Some visitors to St. George Island are among the third and fourth generations of their families to vacation here, and while their magical traditions began decades ago, new ones are also starting every day. For those planning your first foray to gorgeous St. George, here’s a helpful guide with plenty of insider information to enhance your experience:

Let’s assume you’ve booked an amazing place to stay with a great rental company and have all the details regarding your lodging squared away. Once you’ve crossed the island’s scenic bridge, the best place to start is the St. George Island Visitor Center, located within a few steps of our historic lighthouse. Operated by the Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce, the center features plenty of free guides to area recreation, including fishing charters, outfitters, and gear rentals.

And while you’re on the property, pop into the Cape St. George Lighthouse Museum and Gift Shop and climb to the top of the 89-foot lighthouse, which offers a gorgeous panoramic view of where you’ll be enjoying your time over the course of your visit. Since most rental properties offer well-appointed kitchens and other comfortable amenities, consider stopping at one or both of the island’s grocery stores to get the necessary provisions for your stay.

With its own dedicated gas station, the Piggly Wiggly Xpress is a great place to top off your tanks and fill a basket with needed items. And across the intersection, the newly renovated SGI Fresh Market offers a large selection of items, fresh produce, a variety of refreshments, and a deli counter with fresh seafood.

And speaking of fresh seafood, if you’re looking for anything from fresh shrimp and oysters to an amazing, ready-to-eat seafood dip, you’d do well with either — or both — of the island’s seafood trailers. Both Doug’s and Dail’s seafood trailers have been staples on the island for more than 20 years, and both are located near the island’s main intersection and usually open seven days a week to provide the freshest of the sea’s bounty.

Once you’re unpacked and settled in your vacation home, you can start thinking about how much, or little, you want to do while on St. George Island. Guests of Resort Vacation Properties enjoy free beach gear including kayaks, paddleboards, bikes and beach games to go along with each home’s high-speed WiFi, cable or satellite. But if you’re looking for a canoe, fishing gear or a charter trip through the scenic local waterways, there are a number of outfitters to help you, including Journeys SGI and Island Outfitters.

Then there’s the beach. St. George Island has 22 miles of sandy, pet-friendly coastline with plenty of room to stretch out without folks sitting right next to you. Seashells are wonderful mementos to bring home with you, as are the unlimited sunrise and sunset photos you can create right on your stretch of beach.

Looking to get out and socialize a bit? The restaurants on St. George offer a variety of tasty meals and expansive cocktail menus for a great lunch or dinner out, and there are opportunities for live music, trivia, and karaoke almost every night. And for those who love to shop, there are art galleries on the island, and Apalachicola’s delightful shopping district is just a short drive across the big bridge, with shops offering apparel, home goods, fine art, and more. You can get amazing meals, many featuring famous Apalachicola oysters, and entertainment there, too.

And an inaugural visit to St. George Island wouldn’t be complete without a few hours spent enjoying its signature state park. With more than 2,000 acres of natural habitat, the park offers coastline on both the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay. There are opportunities to hike, bike, geo-seek, swim, camp, fish, and take in the scenic glory of untouched coastal Florida. Photographers flock to St. George Island State Park to capture the wildlife, landscapes and especially the nighttime stars which, due to little light pollution, are among the best in the Southeast. The state park will help you learn about the natural history of St. George Island while experiencing it firsthand. And the rest will be up to you!

For more ideas about what to get up to along Florida’s Forgotten Coast, click here.

Grabbing your girlfriends, heading to St. George Island, and sticking your toes in the sand for a few days is not only a wonderful way to celebrate friendship in a gorgeous locale, but it can actually help you live longer. According to scientific studies, friendships can ward off dementia and increased life expectancy. It has also been proven that active friendships help make you friendlier, more generous, and more trusting.

A girls’ trip isn’t just a vacation—it’s a chance to explore the best moments of the past and strengthen relationships for a happier future. And no matter what your tastes or interests, the island has what you need to relax and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Want to start your day limber and calm? Take the group down to the beach for sun salutations with Island SUP&Yoga. And once you’ve loosened up, try something new and take a paddle board lesson from the same female instructors. A properly balanced body helps clear your mind, which will undoubtedly lead you to maximum relaxation.

St. George Island and nearby Apalachicola also have numerous art studios where you can take a painting class or even try your hands at sculpture. Sea Oats Studio offers a variety of workshops both indoor and “en plein air.” It’s the ultimate way to connect creatively with your friends and have something unique to remember your travels by. And speaking of memories, having a comfortable place to stay on the island is the best gift you can give yourselves and each other.

Whether you’re traveling with your two best friends, or a group of 10 laughing ladies, Resort Vacation Properties has the place for you. Solitude is a seven-bedroom home located on the island’s east end and offers easy access to the beach while staying delightfully private. It features a screened-in porch adjacent to the pool, which includes a six-person hot tub and private deck.

For larger groups with a bit of do-it-yourself flair, A Glimpse of Heaven features a 40-foot-long, screened-in pool with a giant dolphin fountain. The pool is adjacent to an opulent living area, complete with a half bath and an outdoor kitchen. It’s like having a giant swimming pool at one end of your amazing living room! What could be better than sipping wine on a comfy couch and then taking a quick dip before having a delicious seafood dish prepared a few feet away?

Those are just a couple of the amazing properties available on St. George Island, and they’re all within a short drive, stroll, or bike ride from some of the best restaurants Florida has to offer. You can get everything from fresh Mexican fusion dishes to pit barbecue and blackened fish caught the same day. And St. George Island features some of the top bartenders in the business for when sharing stories makes everyone thirsty.

Companionship is a priceless commodity in today’s world, and what’s good about spending time with your closest friends is that once you’re together, everything else is just the cherry on top. Which is why the number one destination on the island for our visitors is the more than 20 miles of sandy beach. All you need is a chair, an umbrella, and some sunshine — plus the people you enjoy being with more than anyone else.

A pair of signature Resort Vacation Properties homes, located inside the gated St. George Plantation, are among the highlights of this year’s St. George Island Tour of Homes. They are “Chasing the Sun” and “Camelot.”

According to the St. George Lighthouse Association, which sponsors the tour, its homes “showcase the distinct architecture, décor, landscape and vistas on the island, from the gated St. George Plantation on the West to the beautiful gulf views on the East End.”

The beautiful sunshine yellow beachfront home, “Chasing the Sun,” is a star of the Plantation, and was redecorated and renovated in Spring 2018. It features four levels of style and surprises, including peak floors, fireplace mantels recycled from a Kentucky barn and amazing beach vistas combine for comfort and dazzle.

Nestled in lush tropical vegetation, the warmly decorated “Camelot” is truly a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the real world. It is all elegant curves and unexpected angles. Rich furnishings, original art and a secret grotto evoke the feel of a mythic castle. It also features a beautiful lagoon pool and rock fountain.

From the St. George Island Tour of Homes:

The third home in the Plantation, “Pelican Peace,” is a lovely, lively, full-time home. The rooms are decorated in South African and Mexican themes, and include bright artwork throughout. Marble stairs, leather furniture, a black cypress dining table and an enviable kitchen exude elegant warmth.

“Eventide” is a brand new, elevated, two-story home designed to fit its coveted bayfront lot. Inside, the inviting and ingenious space is crafted to optimize every inch for leisurely living. Nautical and nostalgic décor create a serene space throughout, perfect for enjoying the days and glorious nightly sunsets.

“Rock Me On the Water” is a remodeled 1960s beach house filled with custom pieces made from reclaimed wood, metal siding and roofing. Opening a closed porch and combining four rooms created a large front room and sweeping porch facing the Gulf of Mexico and overlooking the custom pool.

The homeowners of “HappiNest” say “this is our before-and-after house.” Originally a three-room house, it is now a spacious, peaceful space with modern finishes. Sea green-blues and rust-coral accents add pleasing splashes of color. An Old Florida ambience still permeates this transformed home.

