During the 1700s, a small quaint town developed in North Florida at the point where the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay met. Over the past several centuries, this ideally situated port town remained an active trade post, although the goods evolved with time: deerskins, then cotton, then lumber. Today, Apalachicola is defined largely by its fishing industry—its oysters and shrimp are world-renowned. As of press time, this quiet and quirky community of about 2,300 year-round residents, a unique mix of international expats, New England- ers and fifth-generation Apalachicolans, has been thankfully unaffected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
With some 900 historic listings, including homes, churches and businesses, Apalachicola, or Apalach as the locals call it, has garnered a reputation for being a beautifully and painstakingly preserved area. In 2008, it was named a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. But the architecture, which ranges from small cottages to Victorian manses constructed of heart pine or cypress with nary a slab of Sheetrock to be found, is not the only thing residents are committed to maintaining in Apalachicola. The pristine bay and the character of this small, close-knit community are of equal import to the people here. “We don’t want to be another tourist trinket town,” explains Anita Grove, executive director of the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Their efforts have paid off. There are no big-box stores in Apalachicola, no noise, no traffic and abso- lutely no structures, restored or new, that rise more than three stories. What’s more is that because Apalachicola is bordered by waterways and national forests, urban sprawl is nonexistent. There are, however, a growing group of local businesses such as Downtown Books & Purl, a bookstore and yarn shop housed in a restored building known as Grady Market, and Apalach Outfitters, a trendy specialty apparel and fishing-goods store. The local artist community is also thriving; a cluster of art galleries call Apalachicola home, such as the Gallery at 49 Palmetto, owned by New York transplant and real-estate agent Anna-Maria Cannatella. When it comes to cravings, Café con Leche’s homemade pastries sate the sweet tooth, while Up the Creek Raw Bar serves succulent raw oysters and steamed shrimp with views of the Scipio Creek marshlands and its wildlife.
Residents are quite content with their quaint commercial center comprised of three tree-lined streets and their annual celebrations such as the Florida Seafood Festival, which takes place on the first weekend of November. As Cannatella says, “It doesn’t offer something for everyone, and that’s OK because we aren’t that big.” For her, Apalachicola’s lack of a major supermarket is a trifle expense for the days spent sailing with her family along the Apalachicola River and the gestures of neighborly kindness she didn’t find in Brooklyn. Besides, an after-dinner drink and a piece of chocolate-mousse cake downtown at the trendy Owl Café are worthy of big-city kudos.
Real Estate: What Your Money Can Buy Now + Apalachicola
- $225,000 for a restored two-bedroom, one-bath cottage on a city lot; $950,000 for a renovated four-bedroom, two-bath Victorian. * Price and availability subject to change.