There are about a dozen places in the United States where horses are permitted on public beaches and only three locations in Florida. Cape San Blas in Gulf County, Florida, near Port Saint Joe, is one. The other two locations are Amelia Island in the northeast and Hutchinson Island in the southeast. On a lovely May evening, I experienced horseback riding on the beach at Cape San Blas.
Stepping onto Cape San Blas, I admired the small rolling sand dunes, aqua-colored water, and powder-soft white sand. Soft pink and yellow, cotton-candy clouds floated in the baby blue sky as the golden hour of sunset approached. I was looking at perfection.
Thirty minutes later, I was on this same stretch of beach on the back of a handsome stallion, heading toward a golden sunset. Slowly, he carried me along the shoreline, carefully lifting each hoof to avoid the waves rolling onto the beach. Lately, I have been working on “enjoying the moment” rather than worrying about things that may happen. During this hour-long, sunset horseback ride, I tuned in to the soothing sound of waves lapping the shore, filled my lungs with the salty sea air, relished the whisper-kisses of the wind, rocked side to side with each step of my horse, and enjoyed the view of the setting sun.
“This is what enjoying the moment means,” I thought about this fairytale-like journey. All that was missing was a Prince Charming to share the moment but realized my striking stallion named Star fulfilled that wish. Of course, I fed him carrots prior to hitting the trail, which probably made him more attentive.
The leisurely beach ride on Cape San Blas was relaxing, especially since there were only three other people on the trip, the trail guide and two other guests. A handful of operators offer horseback riding on the beach and I booked my trip with Two-Bit Stable Horseback Riding. Their horseback rides accommodate up to six people and my guide was Ms. Cheryl Hill who was absolutely patient and lovely.
The horses are familiar with the routine and are almost on autopilot including knowing where the turnaround point is on the beach. Prior to mounting the horses, the trail guide offered an orientation to ensure everyone is comfortable holding the reins and knows how to use them to direct their horse. At the turnaround point, the trail guide snaps photos of riders so they can brag about the experience on social media and elsewhere.
In 2002, Dr. Beach named Cape San Blas the Best Beach in America and now I know why. Located in the Florida Panhandle, it’s a 17-mile long barrier peninsula around St. Joseph Bay to the east and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. It has broad, white beaches with plenty of public access, adorable vacation rentals that look like they are from Coastal Living magazine, and access to a host of outdoor adventures including fishing, bird watching, kayaking, standup paddle boarding, biking, and hiking. This was my first visit and I spent some time and the night at T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, located at the very northern end of the park. (Note: 2018’s Hurricane Michael significantly damaged the park and camping is currently not available. Visit the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park website for the latest information.)
As for dining, there are a handful of places in Cape San Blas but if you’re into seafood, Skully’s Low Country Boil is the place to go. It’s a no-frills joint with a limited menu and everything is served to go. Take it back to your vacation rental or campsite or savor it while sitting at one of the picnic tables. If you’re lucky, it’s resident cat will join you. My entrée was a plate of the low country boil, half a pound of peel and eat shrimp, corn on the cob, boiled red potatoes, and sausage for $15.
“Horses make a landscape look more beautiful,” is the title of a book of poetry by Alice Walker. Cape San Blas holds its own beauty but when horses are on the beach, it’s ravishingly beautiful.
Plan Your Visit
Two-Bit Stable Horseback Riding
Horseback rides depart from Salinas Park
240 Cape San Blas Rd.
Port St. Joe, FL 32456
Tel: (850) 227-4744
In addition to the one-hour sunset beach rides, one-hour horseback rides on the beach are offered during the day including sunrise rides. Ninety-minute rides are available during the winter. Advanced reservations are required. And don’t forget, this is in the Eastern Time Zone, although your phone/GPS may flip to the Central Time Zone.
Due to Gulf County ordinances, horses cannot be ran on the beach and if anyone is caught running, trotting, or cantering a horse will be fined $500.
There is a weight limit of 250lbs.
Where to Stay
Find vacation rentals on the Gulf County Tourism website www.visitgulf.com.
Where to Eat
Skully’s Low Country Boil
5544 Cape San Blas Rd.
Port St. Joe, FL 32456
Tel: (850) 227-7011
Open Monday – Saturday, 4 p.m. – 8 p.m.