Rubbing hard against Alabama in the west and Georgia in the north, the long, narrow Panhandle has much more in common with the states of the Deep South than with the rest of Florida. Hard to believe, then, that just over a century ago, the Panhandle was Florida. At the western edge, Pensacola was a busy port when Miami was still a swamp. Fertile soils lured wealthy plantation owners south, helping to establish Tallahassee as a high-society gathering place and administrative centre – a role which, as the state capital, it retains. But the decline of cotton, deforestation and the coming of the East Coast railroad eventually left the Panhandle high and dry. Much of the inland region still seems neglected, and the Apalachicola National Forest is perhaps the best place in Florida to disappear into the wilderness. The coastal Panhandle, on the other hand, is enjoying better times: despite rows of hotels, much is still untainted, boasting miles of blinding white sands.