The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway
This leg of your journey is 218 miles from Mobile Bay to Carrabelle. Aside from the brief trip down Mobile Bay's eastern shore to the Gulf ICW, your next 200 miles is on a well protected inside route. The area has been described as the "Forgotten Coast" and "the road less traveled", but that translates into fewer tourists, where you would think more tourists would be. Fact is, you are about to cruise through some shockingly beautiful beaches with the most astonishingly aqua-tinted gin-clear waters and white pristine sandy beaches this side of the Caribbean.
For Great Loopers the Gulf ICW starts at the Harvey Lock just south of New Orleans, La., on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Here, the miles are also defined in terms of statute miles as opposed to nautical miles and are measured east and west of Harvey Lock. The Hathaway Bridge in Panama City, Fla., for example, is at mile 284.6 EHL (East of Harvey Lock). The Harvey Lock is mile 0 (zero) on the Gulf ICW just as Norfolk, Va. mile 0 (zero) on the Atlantic ICW. While heavy barge and commercial traffic can be very stressful near the New Orleans and Louisiana and East Texas portion of the Gulf ICW, at least you can boat the full length of the Gulf ICW with little fear of getting lost. There are signs to follow, rules and guidelines, still it is common sense, (not secrets) that will make your journey successful. As a Looper, the Gulf ICW provides an inland protected passage for all of us voyaging from New Orleans, La., and Mobile Bay, Ala., to Carrabelle, Fla.
Your route along the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway will take you from Mobile, Ala., (mile 134 EHL) to the Gulf ICW where your first stop will most likely be Lulu's which is mile 155 EHL. From Lulu's and Homeport Marina, it is 12 miles to Orange Beach Marina. If you want to visit the beach at Orange Beach, between mile 167 and 168 there is a marked channel off the GIWW through Bayou St. John to Perdido Pass. The beaches are pristine sandy and beautiful.
Apalachicola is a small Florida town, known in modern times for its oyster industry. It used to be one of Florida's largest ports in the 1800s, due to cotton shipping. It's along the western bank of the Apalachicola River.
Apalachicola Bay is wide, runs approximately east-west, but is very shallow in parts, so pay special attention to your chart. Boss Oyster is one of the essential places to eat at on the Forgotten Coast. Quite possibly the best oyster bar in the entire country. Very homey, open air, looks out over the Apalachicola River.
Links to Great Loop Information radio shows on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway