We’ve settled into our winter haven, having arrived just over a week ago. Haven being the key word here. Webster’s Dictionary describes haven as being 1) a place of safety or refuge, retreat, shelter, sanctuary, and 2) an inlet providing shelter for ships or boats, a harbor or small port. Both definitions accurately depict Carrabelle, for us, and for the historic fishing village.
Founded in 1877, the town was originally named “Rio Carrbella” meaning beautiful river. The earliest settlers hunted the bountiful game in the area for both sustenance and the fur trade. Carrabelle’s boom period came after the Civil War when it became a thriving and internationally known lumber town, shipping wood from the surrounding acres of virgin forests as well as turpentine, a by product of pine sap. The railroad soon arrived and docks flourished with the shipping of salted mullet and other goods to the north.
Between the World Wars I and II, Carrabelle, along with most of America slipped into a severe economic depression from which it never completely bounced back to its former glory.
For the past 100 years or so this charmingly quaint and off the beaten path harbor town has depended largely on the sea for the bulk of its livelihood, from deep sea fishing to the harvesting of shrimp and oysters from the bay. It’s this simple charm that attracted us to winter here with its unhurried pace and “Old Florida” appeal.
Called Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” you won’t find any high rise beach condos or heavily touted tourists attractions here. What you will find is an open friendliness from the locals, an abundance of accessible unfettered views of the bays, thick forests of pine and cypress, and signs warning of black bears in the area. Yep, Florida has black bears and locals say they can be a bit of a nuisance. We haven’t seen hide nor hair of one yet but we understand they once overran the park before the bear proof trash bins were installed.
Speaking of the park, we are camped at Carrabelle Beach RV Resort about halfway between the town and Crooked River Lighthouse, and practically right on dog friendly Carrabelle Beach itself. Only a road separates the two. It’s a small, very clean, very quiet RV park with both back-in and pull-thru sites, and rental cabins. All sites are paved, with patios, attractive landscaping, grills, picnic tables, and full hookups. It’s one of the nicest places we’ve camped in.
We’ve been doing a little exploring and have learned some interesting facts about Carrabelle. One of the most fascinating facts is that in 1942 when the United States entered into WWII, Camp Gordon Johnston was built in Carrabelle and thousands of men were trained at the camp. That training prepared these men for D-Day, the Normandy landings on Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches. The Camp Gordon Johnston Museum in town tells the history of this. We haven’t visited the museum yet but it is definitely on our list of things to do while here.
The second point of interest is Carrabelle’s police station, or more accurately the World’s Smallest Police Station. In the early 1960’s, the police phone was located in a call box that was bolted to the outside of a building, exposing the officer to inclimate weather. An employee of St. Joe Telephone Company took note of this. So when the phone company decided to replace the worn out phone booth in front of the pharmacy, the employee moved the police call box into the old booth thereby sheltering the officer from the elements. Age and abuse took its toll on the old booth but a replica of it is on display at the original site.
There are many other fishing villages on the coast we’ve yet to explore but there’s still time. We plan to immerse ourselves into this virtually untouched coastal region for the next four months. Until next time…
here’s lookin’ at you kid.