Discover The Natural Beauty Of Gulf County, Florida

I thought I knew Florida.

I’ve lived here virtually my whole life, and I have traveled to many small Florida towns. I especially thought I knew Florida’s beaches. I grew up on Florida beaches splitting my time between the vastly different east and west coast beaches. 

Apparently, I didn’t know all of Florida. 

Admittedly, the one part of Florida I have never really explored is the panhandle. But how different can it really be? A world different.

This post is sponsored by Gulf County, Florida.

Gulf County Florida Beach

When my family and I were invited to visit Gulf County, Florida, the first thing we did was to Google it. We didn’t find much. We didn’t even find a single hotel in the area. But always up for a beach trip, we agreed to pack up the kids (ages 2 and 6) for a six-hour car ride. Six hours. 

There is no direct highway into Gulf County. After leaving 98, it was a winding journey through small towns via county road 27. With no traffic to speak up, and plenty of cute little towns, it was actually an easy drive. (Also thanks to modern technology and three Disney movies for the kids.)

Somewhere about an hour outside of our destination Florida stopped looking like the Florida we knew and looking more like something out of a movie. It was beautiful. And I actually uttered the words, “I didn’t know Florida looked like this.”

On one side of the road, the vast wilderness of a wildlife preserve. On the other side, the gulf – sometimes only a few feet from the edge of the road. With very few developed areas, homes were built right on the water with their own private beaches. I gave up working on my computer to sit and watch the world pass by. 

Landlocked on both sides by wildlife reserves, Gulf County was once the home to Port Saint Joe paper mill. Nowadays it is home to a shrimping community and beachside tourists – like us.

Gulf County Pristine Properties Beach House Florida

There are no hotels, but there are plenty of beachside homes available for rent. And we had the mac-daddy of all homes, from Pristine Properties, it sleeps 16 people! My biggest regret about our trip is that we didn’t bring more people to fill the house and that we couldn’t stay longer.

Our house was located on Cape San Blas, which, as you can see from the pictures, has an impressively wide beach and a stunning view.

Gulf County Florida Beach Sunrise

Horseback Ride On The Beach

Gulf County is the perfect place to go for a relaxing outdoors vacation. Of course there is the beach; swimming, sandcastles, shelling, chilling. But there are also unique experiences you can’t get in other parts of Florida — like riding a horse, on the beach.

Horseback Ride Florida Beach

Without a doubt the best memory my family will take away from our visit to Gulf County was the horseback ride on the beach with Broke-A-Toe. I have only ever seen people ride a horse on a beach in movies, and let me tell you it is just as incredible in real life as it looks in the movies. Apparently during the summer, you can even take the horses in the water. (It was far too chilly to try on our visit.) 

I still can’t believe out K got right up on that horse by herself and rode down the beach like a pro! 

Seriously, amazing family memory. 

Gulf County Horseback Ride Beach


From the moment I saw the water, I couldn’t wait to get on a boat. A two-hour fishing excursion with All About Fun was the perfect way to get out on the water and experience 

Captain Charlene took us up the intercostal and filed us in on the history of the area while she expertly bait our hooks and helped the girls cast their lines. We’ve taken K fishing from the beach before, but this was Sissy’s first fishing trip and she was a smiles looking like a little pro. In fact, baby girl was the first to successfully land a Sheepshead on the boat.

Gulf County Fishing

Not to be out done, big sister caught a fish too. Poor dad just couldn’t get one to hang onto the line. (Mom was too busy taking pictures and breathing in the fresh air to try her luck.)

Whether you take a fishing trip or just a boat excursion, a boat ride is a great way to explore Gulf County.  

Fishing Gulf County Florida

Good Eats

We ate three meals during our visit — all fantastic. The first night we discovered Peppers, in downtown Port St. Joe, via Yelp, and it was fantastic Mexican food. Creamy guacamole, spicy salsa and yummy fajitas. Honestly, I would have been happy eating every meal there.  

