Look around the homes of most St. George Island vacationers, and you’d be hard pressed not to find a sunset family photo, framed and prominently on display. It’s only the most seminal image of any beach vacation, after all. And considering our island has some of the most amazing vistas, who wouldn’t want to preserve an amazing memory with their family on the sugar-white sands?

But how many times has this happened to you: the sun’s nearing the horizon or has just gone under, the skies are ablaze with colors straight off Monet’s palette, and everyone in the picture is drowned in shadow. So you do what everyone would, you edit the photo digitally to lighten up the faces and immediately lose the colors that took your breath away to start with.

Or maybe even worse, you leave it as is, and each time you look at the picture, you’re having to remind yourself who was there with you, because you just can’t tell.

The solution is so simple that you’ll never again have to deal with the problem. And better yet, your family photos taken at sunset will be nearly as breathtaking as the memories they chronicle.

First things first: whether taking the photo with a phone or a real camera, turn on the flash. It may take a few shots to get it right, but even a selfie can turn out great if you have what the pros call “fill light.”

What if you have a group larger than a selfie can capture, and you’re in a spot that’s secluded (which is exactly why you came to St. George, by the way). For less than $20, you can get a tripod that will hold either a cell phone or a camera. That way you can fit everyone in! Use the timer, and you don’t have that awkward pose where everyone can tell exactly who was holding the phone.

And if you can at all help it, don’t use a phone. A real camera, whether it’s a point-and-shoot model or a DSLR, can be purchased for a reasonable rate. After all, since you’re in the business of making incredible memories, don’t you want to capture them in the best way possible?

For the more discriminating eye, an on-camera flash is too much. It can flatten the subjects in the image, and in some early evening light, it can cast an abnormal pall on those being illuminated. So if natural light is preferable, consider a reflector. You can buy one on the cheap, but if you don’t want to go that far, consider a white towel or sheet.

Any reflective surface can do the trick, just move it around until you see the light brighten the areas you’re looking for.

Lastly, take a bunch of pictures. Even if you’re laughing or some folks aren’t looking at the camera, you’d be surprised how the most beloved images are the ones that don’t look forced and are far more candid. You came to St. George Island to relax, so all the pictures of you taken here should reflect that! Consider making it a tradition to snap that obligatory sunset photo, and prepare to be amazed at how your family grows and changes over the years of visiting gorgeous St. George.

Many vacation destinations require sprawling day-long expeditions to truly enjoy an area’s diverse natural beauty. But for folks staying on St. George Island, a quick drive to the north side of the SGI Bridge reveals the second-largest estuarine research reserve system in the United States.

The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center — or ANERR, as the locals call it — features more than 1,300 species of plants, 131 species of fish, and 50 species of mammals within 246,000 acres nestled along Apalachicola Bay.

It’s great for nature lovers who enjoy sightseeing, and the more curious who want to learn more about the environment around them.

Open Tuesday through Saturday, ANERR features winding paths that incorporate pine flat woods, oak hammocks and freshwater marshes where cattails and sawgrass grow wild. It is a photographer’s dream with a variety of scenery at every turn, especially near Millender Park, a prime picnic area with views of Apalachicola Bay and the volunteer-made breakwater area.

There are signs posted to keep a lookout for black bears, and while it may be a rare occurrence to actually see one, it should give you an idea of how diverse the wildlife found in ANERR is.

The reserve’s Nature Center features 18,000 square feet of learning space including two working wet and dry research laboratories. It overlooks the Cat Point oyster bar, which is one of the most productive oyster bars in Apalachicola Bay. At low tide, tidal flats and parts of oyster reefs are exposed.

In the Education Center, there are three large water tanks representing the river, bay and gulf habitats found in the Apalachicola area. Each tank holds more than 1,000 gallons and houses a variety of native plant life and creatures.

For more than a century, Apalachicola and Eastpoint have been working waterfronts, fostering generations of fishermen whose industries have only been sustainable due to the health and productivity of Apalachicola Bay. The Education Center focuses on that aspect of local history, with exhibits showing the evolution of oyster industry, and more. A beautiful, 80-foot mural is also on display, depicting area ecosystems.

