We’ve all heard the quip “family vacation” used as an oxymoron. And in many ways, it is. Vacations come in all sorts of packages–going to Disney with your kids because it is the right thing to do, or traveling to a foreign country to escape your Blackberry. But, so many vacations don’t allow what you’re really after–relaxation.

For most us, spring break didn’t look like this.

Sometimes, you just need to get away and recharge your battery with your family—circle the wagons and hunker down to do absolutely nothing.

That was my mission when I booked our spring break trip for our family. I wanted access to the ocean, but with no pressure to connect with anyone outside our immediate family and no agenda, per se.

There is no beach service on Cape San Blas, no high rise condos and not many people.

My friends who know me understand that I can be a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants kinda’ gal and wouldn’t be a bit surprised to hear that I booked our spring break vacation only 3 days before the start of the holiday. And this will really seem odd–we decided to bring our dog with us. As goofy as this sounds, guess what? Having our pet along was a huge plus. Yes, we’re dog people, but not the type who obsess about leaving the dog at a kennel or keep track of what motels allow dogs. As we loaded up the van, the dog looked at us incredulously, as if to say, “I made the cut?”

Our dog, Ginger, is still in shock she weaseled in on our family vacation.

When I surfed around the net looking for options, I saw that Cape San Blas was touted as both the forgotten beach in Florida and the dog-friendliest beach in America! Both statements are right on the mark.

Cape San Blas reminds me of what Florida used to be like – not so overdeveloped and no crowds. With the heightened popularity of Rosemary Beach and Seaside Beach, we really forget that the panhandle of Florida keeps on going  for many more miles. What you will find when you head east are the most gorgeous and remote areas in Florida.

I took this photo from our balcony. What you can’t see are the eight dolphins playing in the surf.

Here’s the skinny on Cape San Blas.

Where to stay:

I can’t say enough positive things about the place we booked. We rented a 3 bedroom townhouse RIGHT on the beach for about $350 a night. What did I love the most? It was completely stocked to the gills. We had everything we needed in the kitchen, including spices, foils and appliances, but the real gem was the beach closet. Barrier Dunes provided beach umbrellas, chairs (nice ones), buckets, rafts and boogie boards. In addition, you are provided doggie stations with poop bags and a dog sitter if you need one.

If you want to rent a home, there are some lovely beachfront properties available. Contact Pristine Reality for more information. I queried a guy we met fishing (by the way, bring your pole because lots of people fish) and he showed me the house he rented on the water. It was huge – enough for four families.

Cape San Blas is part of the hook. St Joe Peninsula State Park comprises most of the hook–it’s gorgeous and deserted.

Where to eat:

Eating out in Cape San Blas is tricky  When the manager of our condo told us to stop at the grocery store before we drove in, she  meant it.  The grocery store is 17 miles away. Restaurants are limited, but there are amazing restaurants in Port St. Joe (17 miles from Cape San Blas) and Apalachicola (23 miles from Cape San Blas).

In the “Cape,” Coneheads is pretty darn good. Coneheads touts an excellent seafood gumbo, lots of sandwiches and great ice cream treats. If  Coneheads is closed, you’re flat out of luck if you want to eat real food. Many, I am sure, just head to the gas station.

In Port St. Joe, you’ll find a number of good restaurants including Indian Pass Raw Bar, Provisions and Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza. All get high marks from the locals.

In Apalachicola:  

We headed to Boss Oysters to get our oyster fix.  It’s about a 20 miles drive to get there, but worth every livin’ mile if you like oysters.  The oysters in Apalachicola are some of the best in the US.  Boss has their own boat, and you’ll see big gunny sacks of oysters on the dock.  Their oysters are as fresh as it gets.

Raw oysters and cold beer are Boss Oyster’s specialties.

A long time Cape Blas resident told me that Owls was her favorite.  After checking around, Owls is known by the locals to be top notch.  All the seafood–the oysters, shrimp and grouper are caught that day.

Apalachicola feels like an old Florida town.  You’ll feel a hint of New Orleans in the architecture and adore the slow easy pace of the town.

What to do:

Not much. One of the great things we loved about Cape San Blas was the fishing. Everyone fished – and most of us had some luck catching a few, too.

Also, unique to Cape San Blas, you can have bonfires on the beach. This may seem like no big deal, but it is – there are plenty of beaches where this is a no-no. Adults, teens and kiddos all are into fire. You are out in the middle of nowhere with a bonfire, lots of stars and s’mores. Pretty much perfect if you ask me.

We loaded up on chocolate and headed to the beach to chase crabs.

Bring your flash lights for crabbing. Crabbing even energized my 16 year old to run like a banshee trying to catch the little critters.  What fun!

Biking, horse back riding, kayaking and exploring. 

With full disclosure, I didn’t do any of the above activities, but it is ALL there. I did spy a bike trail while driving to our place which looked impressive. It’s about an 8 mile ride with bike rentals available.  Also, if you’re into eco-toursism, you will go crazy at the options available to you. There are lots of bird estuaries and pristine state parks.  You really are in one of the most beautiful areas in the US, with natural springs and kayaking nearby.

How to get there:

It’s an 8 hour drive from Nashville—hunker down!

Or you can fly into Panama City on Southwest Airlines – it’s a cheap, easy flight. With a rental car, it’s  an easy 60 minute drive from Panama city. You’ll see tons of small, locally owned fish markets along the way.

Have a blast at Cape San Blas!