Located in the heart of what is often called the Forgotten Coast, Apalachicola is a small quaint town with a southern maritime culture. Natural offerings in Apalachicola Harbor include uncrowded pristine beaches, bays, shallow waterways, and acres of national and state forests. With some of the best seafood in the United States, Apalachicola Harbor was selected in 2008 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the country's Dozen Distinctive Destinations.
Apalachicola Harbor has a humid subtropical climate with short winters and long, hot, humid summers. During the summer, late afternoon thunderstorms are common. It doesn't snow often in Apalachicola Harbor, but it has happened. Temperatures range from an average high of 32°C (90°F) in July to an average low of 6°C (43°F) in January. July is the wettest month of the year, with average rainfall of over seven inches, although September and October are almost the same.
History-lovers visiting Apalachicola Harbor will not want to miss the Apalachicola Historic District, an area containing more than 900 buildings and homes that date as far as the 1830s. A scenic walking tour of the area includes old cotton warehouses, Victorian homes, and a sponge exchange among many other interesting places.
The Apalachicola Museum of Art was built in 1845 and has been faithfully restored to house exhibits that include the Apalachicola Harbor and River, the Waterfalls of North Georgia, Women Artists from Tallahassee, Visions and Voices, and temporary visual art exhibits.
The Maritime Museum in Apalachicola Harbor celebrates the area's maritime history. The Maritime Museum offers hands-on learning that includes boat-building and restoration, sailing, and educational programs. The Museum has two locations: one is in Apalachicola Harbor at the end of the River, and the other at the start of the River in Chattahoochee opens in June 2010.
In 2011, Apalachicola Harbor's Maritime Museum sponsored the Fifth Annual River Trip from Columbus, Georgia, to the Gulf of Mexico. This group adventure begins on a passenger catamaran to help the passage across Lakes Eufaula and Seminole, although adventurous participants can bring their own canoes or kayaks. Both one- and two-week trips are available. A lead paddler keeps the group together, and a power boat patrols the end of the group. The trip involves participant contributions to camp setup and take-down as well as the risks associated with outdoor wilderness adventures.
St. George Island State Park, located on the barrier island across the Bay from Apalachicola Harbor, is a two-thousand-plus acre park with a variety of recreational opportunities. The Park has 14.5 kilometers (nine miles) of pristine beaches, the last eight kilometers (five miles) of which are accessible by foot only or by permitted four-wheel drive vehicles. Pets are welcomed in the park but not on the beaches. Two natural unpaved ramps are available to access Apalachicola Harbor. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the ranger station.
The St. George Island State Park barrier island has 60 campsites equipped with water, electricity, restrooms and showers, and dump stations. A four-kilometer (2.5-mile) trail leads to Gap Point from the campground, winding through the pine forest to Apalachicola Harbor. Located behind the dunes in a pine forest, the campground is only .4 kilometers (.25 miles) from the beach and the Gulf, but it does not have an ocean view. Reservations are required. Gap Point, only accessible by foot or by shallow-draft vessels, offers primitive camping for up to 12 campers. There are no showers or restrooms at Gap Point. Organized groups of from six to 25 people can take advantage of the Youth Group tent campground. At this campground, visitors will find restrooms, frigid showers, picnic tables, and a campfire circle. Reservations for the Youth Camp can be made up to 11 months in advance. East
Slough trail, about 1.6 kilometers (one mile) long, has boardwalks, information on the natural resources, and benches for rest stops. There are also six big shelters on the beach that have restrooms, showers, grills, and picnic tables. The playground is located at the family campground. Apalachicola Harbor's St. George Island State Park does not provide lifeguards.
Located some 60 kilometers (37 miles) northeast of Apalachicola Harbor, the Apalachicola National Forest covers 564 thousand acres. It is the biggest of Florida's three national forests. Visitors enjoy camping, boating, hunting, fishing, birding, and viewing the wildflowers. Within the National Forest are Fort Gadsden Historical Site, Leon Sinks Geological Area, and several recreation areas: Camel Lake, Silver Lake, Wright Lake, and Lost Lake.
Fort Gadsden was the site of several battles. Accessible by boat and road, the site includes artifacts and interpretive exhibits as well as picnic tables, vault toilets, and drinking water. At Leon Sinks Geological Area, visitors travel boardwalks and trails to see unique and ecologically fragile sinkholes with steep sites. Interpretive signs explain the geology, and visitors can also swim, dive, hunt, and ride horses, mountain bikes, ATVs and motorcycles in the area. Silver Lake, also in Leon County,
Camel Lake Recreation Area features a beautiful lake bordered by a white sand beach where people can swim. The bath house has flush toilets, and cold-water outdoor showers are available, as are picnic tables and grills. Accessible to people in wheelchairs is a first-come, first-served shelter. Boats with electric trolling motors and non-motorized boats can use the small boat ramp. There are also three nearby trails: the Florida National Scenic Trail, the Camel Lake Interpretive Trail, and the Trail of Lakes. Camping is also allowed.
On the eastern border of the forest, near Tallahassee, is the Silver Lake Recreation Area, which also has a white sand beach with a designated swimming area. The bathhouse has hot showers and flush toilets, and three picnic shelters are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also picnic tables among the trees that look over the lake. Like the Camel Lake area, motorized boating is limited to electric trolling motors. A 1.6-kilometer (one-mile) long trail circles the lake. There is no camping at Silver Lake.
The Wright Lake Recreation Area has similar offerings and accommodations to those at Silver Lake, and this site is accessible to wheelchairs. The trail circling Wright Lake is eight kilometers (five miles) long, and camping is available at Wright Lake.
There are almost 137 kilometers (85 miles) of hiking trails within Apalachicola National Forest where leashed pets are allowed. Hikers are free to roam anywhere in the Forest. There is a designated horse trail in the Leon Sinks area, and horses are allowed throughout the Forest, except on the Florida National Scenic Trail (hikers only) or in the developed recreation areas. Camping with horses is allowed in the general forest area and in the primitive hunt camps.
Second biggest such reserve in the country, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve includes more than 246 thousand acres in Apalachicola Harbor and Apalachicola Bay. The Nature Center, east of the St. George Island Bridge, features exhibits on the wildlife and vegetation of the area as well as an aquarium featuring local turtles and fish. The Nature Center is open daily from Tuesday through Saturday.