Port St. Joe, Florida, is one of those towns that everyone needs to experience during their lifetime. This coastal town is located in Gulf County, Florida. Port St. Joe is located approximately 35 miles southeast of Panama City along U.S. Highway 98. I have visited this town several times in the past few years, and find myself planning a return visit as soon as I make it home.
I was introduced to Port St. Joe while on a press trip and was recently invited back for a return visit. Each time I have visited, the beautiful beaches continue to call me back.
I love the small-town vibe and the history that is exhibited in several places around town. When traveling America’s Scenic highways and byways, Port St. Joe makes a good road trip. The Big Bend Scenic Byway is near Port St. Joe, which makes for an ideal place to stay and play while driving these scenic routes.
1. Climb The Cape San Blas Light House
You can climb the 130+ steps to the top of the Cape San Blas Light House for a stunning view of the Gulf of Mexico. A few years ago, this lighthouse found its new permanent home, as it had been moved through the years due to erosion and hurricanes. It was on July 15, 2014, that the Cape San Blas Lighthouse reopened in its new permanent location. The two Keepers Quarters and the Oil Shed were also relocated to Core Park in Port St. Joe to help keep the structures intact. This lighthouse cannot be missed while in town, as it’s prominently displayed in a primary location. This lighthouse is one of my favorites of all time, as the views from above, along with its setting, are truly remarkable.
Love lighthouses? Read up on these 10 beautiful old lighthouses still in operation in the U.S.
2. Ride A Horse On The Beach
Riding a horse on the beach is something that many people dream of doing. Rockin’ M Ranch offers horseback riding on the beach at Cape San Blas. The folks who run this business are patient and offer terrific guidance for the novice horseback rider. Riders are paired up with the best horse according to their experience and size. You will want to make a reservation before you head to Salinas Park to hop on your horse as these rides are very popular. Riders can make reservations by calling 850-227-6117.
If you want a little extra fun, I would highly suggest that you book a sunset ride. Allow yourself a couple of hours for this activity, which includes your drive time.
3. Visit T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
A visit to T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park is in order when you explore Port St. Joe. Hurricane Michael caused tremendous damage to the area in October of 2018, but fortunately, the south part of this state park is currently open. You can kayak, paddleboard, swim, snorkel, and search for shells on the beach. This area is also very popular for bird enthusiasts, as there are many beach-nesting birds along the coastline.
For up-to-date information about the park, stop in at the Gulf County Welcome Center upon your arrival into town. You can easily spend a whole day in this park as there is so much to see and do.
4. Explore The St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve
The St. Joseph Bay Buffer Preserve is home to bald eagles and other birds that frequent the area. The visitor center offers information and history about the area. There are also numerous multi-use trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, birding, and, of course, photographers. This area offers fantastic wildlife viewing opportunities.
Bring plenty of water and bug spray. It’s also important to not rely on your cell phone, as cell service can be spotty out in these preserves. A visit here offers a day to reconnect with nature and slow things down a little bit. The visitor center is also a resource for scientists, students, and anyone interested in nature projects. Tram tours are available throughout the year on specific days, as well.
5. Kayak In Port St. Joe Bay
Kayaking in the bay is a fun way to enjoy the water and nature. Happy Ours Kayak offers a fun guided eco-tour of the bay during which you’ll kayak and be given a lot of information. While on this kayak adventure, I was able to see several baby shrimp and other fish floating nearby. Our guide was very knowledgeable and offered tips on how to take care of our waterways.
The best thing about kayaking here is that you can choose the type of kayaking adventure you want. Guided tours, individual trips, and delivery of rental gear are all offered. I strongly recommend placing this adventure high on your to-do list as this is a great way to experience Port St. Joe.
6. Shopping In Port St. Joe
You can easily spend a large portion of your day shopping in Port St. Joe. Shop owners are helpful and they have products that you will want to claim as your own. The St. Joe Soap Company won me over on my last visit. I have fallen in love with the lotion that I was given while there. They have an online shop and you can find their products in shops in Port St. Joe.
Bayside Florist and Gifts located in historic downtown Port St. Joe is a great place to find beach decorations, jewelry, and memorabilia. Joseph’s Cottage is another fun place to find gifts, locally made products, and home furnishings that you will have a hard time passing up. You will want to plan a minimum of two hours to shop as you will find each store unique and fun.
7. Collect Shells On The Beach
It’s no secret that shelling is a big thing in Port St. Joe. Spend some time beachcombing and shelling for a memorable experience. You will most likely be surprised by the different sizes of shells that you find. This activity is not only relaxing, but it’s also a fun way to enjoy strolling the beach. This is one of the best go-at-your-own-pace activities you will find anywhere. Purchase a shell bag in one of the shops in town, and you will be ready to shell all day long.
8. Enjoy A Bonfire On The Beach
Going Coastal Cabanas and More offers a fun way to enjoy the beach. I had the opportunity to enjoy a Going Coastal bonfire on the beach while in Port St. Joe and it was a fun way to enjoy the sunset. The rental times vary based on sunset times. Call 270-839-4699 to reserve your bonfire-on-the-beach experience.
9. Yoga On The Beach
The beach is a significant feature of Port St. Joe, and you will find it easy to embrace it once you arrive in town. Yoga is a fun way to experience the beach and Port St. Joe. If you enjoy meeting new people, connecting with nature, and yoga, you will enjoy this experience. Follow Sunbird Yoga’s Facebook page to learn when and where yoga is taking place. There is no fee to participate; just show up and be ready to have fun doing yoga in an outdoor setting.
Where To Eat In Port St. Joe
There are many wonderful choices when it comes to dining in Port St. Joe. Sweet Bunz, located at 108 1st St., is where you need to kick off your day. Homemade donuts and top-notch customer service make for a wonderful start to your day.
I would highly recommend eating at the Shipwreck Raw Bar, too. A cup of Shipwreck gumbo and oysters make for the perfect meal in this fun restaurant located at 7008 W. Highway 98.
Provisions is located at 222 Reid Avenue in the historic downtown of Port St. Joe. My advice is to order anything that looks like Southern comfort to you, which will more than likely be the whole menu. The talented chefs in all of the restaurants in Port St. Joe will impress you with their love of cooking.
Where To Stay In Port St. Joe
Port St. Joe offers many beachfront choices that I would highly recommend. Seas The Day, an impressive rental home, offers a beautiful location with a view along the pristine waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also a top choice for an extended family vacation.
Going Coastal Realty and Vacation Rentals offers many other properties to make your stay in beautiful Port St. Joe complete.
Inspired to get outside and enjoy nature? These are the best bird-watching spots in the United States, plus where you can go to explore Florida’s glowing waters in a see-through kayak.