“East of Eden” is a grand house with an island heart. The main living area is a host’s dream featuring a rough-edged pine table and chef’s kitchen. Views from every floor are simply stunning. Outdoor luxuries include a seating area, second kitchen and full bath with galvanized tub.

The Plantation Clubhouse is once again on the tour and will present an exhibit of mixed media art by Beth Appleton, Jane Broddus and Judy Ehrhardt. Also open to tour participants is the Cape St. George Lighthouse and the Keeper’s House Museum and Gift Shop.

The SGI Tour of homes will be held Saturday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are available online at sgitourofhomes.com or at the Lighthouse Gift Shop at the center of St. George Island. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the tour.

We hear it all the time, from locals and visitors alike: “Apalachicola Bay oysters are the best.”

It’s not an opinion to Forgotten Coast diners — and those around the country, for that matter — it’s a fact. Compared to the bivalve competition, the award-winning oysters are cleaner and meatier, with a naturally mellow flavor that makes them the star of any dish or simply when they’re served naked on the half shell.

Our oysters are so good they are the cornerstone of some of the coast’s most successful restaurants and signature dishes. And they can be the rock stars of home kitchens everywhere, too. But if you’re going to don the glove and pick up the knife, then you need to make sure your skills are on point.

No one wants to be accused of butchering an Apalachicola Bay oyster.

Folks staying on, or around, St. George Island can pick up a sack of fresh oysters at several different markets, including Lynn’s, Best, Barber’s, and Island View across the bay in Eastpoint, and Water Street, Royalty, 13 Mile, Leavins and Allen’s in Apalachicola. Although market prices vary from season to season, on average a sack will contain between 12 to 14 dozen oysters and cost around $80.

Once you get the bounty back to your “shuckin’ station,” take a scrub brush and lightly scrub the shell of the oyster, just to remove any silt or sand to keep your presentation nice and clean. When it comes to gloves, we recommend one made of chain mail or another substance that’s puncture-proof should a slip occur. And use a good, sharp oyster knife, if you have one. If not, a paring knife will do, as long as it’s sturdy.

Here’s what you need to know about oyster anatomy. The bivalves have two specific shell halves, attached with a hinge. One is curved like a cup, and the other forms the flatter lid. On a hard surface, like a cutting board, you want to open them lid side up.

Gently slip the blade into the hinge, and wiggle it back and forth until you feel it open a little. Then slide the blade along the lid’s ceiling, which will disconnect the oyster’s abductor muscle and allow you to remove the lid. Then carefully move to the underside of the muscle to separate it from the cup side of the shell, leaving the oyster free-floating in its own juices. Clean off any pieces of broken shell, place it on a tray or serving dish and then repeat.

Beginners should be able to move through a dozen in about half an hour, but you can easily shave serious time off with practice. And if you’re serving them on the half shell, traditional garnishes include lemon wedges, horseradish, cocktail sauce, hot sauce, and saltines. But if you’ve gotten this far with your pride and reputation intact, serve them however you want!

And so you know the company you’re in as a successful shucker here on the Florida Panhandle, Panama City’s Honor Allen was the U.S. Oyster Shucking Champion in 2016 and 2017, shucking two dozen oysters in an average of two minutes at the national championship in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. In 2018, Allen placed 5th in the World Oyster Opening Championship in Galway, Ireland.

And while it’s not necessary to be the world’s best, with the right skills and amazing Apalachicola Bay oysters, you can be the best on your block in no time.

While we spend a spend a majority of our time enjoying St. George Island, it’s our wonderful neighboring communities who also make the Forgotten Coast the panhandle’s best destination. So sometimes we like to stretch our legs and escape for a bit and being just a few miles to our east, Carrabelle makes for a pleasant escapade.

The area has some of the best hunting, fishing, hiking and camping on the coast, with over 750,000 acres of public forest where eagles, deer, blue heron, osprey and black bear can be seen, depending on the season. And that massive acreage includes nearby Tate’s Hell State Forest and the convergence of the Carrabelle, Crooked and New rivers, which are perfect for canoes and kayaks.

