Weekend Getaway Planner: Cape San Blas, Florida
Cape San Blas and its State Park
The more we travel, the more we appreciate how state parks preserve undeveloped property. On the Gulf coast of Florida, that appreciation is magnified as more people discover this lovely area. Cape San Blas, like most places along this part of the Florida coast, offers sugar-sand beaches, tall dunes dotted with sea oats, and Caribbean blue water. The difference here is the 2,500-acre wildlife preserve at the western-most part of Cape San Blas in T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. If you want to experience a deserted beach, untouched by development, this is where you want to be!
The beach is wide and long with soft, sugar-white sand. At the state park campground beach there are fewer crowds and a long stretch of sand that invites a walk to the end of the Cape. We spent hours on the beach enjoying the light breeze but there is also good beach access on the St. Joseph's bayside with lovely spots for swimming or kayaking.
Cape San Blas is not as developed as some other parts of the Gulf Coast. There are few restaurants or businesses here. Outside the state park, there is a continuous stretch of rental beach houses and a few restaurants. Nearby Port St. Joe offers a good place to shop, a lovely harbor, several nice restaurants and a quaint downtown to browse.
The weather on Cape San Blas is mild in winter and hot in summer. The bright, white sand reflects the sun making a beach umbrella an essential piece of equipment. As long as the sea breeze is strong the insects are minimal but when the breeze dies down the mosquitoes and sand flies can be brutal so bring your insect repellent and a good fan if you are planning on sitting outside!
Where to Stay on Cape San Blas
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park Campground
At the end of Cape San Blas, you'll find the state park along with the wildlife refuge. The beaches are idyllic with soft white sand and crystal blue waters. Rolling dunes dotted with sea oats frame the shore. The campsite we booked is tiny but only steps from the beach boardwalk. We felt lucky to have found the site since this seems to be a rather busy campground. There are two sections. The first is close to the beach access. The second is pushed back into the salt marsh with a long boardwalk to the beach.
The one drawback to the campground is having to share it with cotton rats. They live in the brush around the edges of the salt marsh, which line the back of the campgrounds so sightings are frequent. More than once, we saw them run through our campsite. These are not tiny beach mice but four to six inches in length and about the size of a small rabbit. Not exactly what I want to live with on a campsite. They didn't bother us and we didn't tempt them by preparing food outdoors, spending our meal-times inside the RV.
Other than that, the campsite was comfortable. The bathhouses in the center of the campground were old but clean. Each campsite has a picnic table, a fire ring, electrical, and water hookups. Most of the campsites are packed sand and quite level. Some of the sites had concrete pads. The sites near the center of the campground are fringed in grass and trees. The sites along the north side of the campground are tucked into the edge of the salt marsh and are divided by trees and brush. There is a dump station at the entrance to the campground along the park road.
The State Park offers tent and RV campsites as well as primitive campsites. In the wildlife refuge, you can reserve a primitive campsite along the 7 miles of hiking trail. Be sure to call ahead since there is a limit of 25 campers overnight in the wilderness area each evening.
Cabin rentals are also available in the state park. Each can sleep 7 people with a queen, two single beds, and a futon. Linens are included in the rental fee.
Other Accommodations Near Cape San Blas
Presnell's RV Campground - This 64-site park is a very nice "parking lot" type of campground sitting right on the water. Almost every campsite has a spectacular view of St. Joseph's Bay. It offers full RV hook-ups (including sewer), coin laundry, WiFi and cable TV, swimming pool, a marina, boat launch, store, fishing and activities guide as well boat, kayak, and pontoon rentals. It has a new clubhouse with a workout room and showers. Although it does not offer access to the Gulf beaches, it is a good option nearer to St Joe.
Beach House Rentals on Cape San Blas
There are a variety of beach house rental agencies serving Cape San Blas offering gulf-front, gulf-side, and bay-side rentals. One agency, Cape San Blas Vacation Rentals, Inc., offers RV sites for rent situated right on the beach!
Hotels Near Cape San Blas
Cape San Blas Inn and Turtle Beach Inn right on the Cape are highly rated, while in nearby Port St. Joe you can find small hotels such as Mainstays and the Port Inn.
Things To Do Around Cape San Blas
Fishing on Cape San Blas
The Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph's Bay on either side of Cape San Blas is a favorite destination for fishermen. Catches include sea trout, redfish, flounder, Spanish mackerel, whiting, pompano, and flounder. You will also find blue crabs and bay scallops during the summer months. You will need a fishing license. For non-residents, you can purchase a 3-day, 7-day, or annual fishing license. Prices range from $17.00 to $47.00 depending on the term of the license. You can purchase a license online at the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission's website.
Swimming on Cape San Blas
Both the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph's Bay are excellent places to swim. The waters are clear and clean with shallow entry beaches. Since there are no lifeguards on the beaches of the state park, you swim at your own risk. Never swim alone, never leave children unattended near the water, and always pay attention to the flag system indicating rip tides and the presence of dangerous marine life such as jellyfish, sharks, and rays. A Green flag indicates a low hazard and calm waters, a Yellow flag means there is a medium hazard for surf and currents, a Red flag means there is a high hazard for currents and surf, a Double Red flag means very high hazard conditions and no swimming is permitted, a Purple flag means there is dangerous marine life in the area.
Hiking at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
There are three hiking trails on the Cape in the state park.:
- The Maritime Hammock Trail - This 700-yard trail on a boardwalk and soft sand, winds through scrub and coastal hammock to the shores of St. Joseph Bay.
- The Bay View Nature Trail - A one-mile stroll through salt marsh and tall slash pines along the bay.
- The Wilderness Preserve Trail - A seven-mile trail leading through almost 2,000 acres of an unspoiled coastal ecosystem (permit is required).
Biking on Cape San Blas
The Loggerhead Run Bike Path is an eight-mile paved trail on Cape San Blas. It runs the length of the Cape on the bay side, from T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph State Park to Salinas Park along highway 30-A.
Turtle Watching on Cape San Blas
From May through October you may see loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their eggs or, if you're lucky, to watch the hatchlings emerge and head for the ocean. Keep your beach-facing lights dim or turned off in the evening so as not to disturb nesting or hatching turtles!
Boating at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
There are multiple locations to launch a canoe or kayak at the state park along the beaches of the Gulf or the Bay. There is a boat ramp at Eagle harbor suitable for trailered boats and a marina basin for campers to leave boats overnight. Parking is limited and there is a $5.00 fee (in addition to the park admission fee) to use the boat launch.
Shopping Near Cape San Blas
Nearby Port St. Joe offers a quaint downtown and lovely harbor. Plenty of options are available for restaurants, grocery shopping, and necessities as well as boutiques with local souvenirs. Apalachicola is a short drive and provides additional restaurants, boutique shopping as well as a grocery with a great wine selection.
Restaurants Near Cape San Blas
Apalachicola Seafood Grill - This is the place to go for good seafood at lunch or dinner. Located on a corner of Market Street in Apalachicola, the Grill offers indoor and outdoor seating (you can bring your dog if you sit at the outdoor tables.) The menu is good, service is good, and it has a family-friendly atmosphere. Can't get fresher seafood! Typically very busy but we didn't have to wait long for our meal.
Coastal Sunset Grill Restaurant - This place has great 'curb appeal' and is well located right on the harbor. Some tables have a partial view of the water. The food was fine but nothing special. I should have figured that out when the "special" was chicken rather than seafood! Nonetheless, service was excellent and they had a nice variety on the menu for families.
Packing List for a Cape San Blas Weekend:
stuff for s'mores
telescope for stargazing (set up on the beach, in a clearing in the campground, or the nature center parking lot.)
camera for capturing the moment (don't forget the giant beach chairs!)
fishing pole and license
binoculars for watching birds