St. George Island and Franklin County are always actively involved in conservation and caring for their greatest assets—the stunning beaches and unique wildlife. Earth Day gives reason to highlight, celebrate, and educate about the area’s efforts. For example, did you know that the “Leave No Trace” Ordinance, which requires all beachgoers to remove all personal items from the beach by 9:00 p.m., serves a purpose greater than just clean beaches? It’s an important protection for St. George Island’s favorite guests—sea turtles!

The island is a popular nesting site for the endangered species, a responsibility we take very seriously. Between May 1st and October 31st, migrations of sea turtles come to our shores to lay eggs in the same nesting grounds where they were hatched, with some traveling as far as 1400 miles! Temperature of the surrounding sand determines the sex of the hatchlings, and it can take them up to a week to dig out of the RVP Turtlesnest. While a popular but disproven myth claims that sea turtles hatch during the full moon, they do emerge at night to make their way to the ocean, where only an estimated 10% survive to adulthood. Because of the rarity of sea turtles, St. George Island feels privileged to be a nesting site. Strict guidelines and federal regulations are enforced to help protect these precious creatures of the sea, so, if you’re lucky enough to see this miracle, please respect both the turtles and the law by not disturbing them!

 

 

If you find yourself on St. George Island for Earth Day and want to celebrate with education, there are two great options in the area. The FSU Coastal & Marine Lab in nearby St. Teresa hosts a free open house with a focus on the importance of improving human awareness of the tight connection between healthy ecosystems and healthy societies, such as the importance of estuaries and other wetlands in controlling air and water pollution. This event, open to all ages, is from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and more information can be found here.

Another opportunity to learn about estuaries can be found just across the bay at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Nature Center. Open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., this non-profit organization features aquatic tanks, historical and cultural exhibits, and outdoor boardwalks—all with free admission! More information can be found here.

Our favorite time of year has returned to St. George Island — redfish season! This fish is just as interesting as it is delicious, so we’ve rounded up some facts, and, of course, a recipe to celebrate.

Also known as red drum, channel bass, spottail bass (for the distinctive spots on the tail that look like eyes to confuse predators), or just simply red, redfish are found in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to Florida, as well as the Gulf of Mexico. They can live to be over 40 years old, and in the warm Florida waters, they can grow to be 45 inches long and over 50 pounds! Because of the popularity of redfish, the breed was almost fished out of existence by the mid-1980s. Thankfully, aggressive conservation measures have allowed the red drum to return and thrive.

This mild, flaky, delicate fish can be prepared a variety of ways: fried, sautéed, broiled, baked, or—our favorite—grilled. Due to the flaky texture of the fish, it has a tendency to fall through the grill, so try using a mesh screen. Another way to keep your dinner intact is to cook the fish “on the half shell”—that is, with the scales still present. You simply skip the skinning and cut two fillets from each fish along the backbone, then you’re ready to go. No clean up!

When paired with a fruit salsa, grilled redfish on the half shell is the perfect dish to get you in that island state of mind.

Also included are oven instructions for rainy days, and this recipe can also be used for redfish fillets, if that’s what you’re working with—just reduce the cooking by a few minutes.

Redfish on the Half Shell

Ingredients:

6 redfish fillets, scales and skin left on

Italian salad dressing

Creole seasoning

2 large lemons, thinly sliced

1 large lemon, halved

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Place the fillets in a pan, scales side down.

Pour Italian dressing generously over the fillets. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes.

Remove fillets from the marinade, draining excess.

Sprinkle with a little with Creole seasoning.

Grill or broil.

On the Grill: Preheat an outdoor grill. Grill the fish for three minutes flesh sides down with the lid closed. We’re going for grill marks here. Flip the fish so that the scales are now on the grill, and place thin lemon slices along this fish fillets. Allow the fish to cook approximately 6-8 more minutes or until just cooked through. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin. Squeeze the remaining half lemon over the fish. Remove from the grill.

In the Oven: Set oven rack to the center of the oven. Place thin lemon slices along the fish. Broil fish, skin side down, for approximately 20 minutes leaving the oven door slightly ajar. Check thickest part of flesh for doneness. Flesh needs to be opaque all the way to the skin.