At Carrabelle Beach, Crooked River Lighthouse Park is a fun place to visit and experience a bit of history. It features the 103-foot lighthouse, where you can climb all 138 steps to the top for a great view of the area. The park also features a museum and, soon, will feature a centerpiece pirate ship known as the Carrabella II for kids to explore.

Craving a day of adventure? Dog Island is just a short jaunt to the south, by motor or paddle. The island is a fun place for adventure with pristine white sand beaches, good shelling, crabbing and shore fishing. Although it is now closed, the Pelican Inn is still there, reminding visitors that the island used to be inhabited. Now, it’s a prime destination for folks wanting a taste of pristine habitat, where hundreds of species of birds can be observed, and a picnic lunch is the best idea of the day.

For those who enjoy golf, hard-court tennis, aerobics and good food, the St. James Bay Golf Resort is open to the public and features the Crooked River Grill restaurant and a perfectly manicured 18-hole championship course.

Carrabelle is also home to a collective of local artists whose creations can be found throughout the area. And there are two main events each year, in addition to holiday celebrations like those at Christmas and the Fourth of July. Each August, the city hosts the Crab Cake Cook-off, which for the last three years has raised money to build the aforementioned Carrabella II. It’s a tasty chance to mingle and enjoy a variety of crab cake recipes using local seafood.

And the featured attraction each October is Lantern Fest, held at Crooked River Lighthouse. The glow from 123 lanterns will set the mood for an evening celebrating the lighthouse’s 123rd birthday. There’s dancing, Celtic music, star gazing with the Tallahassee Astronomical Society, children’s activities, delicious food and desserts, and special evening tower climbs at the tallest lighthouse on the Forgotten Coast.

“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful. In a word, more alive.” — Alice Waters

The restaurants of St. George Island aren’t just spaces where tasty dishes are served in flavors as varied as the wildlife they’re surrounded by, they are places where strangers become friends. And it’s not just meals we gather over, but songs, bingo cards, and trivia slips.

On the island, you’re not required to entertain yourselves, although that’s certainly your right, and if you want to relax and share fellowship at the same time, there’s fun to be had every night of the week—and most of the time without charge.

If your week — even one spent on vacation — begins on Monday, then Paddy’s Raw Bar (at Gunn Street and East 3rd) is where things get lively. Trivia conducted under the theme “Eat. Drink. Think.” is held on Monday nights around 7 p.m., and live music is offered there most other nights as well, beginning around 6 or 7 p.m.

Tuesdays are a great night for socializing on St. George and in the area. There’s Trivia Night with Coach starting around 7 p.m. at Doc Myers’ (East Pine Avenue and West 1st) or Trivia with Skip at Tamara’s Tapas Bar in Apalachicola, also around 7 p.m.

Harry A’s is the place for karaoke on Tuesdays, around 7 p.m., and about that same time on Wednesdays challenges the island’s sharpest minds — imported or native — with trivia.

Live music is also available most nights of the week, especially Friday through Sunday, and Doc Myers’ offers a late-night DJ party most weekends, going until well after midnight.

For some, the joy of fishing is the thrill of the chase. For others, it’s beating last year’s record catch. Still others love the meticulous selection of lures and other gear. But whichever is your favorite part, I’m guessing the peace and solitude are what keep you coming back.

Unfortunately, peace and solitude can be hard to find in northwest Florida… unless you head to the Forgotten Coast in late winter and early spring.

This time of year – before the tourists head back to the Gulf Coast – the water starts to get a little warmer and the fish start to venture out of the rivers and creeks, down the shallow waters of the oyster bars in Apalachicola. All along the east end of St. George Island, where the deep tidal currents run,

Shallow oyster bars and deep tidal currents make for good fishing on the east end of St. George Island, and it will only get better as the surface water continues to warm. This is the time of year to catch monster speckled trout on top of oyster bars very early in the mornings using top-water plugs. In fact, the big fish get so shallow that many seasoned anglers will actually get out of their boats to wade along the sand bars.

Catch and (careful) release is important when you do hook a big one, because these fish are carrying the future of fishing. As surf temperatures rise to 65 degrees and above, you’ll find whiting and possible early scouts of Spanish mackerel and the prized pompano.

