Seven Hills to the Sea Bicycle Tour
Camping third night:
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Star Route 1, Box 200, Port St. Joe, FL 32456, (904) 227-1327. Reservations necessary.
The third day of the tour is again highlighted by spectacular coastal riding. Two major bridges on the route give more than 7 miles of riding over Gulf waters. The 3 mile bridge across Apalachicola Bay leads directly into downtown Apalachicola, an historic, fishing and seaport community.
At one time Apalachicola was the third largest port along the entire Gulf Coast. Tremendous quantities of cotton from the plantations up river passed through its export houses bound for New England and Europe. The advent of the railroad and a Civil War blockade destroyed this enterprise. The wealth of that era is still reflected in the many fine, historic homes within the townsite. Commercial fisheries, especially shrimping are the main stays of the economy today.
A state museum is dedicated to one of the towns most famous residents, Dr. John Gorrie. In the 1830's this local physician invented an ice machine to help comfort yellow fever victims. His machine laid the ground work for modern refrigeration and air conditioning.
West of Apalachicola, the route leaves the main highway to hug the coast line along St. Vincent Sound. Salt marshes of saw grass, needle grass, and wildlife abound. St. Vincent Island became a National Wildlife Refuge in 1968, and free tours by wildlife officers (including boat and wagon rides to and around the island) are available to groups by special arrangement. Call the refuge office in Apalachicola at 904-653-8808 for more details.
West of St. Vincent lies Cape San Blas and St. Joseph Peninsula. This 20 mile hook of land defines a great, shallow bay, full of sea life in the grass flats ... fish, horseshoe crabs, whelks, scallops, sea urchins, even sea horses. It's a great place to go snorkeling.
The state park is 8 miles up the peninsula at the end of the paved road. Cabin accommodations are available as well as campsites. Watch for marauding skunks and raccoons living in the camping area. These animals have been spoiled by visitor handouts and can be very aggressive.
The route travels on US 98, which carries heavy traffic for 11 miles. The rest of the day's ride is on backroads with little traffic except during holidays and vacation months when the beaches are busy. The Apalachicola Bay Bridge has wide shoulders and a 0.5 mile climb over a span at the far side (just before town).
Convenience stores are located along the route at miles 15, 33 and 41. Apalachicola is the largest city encountered with a good variety of stores and services. The last store before you reach the state park is located about four miles from the park entrance at mile 41.
Directions from St. George Island State Park to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
0.0 From entrance of the park continue on main through road back towards bridge.
4.3 Turn right onto road to bridge.
4.7 Begin bridge across St, George Sound.
9.2 Toll booth.
9.3 Turn left onto CR 65.
9.4 Turn left at stop sign on unmarked road.
10.4 Turn left onto US 98.
12.4 Begin 3.1 mile Apalachicola Bay Bridge.
15.5 Enter Apalachicola.
15.6 Turn left to follow US 98.
15.9 John Gorrie State Museum.
16.6 Turn right onto 25th St (angle intersection at ISABEL's clothing store).
18.6 Turn left at "T" intersection with stop sign.
18.8 Turn right onto US 98.
23.7 Turn left onto SR C-30 as US 98 curves to right.
28.1 View of St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge.
30.5 Enter Gulf County.
36.3 Turn left onto CR C-30E to Cape San Blas.
45.1 Entrance to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
Total Trip Mileage to date: 119.7
As well as these directions, you should bring along your own map, in case you miss a turn, get lost, a road changes, or for any of the other thousands of reasons that you may need to vary your route.
Many thanks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this tour description.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication