Florida’s Forgotten Coast: Port St. Joe

Picking up where I left off at Mexico Beach, Florida, if you head east from Mexico Beach you’ll land in Gulf County,  where doggies can happily roam the beaches with their beloved masters on St. Joe Beach. This stretch of beach has lots of unpretentious vacation rental homes lining the beach, with one house deep on the beach, then the road, and then a neighborhood of vacation homes behind that. They have lots of public parking along the beach, so you can just stop off and hang out for a while and enjoy the beach or,  you know, to walk the dogs…

Ruby's first time to the ocean - she was hyperventilating being out of her home environment!

It’s a 10-15 minute drive from Mexico Beach to downtown Port St. Joe, which you should plan to stop off and spend a little time. Gulf County is home to Port St. Joe, Indian Pass and Cape San Blas and there are festival and activities in the area year ’round. http://www.visitgulf.com. Port St. Joe is known for it’s shallow bay that is filled with scallop beds. Check out their event calendar to find out when their annual scallop festival is during the summer. The bay off of Port St. Joe is protected by the penisula of Cape San Blas and at it’s tip, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, which has been named as one of the top 10 beaches in the United States over the years.

We found this helpful map of the Port St. Joe area on the local fishing and tackle shop website, http://www.halfthitch.com

This charming Florida town has a “petite” historic district one street off the main highway that runs along the coast. It has several restaurants and local businesses as well as one of my favorite shopping venues, Goodwill! Just the place to pick up my local Florida souvenir t-shirts or re-stock any clothing essentials we forgot to pack or pick up a new book for the trip. There is also a really nice grocery and several bait and tackle shops and outfitters so I would advise stocking up in Port St. Joe if you are headed to Indian Pass or Cape San Blas where there are no full service groceries.

Historic Reid Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida

I have to say, one of our best dining experiences along this coast that was non-seafood, was at Joe Mama’s Pizza on Reid Avenue, their little shopping district street. We journeyed there one evening for dinner based on their good Trip Advisor reviews (and needed a change from seafood), and it was packed. There were a few seats left at the bar, which we immediately parked on and got comfortable. We sampled some of their “craft” beers which were quite tasty while trying to decide what we wanted to eat. Our mouths watered reading over the menu…and no wonder – this people know their food! Just listen to their intro on their menu and website and you’ll get a “taste.”

“At Joe Mama’s we start with the finest ingredients; dough made fresh daily, San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and the best quality imported and domestic meats and cheeses. We then add your favorite toppings and bake the pie in a hardwood fired oven at 800 degrees…the way they do it in Naples, the “birthplace” of Pizza. In fact, our oven was made by the Valoriani Company in the hills of Tuscany, shipped to the USA and assembled by factory craftsmen on site here in Port St. Joe. ” http://www.joemamaspizza.com/index.cfm

Joe Mama's, Port St. Joe, Florida

So what do you think we ordered? PIZZA of course! We ordered at the bar and I was in heaven as there was a selection of Gourmet and travel magazines stacked on the bar which I read my way through while we hung out. Nothing like good magazines to keep a magazine girl happy – along with good beer and a happy hubby. After being there a while watching our bartender working super-hard, I asked if she was by chance, one of the owners. Having worked in the restaurant business for too many years, she seemed to be working over and beyond the usual, and of course, she was the owner. She told us how her family landed in Port St. Joe and their aspirations and it was a nice way to round out the evening. We felt welcomed and right at home, and this will definitely be a top priority next time we’re in St. Joe.

I’m sorry to say I wasn’t in picture-taking mode when we we’ve passed through (or maybe hubby wouldn’t slow down long enough), so I don’t have many photos to contribute for Port St. Joe. Good reason to go back! Our next stop will be Indian Pass, Cape San Blas and St. Joe Beach, which I have TONS of great pictures, so stay tuned!

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