One of ANERR’s signature events revolves around National Estuaries Day each September. Activities include free, fun and educational stations for kids and adults including marine animal touch tanks, and estuary-themed games including Microplastic Match-Up, Reptile Round-Up and Pin the Tag on the Monarch. In addition to this, there are educational events held year-round.

ANERR is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and for more information call 850-670-7700 or visit apalachicolareserve.com.

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.

Isn’t it wonderful to have all your family and friends under one roof in one of the most beautiful places on earth? That’s the advantage of staying on St. George Island with Resort Vacation Properties.

Some of our most inviting, large-capacity homes are within walking distance of the beach and have amenities sure to excite every member of your group. Take the people you love the most, mix them with ample measures of sunshine, sea breezes, and delicious meals, and you’re sure to have an experience like none other. All you have to do is decide which backdrop you prefer for whatever mood you may find yourself in!

Here are five examples of our large family homes, waiting for you and yours:

  1. 1st to the Beach — This 5-bedroom jewel on Sunset Beach sleeps 18 and is sure to bathe them all in natural light throughout the day. The decor carries the flavor of Tuscany, and from the cast-iron handrails up the staircase to the tile floors and wall hangings, you’ll feel as though the horizon might lead to the Mediterranean Sea instead of the Gulf of Mexico. The two master suites each have their own private balcony, and the 6-person hot tub is the perfect place for sunset cocktails in the evenings. With a private boardwalk to the beach and access to a community pool, this house has it all.
  2. Amore Di Sole — Spend a few minutes at this luxurious property and you’ll understand how its name translates to “Love in the Sun.” The centerpiece of Amore Di Sole is the expansive screened-in lanai with its 15×25-foot pool, which can be heated for your extended comfort. Even the hot tub is under cover, so privacy is kept at a premium for everyone in your group. Located right across the street from the beach, this home sleeps 16 and participates in the St. George Plantation amenities program, which includes two community pools, tennis and pickleball courts, the Plantation Clubhouse and fitness center, nature trails, access to Bob Sikes Cut, and more. And just to sweeten the deal, we’ve recently added an elevator for your convenience.
  3. Ohana — Also located in St. George Plantation, this is the place to make memories that will last forever. With three levels, hardwood floors throughout and seven bedrooms sleeping a grand total of 20, Ohana is the place to bring everyone together. The porches are amazing here, with rocking chairs and chaise lounges to enjoy the sunsets and the natural wonder evident throughout the Plantation. There are three master suites, a chef’s dream of a kitchen, and a game room with a 65-inch flat screen HDTV, Xbox with games, Foosball table, books, a DVD library, full bath and a queen sleeper sofa. Then there’s the 15×25-foot pool, hot tub, elevator, and array of beach toys and family-friendly items for when it’s time to hit the beach at the end of your private boardwalk. With all that, it’s easy to unite an entire family, right at the water’s edge.
  4. An Island Breeze — What’s not to love about a recently renovated home with breathtaking, unobstructed views from every room? Located in West Gulf Beaches, An Island Breeze offers plenty of just that for up to 14 guests. There’s so much new here, you’ll feel like it was customized just for you. The spaciously remodeled kitchen features new cabinets, pantry, granite countertops, new double-oven stove, and two sinks to take care of your group in the best way possible. And you can enjoy sunbathing and stargazing in the new hot tub and splashing around in the 11×24-foot private pool with the ample privacy 27 palm trees provide every day.
  5. Aqua Vista — Start every day staring at the Gulf through the main living area’s 30-foot windows, and your vacation will include nothing but great days. Even the third-floor loft shares the view, which you can enjoy on the top floor while you play pool, Foosball, Xbox or watch movies and have drinks thanks to the large flat-screen TV, fridge, and more. The beachfront home sleeps 16 and will allow two 20-lb. dogs, should your furry friends want to come along. With a private pool on the property and a gorgeous beach at the end of the boardwalk, inside and out this is a palace for you and yours.