 

Pineapple Mango Salsa

1 large ripe mango, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup fresh, chopped pineapple

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

4 green onions, sliced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Toss all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve. May be made a day or two ahead.

Few things are as romantic as a beach sunset with your sweetheart. The sun slips beneath the horizon, the waves roll up on the shore, reflecting the brilliant hues of the last light of day, and—all at once—time seems to stand still. It’s hard not to feel like a love-struck teenager again in those magic hours between day and night, especially in a place as striking as St. George Island, so we’ve gathered our favorite romance spots for sunset seekers.

A classic sunset date is, of course, dinner. On St. George Island, it’s never a matter of choosing whether or not to witness the stunning water surrounding you, but rather choosing between the Gulf of Mexico or Apalachicola Bay. The view from The Blue Parrot’s patio is unparalleled for the Gulf, whereas Paddy’s Raw Bar offers stunning sunsets over the Bay. Back on the mainland in Apalachicola, the no-children policy at Up The Stairs makes it a great spot for a quiet, romantic night out, and their balcony offers a stunning view of downtown and the river.

Another romantic option is a sunset picnic. Pick up some local-caught steamed shrimp (and maybe a bottle of wine!) from the Piggly Wiggly or SGI Fresh Market and then stroll down to the beach. There are plenty of picnic facilities on the public beach, but we recommend doing as the locals do by bringing a blanket or towel. Aside from more options for location, sitting in the sand offers the opportunity to cuddle up and sneak a kiss.

While viewing the sunset from land is always lovely, you can attain a truly magical vantage point from the water. If your honey is on the adventurous side, consider renting a kayak from Journeys of St. George Island or St. George Island Outfitters for an evening on the Forgotten Coast you’ll remember forever.

Located in the middle of the Island, the Cape St. George Lighthouse has become an iconic landmark for St. George Island and the Forgotten Coast as a whole. This defining piece of architecture has a history just as remarkable as the views offered from its summit.

The Island’s original lighthouse was built in 1833 on the western tip of St. George. However, its location was difficult for ships coming from the east to see, so in 1846 it was determined that a new location would be sought out. The following year, Congress appropriated $8,000 to build a new lighthouse two miles to the southeast, repurposing many of the materials from the 1833 lighthouse in the process.

The second light would only last three years. After it was destroyed by a hurricane, construction began on a third structure—a lighthouse “built to last,” with a new location further inland and a foundation of pine pilings driven deeply into the sand in addition to cement walls made tapering from four feet at the bottom to two feet at the top. And last it did—for 153 years.

The next century brought change throughout the world and eventually to the Island’s little lighthouse; in 1949 the Coast Guard replaced the Fresnel lens with an automated light, eliminating the need for lighthouse keepers. Later in the century, the lighthouse bore the brunt of some devastating hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew changed the landscape of the St. George by reclaiming a large part of the surrounding beach in 1992, and three years later, Hurricane Opal moved the lighthouse from its foundation, giving it what would temporarily become its signature lean.

The community rallied around its beloved landmark, raising over $200,000 and restoring it to its former glory by 2002. However, by the spring of 2005, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico had once again reclaimed the structure. In October of that year, the lighthouse collapsed into the Gulf, ending its sesquicentennial watch over the Gulf of Mexico.

Thanks to the efforts of the St. George Lighthouse Association, a reconstruction occurred at the center of the Island. The St. George Lighthouse we know today opened in 2008, followed by a museum and gift shop in a replica of the Keeper’s House in 2011. You can now climb to the top of the lighthouse any day of the week except Thursday from 10 AM (Noon on Sunday) until 5 PM, or join in on the monthly full moon climb.

Whether you’re so Irish you have Guinness pumping through your veins or you just love a good brew, St. Patrick’s Day at Paddy’s Raw Bar is exactly where you need to be this year on St. George Island. All things Irish come to 240 E. 3rd Street in Eastpoint on March 17th!

Paddy’s goes totally green for St. Patty’s! Green cups, four-leaf clover décor, Irish music and—of course—green beer! Beginning at 11am, the Emerald Isle takes over St. George Island. Paddy’s will serve up the island countryman’s corned beef and cabbage with Irish music going full force from 2pm to 6pm. Live music will pour from an incredible lineup right along with the chartreuse-hued beers ALL DAY LONG. Let the luck o’ the Irish right into your soul at Paddy’s this St. Patty’s Day!

You’ll find good food, great folks, and the greenest celebration the Island’s ever seen on Friday, March 17th, 2017! Have a raucous good time on gorgeous St. George’s most happening hangout until the clock strikes midnight!

Erin Go Braugh, baby! Have a shucking good time at Paddy’s Raw Bar this St. Patrick’s Day!

Check out our available beach and bayside rentals NOW so you can feel like you’ve found your own personal pot o’ gold when it comes to comfy living quarters just down the street from the Paddy’s party! For more info about the place to be for St. Patrick’s Day, visit the Paddy’s Facebook page here.

 

If the St. George Island Chili Cook-Off has you burning to create a bowl of something to warm you during the cool coastal nights, check out this island-inspired take on the classic soul-soother. With fresh Apalachicola seafood and a dash (or several!) of the official hot sauce of St. George, you can fix a dish that might just be worthy of next year’s competition!

Seafood Chili Recipe Ingredients

  • 4 pads butter
  • 2 cups chopped white onion
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 Teaspoons dried oregano
  • 35 oz Italian plum tomatoes, not drained
  • 16 oz clam juice
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Ed’s Red Hot Sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium red bell peppers, chopped
  • 12 Littleneck clams
  • 12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 1/2 pound grouper cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 3/4 pound Bay scallops
  • Fresh cilantro and shredded pepper jack cheese for serving

Seafood Chili Recipe Directions

Heat butter in heavy saucepan over low heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cover and cook until tender, usually about 15 minutes. Add garlic and oregano, and cook another 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, breaking up large pieces with a spatula. Stir in the clam juice, wine, chili powder, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Refrigerate overnight.

Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to a brisk simmer. Add clams and mussels. Cover and cook until shellfish open, approximately 5 to 10 minutes. Discard any shellfish that do not open. Gently stir in grouper and shrimp. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes. Add scallops. Cover and simmer until fish is just opaque, about 3 minutes.

Top with cilantro and/or shredded pepper jack then serve.

 

Enjoy!

 

March 2nd is Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and if Facebook is any indication, daycares and elementary schools all over the country are celebrating by prompting children to dress up as their favorite Seussian characters. But the good Dr. isn’t just for those among us who can still get away with wearing jelly sandals! Most of us grew up reading his beloved classics, many times feeling inspired afterwards to hop on our own pops or request green eggs and ham from our moms. Even as an adult, reading The Lorax might just get you in the feels. With spring’s renewing warmth just on the horizon, take your Dr. Seuss reverence one step further with St. George Island’s Resort Vacation Properties’ One Fish Two Fish house!

This two-level beachfront cottage pays homage to the Dr. Seuss classic with its bright blue exterior and vibrant red shutters. You’ll find little hints of Seuss influence throughout the home—from the blue walls to the Kay and Jay decals in one of the bedrooms.

With three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gorgeous sundeck, and a screened-in porch, up to 10 people can relax right on the coast, all the while enjoying front-row seats to sunrises and dolphins diving in and out of the glistening Gulf waters.

 

The first-level summer kitchen is equipped with absolutely everything you’d ever need to whip up dishes from grilled fresh-caught fish to green eggs and ham! You’ll find a private pool with optional heating so members of your family can feel like little red and blue fish themselves. Take a relaxing soak in the hot tub on the sun deck or teach the family to play pool at the billiards table. And as a dog-friendly property, you can even bring the furriest member of your family along for the fun!

Located at 400 West Gorrie Drive, this West Gulf Beach bungalow is the perfect place to celebrate Dr. Seuss while spending time with your favorite folks. For more information, call 877-272-8206!

