A short drive of about 8 miles from St. Andrews State Park is the historic, charming town of St. Andrews, perfect for a quick day trip on a beautiful, sunny day. As we parked the car by the waterfront boardwalk, we noticed an odd looking tree nearby, and quickly discovered it was the “Pelican Tree”. In 1995, much of the town was destroyed by Hurricane Opal. As the town cleaned out the trash an debris and started to rebuild, one of its first projects was the completion of the boardwalk along the waterfront. This particular tree was also partially destroyed but instead of removing it, the City hired a local chainsaw artist to re-purpose it as a landmark creating carvings of pelicans, fish and dolphin. Pretty cool!
Not too far from the Pelican Tree was the 65 foot historic schooner, the Governor Stone, a gaff-rigged, two-masted schooner launched in Pascagoula, MS in 1877. According to a website I found “she was built for Charles Greiner as a cargo freighter for his chandlery business and named in honor of the first elected post-Civil War Governor of Mississippi John Marshall Stone. She is the last survivor of a class of vessels once numbering in the thousands. It originally carried equipment and materials to deep-draft ships lying off shore, and hauled general freight between ports along the Gulf Coast. For 60 years this schooner was a fishing vessel and an oyster buy boat. It is rumored Governor Stone was a “rum runner” during Prohibition, reportedly offloading larger vessels from Cuba, making two trips per month and grossing $500 on each run.
Although sunk twice and twice beached by hurricanes, Governor Stone survived. The first beaching occurred during a storm in 1878 the year after Governor Stone was launched. The first sinking occurred on September 26, 1906, when a fleet of several schooners was caught by a hurricane in Herron Bay, Alabama. The Governor Stone capsized and the captain, Thomas Burns, was washed ashore clinging to a skiff, the sole survivor of the 22 men serving aboard the lost schooners. Thrust 300 yards inland in a marsh, Governor Stone was rolled back into the water on pine logs, repaired for $600, and put back into service carrying oysters from South Mobile Bay to markets in the city of Mobile.”
During World War II it was operated as a training vessel for the Merchant Marine by the War Shipping Board. Today the restored vessel is devoted to educational programming and historic and cultural tourism. She was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1991 by the Department of the Interior and is owned and operated by the non-profit organization, Friends of the Governor Stone.
Another sign pointed out the Tant House. Bill Tant, known as “Cap’n Scuba” and a scuba diving pioneer, founding one of the earliest dive shops in the country in 1953. He purchased the house where he hosted dive groups on the corner of Bayview Avenue and 11th Street in St. Andrews in 1960. He was the first to begin diving area shipwrecks including the SS Tarpon, a steam ship which sank in 1937 about 9 miles off the coast of Panama City Beach. In fact, an anchor from the Tarpon is in front of the house. He was known for blowing a conch shell each night at sunset. He died in 2013.
Continuing our walk, we passed by a “food truck on the water”, a 25-foot Bennington, named “Just the Cook – Off the Hook“.
Interesting menu featuring among other delicious sounding choices, a “Down Under Burger”, an 8 ounce burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, bacon and an egg; a Dan-D-Donut Burger, a burger served on, yep you guessed it a donut. The owner, Ernie Hall, was selected to compete last year on the Food Network’s show, America’s Best Cook. When we walked by it wasn’t even lunch time and the place was pretty busy. People would order their food, then find a table across the way.
Continuing our walk, we hung a right and walked along St. Andrews Marina. We had determined there was a geocache near the marina store so figured we would try to find it. Drats, this time, no luck. We read in the log for this particular cache that the coordinates were off which is most likely why we couldn’t find it. After spending over a half hour searching, we begrudgingly admitted defeat and gave up.
By now, we were getting hungry. It was tempting to eat at Just the Cook but we decided we wanted a sit down and order kind of place. Based on reviews we had seen, Uncle Ernie’s Restaurant was our choice. Uncle Ernie’s is another historic landmark in town. The house was built in 1895 and was purchased by Ernest Morris, a commercial fisherman, his wife and their four children in 1936. It was later given to a grand niece and her husband, both restauranteurs, who moved the house to the current bay view location and opened the restaurant.
Fortunately we were able to get a table out on the covered porch area with a lovely view of the marina. After much deliberation, we both ordered the special of the day – sauteed mahi mahi, topped with two shrimp and a lemon dill sauce, served with mashed potatoes and fresh steamed broccoli ($14.99). It came with garden salad or soup of the day (potato cheddar). We both had the garden salad which had a delicious dressing on it (should have asked what it was) and was served with a basket of sun dried tomato bread. Everything was delish! With a little nudging from our waitress and a screaming sweet tooth, we just had to succumb to sharing a piece of key lime pie. Would definitely go back.
Since it was getting late and we didn’t want to get caught in traffic, we headed back to the coach. There was probably more to see in this historic little town but guess it will have to wait until next time. I learned afterward that there is a self-guided walking tour – I think we did about half of it so maybe we’ll finish the rest of the tour if we are in the area again.
Besides lunch at Uncle Ernie’s, we did have a couple of good breakfasts during our stay. Here’s the scoop on those restaurants:
The Egg & I – a chain that I think we’ve eaten at before. Rob had his usual eggs with corned beef hash and I had my usual eggs (scrambled) with bacon. Decent breakfast but a little pricey. Also Rob’s poached eggs came out hard boiled, although they were very apologetic and fixed the problem quickly.
Andy’s Flour Power Bakery – really cute place. I had Eggs Your Way ($5.95), 2 eggs with bacon, home fries and toast (actually turned out to be three eggs because one was overcooked so the waitress brought me another one) and Rob had a bacon and cheese omelet ($5.95). Overall very good! Would eat here again.
Fatty Patty’s Cafe & Bakery – probably the one we liked the best. I had the Cafe Breakfast ($6.50) with the usual eggs, bacon, home fries and toast. And guess what Rob had. Yep, you guessed it – hash and eggs ($7.00). Excellent breakfast with good service. The home fries were thin sliced and fried, yum! And best of all the toast comes out of the kitchen already buttered, plus the waitress will cash you out at the table (no need to wait in line at the register) – two big pet peeves of ours.
So that wraps up our excursions outside of St. Andrews State Park. On Friday, March 13th, we were off to our next previously visited destination – can you guess where?