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The Anti-Resort

We have nothing but love for the Ritzes and Four Seasons, Amans and Oberois of the world. You can’t argue with plush décor and impeccable service. But luxury suites don’t exist everywhere, and sometimes the destination is all the better for its lack of 5-star accommodations.

I discovered Cape San Blas on a last minute quest to find winter warmth that was reachable by car from grey Canada. The beaches were white, the water was blue, and the narrow peninsula on the gulf appeared nothing like the Florida of pastel stucco, hip replacements and Mickey Mouse. Most importantly, there were no towering hotels or over-chlorinated resort complexes in sight. Just a long road lined with private beach houses on stilts, and one I found blessedly still available for rent.

The Cape is about an hour away from Panama City, FL, and the ideal place to spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing. Port St. Joe is the nearest town to stock up on groceries, and after that there’s no need to return to civilization unless you want to (if you do, you must eat crab-stuffed shrimp at Indian Pass Raw Bar while you’re out). Swing in a hammock on your big wrap-around porch overlooking the ocean, or park yourself on the beach in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, where you can see the water on both sides of your sliver of paradise.

It isn’t flashy, wealthy, or brilliantly polished, but that’s not always our truffle-hunting style anyway. I saw an average of one person per day on my mile of white sand, I could hear the ocean from my bedroom window, and ordering a half dozen oysters at a local restaurant produced a tray of 15 of the fattest delicacies I’ve ever seen—“we don’t know how to count around here,” we were told by the smiling waitress. A place where even basic math is unnecessary? That’s my kind of vacation.

Amy Smithers questions her residency in a landlocked province daily. We also question her sanity based on the length of time she is willing to drive without stopping in quest of the ocean.

Park yourself on the beach in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, where you can see the water on both sides of your sliver of paradise.

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