If you’re planning a trip to Florida panhandle beaches, particularly near St. George Island or Cape San Blas, you’ll want to keep Apalachicola on your list of places to visit! Apalachicola makes for a great day trip in the middle of your beach vacation, and these things to do in Apalachicola will help you plan your day!
Of course, you could also spend a weekend in Apalachicola, soaking in the slow, Southern small town, enjoying seafood, shopping in unique boutiques, and having outdoor adventures.
We’ve been going to Apalachicola (or Apalach as if it is sometimes called by locals) for years, making a point to spend a day there whenever we visit St. George Island or Cape San Blas. We love strolling through the streets, shopping, and eating some great seafood.
Apalachicola is a port town with a small town feel and Southern charm. And these things to do in Apalachicola will make for a perfect day or weekend trip.
11 Things To Do in Apalachicola
Go Shopping Downtown
Downtown Apalachicola has so many great boutique and specialty shops. You can shop for clothes, outdoor apparel, gifts, and of course, those beach supplies you may have forgotten. Some of our favorite stores include Apalach Outfitters, Backstreet Trading Company, and Betsy’s Sunflower and Kitchen Store. Plus, don’t miss Grady Market, which is full of clothing, gifts, and unique items. (Also, if you’re visiting in the summer these shops are a must just for their air conditioning!)
You’ll find most of the shopping on Market Street, Commerce Street, and Water Street between Penton Street and Avenue F, with some shops spreading out a bit more. Just find a place to park downtown (there should be plenty of options, especially if you get there in the morning) and you can easily walk to all the shops.
Visit the Bookstore
Ok, since this IS a travel blog for bookworms, you know we need to specifically point out Apalachicola’s bookstore. Located on Commerce Street, Downtown Books and Purl sells a curated selection of books plus yarn for your knitting and crocheting projects.
We make a point to duck into this store and buy some books on every trip. But note their hours, because they aren’t open every day. (At the time of this writing, they are closed Sunday-Tuesday, which was a real bummer when we went to Apalachicola on a Tuesday on our last beach trip.)
Eat Great Seafood
Since you are on the Gulf Coast, you have to make a point of eating seafood while you are there. Some of the best places to eat in downtown Apalachicola are Apalachicola Seafood Grill, Owl Cafe, Hole in the Wall Seafood, and The Station Raw Bar.
Apalachicola is especially known for their oysters, although recent climate conditions have devastated the Apalachicola Bay oyster population. Currently, oyster harvesting is banned until the end of 2025 in order to help the population recover (and it is showing some promising signs).
But you can still get oysters imported from other areas and of course other fresh seafood from the Gulf. My favorite Gulf seafood is a good grilled grouper sandwich!
Bonus: After your seafood meal, stop by the Apalachicola Chocolate & Coffee Company for some great gelato!
Visit Local Art Galleries
Downtown Apalachicola actually has so many art galleries featuring local artists. From photography to painting to pottery to jewelry, you’ll find so much variety in Apalachicola’s art. Many of them are, of course, inspired by the beauty of the local beaches, rivers, and forests.
And of course, a piece of local art makes for a perfect souvenir from your trip.
Some art galleries that feature multiple artists include:
Plus there are several featuring just one artist. Find a full list of Apalachicola art galleries here.
Walk Through Chapman Botanical Gardens
For a little outdoor enjoyment, you can walk through Chapman Botanical Gardens. This small garden has a half mile loop you can stroll through, with several areas to sit and enjoy the garden. Entrance is free!
Chapman Botanical Garden is named after Dr. Alvin Chapman, a botanist known for his study of Southern plants and for discovering several rare Florida plants.
This is just a few blocks from downtown, but I would drive there (mostly because it’s probably hot) and park in the small parking lot that is for the Garden, The Orman House, and the Veterans Memorial.
Visit the Orman House
Located right next to the Chapman Botanical Garden, the Orman House is a historic Apalachicola home that you can tour. The home was built in 1838 by an Apalachicola cotton merchant. It features both Federal and Greek revival styles, so any architecture or history nerd is going to love this. It also only costs $2 to enter (children 5 and under are free). So this is a relatively inexpensive stop on your trip.