St. George Island is gorgeous year-round, but cooler temps certainly keep most of us out of the water. While you patiently await the spring to bring you a sunny sigh of relief, warm your soul with the St. George Island Chili Cook-Off. Now in its 35th year, this island-favorite event offers something memorable for everyone.

If you’re out to clinch a solid 3.1 mile-jaunt before you get your fill of the finest chili along the Gulf Coast, the Red Pepper 5K Run will be exactly your speed! You’ll take off on Saturday, March 4, at 8 a.m. right in front of the famed Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe on St. George Island. Get a solid sweat in preparation for your feast of a host of taste bud tingling, belly-warming chili from all over the area.

The piece de resistance of the weekend culminates with the 2017 SGI Charity Chili Cook-Off! Beginning at 11 a.m. on March 4, you can savor the flavors of all sorts of chili. From meaty to beany and hades hot to lip-smacking savory, every single bowl of chili you sample is just $3.00. And every red(bean) cent of the chili sold goes straight to the St. George Island Volunteer Fire Department! Celebrate the men and women who serve stunning St. George and treat yourself to unforgettable chili of every variety on the Forgotten Coast! As a bonus, stick around that evening for the Mister Hot Sauce/Miss Chili Pepper Competition. All walks of life come to strut their stuff with the hope of earning the coveted plaque commemorating the piquant contest. Even in the dead of winter, this event is sure to heat things up on the Island, so don’t miss a second of the spicy entertainment!

For more information about attending and participating in these events and more, visit stgeorgeislandchilicookoff.com.

Primates and the Forgotten Coast have long been synonymous to area locals. Since the early 1940s when the original Tarzan film was shot in Wakulla Springs, the lore has been that monkeys escaped during filming to set up shop in the woodland areas of the Gulf Coast. And who could blame them? With sugar sand, crystal clear water, and temps that stay agreeable year-round, it should come as no surprise that the ape actors decided to make the vacation from Hollywood a permanent one.

For decades, the legend endured, though the curious creatures remained hidden from plain sight, with only their bellows emanating from the forest serving as the hint to their continued coastal occupation. However, beginning in December 2015, monkey sightings rose to the forefront of Forgotten Coast discussion. The proud owner of a prehensile tail was on the move yet again in the area, this time with a pretty specific craving: Birdseed.

Spotted by a local Carrabelle man at his home in December 2015, the primate helped itself to a serving of seed from the man’s birdfeeder. The monkey ripped the top of the feeder clean off and noshed away, only stopping when the homeowner came outside and startled it. Like a flash, the monkey was gone.

The swinging sensation was on the move. From that December until the summer of 2016, what was determined to be a Rhesus monkey was spotted some 22 times. Two of those sightings were listed as “possible,” and two more—in Panacea and Alligator Point—were verified. Sightings were logged in Sopchoppy, Eastpoint, Crawfordville, Carrabelle, Lanark Village, St. Teresa, Alligator Point, and Panacea—but the real performance occurred at the Carrabelle River. It was there that the monkey put on a death-defying show for 40 onlookers. The creature started with a launch from a Carrabelle bridge to a tall pine tree, then back to the bridge, and finally back into the tree where it launched itself from limb to limb until it disappeared from its captive audience’s sight.

With such a wide span of monkey sightings occurring around the Forgotten Coast, no one can be certain if the monkey acted alone or if more than one primate had come to call the region home. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission urged the public not to try to touch the hirsute beachcomber, instead encouraging folks to report the sightings and note as much detail as they could.

Rhesus monkeys are medium-sized primates that range from 1.5 to 1.7 feet in height and weigh anywhere from 12 to 17 lbs. when fully grown. Though they are primarily herbivores, the monkeys are wild and should not be pursued by human beings. Whether these creatures are descendants of the Tarzan-era thespian bunch or a new breed of coastal critters is unknown. For now, we can assume the primal calls in the Florida forests are much more than the stuff of Forgotten Coast imagination.

We may never know for certain what calls the wild acrobats to the Gulf Coast. Sightings have diminished since the summertime, but just in case, keep your eyes peeled and your birdfeeders guarded!