Port St. Joe is the hub of one of the best recreational destinations on Florida’s Forgotten Coast: the coastal complex of St. Joseph Bay, Cape San Blas, and the St. Joseph Peninsula. Besides the sheltered waters of the bay, ideal for fishing and boating, the region offers some wonderful sugar-sand beaches along its outer Gulf of Mexico shore. Here are our candidates for the best destinations for a beach day in Port St. Joe’s sand-and-surf neighborhood!
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
One of the crown jewels of the Forgotten Coast, T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park not only protects important maritime hammock forest, sand-pine scrub, and some downright towering dunes, but also a beautiful Gulf of Mexico beachfront. Along with some of the region’s best camping and fishing, the state park offers multiple access points for the beach, providing unspoiled sands for sunbathing, shelling, and swimming (though be aware of rip tides and other hazards).
At the Eagle Harbor Boat Basin within the park, Scallop Cove Too offers beach umbrella and beach chair rentals, plus stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and pontoon boats for rent and sunscreen and other beach essentials for sale.
A heads up: As of this writing, the northern portion of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park—that stretch north of the Eagle Harbor boat ramp—is not accessible on account of a breach opened between St. Joseph Bay and the Gulf by Hurricane Michael in 2018.
Cape Palms Park
South of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Cape Palms Park provides free beach access to the peninsula’s Gulf shore. Here you’ll find some plush and powdery sands for classic Sunshine State R&R, plus a covered pavilion, grills, picnic tables, a boardwalk, and other improvements. You’ll often enjoy a surprising amount of elbow room at the Cape Palms beach, which is a superb place to soak up one of the marvelous sunsets the Forgotten Coast specializes in.
Near the western side of Saint Vincent Sound and along the southeastern base of Cape San Blas, Money Beach (or Money Bayou Beach) unfurls snowy white sands at the mouth of Money Bayou. (The “money” name for the bayou and the beach come from rumors of a stash of pirate booty in the area.) Once a more developed beachfront hosting a resort and nightclubs, Money Beach is now a quieter strand fronted by beach houses and calling out for a stroll along the swash.
William J. Rish Park
Easily reached from Port St. Joe and close to both Cape Palms Park and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, William J. Rish Park is a special beach destination, offering full ADA accessibility and open only to Florida residents who have disabilities or special needs as well as their family and/or caretakers. Owned by the Agency for Persons With Disabilities, the park includes wheelchair beach access as well as a multipurpose event hall with a spacious kitchen and dining facility. Overnight cabins and cottages give visitors to William J. Rish Park the chance to extend their beachgoing idyll over multiple days.
One spot that puts the beauty of Cape San Blas on fully display, Salinas Park include frontage on both St. Joseph Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, and supports some lovely pine stands and coastal scrub. The Gulf-side portion is where you’ll go for a free beach day just minutes from Port St. Joe, reaching the surf-caressed sands via a boardwalk through the scrub. The park includes a playground, bathrooms, and picnic tables, and is a good place for wading and swimming when conditions are calm (as they often are here).
Incidentally, one of the premier outfitters for beach horseback riding, Two-bit Stable, is situated here.
A Beach Day on Cape San Blas & the St. Joseph Peninsula
From the small but sweet Cape Palms Park to the long sandy carpet of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, you’ve got multiple options for beachgoing bliss on a Port St. Joe-area getaway. Our advice? Hit ‘em all up for maximum sand-between-your-toes vacationing on the Forgotten Coast!