We took local recommendations for our other meals, which were all also highly rated on Yelp too. (BTW Peppers was also highly recommended by locals!) 

We ate lunch at Dockside, which is located at the Port St. Joe Marina and offers a fantastic view. It was nice to sit outside on the dock, and the food was fresh and delicious. Seafood with a southern twist — served with a side of cheese grits. For dinner, we dinned at Sunset Coastal Grill, which also has a beautiful gulf view. Perfect for watching the sunset. 

Gulf County Beach Florida

What You Should Know

Cellphone service is a crap shoot. According to locals, Verizon is your best bet, but even still — don’t count on it. Although this techy family didn’t know what to do with ourselves without real-time data (hello Instagram!), the locals don’t seem phased. And in some ways it was nice to be able to unplug a bit. 

We did have good Wifi back at the house, so people following our trip on Instagram got bursts of photos from me. And really, what did we need our phones for? We were on vacation.

Downtown Port Saint Joe is just a couple of blocks, but it includes several cute little shops (and some good eats!). We arrived as shops were closing up for the day, but there was still time for me to find an adorable chevron dress. Be sure to leave time to explore the shops to see what you can find.

Port St Joe Florida

#GCFLnofillter Instagram Contest

Does a trip to Gulf County, Florida sound like your dream vacay? Then you have to enter the #GCFLnofilter contest, you could win your very own beach trip.

Through April 17 share your selfie using the #GCFLnofilter hashtag. Each week someone will win a trip to GCFL that includes three-night accommodations, $200 toward travel and $150 spending money.


One Instagram picture could be your ticket to enjoying a Florida beach vacation. Here’s how to enter:

  1. Get outside and snap a picture while doing what you love. Be real. Be messy. The sweatier the more beautiful.
  2. Post your picture to Instagram.
  3. Tag it #GCFLnofilter and tell @gulfcountyfl what you’re doing in your shot.
  4. That’s it. You will be automatically entered to win a getaway to Gulf County.

Plus for every entry, GCFL will donate $1 to Outdoor Nation – up to a final donation of $5,000. Outdoor Nation believes in reconnecting the Millennial Generation to the outdoors. 

Learn more about Gulf County, Florida on the GCFL website.

What are you waiting for? Snap a selfie and enter the #GCFLnofilter contest today, it could be your ticket to paradise. 

How will you and your family spend your Gulf County vacation?

Gulf County Florida Sunrise

79 thoughts on “Discover The Natural Beauty Of Gulf County, Florida”

    • I think they are hoping for outdoor pics for the selfie, since that’s what their instructions say. But you could be doing anything, even if it is wishing you were out of the cold 🙂 Good luck!

  1. It is so gorgeous there! I have never been to Gulf County Florida, but as a native Floridian, there are so many gorgeous places I have been in this state.

  2. What a wonderful trip this was. Such a beautiful place to stay and to ride horses looks like so much fun for the whole family. We love to stay down at the ocean too.

  3. This is utterly amazing, and a gorgeous place to visit on vacation. I really like The Gulf of Florida. I did not know anything about it until I came and found out here. Thanks for telling me how breathtaking this place is.

  4. There are no beaches better than the Gulf of Florida in my opinion. I’m so glad I live within driving distance and get to go to the panhandle every summer with my family. Beautiful pictures!

  5. I was in Florida last April. My friend owns her own boat, a screen house with a built-in pool & hot tub. LOTS of seafood restaurants. Great weather too. I would love to go back there just to swin, relax & visit with my friends. I would love to horseback ride, but physically I can’t. I will inform my friends of this though.

  6. I’ve lived in Florida all my life and never heard of this place. I can’t believe how under populated it is. Reminds me of old Florida before all of the development. Beautiful.

  7. I actually entered this contest! My sister and family lived in Lake City Fl for a few years so we would visit there often. Haven’t been to your reviewed area but would love to visit. Thanks for the info! The pictures were great too!