Note that the Orman House is closed for renovation until sometime in December 2022. And it sounds like part of the scope of these current renovations is to restore slave and servant quarters and to better tell the stories of the African-Americans who lived there.
Tour the Raney House
Located just a couple blocks from the main thoroughfare of downtown Apalachicola, the Raney house was home to, you guessed it, the Raney family. This was a prominent Apalachicola family, and the docent of our tour pointed out that members of the family still live locally.
This home was built in 1836. You can tour it Sunday through Thursday from 1:00-4:00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Although, we were there on a summer Tuesday and I believe it had opened around 10.) Admission is free, although donations are accepted.
In the house you’ll find the parlor, dining room, and upstairs bedrooms and bathrooms. You can also tour the kitchen out back. I really liked how they had clothes and mementos laid out. And, since very little is roped off, you can really get an up close look at history.
Note that because of the history of this house and its inhabitants, there is a lot of Civil War stuff: pictures, weapons, etc. I do appreciate, however, that our volunteer docent did make a point to mention the enslaved people who lived there.
Learn About the History of Air Conditioning at the John Gorrie Museum
Did you know that the first patent that led to modern refrigeration and air conditioning came from Apalachicola? Dr. John Gorrie developed a refrigeration device and a cooling system after his yellow fever research led him to look for ways to cool patient rooms.
At the Gorrie Museum, you can learn about the history of the cooling devices and see a replica of his original invention.
This museum is also part of the John Gorrie Museum State Park near downtown Apalachicola. This state park is about four blocks which encompass the original Gorrie Square. You’ll also find Gorrie’s burial site here, as well as a monument.
The Gorrie Museum is open Thursday-Monday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is $2. Children 5 and under are free.
(Fun and embarrassing fact: The main street on St. George Island is named Gorrie Street, and I spent most of my life thinking it was named for some kind of fish. I only realized in the last several years that it was named for John Gorrie.)
Take a Boat Tour
Since we’re on Apalachicola Bay, one of the popular things to do in Apalachicola is to spend some time out on the water with a boat tour. You can do river cruises, airboat tours, deep sea fishing—basically if you want to get out on the water, there are all kinds of ways to do it.
Because the water surrounding Apalachicola is so integral to the town’s history, getting out on the water really can give you a perspective for what this place is all about. Plus you might just see some amazing marine wildlife.
Have an Adventure in Apalachicola National Forest
If you’re up for a day of adventure on your trip, drive north of Apalachicola to Apalachicola National Forest for some outdoor fun. This national forest is over 900 square miles (so yes, it will be a bit of a drive), and it is full of trails and rivers where you can hike, bike, kayak and more.
You can go as light or as intensely outdoorsy as your like here. There are maintained recreational areas and short hikes, but there are also over 80 miles of designated backpacking trails for the true adventurers. There are also places to fish and swim.
Find more details on Apalachicola National Forest activities here.
Enjoy a Beach Day
One of the wonders that makes this area of Florida so spectacular is the beautiful beaches. If you’re visiting Apalachicola and haven’t been to one of the local beaches, you’ll definitely want to take some time to check one of them out.
The closest option is St. George Island. It’s about a 20 minute drive from Apalachicola, and you’ll find public beach areas, a few restaurants, and a historic lighthouse. This is my favorite Florida beach, partially for nostalgia reasons, but also because it is so low-key.
Another option is Cape San Blas, which is about 30 minutes away. Here you’ll also find public beach access, a park, plus the most gorgeous sunsets. We also love Cape San Blas, which as a bit of a newer feel to it, mostly because it has seen more recent development and many parts have had to be rebuilt after hurricane damage.
Bonus: The Apalachicola Maritime Museum
I hesitate to include this as an actual thing to do in Apalachicola, because after suffering from hurricane damage a few years ago, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum has been closed for some time. They are actively trying to build back and re-open though. And once they do, their services will include the Maritime Museum, sailing tours, boat building and restoration programs, and ecosystem educational programs.
So while at the time of this writing (July 2022) the Apalachicola Maritime Museum is closed, keep an eye out for their future reopening so you can add it to your Apalachicola itinerary!
We really love Apalachicola because it has an old Florida feel, but with the update of great shopping and art. It’s a beautiful town, with plenty of things to do on a weekend trip and adventures to have nearby. Which is why, when we’re nearby, we always make a point to visit.