If you’re contemplating a trip to our Natural North Florida coast to snorkel for scallops this 2016 recreational harvest season, be aware that our main ports of St. Marks, Steinhatchee and Keaton Beach are crowded. It was estimated that there were 1500 boats leaving the river on opening day and while there were likely less at other places, it was VERY busy. Luckily, there were plenty of scallops to be gathered and the weather was perfect.
However, a less-crowded option to consider is Horseshoe Beach, west of Cross City, in Dixie County. In some years, scallopers launching here had to make long runs north, past the Pepperfish Keys, to find scallops. However, this year, there are plenty of the tasty bivalves just outside the “pretty pole” about halfway to Pepperfish. Why? The waters are very clear this year, and the grass beds have returned in their full glory.
Unlike some of our busier ports, Horseshoe Beach is smaller, with only one marina and two boat ramps. Parking can be an issue at the ramps, but a shuttle via golf cart is often available. A full-service marina, Horseshoe Beach Marina has two travel lifts to lift boats off trailers, for a fee. There’s also a canoe and kayak launch at the marina.
While small, the town has a couple of good places to eat. The Shrimp Boat Cafe is near the Hwy 352 boat ramp and Jake’s Waterfront Lounge is adjacent to Horseshoe Beach Marina.