The Forgotten Coast of Florida is one of Florida's best kept secrets celebrating old Florida living and a peaceful coastal lifestyle. Some of Florida’s most beautiful white sandy beaches are in this quiet undeveloped and peaceful coast that extends out into the Gulf of Mexico between Panama City Beach and the Big Bend of Florida.
The area is a paradise for beach goers, boating, fishing and outdoor activities. The stretches of unspoiled beaches, barrier islands and peninsulas in the region create a haven for various water and beachfront recreation featuring bay side and Gulf side activities. Mexico Beach, Port St Joe, Cape San Blas, St George Island, Carabelle, and Alligator Point feature beachfront communities in the area.
What this Guide covers
This guide is all about the beach areas: the beaches, access points, parking, wildlife, activities, sand and water, beachfront area, shelling, and anything related to being on the beach! Everything you need to know about the beaches for vacationing, moving or buying in the area.
See also: Ultimate Florida Beaches Guide and learn more about and find local businesses in the largest Forgotten Coast area business directory (coming soon).
The forgotten coast is a unique area of Florida with small town beaches, friendly people and unique shorelines. While some businesses and investors in the area seek to change the name, Forgotten Coast describes this peaceful and tranquil area. The cultural feel of this area of Florida is peaceful communities with friendly people who are proud of their small town culture and leaving the big city life behind. Beach life is a peaceful one with fishing, shelling, nature, and relaxation at the forefront.
Mexico Beach calls itself the "unforgettable coast" as a spin on being part of the Forgotten Coast. This small town is less accessible than the neighboring Panama City Beach as it is 45 minutes southeast and off any major roadways. This makes it less crowded while still offering beautiful white sand beaches with a quaint small town vibe.
Mexico Beach was an area that was hit hard back in 2018 by Hurricane Michael. The area was devastated by the storm and many of the homes and businesses are gone. Much of the cleanup was done within the first year after the storm, but the re-building is still ongoing and will probably take another few years to get everything back and flourishing again.
Mexico Beach is all about the beachfront and beach going. The beachfront is absolutely gorgeous with the soft white sands made up of fine quartz from the Appalachian Mountains. Like all of the Gulf beaches, this quartz sand is softer, cooler and whiter than other beaches. One of the best features of Mexico Beach is the easy access to the beach with public access and direct beachfront parking all along the 5 mile stretch.
With a small town atmosphere, small businesses are the majority and big hotels, businesses and chains are not present. This community is strong as it has survived complete devastation through local community support.
Port St Joe is not considered a beach town, though with the addition of the Cape San Blas lighthouse in 2014 and the newer community of Windmark, Post St Joe does have beaches.
More important is that it is the heart of the forgotten coast and is the oldest town in the area with a historic downtown. With the addition of the lighthouse in the middle of the town, the area is becoming more of a tourist destination and offers a small historic down town area with local shops and dining.
The lighthouse was moved from Cape San Blas to it's current location in 2014. It sits in the middle of the town next to a beachfront area and an inlet into the marina. Because this waterfront faces the bay and is not directly fronting the open Gulf waters, it is a calmer, smaller bayside beach area.
Windmark Beach is a planned community on the north end of Port St. Joe just south of Mexico Beach. This newer community features 2 beach access points and Beach Walk Trail, a paved biking and hiking trail that runs parallel to the beach. The location sits on the Gulf of Mexico at the opening to St Josephs Bay where the waters are calmer. The beach features soft white sand in a natural setting.
Port St Joe has smaller beach areas which are not directly on the Gulf of Mexico being tucked into St Josephs Bay. The waterfront areas are mostly bayfront and not beachy. The beach areas along the lighthouse park and Windmark communities do offer a nice beach with natural soft sands, gentle breeze, and calmer waters. However, bay water is more brackish and darker and the beaches that front the bay areas have waters that tend to be darker.
It's easy to spend a day exploring this area, and if you like to fish and enjoy the local culture, stay a week and relax in this inviting community. Fishing and boating are top activities. Explore the lighthouse and surrounding park. Take a walk through the historic downtown area and enjoy shopping and eating at the local mom and pops. Visit Constitution State Park and see the location where Florida's first Constitution was signed.
Port St Joe is a tight community with a welcoming spirit. History, fishing and seafood define much of Port St Joe. Some residents have families who have resided in this community for generations and have interesting stories to tell.
Cape San Blas is the hidden Jewel of the Forgotten Coast. It is a bit out of the way on a gorgeous stretch of land that extends it's arm out into the Gulf of Mexico providing a unique habitat, natural areas of both beaches and bayside, and a community filled with southern hospitality and charm.
Located directly in the center of the peninsula, Cape San Blas Inn is the perfect example of what this peninsula offers with a tranquil view of the bay and a dock that extends out into the water where you can relax in this peaceful natural environment. Just a short walk across the street and your toes are in the soft gorgeous white sands of the Cape's Gulf front coastline.
St Joseph Peninsula State Park
At the tip of Cape San Blas peninsula is the treasure of the forgotten coast, St Joseph Peninsula State Park. Dunes, wildlife, soft sand beaches, activities, camping and everything any outdoor enthusiast would love.
