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Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

Cleveland, Ohio
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9 posts
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Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?


We are planning trip to the Florida Panhandle area this August, but have not yet decided on an area to stay. We have never been here before. I've been searching for weeks, and these forums are so helpful. We are looking for the following activities and things to do. I am hoping you who are familiar with these areas can help!

What area(s) would have the best (in order of importance):

1. Bluest, clearest waters (No no no murky muddy please! I'm tired of looking at North Carolina type beaches!)

2. Gulf Front rental with sand and pretty water, not muddy gunk in front of our rental property

3. Snorkeling (preferably not by a charter, just on our own)

4. Seashelling (a favorite pastime)

5. Quiet atmosphere (don't want a party-type or highly crowded atmosphere)

6. Seafood market close by would be great

7. Bicycle riding opportunities

I have been investigating vacation rentals from Mexico Beach to Cape San Blas and St. George Island, but we are open to any advice.

Thanks for any help and input!!

Cape San Blas...
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1. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

I live in Georgia and spent my childhood going to Jekyll Island. I know what you mean about those Atlantic coast beaches. NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THAT ON THE GULF COAST!!! We bought a gulf front townhouse on the cape for that reason. We love the Cape! Its so quiet. Our three year old daughter just loves the place.

I dont get worried about teens and twenty somethings bothering her. They just dont hang out on the cape. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. Its laid back, calm, and not overly developed like most panhandle towns.

On the Cape there are 3 or 4 tiers to the beach side properties. Meaning, there are rows and rows of houses in front of each other. Prime real estate is gulf front and first tier because there is no one in front, blocking your view of the ocean.

Snorkeling is great in St. Josephs bay and so are the scallops (during season). The sand is perfectly white with tiny grains (sugary). The water is generally emerald green on sunny clear days and the beaches are not crowded at all. Its a family oriented place to get away from everything. Its not touristy by any means. Its actually a rather rural location and about 1 1/2 hours from Panama City Beach.

There are a few seafood markets in the area and few places to eat (Indian Pass Raw bar is our favorite). The bike paths on the cape are paved and there are miles of them. There is a state park at the end of the cape which now has a few bald eagles nesting there. A lot of people like to kayak in the bay and out in the ocean. Turtles nest from May to October and the stars are unbelievable on clear nights. The sunsets cant be beat on the gulf coast either.

There are boat rentals if you want to fish in the bay that aren't that unreasonable.

Take a look at our unit. Its called Blessing. Its a 2 BR/2.5 Bath townhouse that is gulf front and first tier. You cant get any closer to the beach.





Opp, Alabama
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2. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

There are very few beachfront properties in Mexico beach, most are on the other side of the highway. It's really cute though, we love driving through there on our way to CSB. The first row there has a view, but probably no ocean sound except in the quiet of the night. If you don't have small kids, you might like that area. The beach there is really slim though.

What you've described is CSB and from my 5 visits there to go camping in the state park, I can't disagree with anything Candace said. If our bikes fit with our camping gear, I would LOVE to ride there on the wide, paved, flat, mostly ocean-view bike path.

We saw an eagle nest near where the cape splits away from the mainland.

If you do come to CSB, I recommend visiting the state park. It's amazing, and you will find shells. The beach out by the campsites takes a couple minutes to walk from the dunes to the edge of the water, HUGE wide beaches.

Cleveland, Ohio
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3. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

Thank you! We are now very excited to travel there!

Centreville, Alabama
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4. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

Cape San Blas! Our second year. So many seashells it hurts your feet. Water clarity sometimes crystal clear, sometimes not so much. Stop at the Port St. Joe for groceries because no stores on the Cape except 1-2 small stores with high prices. If you go to the cape make sure you go to the end to the state park, pay $6 and stay all day. Go to the bay side and wade in the water with sea urchins, stingray, octopi, snails, horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, sharks and no telling what else. At noon the water is waist deep and around 5 it goes to ankle deep. Really cool. The beach side is full of seashells. I have a ton of conch shells and other really cool ones. Beware, nothing on the Cape to do but beach or bay. Very quiet, relaxing, and laid back. Make sure to visit stump hole beach (where the HUGE rocks are piled along the curve). Just park at the rocks and go through the entrance. The Barrier Dunes is a great place to stay (a community of townhomes) very reasonably priced.

Edited: 7:49 pm, June 09, 2013
Red Bud, Illinois
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5. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

Best snorkeling is St. Joseph bay...very clear. Just kayaking saw lots of starfish and sea urchins. Apalachicola bay is not as clear. Both Cape and SGI beaches have nice clear pretty water and sand. Both are quiet but Cape more so than SGI but SGI is not busy by any means..just has some stores and some restaurants as compared to a store or 2 on the Cape. Businesses at SGI are limited to the middle of the island when you come over the bridge. There are two fresh seafood trailers (Doug-my favorite) that come to SGI daily or you can stop by fish market over bridge in Eastpoint. Always find shells and sand dollars at both places. I love both of them..lots of wildlife at both places. Apalachicola is a cute old fishing town...cute stores, restaurants, ice cream parlor, etc. The way it used to be...not a big tourist trap. If you go to SGI, I suggest. Rental on the Plantation. It is a gated community with only one quiet main road. Only those who rent are own can go on that side of the island. All other streets are dead ends and connect with a very nice bike path. Hope this helps.

6. Re: Clearest water, best snorkeling, seashelling?

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