Every year, sea breezes bring a bounty to St. George Island and the greater Forgotten Coast. Whether it’s to provide a lift to the summer heat, pollinate the gorgeous flowers, or carry the scents of sumptuous meals to come, more often than not coastal winds help make the area more enjoyable.

These coastal gusts also bring us a host of winged creatures that infuse every day with color and variety. Bird and butterfly watchers flock to the region with binoculars, cameras, and notepads, ready to celebrate and chronicle the insects and animals who either call the Florida Panhandle home or stop by every year for a week or two on their way to other parts of the world.

And the beauty of being a birder — or a butterfly-er — is that anyone who appreciates them can participate. Just an hour or two over the course of a vacation can make all the difference if you know where to look and what to look for.

As they rely on sugary nectar to live, many species of butterflies flock to colorful flowers, but did you know they can prefer mud puddles and riverbanks as well? And some don’t go near flowers at all, favoring rotting fruit or even tree sap when it comes to lunch. And that means St. George Island, its state park, and the bike paths and hiking trails in and around the Apalachicola area are perfect places to find monarchs, long-tailed skippers, swallowtails, and dozens more species.

Going fishing in the mornings or afternoon? Keep a look out and a field guide handy so you can check off the types of winged creatures you’ve seen. It will boggle your mind how many different species you can see even in a few hours. And while spring is a good season for butterflies, late summer and autumn are when the larger ones get out and about.

For birders, flying friends abound all year long in our area, and southwestern Franklin County is actually home to Apalachicola Bird Island, a strip of land right off the St. George Island Causeway. Other areas, such as Gulf Island State Park, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge and the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve are prime places to seek out shorebirds, migratory birds, and woodland species.

Nearly 300 native species have been identified, including the endangered piping plover, as well as black rails, boat-tailed grackles, merlins, Peregrine falcons, least terns, and American oystercatchers, to name a few.

A broad diversity can be seen by powerboat, kayak, and canoe around Apalachicola Bay and the Apalachicola River, and along the hiking trails in the above parks and reserves — as well as in Tate’s Hell State Forest and Bald Point State Forest.

Staying on St. George Island for your vacation? Consider putting out a birdhouse or feeder to see who you might get as a visitor. You have plenty of places to seek out the feathered flocks; why not let a few come to you, too?

Want a unique tale to tell the folks back home, and something truly special to do during your stay on the island? Consider scalloping.

These tiny-yet-delectable mollusks grow in the grassy beds on the eastern end of St. George Island, and elsewhere along the Forgotten Coast such as St. Joseph Bay. Scallop season in Franklin County — home to Apalachicola and St. George Island — are in season from July 1 to Sept. 24; and in Gulf County (St. Joseph’s Bay), the season is shorter, running from Aug. 17 to Sept. 30.

Scalloping is an awesome activity for the whole family and requires very little in terms of gear. First, you’ll want to obtain a Florida saltwater fishing license, which can be had for a very reasonable $17 and is available at myfwc.com. After that, all you’ll need is a mesh net, a snorkel and mask, and a dive marker.

The dive marker is very important, as it alerts boaters in the area that there’s snorkeling going on. The dive marker is an orange or red float that’s towed around the snorkeler, and it’s required when shore snorkeling inland around St. George Island and in St. Joseph’s Bay.

You can scallop on your own, or through one of several different outfitters along the coast.

Scallops are usually found in 2 to 6 feet of water, and the ideal time to catch them is during a slack tide, when the grass blades are standing upright. Their shells have distinctive blue or purple “eyes” along the ridges and tiny hairs at the opening. And it’s important to note you have to actually catch the scallops, it’s definitely not like harvesting other shellfish such as clams or oysters. They’re tough to spot, but you can catch bay scallops either by hand or using a net.

The little mollusks are quick, however. They have powerful adductor muscles, which also make them such delicious eating, but they can pinch hard and it’s no treat if you have a finger nearby. And these bivalves are likely to try and flee if you’re looking to bag them. Be warned—they will try to escape by squeezing their shells together, shooting out a jet of water to quickly propel them across the bay’s floor.