  8. Looks amazing. Never have stayed on the beach, or been to Florida for that matter. Definitely like the section on good eats. Will have to keep it in mind if I ever visit Florida.

  9. I haven’t been to Florida in over 10 years. These pictures make me want to take a vacation to the sunny state. Great review. Informative and interesting.

  10. What a beautiful place to visit! I would love to go there for a vacation. Plus I love that you pass through small towns on your way. I love visiting small towns, they have so much charm.

  11. how beautiful i want to go. we live in wyoming and its still so cold and snowing this makes me even more ready for summer.

  12. Hello! I’ve lived in Florida for 20 years on the West Coast but have never been to the Panhandle. It looks gorgeous! I do know that a couple of Panhandle Beaches have been named The Best In The World so I’m sure it is gorgeous. Riding horses on the beach looks like so much fun! Thanks for sharing these pictures!

  13. I’ve lived in Florida my entire life, but I’ve never been to Gulf County. It looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks for introducing me to a great family vacation spot.

  14. I’ve never been to the panhandle area. It looks like a beautiful and restful vacation spot. Thanks for sharing.

  15. I love the look of that rental property. It’s fun to see all the memories you are helping to create for your family.

  16. How pretty is this area of Florida and there are a lot of treasures in the panhandle part of Florida and this is not too far from Panama City or Pensacola, Your pictures are beautiful and it is neat to have a unplugged time in your vacation.

  17. This would be a dream vacation to get to go see the Gulf in Florida. It looks like such a fun and beautiful place to take the family and enjoy the scenery and the food!

  18. That is such a beautiful area!! We are going to Florida for vacation this summer and we are thinking about moving to Key West!!

  19. This place looks and sounds incredible. My husband and I were already planning a trip to Florida this summer and after reading this post I am definitely going to have to do some more research.

  20. I have lived in and visited the tourist areas in central Florida. I haven’t visited this area but it would be a great family destination for someone looking for an alternative to the advertised tourist areas.

  21. I have live in florida and have done my fair share of exploring parts of florida. Where you went it sounds wonderful.

  22. I would love to visit here. It would be fun to see all the animals that live in the wildlife reserves. Plus I love how it looks like it would be a relaxing vacation at a slow pace. Not a rush rush rush in large crowds. It looks beautiful!

  23. It is gorgoues and we have been to Florida once and I wished I could stay forever. The beaches are beautiful and its a wonderful place..

  24. It certainly is lovely! One of my lifetime dreams is to ride a horse along a beach. How wonderful that you got to see everything you hadn’t imagined existed. That’s living life!

  25. This looks so beautiful and reminds me so much of my home in Pensacola. I lived in Pensacola while I was in college and absolutely loved living by the beautiful white sand beaches.

  26. Oh that looks so beautiful! I love the gulf! Growing up my grandmother lived by the gulf in Venice Florida. Oh I loved visiting and walking the beach! We would always go out and look for sharks teeth! I would love to visit again!

  27. I live in Daytona Beach Florida. The Gulf coast is a much under visited spot. It is beautiful and people should definitely consider going when they come to Florida. Going to Disney is great but it’s not really Florida.

  28. I wish I knew about the #CGFLnofilter contest sooner! I’ve been out of state and missed it. I’ve only ever driven through the panhandle, never really explored it. Would love to staycation and explore through Google Glass!

  29. Wow, I really love the GFCL initiative to get people back outdoors. My dad brought home our first computer in 1978… so we were a bit of odd ducks until we moved to Silicon Valley. But I remember how, back then, we would get together on weekends with the people we met online. In fact, I got out more because I knew them. Of course, there were times when it was hours online and it just made me (and my brothers) cranky. So it drives me nuts to see a whole generation absorbed into their computers instead of enjoying the outside. I’m always happiest outside in nature. It really helps with mental and physical well-being! 🙂

  30. Your family and pictures truly are beautiful. It looks like you all had a great time. I hope one day to visit Gulf County, FL .


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