Florida Panhandle Hidden Gems
We visited Tallahassee to see FSU and FAMU, Carrabelle to see the World's Smallest Police Station, Cape San Blas to see the Donna Kay abandoned ship, and a few other small beach towns!
On our last trip, we went to Mexico. We stayed there for almost 2 weeks and visited Playa Del Carmen, Chichén Itzá and Tulum. For this trip we originally thought about going to St. Augustine, but instead decided to get more bang for our buck by going to the Florida Panhandle. The Panhandle is the Northwest part of the state. Georgia is north of Tallahassee, but the rest of the panhandle is surrounded to the north and west by Alabama. Tallahassee is landlocked, but so many of the other cities in the Panhandle are right on the Gulf of Mexico.
People who are not familiar with Florida or the United States may think that the capital of the state is Miami. That is the major metropolitan area that you see on television or movies. That is where Lebron took his talents and where we got the famous Miami Vice show and outfits. But the capital of Florida is actually in the panhandle; and it is the largest city there; Tallahassee. When the latest 80 plus year old wins the multi-million dollar lottery in Florida, this is where they make an appointment to pick up their earnings. Tallahassee is where I, Will, went to college. My friends and I used to meet up once a year to go to a football game but we haven't done that in a long time. This place has totally changed since I graduated from Florida State University in 2007. There is a lot of construction making it impossible for a stranger or someone who hasn't gone in a while to walk the length of the campus.
One thing that is mostly the same is where the Florida State Seminoles play football; Doak. Formally known as Doak S Campbell stadium, it was opened in 1950 and was named after FSU's first president.
The field the football team plays on is the Bobby Bowden field; named after FSU's coach from 1976 to 2009. He led the Seminoles to the Associated Press and Coaches Poll National Title in 1993 and a BCS National Championship in 1999.
In front of Doak is the Unconquered Student Statue which was constructed in 2003 and stands 31 feet tall. The bronze sculpture was created by Fritz White. Florida State students and fans will recognize that word unconquered on the base and the top of this statue, Chief Osceola clutching his spear and riding his rearing horse Renegade on top. Stephen Reilly, the Tallahassee attorney and FSU graduate who has led this 10 year long project said that it broadly celebrates the human spirit that will not be defeated. Not sure if they still actively do this, but something they used to do at sunset the night before each home game, they light one end of the spear and it burns until sunrise in the morning after the game. It's a really cool visual; especially at night.
In Tallahassee we also visited FAMU; Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. FAMU is public and by enrollment is the third largest historically black university in the United States. They are home to the Marching 100. Many people have only seen a band like this in the movie Drumline. They are amazing on their instruments and amazing in their marching and dancing. I was able to see a homecoming game live when I was in college and it was a heck of a show. The FAMU Marching 100, performed in the Presidential Inauguration Parade for Bill Clinton and for Barack Obama.
From Tallahassee we went south to Edward Ball State Park, in Wakulla Springs. It is home to the world's largest and deepest fresh water springs. It also claims to have manatees and even sells manatee keepsakes in the shop, but we did not see any in real life. The water stays around 70 degrees fahrenheit. You can walk into the water or jump off a platform.
We did some cliff diving in some Cenotes in Valladolid, Mexico which you can see on our vlog from our Mexico series but we decided to stay dry on that day. We also learned that mastodons used to roam in this area and they were 3 times the size of elephants! They had teeth or a jaw of a mastodon on display in the lobby. There is even a1930s Spanish style lodge on premise with original furniture and elevators and colorfully painted ceilings that depict wildlife and Old Florida scenes.
From Wakulla Springs we drove down the windy road that is 319 south to Carrabelle, Florida. The last 10 minutes of the drive is right alongside the Gulf of Mexico. Carrabelle boasts about having no high rises; which is nice when you are driving along the Gulf. Being from South Florida you can be driving along the ocean for miles and never see the water; just condos and hotels. Carrabelle also has the world's smallest police station.
In the early 1960's, Carrabelle's police phone was located in a call box that was bolted to a building. During this time, the city had problems with people making unauthorized long distance calls on its police phone. The call box was moved to another location, but the illegal calls continued. They noticed that the police would get drenched while answering phone calls when it was raining.
So when the telephone company decided to replace its worn out phone booth with a new one, the police phone was moved to the old booth. In 1963, the phone booth was moved to its current site on U.S. Highway 98. The booth did protect the officers from the elements, but some people still snuck into it to make long distance calls. Eventually the dial was removed from the phone, making it impossible for anyone to make calls.
A replica of the booth is on display on U.S. Highway 98 across the street from the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce/Franklin County Visitor Center at 105 St. James Avenue. It has been featured on television shows Ripley's Believe It or Not, The Today Show, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. It was featured in the movie Tate's Hell, which was produced at Florida State University.
Cape San Blas
We wanted to go to Panama City as our final destination for this road trip. We could have gone to interstate 10 and taken that west, but we decided to purposely take the scenic route; along U.S. 98. We saw many small beach towns along the way.
Our favorite find along US 98, in Florida's "Forgotten Coast," was enchanting. It was Cape San Blas, which is often forgotten when best Florida beaches are mentioned. In 2002 Cape San Blas was named the best beach in America. It is located on St. Joseph Peninsula, a sliver of land extending out from Port St. Joe and curving around St. Joseph Bay. Surprisingly, Cape San Blas is one of the least populated beaches in the state of Florida. Makes sense that it resides in the "Forgotten Coast." This coast of Florida is in the Panhandle and is located not too far from Destin and in between Panama City & Apalachicola.
The Donna Kay
The Donna Kay is a shrimp boat that ran aground near the tip of Cape San Blas. It was pushed further onto land when Hurricane Michael made landfall in October 2018.
There are 3 theories on how this Louisiana shrimp boat came to shore in the Panhandle of Florida:
1. It pulled itself free from anchor.
2. The captain fell asleep at the wheel.
3. The ship was let go for an insurance claim.
Also on US 98 is Panama City. There, we stayed at a great AirBnb (thehideawaypanamacity.com) and wanted to do some cooking for dinner. Our host recommended a local seafood market. And I'm glad we put it into the GPS because it had no sign on it and would have been impossible to find. The market didn't have much other than fresh fish. They had a few fish options caught from St. Andrews Bay, some dip and a few other items. We got 2 filets of bar jack (a type of fish we never had before), tuna dip, crackers, and a lemon. We grilled up the fish on the deck and enjoyed the sunset from right outside of our room.
Then we went to Destin. Destin is known as the "World’s luckiest fishing village." It is the home to some of the best saltwater fishing in the United States. Destin is located on a peninsula separating the Gulf of Mexico from Choctawhatchee Bay. The peninsula was originally an island; but hurricanes and changing sea levels gradually connected the island to the mainland. Destin is Pride of the Emerald Coast. The city is known for its white beaches and emerald green waters. We also went to Henderson state park where we were technically allowed to fly our drone but the security guard told us we couldn't. So we put it away and walked over and enjoyed a walk on the beach along the emerald water.
We really enjoyed out trip in the Florida Panhandle and along Florida's Forgotten Coast. Be sure to check this area out!
Bring the Florida Panhandle to life by watching our travel vlog. Out now on YouTube!
See how we visited Tallahassee to see FSU and FAMU, Carrabelle to see the World's Smallest Police Station, Cape San Blas to see the Donna Kay abandoned ship, and a few other small beach towns! All in the Florida Panhandle!
Thanks for reading our blog on the Florida Panhandle!
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