Carrabelle, FL... Pearl of the Panhandle
Fall for Carrabelle…hook, line and sinker
Paradise found! Established May of 1893, historic Carrabelle is a unique and charming fishing village in Northwest Florida. Long known as the Forgotten Coast, this island is just 45 minutes southwest of Tallahassee and 20 minutes east of St. George Island. The small, quaint town offers the perfect family vacation destination and a haven for fishing enthusiasts from all over the world.
Rio Carrabella was the name of the town recognized by the postal service in the late 1800's. The name was said to mean "beautiful river" and it is very obvious how it got the name when you see the beauty of the water and its natural surroundings. Carrabelle is situated on the south shore of St. James Island facing the Gulf of Mexico. Many people do not realize that they are on an actual Island, but four bridges connect the landmass to the mainland.
Unspoiled by corporate development and condominiums, this lovely, little place offers a quiet retreat with plenty activities for all ages. Visitors return to the area because of the warm welcoming atmosphere and the fact that it is never over -populated like some of the larger beach communities. The friendly and laidback attitude of the residents is apparent as soon as enter the town. Locals open doors, say good morning, ask how you are doing and tell you to have a nice day. The politeness of the people in Carrabelle is unmatched by any place I have ever lived. You may come down here as a stranger, but you will leave with a slew of friends and memories of pure Southern Hospitality.
Exceptional year-round fishing keeps anglers from all over the world coming back to these rich waters. The Gulf's bounty includes an abundance of Grouper, Spanish Mackerel, Red Snapper, Black Sea Bass, Amberjack, Kingfish, Tuna, Mahi Mahi and several species of shark. Inshore fishing is also spectacular with Sea Trout, Flounder, Redfish and Whiting. Freshwater fishing is equally thrilling with hundreds of "honey holes" throughout this area. With three rivers flowing into the Carrabelle River, you will have no problem catching all the Largemouth Bass, Bream and Crappie till your heart's content.
Carrabelle is home to five marinas, several public boat ramps and is the perfect boating destination for a variety of vessels ranging from small boats, sailboats to large yachts. Full service marinas offer tackle, fuel, bait, and plenty of friendly advice on where the best fishing spots are located. They also have restrooms and showers for transient boaters cruising the Intracoastal Waterway.
Fishing tournaments are held throughout the year which brings anglers from all over the nation to participate. Tournaments include the highly successful Big Bend Saltwater Classic during Father's Day Weekend and the Kingfish Grouper Shootout in August. There are also Redfish and Trout tournaments with various kayak fishing competitions as well.
Beach lovers will delight in the beautiful sugar-sand of Carrabelle Beach. Located only 1.5 miles west of downtown, this is the perfect place to spend the day soaking up sun while the gentle gulf breeze caress beach lovers. Although it is one of the most pristine beaches in the area, it still remains uncrowded like the others in Florida. Sunbathing, surf fishing, swimming, shelling, snorkeling, volleyball, and building sandcastles are some of the activities that the whole family can enjoy.
Dog Island is another treat just off the coast of Carrabelle. This barrier island is accessible by boat or plane and secluded in the sense that only a handful of residents occupy the island. There are no amenities such as public bathrooms, stores, restaurants or hotels, so prior arrangements and provisions are advised. You will be able to pick up a variety of shells by the hundreds for those wishing to take home souvenirs of this wonderful island. Crabbing, shore fishing, and birdwatching is at its best on all sides of the landmass. Blue waters and medium-sized waves lap against the stunning white sand as golden sea oats dance in the warm breeze coming off the gulf. Camping is premium at both the east and west sides making the perfect spot to watch breathtaking sunrises and sunsets. I highly suggest visiting Dog Island for its secluded beaches and raw, natural splendor.
The Riverfront Festival is held the fourth weekend of April and has something for everyone to enjoy. The festival has live music from local artist, crafts, great seafood, and plenty of activities for the kids. The Boat Parade of Lights and Holiday on the Harbor in December has a wonderful display of lights adorning decorated boats which parade down the Carrabelle River.