The first beach access on the cape is Salinas Park. This park offers recreation and a beachfront that is along the southern portion of the cape at Indian Pass.
Indian Pass lies at the south end of Cape San Blas and the St Joseph Peninsula and offers a step back in time that gives it the old Florida charm. This is a popular destination for those who are just coming in for the day, weekend or just want to check out the area. This spot is famous for the Indian Pass Raw Bar, renowned for fresh oysters, live music and has been a local favorite since 1903. Indian Pass is also known for the horseback riding on the beach with adventures that launch from this point.
From Indian Pass at the curve of the peninsula, is the Jetty Beach. This jetty was built to protect the road that extends up the cape and has become a popular beach spot. One of the most photographed places on the cape with the changing beachline where old trees sit along the waters edge.
The Donna Kay
This is the newest attraction that sits close to the tip of the Cape's elbow. From the Jetty, walk a couple miles south towards the southern tip and you will see the latest attraction to this Forgotten Coast beach. The Donna Kay washed ashore a few years back and the ship was grounded and unable to be moved. It now sits on the beach and is a fun place to hike and explore.
Cape San Blas is the perfect getaway for those looking to get away from the city life and experience a peaceful beach destination. There are no big high-rises or food chains on the cape, only locally owned and operated businesses. Biking, hiking, fishing, shelling, and relaxing are most common.
Cape San Blas is unique in the way it extends out into the Gulf. The arm that extends northward offers gorgeous white sands and peaceful beachfronts that are lined mostly with homes. Access points are available along the stretch of the peninsula with a recreation park and the State Park offering public access and facilities. The sand is soft and easy to walk on. Some beaches, such as the one by the Jetty, has more shells then you can carry.
Small town and friendly community set away from the mainstream towns. Locals drive an hour for big shopping trips as only local mom and pops are present on the cape. This is the place to get away from it all and relax, fish, boat, hike, bike, explore away from crowds and busy towns. Small local businesses like the Cape San Blas Inn, are run by locals who offer visitors a local experience of the cape.
St. George Island is a barrier island that stretches 22 miles with gorgeous wide beachfronts and activities that draw visitors to the area. The island is pet friendly on all beaches except the State Park beaches. Water and nature activities abound with hiking, boating, fishing, shelling and simply playing in the surf.
St. George Island Public Beach
As you come over the bridge onto St. George Island, you enter the hub of the island. The lighthouse that was relocated to this spot years ago is the central icon. There is a public parking area on the right where you can park and access the public beach area, explore the park and picnic area, play at the playground or basketball court, visit the lighthouse and shop, or grab a bite to eat. Vacation Rentals and the only hotel, the Buccaneer Inn, are directly in the main hub near the lighthouse and eateries in town.
St George Island State Park
Located on the east end of St. George Island, the Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park offers 2 large beach access points with covered pavilions, picnic areas, grills, vending machines, and restrooms. There are a total of 8 access points with #1 and #8 offering accessibility wheelchair mats. This State Park features miles of soft white sands and gentle dunes that line the area. At the tip of the park is a popular fisherman's spot. The East End Fishing Beach is only accessible by those who pay for the special fishing permit.
West End Beaches
The beaches to the west of the downtown area are where the beach houses, vacation rentals, and locals will be found. The end of the island is gated and is a private community that includes some of the rich and famous who vacation at their own little slice of heaven on St George Island.
Unit Four Beach
The bay side of the island offers a different vibe with calm waters, abundant wildlife and beachfronts that are less crowded and offer shallow water swimming at Unit Four Beach.
St. George Island is a perfect spot for anyone looking for a beach vacation with gorgeous beachfronts for playing, soaking up the sun, shelling along the water's edge, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, and enjoying the small town vibe with just a few local businesses, eateries and shops. Biking and hiking are popular ways to explore the island. Visit the lighthouse and climb the stairs for a birds-eye view.
St. George Island has one of the most renowned beaches in the world. The soft sands and warm waters of the Gulf offer an inviting coastline. All along St. George Island the shoreline is perfect for walking, swimming, playing in the surf, and shelling.
St. George Island is known for it's beaches and family and friend getaways. Spring break is big in this small town as is local small town night life directly on the beach. And while the area offers fun vacations for those looking for small group fun getaways, St. George Island is very family oriented and offers a quiet family vacation on the beach. This is a beach town that is all about getting together and relaxing in a small beach town.
Carrabelle is the mainland area directly across from Dog Island. The beachfront offers calm waters directly fronting the St George Sound with barrier islands that protect the beaches. The Crooked River Lighthouse was relocated to Carrabelle Beach not far from the public beach access. The public beach access offers parking, facilities, picnic areas, and a beachfront with soft sand and warm waters.
Alligator Point is a peninsula that extends out into the Gulf of Mexico just east of St. George Island and Apalachicola. The beaches in this area are mostly for locals as there are a few access points and homes that line the stretch of beaches. The access points offer parking but no facilities or amenities. The highlight of Alligator Point is at the north end Bald Point State Park.
