What a little gem!
This tiny, northwest Florida coast, fishing village of 300 year round residents, was established in 1935 by Burton Butler and CC Douglas, who bought the land from a large lumber company for $324 and later sold lots to the other squatters for $10.
It remains a quiet community until scallop season (Jul. – Sep.) and on many weekends when fishermen descend from nearby towns. It is set up like a hand, with the few streets separated by small canals. One of these “fingers” has a small city park (about one acre) which boasts a boat ramp and maybe 6 RV water/ 30 amp sites arranged in a circle around the small bathhouse. It is perfectly situated, in a quiet bay, facing west for a spectacular sunset view.
Sites are $20 for non-residents and half that for Florida people. Our 2 lovely, senior attendants, Willie and Louise, came by next morning in a pickup truck to collect. Willie said the sites are rarely full and they would welcome more visitors. The sign says no pets, but I had Ruka on the leash and they didn’t mention her (whew). You don’t get to sleep in, the fishermen come early with their airboats and johnboats to get a head start, some before dawn. I didn’t mind, Her Majesty wakes early and I am a birdwatcher. There was only one other site taken- by 3 fishermen of course.
Horseshoe Beach has one restaurant (pretty good) and one ice cream shop (thank God someone just bought it, so it will be open this year), one convenience store, a tiny library/museum and a city hall, which we never found. Of course there’s a marina/bait shop and a few fish exporters. It is one of the very few towns where one can purchase or rent a small lot and park an RV. Most of the homes are doublewide mobile homes and seem fairly new, all up on high posts- but the last big hurricane was back in ’93.
The minute we got our rigs settled and the pets walked (Dan has a cat, Lucy, who needs her air) I grabbed my binoculars to check out the birds. There are plenty, especially in the morning when the tide is out and the mudflats are exposed. I added about 20 new species to my trip list.
There was a handy man outside who invited us up to meet the owner and see the place. We climbed up to a large deck and in to meet Mr. Tommy Lee, who is quite the character. He asked us if we’d like a drink (plenty of bottles handy) and of course, where we were from.
He’s a retired potato farmer from a small town about 100 miles inland east and did very well. He spent weekends here for years, fishing, and about 3 years ago heard about a large boat that a “hippie dude” had partially rebuilt but gave up. Mr. Lee bought it and with the aid of a friend, designed and refurbished the custom home, spending a million dollars in the process.
All of the wood came from local trees and reclaimed lumber. The mast is a 30 foot piece of solid teak and the flooring is cypress. He is quite a collector and found brass portholes which he had installed, and old radio, and several life- sized fish made from local driftwood or lumber. He has an amazing collection of old lures and antique reels. There are pin up calendars, a bar, small galley and a Murphy bed up the stairs in the stern. Up an old grain ladder, is a hatch that leads to the deck of the boat, which is an open patio. The house sits at the shore with an amazing view.
Dan claims it is the ultimate man cave!
We didn’t stay long, after all it was dinnertime and Mr. Lee said that his son had a few pounds of oysters that they were going to tackle. He never took off his glasses, explaining he was almost blind and couldn’t get around too well anymore so the home is for sale at a mere 1.2 million. He was as gracious as they come and invited us back. We thanked him, said our goodbyes and went on to see the sunset at the end of the block.
The next morning, we were up for the sunrise, the fishing boats heading out and I set up my new spotting scope for some bird watching. We went for another long walk, meeting a few locals and tried to figure out which spot we’d consider for a long term stay. We also came across the “As seen on TV – The Round House”, 3 small grain bins that are connected and converted. It’s also for sale- only $999,999.
All in all, a perfect stay with great weather at this hidden gem. This is one big reason why I travel- for the small, precious, unexpected gifts. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make for big memories.