola.

Apalachicola Today

While seafood is still a big part of Apalachicola’s economy, tourism is the newest industry. Every year, more and more people come to the town to stay in one of its darling bed-and-breakfasts or hotels, dine in excellent restaurants, explore its specialty shops and art galleries, check out unique museums, and more.

Some of Apalachicola’s best offerings include the Orman House Historic State Park, where you can learn a little about the history or Apalachicola, The Raney House Museum, which is a beautifully-preserved antebellum home, and shops such as the Apalachicola Chocolate Company.

Photo credit: patchattack/Flickr
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