Who needs H.G. Wells or Emmett (Doc) Brown? The only methods of transportation a would-be time-traveler needs to bring him to a land out of the past are an airplane, to shuttle him to the Tallahassee Regional Airport, and then a rental car—a DeLorean, driven at 88 miles per hour, is not necessary—to make the 90-minute trip from there to Apalachicola, Fla., a tiny (population: 2,340) Victorian gem of a town. Apalachicola is located just 60 miles down the Gulf Coast from Panama City, that spring break paradise, but the distance might as well be measured in eons.
In Apalachicola the houses have well-used wraparound porches, the beds are four-posters and the plump oysters you will slurp have been harvested that same day from the surrounding estuarial waters. The place to stay is the Coombs House Inn, which consists of three antique-filled mansions built at the turn of the 20th century. Owner Lynn Wilson started by saving the main house, which was built by lumber baron James N. Coombs in 1905. (According to a rumor, the previous year Coombs had been asked by Teddy Roosevelt to be the Republican vice presidential nominee.) After a fire the house fell into disrepair and had been abandoned for nearly three decades when Wilson and her husband bought it. In the past 20 years she has turned it into one of the finest bed and breakfasts in this, or any, state. It's a tranquil place to settle in for afternoon tea following a day exploring Apalachicola's eclectic shopping district or the unspoiled beaches of nearby St. George Island.
Of course Apalachicola has modern conveniences. The golf cart now rivals the bicycle as the preferred vehicle on which to get around town; several of the Coombs House Inn's 23 guestrooms have whirlpools; and an outfit called Riverfront Therapy offers a full range of spa services on a docked houseboat. Apalachicola, in short, represents the best of both old Florida and new. Despite its location on what is known as the Forgotten Coast, those planning getaways would do well to remember it.