It’s called the Forgotten Coast because it was once left completely off the Florida map. Now this sleepy area of the panhandle with it’s scattered beach houses, like the ones on Cape San Blas, Florida, and low-rise condos, like the Driftwood Inn in Mexico Beach, make for the perfect low-key family vacation destination.
Cape San Blas, FL: A Vacation Guide to Florida’s Forgotten Coast
Florida’s forgotten coast stretches from Mexico Beach to St. Marks and includes the towns of Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe, Indian Pass, Apalachicola, Alligator Point, St. George Island, and Shell Point among others. I’ve visited this area of Florida twice, once in summer at the tail end of scallop season, then again for the New Year’s Eve celebration where you can celebrate twice – once in Eastern time, then take a trolley and do it all over again in Central time. No matter when we’ve visited, the relaxed pace (which can take a little getting used to), and perfect weather on the Forgotten coast made for wonderful memories.
Cape San Blas, located in Gulf County, Florida is one of the most popular destinations on the Forgotten Coast. This 17-mile long peninsula curves around St. Joseph Bay, which means that all the coastal rentals are just steps away from the gulf or the beach, no matter what the address. Cape San Blas weather is mild all year, with average lows in the 40’s during winter and average highs in the 80’s during summer. July, August and September see the most average rainfall at just over 7”.
Below is a guide to help you plan your own trip to Cape San Blas, or any of the other towns along the Forgotten Coast. Be sure to check out our post on the people of Gulf County Florida. They’ll welcome you with open arms, and make sure you have a memorable family trip. A couple other tidbits that make this area of the Florida coast special, fires are allowed on the beach, and it’s very pet friendly. It’s not just the beach, many of the coastal rentals welcome pets too.
Vacation Rentals in Florida ‘s Forgotten Coast
Although there are no hotels on Cape San Blas, the Cape San Blas Inn is a B&B that is popular with couples and adults and located as you come onto the peninsula. Here is a Cape San Blas map to help you get your bearings. For families, it’s easy to find vacation rentals. Florida ‘s Forgotten Coast has several beach realty companies; here are a few to get you started
Cape San Blas Rentals: Most of the beach realty companies have properties in Cape San Blas. Since Cape San Blas is so narrow, it almost doesn’t matter if you are on the ocean or the bay, as it’s just a few hundred yards to one or the other. Here are the most popular rental companies.
Pristine Properties: Pristine Properties has 250 homes and townhomes along the white sand beaches of the Gulf Coast. They offer Cape San Blas vacation rentals, as well as rentals in Indian Pass, Mexico Beach and St. Joe Beach. I stayed in a Pristine Properties condo during a familiarization trip to Cape San Blas, Fl. It was a newer three-story house on the bay, within a block of the beach. With our rental we received a Family Fun Pass, which gives renters their option of a variety of complimentary activities like golf, horseback riding, or deep-sea fishing.
Sunset Rentals and Sunset Vacations: Sunset Vacation Rentals has approximately 70 properties in Indian Pass and Cape San Blas. I like that you can search by private pool. It’s nice to have a pool in addition to the beach, especially when you have little ones.
VRBO Cap San Blas: Homeaway, formerly known as VBRO Cap San Blas has more than 400 entries, some under $200 a night! Many are pet friendly. You can also search VRBO Florida Panhandle for homes near Cape San Blas.
Paradise Beach Homes and Paradise Rentals: Paradise is a smaller coastal rental company with around 40 homes and townhome/condo rentals in both Cape San Blas and Indian Pass.
Florida Vacation Rentals Near Cape San Blas
Whispering Pine Cabins: Whispering Pine Cabins are located in the heart of Cap San Blas. The cottages themselves are older 80’s houses and although the cabins are not immaculately decorated, they are clean and priced right. This is a great option for groups, larger families or those on a budget. Each cabin comes with a fully equipped kitchen, full-sized fridge and a screen porch – perfect for old school dinners.
Forgotten Coast Realty: Forgotten Coast Rentals has properties in Cape San Blas, as well as nearby communities of Indian Pass Beach, St. Joe Beach, Beacon Hill and Mexico Beach. This company has good search filters, like private pool, pet friendly, and boat slip.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park (or Cap San Blas State Park): For a stay in untouched Florida, there is no better place than the State Park at the end of the Cape San Blas peninsula and across the bay from Port St. Joe. There are 119 campsites with water, electricity, picnic tables and grills, as well as special tent camping facilities. There are also seven cabins with furnished kitchens.
Port St. Joe Rentals: If Cape San Blas is the beach, Port St. Joe is the town. You’ll likely pass through here on your way to the beach. One of my favorite Port St. Joe Hotels is the Port Inn, Port St. Joe Fl. Although I have not stayed at this recently –restored 21-roomhotel, I did get a peak at their cottages, which are beautifully decorated, and across the street from the marina. If you are heading to this area to fish, this is a great place to stay close to everything. Plus, they have the Thirsty Goat Lounge, an ideal place for breakfast, as well as happy hour. The shops of Port St. Joe are a few blocks away too.
