Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
The Apalachicola Maritime Museum features hands-on boat building, river cruises, exhibits, and a nautical library, but that’s just the beginning.
If you like things that are nautical but nice, this is the place for you.
This waterfront educational facility is a hands-on immersion into the world of sailing and exploration, oyster harvesting, the sponge trade, and the rich maritime history of one of Florida’s most historic waterfront towns.
Focusing on the river, its natural ecosystems and its value as a trade route in the 19th Century, the museum is a place of both historic preservation and learning. What began with an idea in 1995, the museum is today well on its way to becoming a world-class attraction.
Model boat on display
First there was the river. The Apalachicola River is Florida’s largest and flows down from Georgia as a combination of the Flint River and the Chattahoochee River in a mad rush to the gulf. In addition to wildlife and other fish and fowl, the river is a haven for oysters, and Apalachicola is famous for this mollusk.
In the early 1800s, steamboats began chugging up and down the river bringing cotton and other goods to and from the port in Apalachicola. Many of the town’s citizens profited from this trade and built mansions to display their wealth. Today Apalachicola boasts over 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today the museum celebrates these steamboats in pictures and other artifacts and is currently in the process of restoring one, the Jean Mary, to her former glory. When the restoration is complete, the Jean Mary will be re-christened as the Samuel Floyd and begin making trips up river, taking her place alongside the other boats at the museum.
Heritage of Apalachicola
The flagship of the fleet is the Heritage of Apalachicola, a 58-foot wooden ketch that was built from the 1930s design of famed yacht designer L. Francis Herreshoff. The Heritage can hold 20 passengers and is used for sailing trips and educational tours.
The museum offers other boat trips as well, including historic river cruises, sunset cruises, estuary eco-tours, full moon cruises, trips to St. Vincent Island Wildlife Refuge, and canoe and kayak tours. There is a large workshop where the museum conducts boat building classes and there are also classes on sailing, rowing, and paddling. Sailboat and kayak rentals are also available.
Wooden Boat on Display
Artifacts and displays at the museum include boats and their equipment, a celebration of the seafood industry, oysters, the sponge trade, and the lumber era. A maritime library with big cushy chairs invites visitors to sit and read or research and the museum store offers, books, handmade jewelry, and nautical gifts.
Historical Photo of Sponge Boat
Once just an idea, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum is now rapidly growing. A second location up river in Chattahoochee is under construction which will once again tie these two towns together in preserving their joint economic heritage. With the Samuel Floyd chugging her way back and forth, it will be the realization of a dream that started with the river.
The Apalachicola Maritime Museum is located at 103 Water Street, Apalachicola, Florida 32320. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (850) 653-2500 for more information.