Florida: A Gulf Oasis
Credit: Florida DEP

An hour south of Panama City's wet T-shirt carnival is St. Joseph Peninsula and the fishing village of Apalachicola, a few hundred square miles of nearly empty beaches, abundant wildlife preserves, and friendly locals who can down a dozen alligator nuggets while making small talk. For $100, stay in a Park Service cabin overlooking St. Joseph Bay, where white pelicans fish in the shallows. Eat in Apalachicola, the last place in the U.S. where wild oysters are still harvested with tongs. And hike St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, a 68,000-acre reserve of freshwater swamps and upland forests – empty but for the snowy egrets.

Getting there: From Panama City, drive 75 miles to Apalachicola. Stay in a park cabin and eat alligator nuggets at the Up the Creek Raw Bar.