USA Flag  Attractions of the Florida Panhandle Gulf Coast - Big Bend - 1

NOTICE: JULY 10, 2005 HURRICANE DENNIS DAMAGED THESE AREAS. MOST WILL RECOVER RAPIDLY, BUT CHECK ON CONDITIONS BEFORE VISITING.

 

FEATURED ATTRACTIONS IN THE AREAS OF:

 

  Alligator Point    Bald Point    Carabelle

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

 

Probably the least developed area of Florida lies in the Big Bend - the area where Florida's Gulf Coast turns southward in a large arc from the Panhandle. The coastline along the Big Bend is shallow and filled with small islands. This prevents wave action along most the shoreline and as a result, the white sandy beaches, so readily seen just west in the Panhandle, are not formed. There are some exceptions, such as Alligator Point but overall the coast is formed of shallow salt marshes, grass and mud flats. Unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on your point of view -  for this area, beautiful as it is, the lack of beaches restricts the tourist and residential growth.

 

Settlers and visitors to these shores today seem to prefer keeping the area in a natural state and the large tracts of publicly  owned lands along the coast and inland will guarantee that. While it is doubtful that Alligator Point will ever become a tourist magnet for the Forgotten Coast, considering its close proximity to many state and national parks, forests and sanctuaries, it is nonetheless a great spot for a beach vacation punctuated with daily natural adventures. On the top of the list to visit is nearby Bald Point State Park and St. Marks National Wildlife Sanctuary.

 

The area included for the cities and parks on this page is small and a traveler going from one end to the other by car would traverse the distance in less than 30 minutes. This area is also a fine base area from which to tour the entire Panhandle west and further into the Big Bend area to the east. Close by are the Apalachicola National Forest and Tates Hell State Forest and Tates Hell Swamp. St Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, Cape St. George State Reserve and Dog Island can all be visited by boat.

 

Click on each picture to get a larger view and use your browser's BACK button to return to this page. Bookmark this page ("Cntrl" key + "D" key) so that you can return to review it and look for updates. For additional information, most of the cities or attractions on the page have embedded links to the website or the area's Chamber of Commerce.

 

Click for more Panhandle cities, attractions and pictures.

 

 

Alligator Point

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Pictures of docks on Alligator Harbour.

Alligator Drive entering Alligator Point. View along Alligator Drive.
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Although built on the dunes of Alligator Point, these houses get additional lift from pilings.

 

Alligator Point is another of the "non-glitzy" Florida destinations which make up the Forgotten Coast.  A small, out-of-the-way village on the Saint James Peninsula, it is home to those favoring a "more natural" Florida lifestyle. Bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the bay waters of Alligator Harbor, this small spit of land running east to west appears yet untamed, in spite of the residential development along its shores. Visitors seeking solitude can certainly find it inland or along the coastal waters, where a stroll along the ocean beach can lead a few miles up to Bald Point State Park. For those concerned about what's in a name, we didn't see or hear a single alligator...

Bald Point State Park

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Bald Point State Park beaches have a distinct touch of reddish-brown to the sand.

 

Fishing pier

 

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Bald Point State Park is a biodiverse area and visitors will find sandy beaches, oak trees, pine woodlands and coastal marshes. The range of habitat provides for a good base of wading and shore birds.

 

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Water areas stretch from ocean to back bay areas.

 

Trails extend from the parking areas

 

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American Coot

 

Brown Pelican

 

Sanderling

 

Tricolored Heron

 

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Great Egret (L) & Snowy Egret (R)

 

View of Live Oak Point.

 

Panacea along Route 98 Bridge

 

Bald Point State Park is a few miles down the road from Alligator Point at the eastern end of Saint James Island. Well known in the area for its birding wildlife, in the fall migratory raptors, including bald eagles, are commonly seen. The large number of offshore sandbars and oyster bars are prime gathering areas for much of the resident and transitory bird populations. Bordered by the Apalachee and Ochlockonee Bays but in open Gulf waters, the beaches don't normally have the pounding surf or sparkling white sands of the shorelines of the western panhandle. However, the park is tailor-made for the nature lover and features a variety of horticulture and ecosystems in addition to its wealth of bird life.

Carrabelle

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Highway 98 through Carrabelle

 

Carrabelle Marina

 

Carrabelle Lighthouse

(maybe not...)

 
Carrabelle, Florida is a tiny city along Route 98 between Apalachicola and Alligator Point. Although a coastal city, well known for its fishing, it sits behind Dog Island and lacks the pounding surf and white, sandy beaches more familiar and favored by Florida residents and visitors. Seemingly ripe for development, residential areas are slowly spreading.

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

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The lighthouse at St. Marks.

 

Marsh area. Canals and marshes. Road to St. Marks lighthouse.
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St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge supports a wide range of horticulture.

 

As one of the first national wildlife refuges, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1931 in order to protect the wintering habitats of a variety of migratory birds. A huge park encompassing some 68,000 acres along the Big Bend area of the Gulf coast and inland, visitors can find a variety of ecosystems based on forests, marshes, swamps, palm hammocks, scrub pinelands, estuarine areas, fresh water, ocean and bay waters - the list goes on. There are several "units" comprising St. Marks St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge which can be visited by car including the headquarters area where the old lighthouse (circa 1832) still stands.

 


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