Oystermen refer to the low-lying reefs that sometimes rise nearly to the surface as “Oyster Bars,” and some of the best areas to gather these exist throughout Apalachicola Bay. The Apalachicola River discharges a steady flow of rich, sediment-filled water into a warm bay that is just a few feet deep, providing the perfect environment of nutrients that oysters feed from. Waters around the bay’s barrier islands are calm and brackish, offering protection from most saltwater oyster predators, and providing abundance in daily catch.
On land, visitors can hit dozens of the more traditional oyster bars, as in places to grab a saltine and some hot sauce. Oysters in Apalachicola run about $8 dozen, giving oyster-lovers a great opportunity to wander in and out of each bar inexpensively. The oyster bars in town are all within blocks of each other, so planning an “oyster bar crawl” is not out of the question, as long as the crawl ends before 9 p.m. After sundown, locals are refreshing their supplies, but don’t fret as there are delicious breakfast offerings reloaded in the morning.
Local legend Tommy Ward, who owns 13 Mile Oyster Bar, purchases his oysters from another area legend Kendall Schoelles, whose family has been scooping oysters from the west bay since the 1890s. According to Schoelles, the best oysters are those tonged from an upward west wind, making them salty with the brine of the Gulf of Mexico. 13 Mile is connected to a waterfront retail shop where they sell oysters for $4.50 a dozen, plus $7 for a knife.
There are numerous local favorites besides the now famous Hole in the Wall. Head to Caroline’s for her hangover-busting breakfasts. Boss Oyster’s menu is dizzying in choice from oyster po’ boys to oyster stew and offers to “Gild the Lily” piling on chives, ponzu, wasabi, and flying fish roe over raw oysters. Indian Pass Raw Bar specializes in baked oysters and Up the Creek Raw Bar is a casual waterfront full-liquor bar.
Each November, the town hosts the Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola’s Battery Park. The event is two days of oyster eating and shucking contests, Blue Crab (and human) races, as well as crafts, musical entertainment, The Blessing of the Fleet, and Tonging For Treasure. Vendors from all over come to the festival in order to showcase their seafood creations, so come hungry.
If you go
Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce & Visitor Center
122 Commerce Street, Apalachicola
ABOUT FRANKLIN COUNTY
Population (as of 2015): 11,901
Major cities: Apalachicola, Carrabelle
Tourism bureau website: floridasforgottencoast.com
Owl Café: owlcafeflorida.com
Carabelle Junction: facebook.com/Carrabelle-Junction
Up the Stairs: upthestairs.me
Bowery Station: bowerystation.us
Apalachicola Ice Company: facebook.com/apalachiceco
Oyster City Brewing Company: oystercitybrewingco.com
Orman House Historic State Park: floridastateparks.org/park/Orman-House
Crooked River Lighthouse: crookedriverlighthouse.org
The Old Carrabelle Hotel: oldcarrabellehotel.com
Water Street Hotel & Marina: waterstreethotel.com