This Beautiful Destination In Florida Is An Underrated Spot For Your Next Beach Getaway

There are many beautiful beach getaway spots in the Florida Panhandle, some more crowded and developed than others. If you're looking for a beach that's great for avoiding crowds, steer clear of places like Panama City Beach and Destin and head for the sands of Cape San Blas in Gulf County. This idyllic stretch of the Gulf Coast, 58 miles east of Panama City Beach and 100 miles southwest of the state capital of Tallahassee, is known for its slower pace of life and natural beauty.


Cape San Blas sits on a narrow 20-mile-long peninsula called St. Joseph Peninsula, with St. Joseph Bay on one side, the Gulf of Mexico on the other, and tall dunes adding to the natural allure. Roughly half of the peninsula is home to T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. The entire peninsula is commonly referred to as simply "the Cape" by locals.  This is a place where you can go horseback riding on the beach, scalloping in the bay, hiking through a wilderness preserve, and do so much more than just relax on the sugar-white sands and swim in the surf. 

The can't-miss beach at Cape San Blas

The beach along the first 10 miles of the Cape has vacation rental homes and condominiums on the beach side and the bay side of the peninsula. Then you reach T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and the development stops. Here, at one of the most underrated state parks in Florida, visitors can stay overnight in an RV-tent campground just off the beach or in one of the eight bayside cabins. Beyond that, the state park boasts three hiking trails covering 6 miles. 


In 2002, the beach was declared the best in the entire country by "Dr. Beach." Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, aka "Dr. Beach," is an environmental coastal sciences professor and Director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University who has released his best beaches survey annually since 1991. Leatherman was quoted by CNN as saying that the beach at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park "has the finest, whitest sand in the world, and it's not overdeveloped."

While a lot has happened in the last few decades Since Dr. Beach spoke with CNN, one thing remains: The beach at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is still a fan-favorite today. It even has an impressive 4.5 stars on Tripadvisor. "Very clean and well maintained state park," one reviewer noted. "Beaches not crowded. Several walking trails. Great day excursion if staying in Poet St. Joe or Cape San Blas."


Beyond the beach there's even more natural beauty

Beyond the beach on Cape San Blas, the bay looms large. This natural treasure is protected as the 55,000-acre St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve. According to the website of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the preserve is "host to one of the richest and most abundant concentrations of marine grasses along the North Florida coast" and "one of the least populated coastal areas in the state."


Take in a view of the resplendent bay from the observation tower at the St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve Visitor Center. A telescope at the top of the tower allows for long-range panoramic views. Inside the visitor center, learn more about the importance of the preserve and its flora and fauna through educational exhibits.

In Port St. Joe, one of the closest towns to the beaches on the Cape, climb the steps of the historic Cape San Blas Lighthouse for another perspective of the bay. The lighthouse was removed from its original location on the Cape in 2014 due to coastal erosion. It now serves as a tourist attraction in a bayside park next to the Gulf County Welcome Center. Stop into the welcome center for a free sample of Tupelo Honey, a local delicacy harvested in the nearby town of Wewahitchka.