The beauty of scalloping while snorkeling is that there’s so much else to see other than what you hope to put on a plate later in the day. There’s a host of other sea life to experience just below the water’s surface, such as seahorses, rays, starfish, sea urchins, and spider and horseshoe crabs.

An immensely successful scalloping trip means catching the limit, which is up to two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell, or one pint of scallop meat, each day during the open season. Recreational scallopers can’t possess more than 10 gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or a half gallon of meat aboard any boat, and the scallops cannot be sold for commercial purposes.

But you don’t want to sell these delicious morsels, you want to take them home and cook them. First, you’ll want to shell them with a small paring knife, and then clean all the debris and side muscle away from the prize, which is the round white muscle. Once those muscles are all that’s left, heat some butter, garlic and lemon juice in a skillet and sauté them for a few minutes on each side. Or you can toss them with seasoning and Panko breadcrumbs for a savory baked dish to be served over crusty bread.

Either way, you’ll feel like a world-class diver and chef, all for having a day’s fun with your family!

There’s always somewhere to go on St. George Island. After all, fun awaits you at every turn! But the hidden benefit of our properties is that you can have just as much fun by extending an invitation to your friends and neighbors.

Porch time is a uniquely Southern concept. When we look at our properties, we’re just as proud of their porches as their spacious bedrooms, decks and breathtaking views. So with the season upon us, it’s time to plan the ultimate summertime porch party.

First, you have to set the mood. Bluetooth speakers are inexpensive and available at nearby shops, so grab one and spend a few minutes putting together an upbeat, festive playlist. Internet radio is a great source for limitless streaming music, too, so you can offer your guests a wide range of musical styles.

Want to be the talk of the neighborhood? Keep a small bucket full of hand fans in a highly visible place on the porch. Folks won’t want to be handed one right after the welcoming hug or handshake, but they’ll appreciate having one handy when things get hopping and folks want to stay easy and breezy.

And because you’re only going to invite people who like you and want to have a good time, make sure you have a good-sized serving table positioned nearby, with a couple of coolers underneath it, full of ice. Folks are likely to bring something to drink or to nibble on, and the sooner you give them a place to set it down, the sooner everyone can enjoy it. And make sure you keep a “clean” cooler for beverage ice—you’ll go through a lot of it!

Speaking of beverages, Florida has some of the best signature cocktails in the world, because so many of them have evolved from recipes created around the world! Nothing says “welcome to our own private island” like a distinctive drink of your own creation. From the fuzzy navel to hurricanes and rum runners, the sky’s the limit when it comes to refreshments. Just remember to keep them light, cold, and colorful, with some fresh fruit for a garnish. And it never hurts to keep a decanter of 12-year Scotch handy, as well, because there’s always at least one guest who has simple, yet refined, taste.

A festive soiree is a fantastic way to show off your tastes as host and hostess, especially when it comes to food. Remember, this isn’t an expansive sit-down supper. You want your guests to be just as comfortable noshing while leaned against the railing as they are in a porch swing. Hors d’oeuvres and tapas are all the rage for these events, because they can offer a tour of delicacies without weighing anyone down. Melon balls are easy, tasty and look great on a table, and for the veggie lovers, consider putting a few teaspoons of ranch dressing in the bottom of a clear cup and standing carrot sticks and celery in them.

For the savory-loving guests, you can create grilled sirloin and portobello mushroom sliders, served with artichoke hearts stuffed with cream cheese, chives, and roasted garlic.

The beauty of a stellar porch party is that there are no wrong choices as long as you surround yourself with the people you like—and maybe even a few new faces, too. If you want to take it to the next level while learning a bit more about your guests, consider breaking out a few games.

As long as you’re all laughing and engaged with each other, you’ll set the standard for epic St. George Island shindigs!

While vacation can be a time for excess, those living a healthy lifestyle — or trying to start — will find plenty of opportunities to “live right” on St. George Island.

