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.

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.

Fall and winter mean many things on St. George Island and throughout America, and one of the highest on that list is football. College and pro football make the end of the year — and the beginning of next — absolutely magical for many.

Game-day viewing is a favorite activity for our guests, which is one of the many reasons there are so many flat-screen televisions in the homes rented through Resort Vacation Properties. But what if you want to throw on a jersey, get out and about and root with, or against, other Forgotten Coast fans? Lucky for you, there are options galore.

At Paddy’s Raw Bar on East 3rd Street, they have the NFL Sunday Ticket, multiple TVs at the bar and on the porch, and a nice view of Apalachicola Bay. That pairs well with bucket beer specials, barbecue nachos, and their signature oysters.

Speaking of deals, Doc Myers’ Island Pub and Sports Bar on nearby Pine Avenue has game-day wings on special to go along with 13 TVs showing all the games.

Across the street, the Beach Pit is another great destination, open ’til 10 p.m. They have multiple TVs and some of the best BBQ on the Forgotten Coast, plus they’re one of the only places you can watch Monday Night Football and come back for a full Tuesday morning breakfast.

In Apalachicola, the Station Raw Bar has happy hour deals and a loaded salad bar, which equals a balanced diet, if you ask us. And the Taproom at the Owl Cafe offers a smorgasbord of local craft brews with TVs on every wall. One of our favorite ways to spend a football Sunday is to have a late brunch at the Cafe, and then watch multiple games with a cold one around the corner at the Taproom.

Getting away from it all doesn’t have to mean missing the big game! Pull up a chair at one of these local watering holes, and be sure to strike up a conversation with the fans around you. After all, no watch party is complete without good food and great company—and St. George Island has plenty of both.

There’s nothing we love more than the stories of generations of families staying with us on St. George Island. Folks who came here as children can often be found in the sand and surf with toddlers of their own, making memories that are by no means the same, but linked by love and location.

There are more than 300 homes in the Resort Vacation Properties stable, and they’re all family friendly, but what many might not realize is just how great the island and its amenities are for young families. First and foremost, all our properties are within walking distance of the beach or bay, and there are safe walking and biking paths throughout the island to make sure that wherever you want to go, you can get there with ease.

The busier beach towns may be great for college kids and older families, but a packed beach and bustling strip malls are daunting for parents of youngsters. They can have the metaphorical eyes in the back of their heads, but they can’t see everything, and the secluded beaches of St. George Island ensure they don’t have to. And considering how many young families also bring their family pets to the island, all of those same beaches — and many of our properties — are pet-friendly.  

Convenience is also a huge asset to families with young children. During a destination vacation, it’s a necessity. Whether someone (or everyone!) needs a nap or a timeout, or the provisions get low and an hour round-trip is just out of the question, keep in mind the island is only a mile wide, so no matter where you may be, you’re within a few minutes of everything you need. Traffic is rarely an issue, and since everyone here lives on “island time,” you can always head right back out and resume your regularly scheduled fun!

The best part about bringing the kiddos to St. George Island, as true now as it was generations ago, is that you get to build in them a love of island activities — like fishing, sandcastle building, kite flying, and so much more — in their formative years, so that when they grow up and have families of their own, they’ll keep the tradition going!

The Forgotten Coast will never be the same after Hurricane Michael.

That much we know to be true, because when the third most-powerful hurricane to ever hit the U.S. came ashore on Oct. 10, it eviscerated entire areas, including Mexico Beach, which was nearly destroyed. At least 35 people lost their lives in Florida alone, with 10 more perishing in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia when it moved northeast.

But one thing those of us who live on, and visit, the Forgotten Coast have always known is that we take care of our own. And there is no shortage of need, so when someone asks, “How can I help?” the goal is to always have an answer.

Donations are the fastest, and easiest way to get help to those in need and there are several trusted organizations accepting contributions and serving families in the hardest-hit areas. All accept donations via phone or web. Participating organizations include:

Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/hurricane-michael-donations.html/

Salvation Army: https://give.helpsalvationarmy.org/give/166081/#!/donation/checkout

Samaritan’s Purse: https://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/hurricane-michael-barrels-toward-florida-panhandle-please-pray/

Franklin’s Promise Coalition: https://franklinspromisecoalition.wildapricot.org/Make-a-Donation

Americares: https://www.americares.org/

Global Giving: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/hurricane-michael-relief-fund/

Volunteer Florida: https://www.volunteerflorida.org/emergency-management/#partners

 

For locals, who are in driving distance of donation drop-off locations, the items universally needed across the coast are:

  • diapers
  • paper towels
  • toilet paper
  • latex gloves
  • coolers
  • gas cans
  • box fans
  • tarps
  • batteries
  • bottled water
  • hand sanitizer
  • deodorant
  • personal hygiene items
  • first aid kits
  • baby wipes
  • batteries
  • flashlights
  • manual can openers
  • non-perishable, canned food including canned tuna, chicken or salmon, meals in a can (soup, stew, chili), and canned fruit in its own juice or water. Those with pop-up lids are best.

You’ll be so captivated by St. George Island that you’ll want to find the perfect memento to share with loved ones who are missing out on this little slice of paradise. No need to worry – there are plenty of ways to bring a piece of the island back for family members, friends and all the important people in your life. Keep reading to discover four favorite souvenirs that will put a smile on anyone’s face.

  1. Seashells

The miles of pristine beaches that draw visitors to the area are a treasure trove of seashells, and beachcombers will enjoy collecting these unique samples of nature’s artwork. Seashells are also great souvenirs for visitors who are on a tight budget.

  1. A nautical antique

The Tin Shed, located in Apalachicola, features a seemingly endless, sea-themed collection of clothing, wood carvings and other treasures. Your favorite history buff is sure to cherish a selection from the shop’s collection of antiques, and it’s hard to go wrong with a stylish T-shirt for any recipient.

  1. Authentic local art

The Forgotten Coast is home to a wide range of talented artists, whose creations include unique jewelry, pottery, watercolors, photography and beyond. Island Dog Beach and Surf Shop offers a variety of local artworks for souvenir hunters; other local art hotspots include Chip Sanders Gallery, Sea Oats Gallery and many more.

  1. Books

Two Apalachicola bookstores make it easy for vacationers to find the perfect gift for any book lover. Downtown Books & Purl boasts a wide assortment of classics and new favorites. Forgotten Coast Used & Out-of-Print Books, on the other hand, specializes in rare finds that are often regionally focused.

Come To St. George Island

Yearning to dig your toes into the sand? Schedule your stay on St. George Island with a Resort Vacation Properties rental home today – we have room for the whole family.

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.