Everyone who visits the Florida Panhandle looks forward to swimming. The Cape San Blas area has several options for enjoying the water. Plus, unlike the more tourist-visited areas, the beaches of Cape San Blas are quieter, with ample time to relax alone in the quiet of nature. Also, because the Gulf of Mexico water conditions can quickly change, you should know of top-rated pools nearby to change your swimming location if the weather requires it.
T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
The T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park has some of the Gulf of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches. At this state park, you have beaches on both sides of the peninsula. Choose to swim in the Gulf of Mexico or the St. Joseph Bay side. Both areas have shallow waters.
Neither side has lifeguards watching swimmers. Swim at your own risk. Look at the warning flags to know when to avoid the water. One red flag indicates hazardous conditions that most people should avoid. Two red flags mean that you cannot swim in the water due to the dangerous surf.
The park has cold water outdoor showers for rinsing off. It also has restrooms available. When you get hungry or need to stock up on more sunscreen, the park has a convenience store on site. Scallop Cove rents pontoons, kayaks, canoes, and standup paddleboards if you tire of swimming. You’ll also find towels, sodas, snacks, and other last-minute needs you have before spending a day swimming at the beach.
Hurricanes regularly pass through Florida, occasionally causing damage to some parts of the beaches or parks. Hurricane Michael closed many amenities at this park. Check the park’s website before going if you plan on camping or using the playground. Also, note that the park levies a per-car entry fee.
Salinas Park within Cape San Blas has two halves, located on either side of a road. The Bayside has walkways and boardwalks adjacent to St. Joseph Bay while the Gulfside features Gulf of Mexico beaches and swimming.
The amenities at this park are more sparse than at the state park. However, you still have covered outdoor picnic areas, parking, and restrooms available. Plus, you do not have to pay an entry fee for the park.
While swimming in the Gulf at Salinas Park, you may see people riding along the beach on horseback. Two-Bit Stable is one of the many stables in the area that offer horseback riding along the beach. You may opt to ride a horse on the beach after your swim for a different experience of these quiet Gulf beaches near Cape San Blas.
Cape Palms Park
You can either walk or drive onto the beach from Cape Palms Park. This beach includes a pavilion, cold water showers, and restrooms. Unlike some other parks in the area, Cape Palms has plenty of parking for large groups. Even if the beach is busy, which it rarely is, you’ll find plenty of space for parking.
Cape Palms Park does not have lifeguards, like most of the beaches in the area. While the waters often look calm, sometimes rip currents flow silently beneath the surface. Always swim with someone else and keep an eye on changing conditions.
If you want a simple park that does not charge an entry fee and has access to the pristine Gulf waters, check out Cape Palms Park.
William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area
If you cannot decide between a pool and the beach, check out the William J. “Billy Joe” Rish Recreation Area. Sporting both beaches and an Olympic-sized swimming pool, this site will have you covered for all types of swimming conditions.
At the end of the boardwalk from the parking area, you’ll reach the soft, sugary sands of the one-mile-long beach. The shallow Gulf of Mexico waters near the beach at this recreation area allows for most people of varying skill levels to swim. Use caution whenever you are in the water, both at the beach and pool at Rish Recreation Area. Neither spot has a lifeguard on duty.
As a bonus, the pool has a wheelchair ramp to allow anyone to get into the four-foot-deep water. You may also borrow beach, boardwalk, or water wheelchairs for greater accessibility to the beach. Go to the Visitor’s Center to borrow one of the chairs for up to four hours at no cost.
This recreation site has all the amenities you need before and after your swim. Changing rooms, restrooms, and shower stations give you everything you need to prepare for a day in the water and for cleaning up after.
Bring food with you to enjoy an outdoor picnic at one of the tables in the recreation area. The peninsula has very few options for eating. Grab some food to take with you before you leave for the beach or pool at Rish Recreation Area.
St. Joseph Bay Golf Club Pool
Many of the rental homes and condos in Cape San Blas have swimming pools for those staying in them. However, if you don’t have this perk, make the short drive to St. Joseph to take a dip in the aquatic center at the St. Joseph Bay Golf Club.
The outdoor pool is open to the public. You don’t have to become a member of the golf club to enjoy a swim at the golf club has a low admission fee per person. To swim, you first must register at the ProShop before heading to the pool. Even those who will be in the pool area but not swimming need to register and pay for admission.
Before you go, understand that the pool may close due to lightning in the area. Also, know you will not have a lifeguard watching as you swim. Follow safe swimming practices when at this pool.
St. Joseph Bay Golf Club also is one of the few golf courses in the area. Add a round of golf before or after your swim for an additional activity for the day.
Cape San Blas has a laid-back atmosphere you won’t find in the northern Panhandle tourist towns. Check out the numerous beaches and pools in the area for swimming without the crowds.