It all starts with the drive in, along the four-mile St. George Island Bridge. Longtime visitors have described the traverse as “letting the real world go for a spell,” and the approximate five minutes of travel time is the perfect excuse to cue up your favorite song or just roll down all the windows to hear what the coastal winds have to whisper.

The body’s health starts with the mind, and by the time the iconic lighthouse comes into view, you’ll be primed for the best of times.

Before you head to your property, or favorite spot on the sand, stop in at the Piggly Wiggly Express or newly refurbished SGI Market for some fruits and vegetables, which will keep your snacks and meals low-calorie and high-energy.

And when you’re ready to use some of that energy, St. George Island has a 21-mile walking/jogging/bike path that spans most of the island. And while the island is home to many 5k charity races throughout the year, you don’t have to pin a number on your shirt to get your heart rate up and treat your body right.

Prefer wheels to heels? You can rent bikes at one of many island shops, like Journeys, Island Outfitters, and Island Adventure. Just remember your helmet! And while you’re at those fine businesses, reserve your kayak, paddle board, or canoe for some other fun outdoor activities. You can paddle over to Little St. George Island, up the Apalachicola River Blueway or a number of other places near the island. Bring a fishing pole and you might just catch dinner, too.

But if you’re not someone who usually harvests from the sea and you’re looking for healthy dinner options at our local restaurants, you’ll find there are plenty of healthy selections at most of our eateries. We recommend having your shrimp and oysters grilled or blackened — or on the half shell, of course — and most dishes can be served with steamed vegetables or wild rice on the side. And you can always skip the bread and have a heart-healthy glass of red wine instead!

And should you be ready for some low-impact fitness and relaxation, what could be better than a light hike, walk down the beach, or morning yoga session? The island has 28 miles of beach, with access points throughout. And there are hiking options on Little St. George Island, at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, and at the East Hole tract at the end of 6th Street on the island.

And now you can enjoy yoga sessions several days during the week thanks to the St. George Island United Methodist Church and Island FITSUP!

With all these choices, there’s a good chance you’ll be heading home across the bridge at the end of your stay even healthier than when you arrived.

If you’re like me, the phrase “spring break at the beach” brings back nightmares of partying college students waking your sleeping angels in the middle of the night. Beaches crowded with Frisbee-throwing, sand-kicking high schoolers. Long, slow drives through town behind a parade of spring breakers cruising for chicks.

Ok, maybe that last one was from a Frankie Avalon movie, but you see where I’m going.

Spring break at the beach can seem anything but relaxing. But if that’s your perception, you’re at the wrong beach.

Picture, instead, a spring break filled with all the reasons you go to the beach in the first place: those sugar sand beaches, the emerald waters, that mind-blowing sunset. Plus, instead of college kids, you’re surrounded by, well, MUCH-needed solitude.

On St. George Island on Florida’s Forgotten Coast, you can rent a gorgeous beach cottage for just you and the kids, a massive waterfront mansion to accommodate the whole extended family, or just about anything in between. Each Resort Vacation Properties home includes everything you need for a comfortable stay… even those things you usually have to stuff in the car, like beach umbrellas and chairs, kayaks and bicycles, even cozy spa-style robes.

Many properties also include hot tubs, swimming pools, and epic decks Plus, fully equipped kitchens and outdoor grills make it easy to host huge beachside suppers and avoid restaurant crowds. A quiet evening on St. George could start with an outdoor game of corn hole, followed by a homemade dinner of fresh local seafood, and finish off with a favorite family board game and a bit of stargazing. You won’t believe how many glimmering stars you can see without all the light pollution from the big city!

Most homes even include a washer and dryer so you can pack less, avoid musty bathing suits, and eliminate fights over who has to use the wet towel.

While St. George Island is not the place to find chain restaurants or bungee jumping rides, it is a great place for fishing, hiking, cycling, and relaxing. You’re just a stone’s throw from the St. George Island State Park, where birding and wildlife watching are favorite pastimes.

This year, make your SB about actually getting a break. Find a list of available homes to facilitate an unforgettable Spring Break on the Forgotten Coast here.

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!