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!