St George Island on Florida's forgotten coast - an unspoiled paradise

Caroline de Braganza

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Endless beach within your reachEbyabe/wikimedia commons

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St. George Island State Park Beach is ranked #4 Best Beach Nationwide for 2021!

But there are other beaches here - Dr. Beach consistently rates St. George’s Island as having the top beaches in the U.S.

This friendly 28-mile barrier island In Franklin County, fronting the historic Apalachicola Bay is famous for its oysters, lighthouse, white powdery sand beaches, and no high rises or chain stores.

Swimming, shelling, fishing, and wildlife viewing in the pristine saltwater marshes, and pine forests of St. George Island State Park (more later) make this an idyllic paradise you will never forget.

Pets are allowed on the public beaches outside the St. George Island State Park, making this a fantastic destination for the family—dogs need a break too! They are welcome, provided they are well-behaved. Many rentals allow you to bring your pet.

Cape Saint George Lighthouse

The original lighthouse was first built in 1833, then rebuilt in 1848 and 1852 on Little George Island—an uninhabited island you can only access by boat. (Put it on your bucket list to visit!)

The lighthouse collapsed into the Gulf in 2005 and was then reconstructed in the centre of St. George Island, using the original plans from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and much of the original materials.

The new/old lighthouse opened to the public in 2008. Towering 79 feet into the sky, it now forms the hub of the island community.

A replica of the original keeper’s house, a two-storey brick building opened to the public in 2011. It houses a museum telling the story of the lighthouse and its keepers, and a gift shop for visitors to purchase mementos.

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Center of the island and communityCarl Pearson/flickr

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They’ll be hosting a Sunset and Full Moon Climb on June 24 from 8.30 p.m. through 10.00 p.m. The organisers will allot 15-minute time slots for each group on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the Cape St. George Light Museum and Gift Shop website for further details.

If you’re into climbing 92 stairs to the top for a panoramic view of the island, the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay, by the light of the *Strawberry Moon, then you should go.

(*American tribes, especially the Algonquin, name full moons to mark the seasons. The Strawberry Moon heralds the peak of the strawberry picking season.)

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St. George Island SunsetRonald Brown/flickr

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Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

This 1,962-acre park, which reopened on May 21, is at the far east end of the island, and boasts nine miles of undeveloped beaches, pine forests and wilderness, where you can hike or bike it, go fishing, birdwatching, or just enjoy doing nothing and shed your stress!

(Canoe and kayak rentals are currently unavailable.)

Perfect for the family to swim and play, with gentle surf and shallow waters, and ample parking, picnic pavilions and grills. You can discover a secluded spot away from crowds - several small pull-off parking areas provide boardwalk access along the length of the beach.

The park allows pets, except on the beach, but they must be on a six-foot leash under control of the owner.

During the summer, the shoreline is active when sea turtles and shorebirds such as the snowy plover, least tern, willet and black skimmer lay their nests within the park.

There is a campground a quarter-mile from the beach, nestled behind the dunes in the pine flatwoods. It has 60 campsites with electricity and water hook-ups and a nearby dump station. The site has two restrooms with hot showers, a playground, and a nature trail that takes you through the pine forests.

Check their website for details on fees and rules.

The East End Fishing Beach is a special use area of the park behind a locked gate - for fishing only. This is one of the most popular fishing areas on the Forgotten Coast—you will need a special permit issued at the main gate.

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Boat on St. GeorgeSteve Robinson/flickr

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St. George Island Public Beach

The public beach on St. George Island is easy to find, off Island Drive. You can’t get lost on an island, but you can always ask for directions at the lighthouse!

The beach offers bath house facilities, covered pavilions for picnics, a playground and basket ball court. Dogs of all sizes are welcome provided they are on a leash and you clean up their mess after.

Unit Four Beach

This beach is a captivating walk for nature lovers, on the bay side of the island at East 6th Street. Parking is minimal and the only facility is a picnic table. Unit 4 is part of the Great Florida Birding so birding enthusiasts will love the varied habitats of tidal marsh, flatwoods and scrub..

The fresh-water pools may provide secretive rails and diving kingfishers; a stroll down the beach may uncover willet, plovers, herons, diving osprey and marauding eagles.

This land parcel forms part of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) currently managed by the Office of Resilience and Coastal Protection, which includes East Point and Little St. George Island.

(You can adopt a sea turtle nest on St. George Island for the 2021 nesting season for $50!)

Other places of interest

Blue Parrot Oceanfront Café - fresh seafood, and a spectacular view of the water.

Watch out for the Saint George Island Mullet Toss, which takes place on the second Saturday of June each year from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. They award prizes for the longest throws in the men’s, women’s and kid’s division.

After that, they host the 4th of July Freedom Fest, followed by the Beach Volleyball Tournament in August. Details here.

Paddy’s Raw Bar - Loved by locals and visitors, their motto is A Sunny Place for Shady People. Enjoy their Apalachicola oysters and daily live music. Check here.

Weber's Little Donut Shop - 65 West Gorrie Drive for the best cake donuts! Indulge here.

Aunty Ebby’s Ice Cream—as she says “Enjoy the biggest scoops on the beach and the friendliest service in town!” Cool off here.

Island Dog Outdoors - offers everything you want to rent for the beach. Open every day of the week from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. On East Pine Avenue behind Aunt Ebby’s Ice Cream Shop.

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Another Forgotten Beach of Florida you won’t forget!

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