Cheryl and Bill Jamison share attractions to see in this forgotten Florida town.
At Walt Disney World, our last stop, we stayed at Disney’s Beach Club, which successfully evokes nostalgia for trips to the shore in days past, when life was simpler and more innocent. In search of a real version of that time, we drove northwest to Florida’s “Forgotten Coast,” which stretches along the eastern panhandle near the small seaside burg of Apalachicola.
The town prospered during the 19th century as a transportation hub, shipping cotton that arrived from Alabama and Georgia on the Apalachicola River out into the Gulf of Mexico to the rest of the country. Merchants and bankers built grand homes and large riverfront warehouses, but the elegance and bustle faded after railroads took over commercial transportation. In recent decades, restorations and renovations have brought back some of the luster without adding much contemporary artifice. A touch of timeworn grit still contributes to the character and charm, as does the lack of traffic signals in the walkable downtown and even the old-fashioned barbecue pit in a corner of the Piggly Wiggly’s parking lot.
Today, the town is best known for the oysters pulled from the broad bay, created by a slim strand of barrier islands that protect the waters from the open Gulf. Nowhere in Florida offers fresher seafood, served in both simple and fancy ways at a handful of good spots, including the dining room of the Victorian-style Gibson Inn hotel, the waterfront picnic tables at the Boss Oyster, and the river-view terrace of the Owl Café.
After a lunch-time feast and a little browsing in quaint shops and galleries downtown, we cruised, top-down, in our convertible to the gorgeous beaches of nearby St. George Island. In the late afternoon sun, the golden heads of sea oats bobbed in the breeze and the powdery sands glowed as white as the snow drifts that winter visitors come to avoid. Admiring the scene in solitude, we cherished the relaxed authenticity of a forgotten coast.
Cheryl and Bill Jamison write about food and travel, always with mouthwatering results. Among their best-selling books are Smoke & Spice, American Home Cooking and The Big Book of Outdoor Cooking & Entertaining. They are also frequent contributors to Cooking Light and Bon Appétit. Married 22 years, they live just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The Jamisons’ newest book, Around the World in 80 Dinners: The Ultimate Culinary Adventure, regales readers with a tasty account of their global travels in search of great local fare—from Bali to Brazil.
Learn more about Cheryl and Bill at cookingwiththejamisons.com. You can sign up to join them on a future trip by clicking on “culinary adventures.”