About 700 miles south of the Bourbon Trail, after you travel through winding mountain roads, dense pine forests, and miles of cotton fields, the Gulf of Mexico snuggles up to West Florida. Drive here and you will certainly find some of our most beautiful beaches, a few coveted coastal islands, and a quaint little place called Dixie County. Like many places that are too small and quirky to attract droves of tourists, one can nearly disappear from the real world and find true peace down at the end of County Road 351. In the little town of Horseshoe Beach, Dixie County’s most treasured secret, you won’t find any fancy restaurants or cute shops; no malls, no traffic lights, not even a stop sign. This is the kind of place where getting a new public access boat ramp is the single largest renovation that the town has undergone in a decade, seriously. People choose to live here because they are tired of living in a changing world and they don’t mind hot, buggy summers. To these people, Horseshoe is life’s little slice of warm, mosquito-infested heaven.
I have been going to Horseshoe for 10 years now. My childhood best friend and his family own a house in Horseshoe, which has been in his family for generations. When we were younger, we would escape to Horseshoe every chance we could get, but nowadays, it only happens about once every two years. A damn shame, I know. This year, we made the long trip from Raleigh to Dixie County for a weekend escape, during which time I realized that this place is the perfect place to write about on our blog. The bourbon culture is all about recognizing those regions of our wonderful country that seem to fade off the beaten path, which is exactly the kind of place that Horseshoe is.
A day in Horseshoe always begins with a trip to The Point where you can breathe in some fresh ocean air and gaze out at one of the most beautiful seascapes you will ever see. There is never a crowd and there is never a rush. Just you, the breeze, and the peaceful Horseshoe Bay for as long as you need it. The Point is also one of the darkest places on earth at night, revealing the thick bands of our Milky Way galaxy like fluffy clouds far up in the sky. During a new moon, if you lie on your back for a few minutes and look up, you will eventually spot a satellite drifting across the sky like a tiny little moon in orbit. But the nights at Horseshoe are full of many, many things, so forgive me for getting ahead of myself here. Back to describing a typical day…
Just as everything begins at The Point, everything eventually goes fishing during its time in Horseshoe. A short ride up the main canal or out the Old Channel will bring you into casting distance of some of the best fishing, scalloping, and marine wildlife spotting in coastal America. Ospreys stand perched on the channel markers while flocks of pelicans scoop up their next meal off the edge of an oyster bar. The sound of cold beer and cut bait echo off the nearby marsh as corks hit the water, dangling fresh bait right next to the mouths of beautiful red fish and speckled trout. About every 30 minutes a boat engine cranks up as the captain heads back out towards the sea for another drift.
But once the sun goes down and the fish have been cleaned and eaten, the back alleys, nooks, and crannies of Horseshoes begin to come alive. Loud 4X4 pickups idle down the main road, making another round at The Point and looking for familiar faces to stop and talk to. The sound of a drum set and an electric guitar reverberate up the side streets as the Steel Bridge band performs a live country rock show at the softball field. It’s right about time to pour a drink and drive the golf cart down to the sand dunes to hear some good music and watch a couple of fist fights. No need to worry about the cops since they probably play in the band anyway. Not to mention, the 35-minute drive from Cross City down to Horseshoe Beach is never worth the trip for one of the two deputies on duty during any given Saturday night. If things get out of hand, the good people of Horseshoe have their own little ways of solving the problem(s), something I hope you and I never have to find out about.
As you can probably gather, I think Horseshoe is truly a wonderful place where people can go to experience a simpler kind of life that we all have the tendency to forget all about. A trip there requires tough skin and a tolerance for bad hygiene, but it all adds up to an experience that is good for your character and necessary for the southern man’s soul. If you are ever lucky enough to find yourself driving through the side roads of this wonderful town, stop by the old marina and tell them you read about them on the Bourbon Journal.