Driftwood Inn: This Victorian inspired hotel is in nearby Mexico Beach. We stayed here for New Year’s Eve in The Vue Condos which is right on the beach. It was heaven to wake up to the sounds of the waves outside our door. The Vue also has a rooftop pool. Each morning we’d walk down a block or so to the Inn to get a cup of tea, say Hi to their great dane and play with the birds, including Joe, the resident parrot. In addition to the Vue, they also have rooms in the main building; Victorian houses located across the Highway 98 and Cottages next to the Inn.
Cape San Blas Restaurants
The Sand Bucket: This little place is a good choice if you don’t want to leave the peninsula but want a quick bit or take home. Try the deviled egg pasta salad for something with Southern flair.
Cone Heads: They had me at ice cream, but they also offer your beach staple of fried seafood.
Indian Pass Raw Bar: You don’t have to be a Florida Gator fan to eat here, but if you are, you’ll like the décor. The establishment began as a company store for the turpentine industry. Owner Jimmie McNeill’s grandmother served noon meals and catered dinners. After Hurricane Kate hit in 1986, it was opened as Indian Pass Raw Bar and is a staple for locals and vacationers.
Sunset Coastal Grill: If you want a nice dinner out, Sunset Coastal Grill is a terrific choice. Owner by Patti Blaylock serves a divine crab dip. I couldn’t stop eating it, or the fantastic blackened tripletail. Try the cajun shrimp salad, oh and save room for dessert too.
Shipwreck Raw Bar: We didn’t get to eat here on our trip, but have heard amazing things about their Bee Sting Shrimp made with local Tupelo Honey.
Paul Gants BBQ: This trailer is located on Hwy 30 on the way to Mexico Beach. They aren’t open all the time, but if they are, stop. During our visit they were out of BBQ, but my boys couldn’t stop raving about the dry rub on the ribs.
Mango Marley’s: This comfortable, casual establishment is also located in Mexico Beach on Hwy 30. The Cajun remoulade that topped my blackened fish sandwich was killer.
Lookout Lounge: They don’t serve food here, but the Lookout Lounge is a fun watering hole if you like to drink with the locals.
Things to do at Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas State Park: Officially known as T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, but that’s just too much to say. During my familiarization trip, my colleagues went here for a turtle walk. I opted not to go, as I’ve been on several of these and never saw even seen any signs of a sea turtle, much less the little buggers crawling toward the sea. Several years later, I’m still mad at myself for not going as they saw tiny little turtles making their way to the ocean. Turtles or not, this is a beautiful area that you must see, whether driving through, taking a bike or just walking. The park is a well-known birding and wildlife observation area.
Scalloping: August is scallop season along the gulf. We had such fun with Seahorse Water Safari snorkeling for scallops. We found a few, and lots of other sea life in the clear, blue-green waters. Our host Gary Heist explained everything we brought up and let us touch it before returning it to the sea.
Sunset Cruise: Seahorse Water Safari also offers sunset cruises. I’d recommend this activity for anyone visiting. It’s inexpensive and we saw the most astounding sunsets. In winter is great amberjack fishing.
Fishing: The Forgotten Coast is a magnet for fisherman. If you want a local guide to the best fishing spots, contact Break-a-Way Charters. Wade Guilford grew up in Gulf County and followed his dad Bobby into the family fishing charter business. He can tell you what’s in season, and take you to the best place to find it.
Horseback Riding: Rockin’ M Ranch and Broke-a-Toe Ranch are two horseback riding companies that offer beach rides. It’s a special way to explore.
Dead Lakes Tours: A short drive from Cape San Blas is We Wa and the Dead Lakes area. Matt Godwin of Off the Map Expeditions takes groups through this eerily beautiful area by kayak, or if you’d prefer pontoon boat. Although if you go by pontoon, you might miss some of the tranquil and tigher spaces.
Biking: Along Cape San Blas you’ll find the Loggerhead Run bike trail. This eight-mile path runs the length of the Cape from St. Joe Peninsula State park to Salinas park. The Port St. Joe Port City Trail is a 10-foot wide pedestrian pathway that covers four miles. BayWalk Trail is part of the Port City Trail. It hugs the Bay and begins (or ends) at Sunset Coastal Grill, a perfect place for a break. Beachwalk is a 2.5 mile paved trail that runs along the water at WindMark Beach and offers views of the Bay and the Cape.
Tupelo Honey: While you are in Wewa, check out Smiley Honey, a locally owned and operated honey bottler. Who knew there were so many different varieties of honey, but you can try them all.