Mexico Beach: A Small Florida Town With a Big Heart for Ocean Reef Conservation

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High rises, wax museums, chain motels not your thing? Visit Mexico Beach, Florida  – a success story of preservation, with its 1,000 permanent residents and loyal, happy travelers who come back year after year. No traffic lights or chain hotels, but there are mom-and-pop locally owned businesses overlooking white powdery sand, and an epic mission to construct artificial reef habitats to enhance sustainable fishing and wildlife growth off the coast of Mexico Beach.

mexico-beach2-sandPart of the misson of the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association – MBARA – is to construct artificial reef habitats to enhance sustainable fisheries in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The MBARA set a milestone of establishing 1000 patch reefs, or small artificial reef habitats in the waters off Mexico Beach, Florida.

Working closely with the City of Mexico Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commision, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, the MBARA is well on the road to achieving that milestone. Visit their site MBARA.org, where you can view exactly where the reefs are (over 150 so far!) learn more, get involved and join the MBARA or donate to this great cause.

Artificial Reef AssociationPhoto courtesy of MBARA.org

Mexico Beach has long been on our Must-Visit list, because of the above-mentioned small town-ness but also because not many people know where it is! Dubbing ourselves The Small Town Coastal Florida experts, I have to admit I can’t quite restrain myself from leaping into strangers’  conversations:

“I couldn’t help but overhear! Mexico Beach is in the Panhandle, almost exactly 34 miles southeast of Panama City Beach and the same distance northwest of Apalachicola.”  “Apalachicola? It’s another cute town, you must go, it’s 75 miles south west of Tallahassee…”

This stretch of Florida’s coast is called “The Forgotten Coast” but Mexico Beach proudly swapped that out for “The Unforgettable Coast.”

We’re not sure why it was ever called The Forgotten Coast!

Our daughter Angela had the good fortune to stay in Mexico Beach just recently, and so we’re able to view it through her experience and her camera. Having a first-hand close up visit ourselves is still on the Must-Visit, but until then here are our recommendations based on research, Angela’s picks, and from speaking with other repeat visitors to this classic beach vacation town.

 

SWIM

mexico-beach-ocean

  • There are multiple beach crossover paths throughout Mexico Beach, and parking, picnic areas and restrooms can be found at these three locations:  Sunset Park, Highway 98 and S. 19th St.;  Mexico City Beach, Highway 98 and 8th St.; and Canal Park, at the end of Canal Parkway on the west side of the canal.
  • No lifeguards are stationed in Mexico Beach as riptides are not common in this area.
  • No pets allowed and no glass containers. We were unable to find if alcohol is allowed or prohibited; proceed with caution with those beverages.

 

PLAY

Toucan’s Tiki Bar

719 Highway 98

Mexico Beach, FL

850-648-8207

toucans-sign

  • “It’s all about fresh seafood and family fun” at Toucan’s. Funky and colorful with a plethora of seating options indoors and out, right on the beach, with a playground beachside for the kids.
  • Many, many many menu options including fresh Apalachicola Bay Oysters, fresh and fried (never frozen) seafood, sandwiches, wraps, salads, land and sea entrees, and a varied kid’s menu as well.
  • Live music almost every Friday and Saturday in the Tiki Bar and outdoor patio, DJ and Karaoke on the upstairs deck Thursday – Saturday, check their website for more details and times by clicking on their name, above.
  • Open 7 days a week, 11 a.m. – til ?  Saturday and Sunday breakfast 8 – 11 a.m.

toucans-steps

 

 

STAY

 

The Driftwood Inn

2105 Highway 98

Mexico Beach, FL  32456

1-800-648-5126

 

driftwood-street-view

  • The Driftwood Inn began as a motor lodge in 1950, and the current owners who bought the place in 1975 began a major overhaul that has resulted in a large but cozy main building with rooms that have antiques and modern comforts. In addition, visitors can rent an oceanfront cottage right next door; there are 2 cottages with various 4-person units, which are ideal for multiple families wanting to stay near each other but not in the same unit. Across the street the Driftwood offers Victorian houses as well, each with 2 bedrooms, full kitchens, living and dining rooms. Check their site by clicking on their name above for more details and pricing.
  • Visitors have use of barbecue grills, picnic areas, lounge chairs, gazebo with swings and a gift shop.
  • The Driftwood can host events with up to 100 guests, including weddings performed in their charming little on-site chapel.

driftwood-inn-cottage

driftwood-inn-yellow-cottageTwo of the Victorian houses, above

 

driftwood-beach-view-mexico-beach

 

If you can drag yourself off the beach or away from Toucan’s deck, check out the cute shops and fun restaurants in town:

 

colorful-shops-mexico-beach

 

Our friends at MexicoBeach.Com let us borrow some of their beachy/cheerful Instagram photos to show you more of how welcoming and Unforgettable this town is:

mexico-beach-flaFollow @mexicobeachfla on Instagram, and get involved in their Guess-Where-This-Is contest and win free stuff! From left to right, Fish House Restaurant, Mango Marley’s, Caribbean Coffee, and The Grove

 

You can see how much is happening here, with the commitment to reef construction, the small town bonhomie, plenty to do and see. You can also see how doing absolutely nothing can happen here as well if you just want to park it and laze the day away. Take your pick… but shhhhh, don’t tell the tourists!

 

All photos, unless otherwise noted, were taken by Angela M. Scott, Esq.  @angelamarie.87

Mexico Beach is located in Florida’s Panhandle, almost exactly 34 miles southeast of Panama City Beach and the same distance northwest of Apalachicola.

 

 

2 Comments

    1. Thanks Frank!

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