Seeking long stretches of sandy beaches and gorgeous sunsets? Look no further than St. George Island in Florida. Situated off the Florida Panhandle between Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, this 28-mile-long barrier island offers uncluttered settings friendly to kids and pets. Book a stay at one of many St. George Island vacation rentals, which are situated close to lighthouses, museums, and numerous beach and water activities. Check out the top 15 things to do on “the Forgotten Coast.”

st george island lighthouse
Source: Flickr/Arturo Donate

1. Stop in at the Lighthouse Park, Cape St. George Light, and Keeper’s House Museum

In the center of St. George Island, Lighthouse Park features county park amenities, public beach access, and Cape St. George Light, a reconstructed lighthouse. Climb 100 stairs to your reward — an awesome view of the island and surrounding area. When you get back down, check out the Keeper’s House Museum for stories about the reconstruction and lighthouse keeper history. Ready for a break? Claim a park picnic table and have a bite to eat.

2. Journey to the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park

Head to the island’s east end to enjoy Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park, where you can pitch a tent or explore the area. Go fishing, or stroll along miles of pristine beach flanked by Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico’s blue waters. Watch the kids play basketball, take a swim, eat your picnic lunch, and then walk one of the nature trails to complete the day’s activities.

3. Explore the Orman House

Ready to leave the island for museum-hopping? Drive about 12 miles northwest to Apalachicola to tour The Orman House, and learn how visionary businessman Thomas Orman helped the area become one of the Gulf Coast’s largest cotton shipping ports in the 1800s. Before you head back to your St. George Island vacation rental, stroll through the Chapman Botanical Garden and snap a family photo with The Three Soldiers Detail statue.

4. Tour the Apalachicola Maritime Museum

Not your typical museum experience, the Apalachicola Maritime Museum features short tours and tours of one to seven days along barrier islands and into the Gulf of Mexico. Attractions include airboat trips, kayaking, and cruises to watch spectacular sunsets and full moon risings. Take one of the island or river excursions and keep your family talking long after you return.

5. Sight See at the Raney House Museum

Continue your Apalachicola museum experience back on dry land at the Raney House Museum. Built in the 1800s in the Greek-revival style of architecture, this southern mansion imparts a sense of how people lived when they became wealthy through the cotton trade.

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6. Travel to the Crooked River Lighthouse

Travel Highway 98 east of St. George Island to Carrabelle, Florida, and visit the Crooked River Lighthouse and Park. Family members at least 44 inches tall are allowed to climb the 138 steps to the top of this 108-foot-tall cast iron lighthouse, opened in 1895. Afterward, everyone can have fun at the Keeper’s House Museum.

7. View the World’s Smallest Police Station

Take a family photo in front of the World’s Smallest Police Station, located in downtown Carrabelle. It’s on U.S. Highway 98, across the street from the Carrabelle Chamber of Commerce and Franklin County Visitor Center at 105 St. James Avenue.

8. Cruise With Bay View Charters

Once back on St. George Island, charter a boat from family-friendly Bay View Charters of St. George Island, and fish in Apalachicola Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. Watch the kids try to catch snapper, trigger fish, king mackerel, and grouper while you keep a lookout for dolphins swimming by.

9. Paddle the Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail

Take a paddling adventure on the Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail. Segment 5 takes you east on Crooked River from St. George Island through Tate’s Hell State Forest, a hangout for Florida black bears. Other segment attractions include the marshes and tree islands of St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and the Crooked River Lighthouse.

10. Hike the Gap Point Trail

The park campground at St. George Island State Park is the starting point of Gap Point Trail. This 5-mile trail loop takes you across ancient sand dunes to Apalachicola Bay’s Gap Point Primitive campsite, the halfway point of this adventure. Camp overnight with a permit, or just enjoy the view and your sack lunch.

11.Tour the John Gorrie Museum

Do you know the origins of air conditioning? Find out at the John Gorrie Museum in Apalachicola, where Gorrie lived. Looking for a way to comfort hospital patients suffering from yellow fever, inventor and physician John Gorrie developed an ice machine in the mid-1800s. His work led to the marvelous refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners everyone depends on today.

12. Opt for Some Bird-Watching on St. George Island

More than 300 species of birds living and traveling throughout St. George Island make bird-watching anywhere on the island both exciting and relaxing. During your family vacation, take your binoculars and camera to the State Park, stake out a space, and scout for birds migrating across the area.

13. See Sea and Land Creatures at the Apalachicola Estuary Nature Center

For more bird viewing areas off the island, make a quick 12-mile drive north to Apalachicola Estuary Nature Center, in Eastpoint, Florida. It’s a great place for the kids to see and learn about birds, turtles, fish, and other local sea and land inhabitants.

14. Explore the Waters With Journeys of SGI

Let Journeys of SGI, Inc. take your family on a guided kayak or standup paddle board (SUP) tour of Crooked River or Apalachicola Bay. If you prefer, select a relaxing fishing trip or sunset cruise, and rent a powerboat, kayak, or SUP board for adventurous family members wanting to do their own thing.

15. Take in Arts and Crafts at Sea Oats Gallery

Savor the local arts and crafts of coastal Florida at Sea Oats Gallery. Featuring more than 80 artisans, this gallery displays the largest collection of local art along the Forgotten Coast. The gallery’s ADA-compliant, wheelchair-friendly environment enables everyone to take their time and enjoy their visit.

 
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