If you think Florida is all fast roads and theme parks, space rockets and nightlife – think again. In the northwest of the state, five hours drive from Orlando or six hours from New Orleans, you’ll find St George Island, the perfect place to unwind away from commercial and tourist activity.
“There are not a whole lot of decisions to be made. It’s just a lot of relaxing and quiet,” says Chris Abernathy. He has written an electronic guide and audiobook, Visiting St George Island: A Travel Guide For The Uncommon Florida, dedicated to the 28-mile long island.
St George is linked to the artistic mainland fishing port of Apalachicola by a 4-mile long bridge. That stretch of water means the island has a different pace – it’s known for its peace, tranquillity, good food and fishing. “The fishing in Apalachicola Bay is excellent. There’s different fishing in the Gulf and there are plenty of charters that will take you out there if you don’t have your own boat. They’ll take you wherever you want to go. You can also fish from the beach or the pier.”
Dining out is a popular activity and you won’t find the fast food chains that you usually encounter in America. There’s no McDonald’s or Burger King on the island. Instead you have individuals who have opened their own businesses and are doing their own thing and you can find some culinary masterpieces.
The seafood is good. “If you are an oyster person then St George Island is pure heaven for you because they will be bringing fresh oysters straight to the restaurants. Someone will shuck them and serve them. It’s a matter of minutes from when they harvested the oyster to you enjoying it.”
There are two hotels and most of the rental homes are made available by their owners during the summer, who return to live in them out of season. Chris says it’s the perfect place for friends and family to get together and enjoy each other’s company. “You can get a big house on the beach with a group of family or friends and you can spend a week together with not a lot of distractions. You can relax in a way that you don’t at a lot of the resort areas. You can connect with the people that you’re there with.”
The island features a turtle population, which you might see on the beaches. “The last time I was on a kayak one popped up right in front of me to say hello,” said Chris. “Every time I have been out, I’ve seen lots of places where they have taped off an area where a turtle has come up and laid her eggs and gone back into the water. They usually do this at night, which is why you don’t see them so much. The turtles will hatch at night as well and go towards the moonlight.”
During the turtle season between May and October you’re discouraged from lighting the exterior of your house if they shine towards the beach. The baby turtles are looking for the moon and the light would disorientate them. “They’re doing everything they can to protect them because the total survival rate is not good,” says Chris.
The main landmark is the island lighthouse. It collapsed a few years ago and volunteers have rebuilt it in the centre of the island. “It is no longer there to help the boats out on the water so much as it is to greet the visitors coming onto the island over the bridge.” Although you will need a car to get there, the island is flat and perfect for bike rental.
Chris says St George Island is open to tourists all year round and you can get some good deals in the off-season, when a month-long booking can be as cheap as a week in high season.
You can find Chris’s guide and audiobook here on Amazon.