Side trips: Apalachicola

It's a bit of a drive through the endless stoplights of Panama City, across Tyndall Air Force Base and past Mexico Beach and Port St. Joe. But once you reach the old fishing village of Apalachicola, you've reached a quiet respite from the beachside bustle.

You can stroll along the public dock where relics are moored from Apalachicola's past as a booming port for fishing, shrimping and shipping up and down the Apalachicola River.

Streets near the dock are lined with stores that are mercifully short of t-shirts and other tourist dreck. Our favorite stop turned out to be the Tin Shed, which is packed to the gunwales with nautical antiques and leftovers. We also stopped in at John Lee's Retsyo store (that's oyster spelled backwards) on Main Street. John sells antiques and collectibles and he'll tell you stories about the Peter Fonda movie "Ulee's Gold," which was filmed in the town and nearby areas.

And, of course, Apalachicola is home to the finest and freshest oysters on the Panhandle. We took ours at Boss Oyster where outdoor tables offer a sun-drenched view of the river. 

The Lady Louise sites tied to the town's public dock. She won't be taking you for a cruise, but the Maritime Museum a couple blocks down Water Street offers a variety of excursions.

The Grady Market on Water Street, which once supplied the town's large fishing fleet, is typical of the restored old buildings in the area. 
The Tin Shed is packed to the gunwales with nautical antiques and leftovers.

A pirate lady swings from the rafters at the Tin Shed.

Apalachicola's riverfront used to be teeming with shrimp and oyster processing buildings.

The Venezellos is in permanent drydock on a Water Street lot.