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Florida's forgotten coast

Updated on October 21, 2015
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Join me on a journey to forgotten Florida

Florida - what does that mean to you? What comes to mind when you hear the word?

The Art Deco hotels of South Beach? The luxurious yachts of Fort Lauderdale? Or maybe the Disney extravaganza?

Then travel with me as I go to a part of Florida that the tourists and visitors have abandoned - the Apalachicola area of Franklin County in the Florida Panhandle.That's what we did recently, armed with our cellphones to take photographs and we were amazed at what we found.

Driving north from Fort Lauderdale, the roads became quieter and what surprised us the most was the discovery that at one time, the area we were traveling through was obviously very popular with tourists. It was almost uncanny.

Now, we saw abandoned motels, bars and businesses. It was spooky, really. Imagine seeing places where happy families had spent their fun vacations - now in ruins. But you don't have to imagine. Join me on our road trip.

Images © BritFlorida (Jackie Jackson) and Andy Royston.

A typical example

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This is the sort of thing we saw time and time again. The trailer park was long gone - all that remained was a derelict sign and a tattered United States flag. Over the years,maybe hundreds of people had enjoyed vacations at that trailer park.

Why did they stop going there? Maybe there were people who lived there permanently. Where did they go and why? To me, there is something about abandoned places where people had fun - theaters, funfairs, hotels, swimming pools, circuses - that is almost unbearably sad.

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The bus?

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Was this once a tourist bus that took happy vacationers to their motels? We found it, rusted and abandoned, on a piece of waste ground. It probably hasn't moved for twenty years. Can you imagine it filled with families and excited children, just minutes away from their Florida vacation?

They'd have their swimsuits ready, moms would be dressed in 1950s sundresses with white-framed sunglasses and the fathers would be wearing totally unsuitable shorts and sandals. This isn't a derelict vehicle to me; it's full of ghosts. I could almost hear their happy laughter...

An abandoned motel

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I really can't remember how many abandoned motels we saw. This is one example. Who has stayed in this room? Newlyweds on honeymoon? Maybe families enjoying a welcome break in the Florida sun. Or perhaps traveling salespeople who were carting their samples from town to town and hoping in vain to get that big order. Some people will have stayed for a couple of weeks,enjoying a Florida vacation.

For others, it was perhaps simply an overnight stop as they traveled from somewhere to nowhere.

Now, only garbage and broken bottles inhabit the rooms and the Florida foliage is trying its best. Note that I took this photograph through the window - there were too many 'ghosts' for me to go inside.

A few more from the motel

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My Stephen King moment

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You might not recognize what this is. I did and I was completely spooked. This was taken at yet another abandoned motel. There was a rectangular grassed area and I went to investigate. I'm sorry that I did.

This area was the motel's swimming pool that had been filled in - over the years, grass and weeds grew. Now you can probably tell that the photograph shows the tile edging of the pool. Stephen King? Yes, I could almost see and hear the hundreds of people - adults and children - who'd enjoyed the pool.

I would not, absolutely not, walk over the filled-in pool.I imagined that I'd fall through into the abandoned, water-less pool and hear the sounds of children playing and the water splashing. I read too much.

No tourists, no gas stations

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In addition to abandoned motels, we wandered around many abandoned gas stations. With no visitor traffic, and no buses taking families to their vacation homes, there was no need for them so they too were derelict. In the hot sunshine, we examined areas like this.

Everything was totally quiet and still. We rarely even heard a vehicle go by on the road. Yet at one time, I could imagine mechanics working at this bench, maybe fixing punctures or repairing starter motors. The strange thing about many of these places is that it seemed as though people had simply walked out of them one day, leaving everything behind and never to return.

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And no-one was relocating

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No-one was coming on vacation so no haulage was required. No-one was relocating to the area so the moving and storage services weren't needed. So this truck was just left by the side of the road. It was eerily quiet as we explored.

The grass was tall, the sun was hot and all we could hear was the gentle buzz of insects.

Yet at one time, entire households would have been transported in this truck. Maybe furniture that many people wouldn't recognize today - telephone tables with spindly legs, standard lamps with chintz lampshades, Formica dinettes, sunburst wall clocks, record players and radiograms. Was the truck empty? Or did it still contain a family's household goods when it was abandoned? I didn't dare look.

A derelict theme park

If you're like me and find abandoned places of pleasure disturbing, then don't watch this video.

Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State
Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State

I love learning about the history of our state - knowledge makes travel more meaningful, somehow.But how much of the accepted history is true? After all, we value tourism. Is it in the state's interest to skew our history?

 

Further reading

Live Your Road Trip Dream
Live Your Road Trip Dream

Now, doesn't this pique your interest?

In this book, the author explains how a long road trip can cost no more than living at home.

I love my home but a six month road trip (or even longer) would certainly be a wonderful thing to do for me.

 

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @DeborahDian: It truly is - so much variety.

    • DeborahDian profile image

      Deborah Carr 3 years ago from Orange County, California

      My husband grew up in Florida, along the Gulf Coast. It's a fabulous state!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @tonyleather: It's quite incredible, really.

