1. Visit an Historic Lighthouse … or two!
Franklin County features two historic lighthouses—one on St. George Island and one along Highway 98 east east of Carrabelle. Both are important maritime landmarks with a colorful past.
Crooked River Lighthouse
For 120 years, Crooked River Lighthouse has been a guiding light for sea travelers navigating the treacherous pass between Dog and St. George Islands. Today the lighthouse, one of two remaining in Franklin County, stands on the mainland where the light was originally built in 1895, replacing the three short-lived beacons destroyed by hurricanes on Dog Island. A replica of the Keeper’s House serves as an historic museum and gift shop, and the original station washhouse is also on the grounds. Tower climbs are offered weekends. Scheduled tours are available upon request. An enchanting birthday celebration, Lantern Fest, is held annually, the fourth weekend in October.
Cape St. George Light
The second remaining Franklin County lighthouse, Cape St. George Light, stands at the center of St. George Island. It is the fourth reconstruction of the historic lighthouse that was originally built on what is now Little St. George Island. The first lighthouse was erected in 1833 near West Pass. Damaged by storms, it was dismantled and reconstructed in 1848 at Cape St. George. The second lighthouse fell during a hurricane in 1851, and a third lighthouse was completed in 1852, again using materials from its predecessor, but positioned further inland from the water’s edge. For 153 years, the Cape St. George Light valiantly served mariners well, but beach erosion ultimately caused its collapse on October 21, 2005. Dedicated volunteers salvaged more than 22,000 original bricks from the lighthouse rubble, and with extensive community support and public and private funding, the Cape St. George Light was successfully rebuilt in the center of the island and opened as part of a public park. A replica of the original Lighthouse Keeper’s House, built next to the lighthouse, features a museum and gift shop. Museum exhibits tell the story of the lighthouse and its keepers. The lighthouse is open daily except Thursday. Visit the Cape St. George Light on the full moon of each month and be treated to a beautiful full moon night-time view of St. George Island.
2. Hike out on a historic walking tour
Take a self-guided walking tour of historic Apalachicola or rent a golf cart to see more than 900 historic homes and buildings identified in Apalachicola’s National Historic District. Within the historic district, check out the Chestnut Street Cemetery—it is the oldest burying ground in Apalachicola and is the burial site of many individuals connected with the history and development of the town and area. Approximately 560 marked graves are located in the cemetery, but there are many more grave sites that are unmarked. Each spring and fall, the Apalachicola Historical Society hosts a Ghost Tour in which local history enthusiasts take on the persona of the cemetery’s more notable inhabitants to tell of life in Apalachicola more than 100 years ago. The cemetery features an interactive online map with photos and descriptions of the graves and inhabitants.
3. Take a boat ride
Rent a kayak or bring your own to explore the many river sloughs, sandy coves and salt marshes, and bay shallows of the area. Or, take a relaxing sunset tour of Apalachicola’s historic waterfront aboard one of several eco-tour boats. Coming early in 2017, Apalachicola will be home base to a historic steamboat once owned by actress Debbie Reynolds. The Jean Mary has been lovingly restored and will be part of the Apalachicola Maritime Museum’s fleet of educational trip boats and tours. Have your own boat? There are several marinas to accommodate.
4. Check out the wildlife
Franklin County’s Bald Point State Park on Alligator Point is part of a seasonal fly-over for several migrating birds and butterflies. The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve and Visitor Center in Eastpoint features a wooded boardwalk trail and touch tanks and displays for children to get up close and personal to marine life. Of all the wildlife in Franklin County, some of the most notable are the protected sea turtles that visit area beaches annually to lay their eggs.
5. Relax on the beach
Beach lovers will appreciate that the St. George Island State Park Beach is ranked among the top in the country by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a Dr. Beach). The park features nine miles of undeveloped shoreline and has some of the region’s finest birdwatching opportunities and camping facilities. Countywide, there are more than 250 miles of beaches stretching from Alligator Point to Apalachicola.
6. Eat seafood and enjoy local brew
Apalachicola Bay oysters are salty delicacies highly prized in restaurants from New York City to Key West. Oysters this fine, and a place so rich in character, deserve their own beer, and that’s exactly what you’ll enjoy at the Oyster City Brewing Company in downtown Apalachicola. When you try a flight of Oyster City beers, you’re not only getting great beer, but you’re also sampling local ingredients. From the First Light of Day Summer Ale, made with orange peel, to the chocolate and honey flavors of Hooter Brown Tupelo Honey Ale, there’s a little Forgotten Coast in all the brewing company produces.
7. Go fish
Franklin County features some of the finest fishing in the country all year long. No matter when you visit Franklin County there’s always something biting. Carrabelle is ground zero for fishing—this coastal fishing community boasts direct deep-water access to the Gulf and easy river access to the vast Tate’s Hell forest of sloughs and creeks for freshwater fishing. The best way to have fishing success is to hire a local who will know the where, when, and what is biting at any time of the year. In addition to the traditional offshore and freshwater fishing, skinny water and surf fly fishing are growing in popularity also.
8. Absorb the culture – art – theatre – music
Franklin County features an eclectic variety of art galleries, museums, and theatre and music venues. You can walk downtown Apalachicola and Carrabelle and be immersed in quality gallery exhibits and seasonal theatre productions produced by a growing village of artists who have come to call the Forgotten Coast home. Each spring the area hosts a nationally acclaimed plein art gathering in which art enthusiasts gather to watch celebrated artists paint the last vestiges of old Florida, attend art workshops, and purchase the art created during the event. There are art associations in Carrabelle and Apalachicola with active workshops year round. Apalachicola is home to the historic Dixie Theatre and a local community theatre group which both host quality theatre and music productions beginning in the fall through spring.
Growing music scene: Apalachicola, Carrabelle, and St. George Island are growing in popularity for their unique music venues. In Apalachicola, the Bowery Station (literally a hole in the wall warehouse bar) just a block off the Apalachicola River features the region’s up-and-coming musicians in a laid-back, casual setting. The Ilse Newell Fund for the Performing Arts hosts classical and jazz performances in both Apalachicola and Carrabelle. On St. George Island, Rock by the Sea, a nonprofit music organization, hosts two annual rock concerts featuring regional and national bands in a multi-day event.
9. Attend an event
Throughout the year, Franklin County features several unique festivals, events, and activities. Ranging from the state’s oldest maritime spectacle, the Florida Seafood Festival in November, to the popular St. George Island Chili Cook-off in March, every month features an opportunity to absorb the culture, heritage, and small-town charm of a locally grown festival. Catch a glimpse of everything Franklin County has to offer at Saltyflorida.com.