I looked up and down the wide beach and saw a few houses, old dock pilings festooned with painted palm fronds, a skittering sea gull and an endless vista of stark white beach. No people.
If an uncrowded beach with access to an array of restaurants, a cute downtown area, water recreation activities and huge sand dunes in a state park are your idea of an ideal vacation, head to Gulf County, Florida where you’ll find so many things to do in Cape San Blas and the surrounding areas.
We loved the combination of the white sand beaches of Cape San Blas, the amenities of Port St. Joe and the Old Florida feel of Indian Pass, all part of the area of Northwest Florida beaches referred to as Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
Fun facts about Gulf County: there are only three stoplights in the whole county. But the most important thing to know is it has two time zones, Eastern and Central.
The closest airport to Cape San Blas is in Panama City about 90 minuets away, which is in the Central Time Zone. But Cape San Blas is in the Eastern Time Zone.
Things to do on the beach in Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe and Indian Pass
Back in the day, I was content to lounge on the beach, book in hand, for hours on end, rising only to swim in the ocean.
These days, I’d rather go exploring, get out on the water and perhaps poke my head into a cute shop or two. And check out the local cuisine, of course. I did all of that and more during my visit to Gulf County.
I still got a bit of beach time in during my visit to Gulf County. I walked on the beach, strolled through the largest sand dunes I’d ever see and even drove on the beach one day to make the acquaintance of Mr. Crabby II, who despite his name, gave us a big smile as we slowly drove past. Maybe because we were behaving ourselves. (Yes, you can drive on the beaches here but you need to get a permit first._
A highlight of the week was the bonfire on the beach. I was always jealous of those people in movies, usually in California, who hang around a campfire on the beach. At least the ones who don’t wander off and then get murdered in a gruesome way. But bonfires on the beach are less common in the South.
We enjoyed a delightful bonfire one night complete with S’mores and without lifting a finger, thanks to Light Up Your Night Beach Bonfires.
The company sets up wooden beach chairs, tiki torches, music, table and tablecloth and can add on options from their selection of packages.
I leaned back in my chair, enjoying the warmth of the fire against the cool night air, and watched the sunset.
The company serves beaches along the Forgotten Coast including Mexico Beach, St. Joe Beach, Indian Pass, Cape San Blas and St. George Island.
Beyond the Beach: More things to do in Cape San Blas, Port St. Joe and Indian Pass
• Let a concierge help plan your trip. For free.
I’m not big on figuring out itineraries and logistics for trips. If that’s not your thing either, contact the Concierge Team at Gulf County and they will help you plan your trip. And it’s a complimentary service.
Take advantage of their knowledge and passion about the area. All you have to do is fill out a form on their website and they can help you plan by phone, virtual meeting or through email.
Even if you make plans yourself, stop by the beautiful Gulf County Welcome Center where you can find brochures for activities, enjoy free coffee and samples of Tupelo honey or just relax on the spacious deck overlooking the bay.
• Hit the water in a kayak or the trails on a bike
I happily hopped in a kayak at Happy Ours Kayak & Bike Outpost for a paddle on the St. Joseph Bay. The water was shallow for the entire trip making it perfect for small children and nervous paddlers. And to spot sea creatures scurrying around on the sand.
After our kayak trip I hopped on a bike and set off on a bike trail to nearby Salinas State Park where there’s a playground, rental pavilion and pickleball court. Cycle up the boardwalk of Serenity Trail for beautiful marsh views.
Other paved trails include the 4-mile Port City Trail in Port St. Joe, the 3.5-mile BeachWalk Trail in WindMark Beach that runs along the water and the Loggerhead Run Bike Path, an 8-mile trail that’s one of the most popular things to do on Cape San Blas.
• Take a customized boat tour
We hopped on board just behind the Gulf County Visitors Center and marine biologist Captain Charlene Burke took us around for a sightseeing tour. While I expected to see dolphins, other boats and a few islands, I did not expect to see a Staten Island Ferry on the Gulf of Mexico. We were 1,200 miles from New York City.
Turns out some of the ferries are built in Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City and head to Port St.Joe for finishing touches before making their way up north.
Captain Burke takes guests on snorkeling excursions, eco-tours, photography trips and sunset tours.
• Learn about the turtles
If turtles are your thing, head to the Forgotten Coast Sea Turtle Center, home of the Port St. Joseph Peninsula Turtle Patrol. They take sea turtles seriously here. Volunteers of the STJP Turtle Patrol scan six miles of the St. Joseph Peninsula every morning from May 1 to October 31 to monitor sea turtle nesting and hatching activity.