As we get closer to spring, the winds pick up and make fishing difficult. But with steady warming along the beaches, you’ll find improving action – especially along St. George Island and the east end of St. George Island State Park.

Just like any other time of year, your best opportunities will always be in the first third of a tide change and, generally, when the tidal current is fastest. Along the beach, you’ll catch Spanish mackerel and ladyfish on top-water plugs and spoons; pompano, mackerel, and flounder on silver-headed jigs; and trout and mackerel on slow-sinking twitch baits. You’ll see more whiting and flounder very close on the beaches, just behind breaking waves; sliver-headed jigs work well here, too.

Now is your chance to get in some quiet time along Florida’s Forgotten Coast – just you and the fish – before Spring Breakers arrive.

Tight lines!

Nothing beats autumn at the beach. The emerald water turns a little grayer, the sun is a little lower, the breezes are a little cooler. The crowds are even a little sparser.

But the best part of fall in the Panhandle is the Florida Seafood Festival.

Now in its 54th year, this two-day celebration is the state’s oldest maritime festival, drawing thousands of visitors to the historic town of Apalachicola on November 3rd and 4th!

The Festival is held at the mouth of the Apalachicola River under the shady oaks of Battery Park. This confluence of the river and the Gulf of Mexico form an estuary that gives the local oysters their distinctive salty-sweet taste. Some call these the best in the country, and in fact, nearly 90 percent of all oysters served in Florida come from this spot.

Of course, oysters are king at the Seafood Festival, but there’s more to it than just eating (though that’s really enough, isn’t it?). The festival also features arts and crafts exhibits, plus other seafood-related events including the Oyster Eating and Oyster Shucking contests, Blue Crab Races, a downtown Parade, 5k Redfish Run, and the Blessing of the Fleet.

There’s also musical entertainment with headliners I Am They, a Christian music group performing Friday, and country music star Jerrod Niemann on Saturday.

The entire event is free and open to the public, so just head over to Apalachicola and enjoy the fun!

When Halloween is on a weekend, it’s often observed on that day alone. But when it happens to fall on a weekday, it’s only proper form to celebrate the whole weekend leading up to the spookiest day of the year. This year, Halloween falls on a Tuesday, meaning this year is one we celebrate Halloweekend! That just leaves the question of how to spend it!

Just across the bay in Apalachicola are three different options to make your Halloweekend so much fun it’s frightening! All of these events are happening Saturday, October 28—it’s just up to you to decide!

A non-traditional way to celebrate Halloweekend is with the award-winning Autos and Oysters Auto Show in Apalachicola. Prizes are given to Top 50, Best of Show, Club Participation, and Sponsor’s Choice, but a category our guests might win is Greatest Distance Traveled. If you want to vie for that prize, head over to Riverfront Park between 9 AM and noon with your $20 registration fee. For those who just want to peruse the cruisers, admission is free, and the show is open to the public from 10 AM to 4 PM.

If you’d rather celebrate with a quiet night in, look no further than your own home away from home. You can craft something truly wonderful in the fully equipped Resort Vacation Properties kitchens, and many of our properties have DVD players so you can watch a scary (or not so scary!) movie. The Apalachicola Farmers Market is a great place to pick up fresh, local produce and seafood for a yummy dinner. Stop by to meet our local farmers, fishermen, and artisans at the Millpond Pavilion Market Street every second and fourth Saturday from 9 AM till 1 PM!

If you’re a fan of a more ghastly Halloween celebration, Apalach has you covered, too. Saturday evening from 6:30 to 8:30, the Apalachicola Area Historical Society hosts its biannual Ghostwalk in the Chestnut Street Cemetery. Wander through history as locals regale the stories that make the Forgotten Coast so unique, all while dressed in creepy cool attire from the time period. All proceeds go to the preservation of this historic cemetery.

However you choose to celebrate, it’s sure to be an epic Halloweekend on the Forgotten Coast! Ask one of our friendly team members for further insight to what you can get up to while you’re here this fall!