The Forgotten Coast has a history that spans centuries, and one of the reasons the area is so beloved by residents and visitors alike is the stories from long ago. They add character to match the sparkling water, sugar-white beaches and “island time” mentality that makes St. George Island and the adjacent communities so wonderful.
And whether you have an hour or a week to dive into the rich history of the coast, there are fascinating museums ready to tell interesting tales on topics ranging from WWII heritage to maritime intrigue.
Apalachicola Maritime Museum
103 Water St., Apalachicola. Open Monday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The Apalachicola Maritime Museum provides a hands-on learning environment for all things nautical. Through programs such as boat building and restoration, historical tours, and educational programs, visitors are able to get an insider’s view into the three rivers that converge to become the largest river in Florida—the Apalachicola River. The main exhibit is the Heritage of Apalachicola, originally named the Quark, a 58-foot wooden ketch from the 1930s. Daily sailing adventures on both the bay and river are offered.
Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center
108 Island Dr., Eastpoint. Open Tuesday – Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center — or ANERR, as the locals call it — features more than 1,300 species of plants, 131 species of fish, and 50 species of mammals within 246,000 acres nestled along Apalachicola Bay. It’s great for nature lovers who enjoy sightseeing, and the more curious who want to learn more about the environment around them. ANERR features winding paths that incorporate pine flat woods, oak hammocks and freshwater marshes where cattails and sawgrass grow wild. The reserve also includes a Nature Center features 18,000 square feet of learning space including two working wet and dry research laboratories.
Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum
Carrabelle City Complex, 1001 Gray Ave., Carrabelle. Open Monday – Thursday 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., Friday 12 p.m. – 4 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
For World War II buffs, the Camp Gordon Johnston World War II Museum, in nearby Carrabelle, is a must visit. The camp was opened in 1942 as a training camp for Infantry Divisions and their support units in amphibious operations. In the following four years of operation, 250,000 men trained there before shipping out to both the European and Pacific fronts. The exhibit tells the story of the United States’ extensive effort during World War II through a widespread history of those who trained there, as well as photographs of daily life in the camp. Veterans who trained at the camp also contributed memorabilia, with everything from uniforms to souvenirs.
Cape St. George Light Museum and Gift Shop
2B East Gulf Beach Dr., St. George Island. Open every day except Thursday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., with additional hours for seasonal full-moon climbs.
Don’t think you have to leave St. George Island to get your dose of history! The Cape St. George Light Museum and Gift Shop is conveniently located in the center of our little island. This iconic landmark has a long and storied history, with four different iterations defining the skyline over multiple decades. The last structure, which stood for 153 years, was sadly destroyed in 2005, but the museum was built in its likeness. Now, visitors can learn about the history in the museum and replica of the Keeper’s House, as well as climb to the top of the lighthouse for unmatched views of the Gulf of Mexico.
Carrabelle History Museum
106 Avenue B Southeast, Carrabelle, Open Wednesday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m., Thursday – Saturday 10 p.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. – 5 p.m.
The museum opened in 2009 and is located in the Old Carrabelle City Hall, which was built in 1933 as project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The museum has four rooms full of historic artifacts, a large entry hall for special displays and a workroom/office for the volunteers to process the incoming artifacts. The displays highlight local heroes, the early 1900s steamship Tarpon and Carrabelle natives who lived in the area thousands of years ago.
Crooked River Lighthouse
1975 Hwy 98 W, Carrabelle. Open Wednesday – Friday 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m, Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., and Sunday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
The Crooked River Lighthouse stood for nearly 100 years, illuminating the pass between Dog and St. George Islands. Newly restored, the 103-foot iron and steel lighthouse stands on the main land where it was originally built in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The lighthouse beams nightly with an acrylic replica of its original 4th-order Fresnel lens. The tower is open for climbs, and there is also the Keeper’s House Museum and Gift Shop along with an adjacent picnic area features a 70-foot wooden pirate ship.
John Gorrie Museum
46 6th St., Apalachicola. Open Thursday – Monday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. year-round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The John Gorrie Museum chronicles the life of one of Apalachicola’s most famous residents, Dr. John Gorrie. A gifted physician and committed citizen of Apalachicola who served as postmaster, city treasurer, town councilman and bank director, Gorrie’s most famous contribution was a refrigeration unit for his yellow fever patients. This machine laid the groundwork for modern refrigeration and air conditioning. The museum honors his legacy by showing how one man can impact the world.
Orman House Museum
177 5th St., Apalachicola. Open Monday, Thursday – Sunday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
This antebellum home was built in 1838 by cotton merchant and businessman Thomas Orman on the Apalachicola River. The house features details of both Federal and Greek revival styles with wooden mantelpieces, molded plaster cornices and wide heart-pine floorboards. Adjacent to the house are the Chapman Botanical Gardens, featuring a butterfly garden, other botanical features, walkways and open spaces. And there is also the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze replica of the Vietnam memorial statue in Washington, D.C.
Raney House Museum
128 Market St., Apalachicola. Open 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Sunday through Friday, and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Originally constructed in 1838, four short years after cotton commission merchant David G. Raney moved to Apalachicola, the Raney House blends elements from Greek Revival and Federal-style architecture. The mansion, now a historic museum, is listed on the National Register of Historic Homes and contains furniture, documents, and artifacts of the 19th century.