MIRAMAR BEACH & DESTIN FLORIDA
When friends and family ask what is our favorite place we have visited, Miramar Beach and Destin Florida is our first answer. The towns are tourist resorts with emerald waters, sugar white beaches, sand dunes, and coastal dune grass lands. Destins’ local fishing fleets have the closest deep-water access to the Gulf of Mexico.
From Panama City Beach, we took a ferryboat to Shell Island. This seven mile long undeveloped barrier island runs east to west between the Gulf of Mexico and the St. Andrews Bay. It is a natural environment of sand dunes, coastal scrub forests, pine trees, little ghost crabs, plover birds, and sea turtles.
Highway 98 crosses the mouth of the Choctawhatchee Bay and runs along the Gulf of Mexico. It is a beautiful drive past Miramar Beach, Destin, Santa Rosa Beach, Seaside, Alys Beach, Rosemary Beach, Panama City Beach. We continued driving through small maritime waterfront towns; Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, and Carrabelle to the Apalachicola National Forest.
Unfortunately in 2010 there was the BP oil spill after the explosion and sinking of the Deep Horizon Oil Rig, discharging 4.9 million barrels of oil. This affected the Gulf of Mexico beaches, wetlands and estuaries. Shrimp and oyster vendors told us stories of the adverse effects from the clean up activities, the damage to the marine habitats, fishing and tourism.
90% of Florida oyster production is harvested from Apalachicola Bay. It was a challenge to find oysters for our lunchtime meal. We were successful at Papa Joe’s Oyster Bar, served to us by Apalachicola Papa Joe himself.
OCHLOCKONEE RIVER STATE PARK
From Highway 98 we headed north to Sopchoppy to the Ochlockonee River State Park. We rented a canoe and paddled through pristine tidal creeks and river waters passing longleaf pine flat woods, oak thickets and marsh grass. It was peaceful and quiet since we were the only ones in the park and on the water that day.
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