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.

The warmer months help us forget the previous seasons until, like melted frost on a summer day, they are out of sight and far out of mind. But hurricane seasons like that of 2018 leave a lasting impact on our hearts and, in the case of the Florida panhandle, our communities.

Those of us in the area stand with our coastal cousins in the wake of Hurricane Michael and have supported disaster relief efforts since October 11, when he came ashore. Because we know what’s best for the Forgotten Coast is best for everyone living here year-round or just making it their home away from home.

Fortunately, St. George Island — and nearby communities like Apalachicola, Eastpoint and Carrabelle — were spared a majority of Michael’s wrath. The damaged roads, including U.S. 98, have been repaired, allowing access from the north, east and west, and the last of the debris has been cleared. And now that spring has sprung and the water temperatures are headed into the 70s and 80s, it’s the perfect time to rediscover the jewel of the Forgotten Coast.

St. George Island State Park—with its 2,000 magnificent acres—is once again open, and the charter boat captains are gassed up and running fishing tours multiple times a day. And all of the island’s outfitters have kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, bikes, and golf carts ready for rental.

And a huge positive to come out of Hurricane Michael’s churning of the Gulf waters has been the bounty of seashells that can be found for miles along the island’s southern shore. So, in addition to the sandy white beaches, natural souvenirs abound for collectors who want a few spectacular mementos of their trip to a true paradise the hurricane couldn’t tarnish.