Carrabelle offers a wide variety of places to stay for your vacation. From a Key West Style Bed & Breakfast, to a quaint beachfront cottage, waterfront hotels and riverfront vacation rentals. Three waterfront RV parks are available with showers, restrooms and complete hook-ups for your recreation vehicle.
Carrabelle is a nature-lovers paradise and is in close proximity to wilderness areas including state parks and national forests. Swimmers, campers, hikers, birders, and kayakers flock to the area just to return back to nature. Alligators, black bears, otters, deer and many other species can be found throughout Franklin County. Over 80% of the county is protected forestlands, insuring that even as Carrabelle grows, its seclusion and natural surrounding remain pristine and undisturbed.
Located on the National Scenic Byway, Tate's Hell State Forest is located 1.5 miles from downtown Carrabelle and offers a variety of recreational activities for the outdoor enthusiast. The forest has over 35 miles of rivers, streams and creeks available for fishing, kayaking and canoeing. Primitive campsites are throughout the forest and the majority of the sites are on the river banks. Gorgeous cypress trees throughout the forest have been dated to be over 150 years old.
The ocean-side village holds a significant place in American history. In 1941, under the direction of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Army Ground Forces Command searched the nation for an area to train amphibious assault forces for the invasion of Normandy during World War II. Carrabelle was chosen for its deep water port, shallow bays and naturally sloping beaches. It was vital that the area was not populated with too many civilians which made Carrabelle the perfect place to train for the invasion of Europe.
Camp Gordon Johnston opened in 1942 for the sole purpose of training amphibious soldiers and their support groups. This camp trained a quarter of a million men including three divisions and two special brigades. D-Day, June 6, 1944, the turning point of World War II in Europe, is remembered as the most famous amphibious landing in the history of warfare. Open to the public, the Camp Gordon Johnston Museum in Carrabelle chronicles the training and continues its role as the preserver of the amphibious soldier's heritage with an extensive exhibit of military artifacts.
Located in the forest just 3 minutes from downtown Carrabelle, the Crooked River Lighthouse is Florida's second tallest lighthouse with 103 steps to the top. When at the top, you can see miles of gorgeous sugar-sand beaches and oceanic scenery. The iron and steel structure was constructed in 1895 and guided mariners for 100 years until it was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1995. It was named after the gorgeous Crooked River that enters the Carrabelle River. The Crooked River Lighthouse stood as a beacon, guiding timber ships as well as local fishermen and oystermen through the treacherous pass between Dog and St. George Islands. The lighthouse replaced the lighthouse on Dog Island, which was destroyed by hurricane in 1873. The lighthouse is open to the public to climb and has a Lighthouse Keepers Museum to visit.
Golf anyone? Just six miles east of Carrabelle is the area's only Audubon Signature Sanctuary golf course. St. James Bay offers an outstanding, eco-friendly, 18-hole course complete with GPS equipped carts, tennis courts, aerobics center, restaurant, and is open to the public with surprisingly affordable rates. Features include fourteen lakes, natural wood bridges over the wetlands, manicured greens and many species of wildlife. Delicious cuisine is served at the Crooked River Grill and world-class accommodations are available for nightly rentals to week-long stays, with or without golf packages.
Carrabelle is also the proud owner of the world's smallest police station and was featured on Ripley's Believe It or Not, Real People, and the Today Show. The station is actually a phone booth and the policeman would sit outside in his patrol car. Anyone needing assistance would simply dial the number and the officer would hear the phone ringing from his squad car and answer the call.
You will not find a traffic light or fast food restaurant in this town; however there are many places to eat the freshest local seafood available. Native Shrimp, Grouper, Snapper, Blue Crabs, Apalachicola Oysters and Alligator Point Clams, are just some of the many local seafood delicacies we have to choose from.
After living in the area for almost two years and being an avid angler myself, I feel that I have finally found my home, which I fondly refer to as paradise. The fishing is superb, the people are wonderful, and the views of nature are simply breathtaking. I often sit on the dock of the bay while the sun drifts away and think how lucky I am. Carrabelle is truly one of the last unspoiled coastal communities left in Florida. The uniqueness of this little town will defiantly touch the hearts of all visitors. For more information, please call the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce at 850-697-2585 or visit the website at www.carrabelle.org.
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