SOURCE: Gulf County Tourist Development Council

April 01, 2015 13:57 ET

Gulf County, Florida: a True Eco-Adventure

Snorkeling, Hiking, Kayaking -- and That's Just the Beginning

PORT ST. JOE, FL--(Marketwired - April 01, 2015) - It's hard to explain Gulf County, Florida (GCFL) to someone who has never visited. It's pristine, yet rugged; secluded, yet vast; indescribable, and absolutely breathtaking. GCFL is a natural playground, a real-life "Choose Your Own Adventure" novel. Need a few examples? Let the locals, or as we like to call them, our "Adventure Guides," share their favorites.

First up, Indian Pass Lagoon. Trish Petrie, owner of the eco-friendly Turtle Beach Inn, recommends exploring the area via kayak. The water is calm, so it's an easy paddle and you'll see gorgeous marshes, extensive oyster beds and an occasional alligator snoozing back in the coves. Too much work? Take a personalized eco-tour in a flat-bottomed boat and let a guide show you all the hidden wildlife (but Trish suggests good shoes to safely navigate the mud and oyster shells).

And then there are the guided snorkeling trips. Debbie VanFleet, owner of Happy Ours Kayak and Bike Outpost, calls them "eco-spiritual." She starts in a shallow part of St. Joseph Bay with pure white sand. You'll see stingrays, whelks and horseshoe crabs -- and blue crabs hidden under the sand. Short turtle grass is like an aquarium, and the tulip shells are stunning. Thicker, longer grass is home to tunicates or sea squirts. These guys are filter feeders, but with a central nervous system, so they react when you touch them. These trips are a fascinating study in marine biology -- and you'll discover something different each time you visit.

In the mood for a hike? Five words: St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. And who better to recommend this locale than its manager, Mark Knapke? "We see deer, bobcat, squirrels, raccoons -- lots of wildlife all of the time." In the evenings, you may even get to hear the hauntingly beautiful call of a great horn owl. Oh, and did we mention the otters and baby deer?

And there are so many more adventures to choose from. Love turtles? They're everywhere in the Bay. What about a leisurely bike ride? We've got trails for miles with views to last a lifetime. For details on these and even more adventures, check out the rest of our guides.

Note: Images are available on Flickr for editorial use, and interviews are available with any of our Adventure Guides.

About Gulf County

Located in Northwest Florida, Gulf County boasts 43 miles of natural shoreline. Here, where water surrounds us, we don't have high-rises or busy highways and never will. We have white-sand beaches facing westward into spectacular sunsets -- on the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay. We have beckoning bayous, unexpected wildlife encounters and the mysterious Dead Lakes. We've got seaside bike trails, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and snorkeling. We have genuine places, like the historic Indian Pass Raw Bar and flavors like Tupelo Honey. Learn more about this "no worry, no hurry" destination at http://www.visitgulf.com and on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.

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