Your Guide to St. George Island, Florida
Growing up, heading to St. George Island, Florida was a ritual that our family took part in every year. My uncle loved the island and made sure the rest of our family fell in love with it, too. He even owned a house on the island for several years during my childhood (and lucky for us, he’s building a new one there now – I’ve already put in my request for my bedroom!) and some of my fondest memories happened there…including my engagement in 2018!
Part of Florida’s Forgotten Coast, this 22-mile barrier island is located off the shore of Apalachicola in the Gulf of Mexico. It truly is one of the few places that remain of Old Florida, with no high rises and minimal activities to keep you entertained, outside of laying on the beach or fishing. It’s not fancy, it’s not touristy – it’s the perfect low-key beach destination that everyone should experience. And a bonus – it’s incredibly dog-friendly!
If you need a relaxing beach getaway that will transport you back in time – to island time – you have to visit St. George Island, Florida. Here’s what you need to know to plan your trip:
Where to Stay
With no high rises or chain hotels, the primary means of lodging on the island is renting a home. There are plenty of options on sites like Vrbo, as well as numerous lodging companies local to the island like Fickling Vacation Rentals.
The island is only 1 mile across at its widest point, so no matter where you rent a place – beachfront or bayside – getting to the water is easy. Understanding the layout of the island from East to West is probably more important to determine where you want to stay.
A large portion of the west side of the island is a private, gated community, St. George Plantation. While rentals are available to the public, you have to be staying there to enter the gates, use the amenities and access the beaches. But if you want almost zero traffic, lots of green space and the ultimate in serenity, this is the place for you!
Nearly half of the island – the entire east side – is a state park with no lodging available outside of small cabins and camping.
Everything in the middle of the island is open to the public with traditional homes and local lodging options. It’s also where all of the island’s restaurants and shops are located.
Places to Eat
Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe. This dog-friendly restaurant is located oceanside and is a true St. George institution. You’ll find extensive seafood options, as well as sandwiches, oysters, po boys and more. If you just want a drink, head over to the restaurant’s tiki bar for a fun, tropical vibe.
Aunt Ebby’s Ice Cream. Just hearing the name of this spot brings back loads of memories for me! I remember thinking no one I went to school with in elementary or middle school knew about St. George Island – I really thought it was my family’s own secret paradise. And then, on my first day of high school, I sat behind a girl wearing an Aunt Ebby’s t-shirt and was floored. I thought it was SO COOL that she knew of my island paradise! As you can guess from it’s name, this colorful spot is an ice-cream shop that has a line out the door on summer evenings. But getting an after dinner ice cream on an island in the middle of the summer is a must-do, right?! It is, and I promise it’s worth it. Plus, there are plenty of dog-friendly spots outside around the shop to enjoy your ice cream with Fido.
Mango Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill. One of the newer spots on the island, this open-air tiki bar is centrally located in the middle of the island with plenty to keep you entertained while you wait. Choose from oysters served a wide variety of ways (BBQ oysters, anyone?), sandwiches and more, as well as some of the best frozen drinks on the island.
BJ’s Pizza and Subs. This is another island spot that is ingrained in my memory from childhood. This was a favorite spot to grab dinner or head when it was raining when our entire family was there – greasy pizza to feed everyone inexpensively and an arcade to keep the kids entertained! It’s also the best spot on the island to grab food to-go.
Paddy’s Raw Bar. This spot holds a special place in my heart because it’s where we went immediately following our engagement! Plus, with basically all of it’s seating being outdoors, it’s a great spot to bring your pup with you to dinner! And we secretly love Paddy’s slogan – a sunny place for shady people. How can you not love that?!
Harry A’s. A St. George institution, Harry A’s is both a restaurant and a live music venue.
Bayside Coffee Co. Get your caffeine fix at this cute little coffee shop. You can also grab beans or coffee grounds so you have delicious coffee to enjoy all week long!
