Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” is a charming, quiet, and relatively undeveloped section in the heart of the Panhandle. Here, in Gulf County, you’ll find 43 miles of coastal bliss in Cape San Blas and Port St. Joe. The coastal complex of Cape San Blas, St. Joseph Bay, and the St. Joseph Peninsula offer pristine white powdery sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico shore, as well as the sheltered waters of the bay, ideal for water sports.
Cape San Blas is located on St. Joseph Peninsula, a 750-acre narrow stretch of land extending out from Port St. Joe and curving around St. Joseph Bay. The “Cape,” as locals call it, was named the best beach in America (2002) by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach) for its unspoiled beaches.
For photogenic reasons, this was our favorite beach! South of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, sunny Cape Palms Park is tropical perfection, with a boardwalk leading to an observation deck, and both drive-on and walk-on access. Even though the park is relatively small, there’s plenty of space to spread out, as the calm, pristine, turquoise-green beach is seldom overcrowded.
This park has restrooms and a shower to rinse off the saltwater. There is a covered pavilion outfitted with grills, picnic tables, and a swing. As a bonus, you can have a bonfire here (see below) for a spectacular sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
There really isn’t an official name for this part of the beach, but we loved it so much I’ll share the secret on how to find it. As you drive onto the peninsula of Cape San Blas, look for the retaining wall made up of gigantic granite boulders. Park on the shoulder as close to the southern end of the boulders as you can (legal when we were there), and then just walk through the opening.
Because there are no restrooms or amenities here like in the beaches further north, we literally had the entire beach to ourselves. The turquoise water was crystal-clear and bathwater-warm. Paradise! Eagle Bay is a very calm, protected harbor, great for small children or kayaking to view the wildlife. Within the park, Scallop Cove Too offers beach umbrella and beach chair rentals, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pontoon boat rentals. Be advised, though, their inventory is low and sells out fast during the high season.
While the beaches of Cape San Blas and Indian Pass offer plenty of seclusion and wildlife viewing, if you are looking for something a little livelier, head to St. Joe Beach. On the mainland instead of the peninsula, miles of sugar sand beaches and dunes face west, provide for stunning sunset viewing and a silhouetted view of St. Joseph Peninsula. The beach is calm and there are public boardwalks and trails to the beach scattered along the road.
Directly across the bay is T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. The only way to reach the tip is by boat where you’ll find sheltered, clear water and white sandy beaches which are known for great shelling. Just west of the beaches is Port St. Joe, a picturesque seaside town rich with historical sites, shops, and eateries.