    • profile image

      tonyleather 3 years ago

      Sounds like there is so much to see if you only look?

    • profile image

      nifwlseirff 3 years ago

      Spooky yet cool!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: What a great idea :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 3 years ago

      the theme park is spooky, u should start a haunted Florida tour..

    • profile image

      CamperVamp 4 years ago

      Beautiful photos!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ThreeQuarters2Day: We have a similar dream:) Thanks for visiting!

    • ThreeQuarters2Day profile image

      Dawn Romine 4 years ago from Nebraska

      Love this lens, the photographs, everything. Someday, I will be able to retire, travel to places forgotten, off the beaten path and "work" from where ever I can take my laptop. An island in South Florida sounds ideal, just not at an abandoned amusement park.

    • KathyZ1 profile image

      KathyZ1 4 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ChocolateLily: Sad and rather spooky, really.

    • profile image

      PriyabrataSingh 4 years ago

      Thanks for the lens.Now the forgotten coast of Florida will come to live.

    • profile image

      ChocolateLily 4 years ago

      Unfortunately, that's not the only area of the country like this. I live in an area that once attracted thousands of visitors, but no more. It is sad to see the remnants of such festivities and to hear the stories of how it once was.

    • federico-biuso profile image

      federico-biuso 4 years ago

      Awesome lens, great pictures! Good work!!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Aladdins Cave: Thank you - scary and sad just about sums it up. Lovely area though.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GrammieOlivia: Yes, it was very spooky in a way!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @anonymous: Thank you so much!

    • Aladdins Cave profile image

      Aladdins Cave 4 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Well done. A bit scary and sad. Maybe that's the trick to lens's.Cheers from DOWNUNDER

    • profile image

      GrammieOlivia 4 years ago

      Wow, I can imagine a few ghost stories told here......looks like they would love the digs.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      What an awesome lens, and such a unique spin. Pictures were great and really do make you think about it's past! Absolutely great lens!Congratulations on being the Top 3 of the Crazy Roadside Attraction Quest and your Purple Star!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @aka-rms: Thanks wonderful - thank you!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 4 years ago from USA

      Congratulations! Our Guest QuestMaster kristalulabelle84 has awarded this lens a Purple Star.

    • kristalulabelle profile image

      Kristen 4 years ago from Wisconsin

      I was really immersed in your tour of the Forgotten Coast. Loved how you told the story with your photos.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Elsie Hagley: Thank you for visiting. Yes, it's such a beautiful area and it's so sad to see building and places where people had fun that are now derelict.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 4 years ago from New Zealand

      Interesting, it's so sad when you see places like this, your photos are very good gives you a better idea of what you are writing about.Thanks for sharing a ghost town, very sad.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Ruthi: You certainly live in a lovely area. In a way, it's a shame that it's forgotten,but at least that keeps it tranquil. That's something that struck me, the peacefulness and calm. Apalachicola is probably the friendliest place I've ever been to. I know what you mean about pizza though!

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @leatherwooddesign: It truly is a beautiful area and it's a shame that most people are unaware of it. On the other hand, it keeps the place quiet for those of us who do. I'm a huge Stephen King fan too - I wasn't referring to any specific book though - just the general spooky feel. Maybe we should suggest a swimming pool horror story to him? I'm really quite freaked by empty pools. I wonder if other people are too?

    • profile image

      Ruthi 4 years ago

      I live on the Forgotten Coast! You had to drive right by Carrabelle on your way to Apalachicola. From what I understand from the locals - I just moved here a few months ago - a hurricane destroyed a lot of the coastline businesses and residences. At the same time, the fishing industry was hurt badly by a host of environmental and wildlife laws. So those who hadn't had everything destroyed by Mother Nature, cashed in their losses and left for greener pastures. It is a shame, as it is beautiful here. And well, I kind of like that it's so peaceful and quiet and out of the tourist rat race. However, I would like a good pizza place and a good produce market to move into the area!

    • leatherwooddesign profile image

      Marisa Horn 4 years ago from Rintown Pa

      This is a good lens to show what has become of America. I remember going to Florida to see land my aunt invested in. She was convinced with Disneyland it was a gold mine but it turned out to be swamp land. We stayed in a motel that could easily have been the one in your lens. Such a beautiful area, it is sad to see it is gone. What book are your referencing in the Stephen King moment? I am a fan and am not familiar with a swimming pool.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @sousababy: I bet you're the same as me when you see half demolished buildings. Often, you can see wallpaper that someone lovingly fitted. Or curtains - now just blowing in the breeze. So poignant.

    • BritFlorida profile image
      Author

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Namsak: The Bates Motel would have REALLY spooked me! It is strange,isn't it?Things weren't packed up and removed at all.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 4 years ago

      I also look at abandoned buildings and think that once upon a time, it was someone's dream destination or home. I also find it interesting to look at barns (especially the ones barely standing). Great story telling - I could almost hear the crowd.

    • profile image

      Namsak 4 years ago

      You didn't find the Bates Motel in there somewhere did you? Weird how these places just get left to rot.