Weekend Getaway Planner: St. George Island, Florida
About st. george island, florida
Sea oats and tall grasses wave in the breeze atop dunes that overlook white sand beaches and turquoise water. The laid-back atmosphere of island life is contagious here and vacationers ponder out loud what it would be like to live on St. George Island as a full-time resident. That's the feeling you get when you are here. The beauty, the relaxed lifestyle, and the isolation from the mainland create a feeling of timelessness. It is hard to leave!
Located about half-way between Tallahassee and Panama City, the twenty-eight-mile barrier island is host to an extensive beach house community alongside a rich array of wildlife. The Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park at the east end of the island conserves habitat for birds, reptiles, and ghost crabs as well as sea turtles who return each summer to lay their eggs at the dune line. Dolphins, rays, and sharks all cruise the edges of this coastline hunting the abundant schools of fish. They seem to compete with local fishermen for the catch of the day! But the real treasure here is oysters. Apalachicola Bay is home to oyster beds and, during the season, you can see boats large and small bent on harvesting a share of the succulent shellfish. Every local restaurant and diner offer them raw, bathed in butter, or lovingly coaxed into a well-kept secret recipe.
Like many beach communities St. George Island is a vacation destination and the abundance of rental houses and condominiums make it a favorite spot for visitors from Canada to Georgia. Its sunny weather and warm Gulf waters make it a great spot for 'snowbirds' during the winter while in summer a crush of vacationers calls it home for a week at a time. While most of the Florida coastline is overrun with multi-story hotels and condos, St. George maintains a low profile with single-family homes and modest condos that dot the Gulf and Bay beaches.
The west end is home to The Plantation, a gated community of elegant neighborhoods that share community pools, tennis courts, and a quieter vacation atmosphere. It is also the only drivable access to the Bob Sikes Cut, a man-made channel from the Gulf to Apalachicola Bay. Its swift currents provide a speedy passage for boats and a great place to fish from the jetty or the docks of lucky residents. Sunsets are amazing here but unless you are staying in one of the homes on the gated access road, you will have to walk the beach or take a boat to reach the Cut.
There are few of the typical beach town attractions here and that is part of its charm. The main attraction is the island itself, so plan on a relaxed and family-friendly atmosphere on the beach, in the State Park, and along the bay. Over the years it has become exceedingly popular so early beach house rental reservations are a must. Start planning your trip and making reservations by January for the following summer.
st. george island: Where to Stay
Coastline RV Resort, East Point, FL - Just seven miles east of the bridge to St. George Island, this new RV Resort offers full hook-ups, brick patios, cable TV, a lovely pool, fishing pier, and clubhouse with showers, laundry, and kitchen facilities.
Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park - The Park is at the east end of the island and offers 60 campsites with water and electricity as well as a central dump station and two bathhouses. The Park provides multiple parking areas near the east end beaches, and a two natural boat launches, outdoor showers and restroom facilities for day users. Bring your bug spray in the summer months!
Beach House Rentals - There are several rental companies on the island including Collins Vacation Rentals, Resort Vacation Properties, Suncoast Realty, Fickling & Co. Vacation Rentals as well as many listings on VRBO. Most beach houses rent by the week in peak season but some will rent for shorter periods in the offseason.
Activities around st. george island
Swimming - the beaches on both the Gulf and Bay sides of St. George Island offer beaches for swimming. A colored flag system is used to alert visitors to dangerous conditions such as rip currents, heavy surf or dangerous marine life [think sharks and jellyfish]. Storms can cause serious rip currents, so be sure to check before your swim and keep a close eye on children in the water.
Shelling - As a barrier island, St. George's beaches are often littered with shells! Huge scallops, clams, oysters, and many others can be easily found on the white sand beaches.
Fishing - If fishing is your thing, you can enjoy surf fishing from St. George Island beaches, from your boat in the bay or Gulf, and there is a fishing pier near the bridge, converted from the old bridge platform. Flounder, redfish, sea trout, pompano, whiting, mullet, and mackerel are all on the menu!
Boating - There are two boat launches in Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park, or you can hire a captain in Apalachicola or East Point to take you out for a day of deep sea fishing.
Stargazing - St. George Island is a great place to view stars! Distance from the mainland limits light pollution and a low-light ordinance to protect nesting sea turtles keeps beach-side light to a minimum.
Climb the lighthouse- the St. George Island Light has been restored and is open to the public for tours. The nearby St. George Island visitors center will help you navigate other activities in nearby towns.
Birding - St. George Island is a great place to spot seabirds. Snowy plovers, least terns, black skimmers, and willets nest within the State Park while flocks of seagulls haunt the beaches. You can watch squadrons of pelicans skim the Gulf waters or enjoy sandpipers and oystercatchers play "keep away" with the surf while they dig for shellfish along the beach.
Kayaking - One of my favorite activities, it takes on a bit more excitement getting a kayak beyond the surf line! Once there, the Gulf water is pretty calm for kayaking and you might just spot a few dolphins while you are near the sand bars. The Bay offers a more serene experience with lots of wildlife to enjoy in the water as well as along the shore.
Shopping - Just over the bridge is East Point and Apalachicola where you can find a good grocery store, restaurants, gift shops, and just about anything else you might need. Apalachicola is a great place to stroll around town and see the fishing boats, browse lots of little shops and find a great seafood meal.
National Estaurine Research Reserve - Just over the bridge in East Point is the National Estaurine Research Reserve Nature Center. It's a great place to take the kids to learn about the wildlife in the area. Live exhibits, dioramas and displays of local fishing are a fascinating peek into life on Apalachiola Bay. Open to the public several days during the week and free admission make it an easy choice when the beach gets too hot!
where to eat around st. george island:
Watch for fresh seafood vendors on the island - small trailers with the catch of the day. If you miss them, the local grocery has fresh fish too!
The Blue Parrot - a St. George favorite. Enjoy sandwiches, fresh seafood, and cold beverages on the beachside patio or air-conditioned dining room.
Aunt Ebby's Ice Cream Shop - Make the trip up the stairs at Aunt Ebby's! Located on the upper floor of a yellow clapboard building, this ice cream shop has served up cones, cups, and sundaes for years.
Apalachicola Seafood Grill - on Market Street in downtown Apalachicola is a family friendly spot for lunch or dinner. Great seafood, friendly service, and a laid back vibe inside. If you sit at an outside table you can bring your pup!
Don't forget to bring:
Kayaks (or rent a kayak on the island)
Telescope for stargazing (and maybe a constellation map too!)
Camera for capturing the moment
Fishing pole and Florida fishing license
All the beach gear
Relaxed attitude - leave the watch at home and enjoy beach time
Rent a beach house in offseason. The weather is lovely in spring and fall; Even the winter has some great weather. St George Island is not just a summer destination!