Weber’s Little Donut Shop. After you grab your coffee from Bayside, walk over to Weber’s to get your sugar fix. Standing in line for one of these little island treats is a must-do, but get there early – once they’re sold out for the day, that’s it!
The Beach Pit. Need your barbecue fix while you’re at the beach? You’re in luck. Head over to The Beach Pit!
If you prefer to cook at home – which you can do plenty of since you’re most likely going to say in a vacation home – there are two grocery stores on island for necessities. However, it’s a good idea to stock up off-island if you need extensive supplies to avoid paying top dollar.
Stores to Shop
Island Dog Beach and Surf Shop. Head here for all of your souvenirs and beach wear.
Jolly Roger Beach Shop. Jolly Roger is the ideal spot to get all of your rentals, including golf carts, kayaks, paddle boards, beach chairs and more.
Island Outfitters. This is another spot for rentals and charters, as well as your island gear.
Seaside Cotton Boutique. Stop in for cute summertime clothing and accessories.
St. George Island Trading Company. This is your one-stop-shop for traditional souvenirs. Whether you want a St. George- branded t-shirt or shot glass, you’ll find it here. It’s also home to an onsite coffee and ice cream shop!
Sometimes It’s Hotter Seasoning Shop. This cute spot has all kinds of seasonings and spices, as well as tasty treats and even live music on occasion!
Things to Do
Spend the day at the beach. St. George Island is home to beautiful white sand beaches that are generally uncrowded and unspoiled, even during the busiest beach weekends of the year.
Go fishing. The Apalachicola Bay area is a true sportsman’s paradise with an abundance of fishing opportunities. You’ll find fisherman on the beach at any given time, driving boats through the cut out into the open ocean, or sitting quietly in the bay waiting on the day’s catch. It seems like nearly everyone on the island has a boat, but if you don’t, charter opportunities are available. There are several local bait and tackle shops on the island too, and it’s guaranteed you can find the info you need on what’s biting from the locals there or at one of the island’s restaurant bars.
Visit the bay marshes. With a drastic decrease in the tide everyday on the bayside of the island, new ecosystems can be discovered every time the tide goes out.
Bike throughout the island. A 6-mile paved path runs through the center of the island and is an ideal place to bike, run, rollerblade or walk. You can even ride it to the State Park entrance, where you can pick up other trails ideal for exploring the peaceful space.
Ditch the car. The entire island is navigable by vehicles other than cars (other than one or two main thoroughfares). You can get from home to dinner, the beach, the grocery store – literally almost anywhere – without getting back in the car once you arrive! Many of the islands roads aren’t paved, and one of my fondest memories from childhood is how wild the island seemed because we didn’t have to have a car (although we did spend a lot of time in the back of the pickup then, which is probably frowned upon now).
Head off island to explore one of the other nearby towns. Several small towns dot the Forgotten Coast, including East Point and Carrabelle just beyond the island bridge. The larger town of Apalachicola is an undiscovered gem that’s worth the drive for a day.
Rent a kayak, paddleboard or canoe to get out on the water.
Explore St. George Island State Park. This unspoiled paradise is a must-see when you visit the island! Just imagine unspoiled sand dunes, a bay forest and salt marshes to explore, and nearly deserted beaches. Enjoy birdwatching, look for sea turtle nests during the early summer, spot dolphin pods in the Gulf, or browse the beach for beautiful shells. For a rustic island experience, tent camp at the park or hike in to the primitive campsite. If you’re staying the night, be sure to look up – stargazing from the park is amazing! The park is open 8 a.m. until sundown every day, and entrance is $6 per car.
Sights to See
Cape St. George Light. Now located beachside at the center of the island, the Cape St. George Light one stood on Little St. George. First built in 1833 to guide ships into the port at Apalachicola, the historic lighthouse has been reconstructed and moved numerous times until it landed where it is today next to the museum and gift shop.
If you head to St. George Island and stop in to any of these places, let me know what you think!