Bald Point State Park encompasses more than 4,000 acres of coastal wilderness with freshwater ponds, tidal marshes, Gulf front beaches and wildlife. The northern point at the park is Bald Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets the Apalachee Bay. The beaches here offer a natural habitat and lots of open space to enjoy.
This small barrier island makes a name for itself as a secluded and completely disconnected place that is only accessible by boat, ferry or plane. The island is inhabited by those who seek this lifestyle. With no stores or facilities, if you visit this island, be sure to bring what you need.
This huge 12,000+ acre undeveloped barrier island, only accessible by boat, is a government owned property that is a National Wildlife Refuge. The island offers protected coastal land for wildlife and offers a perfect look at beaches, coastal land and wildlife that is untouched.
This charming town is a historic fishing community just across the bay from some of the best beach towns in the area. With waterfront parks, excellent seafood, restored historic inns and buildings, local art shops, dining at sidewalk cafes, and mom and pop businesses, Apalachicola features a walkable quaint town with historic plaques to share the culture with visitors.
There are no beaches in Apalachicola, however, St. George Island is only 20 minutes away across a scenic causeway.
This small town is a centralized town that is growing from it's location directly across the bay from St. George Island and Apalachicola. While many may simply drive through this town, Eastpoint offers great seafood dining and a local community that is just developing it's own character.
At the end of the road in the St Marks National Wildlife Refuge sits the St Marks Lighthouse. Built in 1842, this lighthouse is the second-oldest in Florida and is still an active lighthouse that offers access only on a few days each year. Even when the lighthouse is not open, the grounds are available to explore and visit through the Refuge entrance.
This beautiful spot along the Forgotten Coast in the Big Bend at the St Marks River on Apalachee Bay offers a tremendous view of the lighthouse.
Off the beaten path in the middle of the Big Bend inland area of Florida's Forgotten Coast, is the small town of Wewahitchka, where some of the best honey producers are located. We visited Smiley Honey where they welcome you in for a taste of all the varieties of honey they offer. Did you know there is coffee honey that is made from the blossoms from coffee? The main draw to this area is the Tupelo Honey which is only made in this part of the world from the white blossoms of the white tupelo gum tree. Stop by Smiley Honey and pick up your favorite.
While in Wewahitchka, we discovered the Taunton Family Children's Home and the amazing community they have created to help children who need a home and guidance to a better life.
No where else along Florida's coastal communities can you find the beautiful Gulf Coast beaches that are less crowded lined with small town communities that have generations of families who are proud of their culture while welcoming to newcomers. The beach towns are small and each one has it's own personality.
All across the Forgotten Coast of Florida, wildlife in it's natural habitats are a main attraction. Sea Turtles, Birding, and aquatic life is abundant in the area.
The popular and best white sand beaches in the area front the Gulf directly and feature the gorgeous sugar white soft sand and coastal dunes. Some of the beaches that are inland and protected from barrier islands do not feature the same wide beachfronts and coastal dunes. However, they offer calmer waters and less crowded beachfronts.
The Water is warm and inviting for all kinds of water activities. While fishing, kayaking and boating are popular in the Forgotten Coast, swimming and body surfing the light waves can be enjoyed on all the beaches.
Fishing is the most common activity along the Forgotten Coast. Whether taking a charter, surf fishing or casting a line from a dock on the bay side, these beach communities offer something for every fishing enthusiast.
Horseback Riding on the Beach
Cape San Blas is one of the few beaches in Florida where you can ride horses on the beach with Two-Bit Stable or Broke-a-toe. Enjoy a peaceful relaxing ride on one of Florida's most beautiful beaches.
Different beaches in the Forgotten Coast offer various shells and some large shells can be found.
Sunrise and sunsets vary all along the forgotten coast due to the location and varying coastlines. Time of year also changes the angle of the sunrise or sunset. Because the areas include peninsulas and barrier islands that extend at different angles, sunrise and sunset can be enjoyed on both the Gulfside and the Bay or sound side.
The forgotten coast beaches attract those looking for old Florida, small, quaint and quiet beach towns with friendly locals and a laid back lifestyle. It is also a popular location for those who are looking for their winter home or vacation rental investments.
When visiting any of the towns in the Forgotten Coast, don't expect high rises and an abundance of shopping and eateries. These towns are all about keeping it local. The small beach towns have just a handful of restaurants and may have only one grocery store.
Vacation rentals, bed & breakfasts, inns and hotels offer everything from beach front, beach access, waterfront to bring your boat, communities with an abundance of amenities and budget friendly rentals a block or two from the beach.
Every community along the Forgotten Coast offers opportunities for boating and fishing. The best beaches in the area are Mexico Beach, Cape San Blas and St. George Island.
Living in the Forgotten Coast
The Forgotten Coast of Florida is a lifestyle choice. It is for those who are looking for old Florida, small towns, coastal communities, nature and outdoor activities and water lovers. Not all of the communities are beachfront or boast the beach lifestyle, but all of them boast relaxed on the water lifestyle.
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