Wildlife & Nature Exploration
What is nature-based tourism?
Simply put, it’s an opportunity for travelers to become one with the land. It is one of the fastest growing sectors of the tourism industry.
Because there are few “lands” to compare with Gulf County on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, travel experts are predicting it will soon become one of the leading ecotourism destinations in the country.
First and foremost, Gulf County is as close to being “Old Florida” as any of the state’s 67 counties in both attitude and attributes. Mother Nature was kind to this Panhandle coastal county on the Gulf of Mexico and its some 13,000 residents have used, but not abused, these natural resources.
A portion of Gulf County is located in the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Encompassing nearly 200,000 acres, it is the largest reserve in the country; and it is the natural nursery for many protected, unique, and even rare species of fauna, fish, mammals, and fowl. A portion of the coastline is also protected with its designation as the St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve. Chip in several pristine state and local parks and you have all of the ingredients of a “well preserved” region.
Kayak and canoe enthusiasts have embraced the county waterways. Be it St. Joseph Bay (saltwater), Indian Pass Lagoon (saltwater) or fresh water forays on Apalachicola River tributaries. The county has also become a destination for scuba and snorkeling enthusiasts. The clear water and many interesting dive sites (including the “Mica”) make it a favorite among individuals and clubs.
Are you a “birder”? Gulf County is home to many of your favorites and more. Bird sanctuaries are located on Cape San Blas and in Port St. Joe. There are hiking trails throughout the county; some in parks and some simply worn by the adventuresome. Shelling or simply observing life along the beaches is another favorite pastime.
Are you in to photography? Visit the “Dead Lakes” in northern Gulf County and you will get some of the most spectacular shots your lens has ever captured. Heck, you might even spot a gator or two.
Watching a dolphin at play can’t be beat as a way to spend the day. And beginning or ending that day with a spectacular sunrise or sunset over the Gulf of Mexico.
Even if you are into the less physical aspects of ecotourism, Gulf County is simply a great place to take a scenic “Sunday” drive. Travel to some of the “out of the way” landings in the central portion of the county or travel Scenic Route C-30 to observe some truly spectacular natural sights.