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The sand lining Watercolor Resort is 99 percent quartz, which accounts for its sugar-white color. It also squeaks as the fine-grained sand compresses under foot—which I didn't learn until the day after I arrived. And here I thought it was my jogging shoes that were making that noise.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Follow this narrow bridge from the Watercolor boat house over a coastal lake and you end up in a collection of huge lakefront vacation homes nestled among the pines—a region still being developed by the resort.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Watercolor offers all guests free access to cruiser bikes, easily the best way to get around the region. Blacktop paths link the resort to two coastal state parks, the charming town of Seaside, and public-access beaches like this one.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The water in November is too chilly for all but the masochistic to go swimming, but these signs stand as yearlong reminders to the treacherous rip currents in the Gulf of Mexico. Remember: don't fight it, swim parallel to the coast.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Deer Lake State Park lies about 30 minutes from Watercolor by bicycle. Coastal lakes such as this exist only in the States along the Gulf Coast. The park itself boasts a stretch of stunning beachfront, along with hiking trails through the dunes and the pine forest on the opposite side of Highway 30A.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Quintessential Emerald Coast. This charming food stall sits right on Highway 30A, currently under consideration for Scenic Byway status. It keeps the buildings lower than four stories—save those eyesores that were grandfathered in.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Cape San Blas and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park protrude off the mainland like an arm bent at the elbow, pointing westward. Hiking to its sandy tip would take several hours—so I opted to kayak from the beach near Port St. Joe. Soon after reaching the shore, a dolphin cruised up and performed a series of playful pirouettes less than 20 feet away.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After kayaking over to Cape San Blas, I retreated to the docks at Port St. Joe as the crimson sun fell into the gulf. As the day died, fishermen plied the waters with lazy casts while birds waited patiently for whatever the fishermen would leave behind.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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After a day of kayaking, driving, and wandering around the town of Apalachicola, I found simple heaven at Boss Oysters. They can prepare them any way you could imagine, but the Apalachicola oyster, served raw in the half-shell, is culinary perfection.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The Dead Lakes State Recreation Area remains one of those places everyone should know about—but it's mostly a bastion for local fishermen. Paddle a kayak through this 83-acre lake and you enter a ghostly, beautiful world.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The Apalachicola River formed sandbars, which blocked off the Chipola River, and the ensuing high water killed off thousands of trees. Today, sweetbay, magnolia, and cypress trees boarder the wetlands alongside the dried husks, and the place is now a haven for wildlife, including egrets, turtles, deer, and fox.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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