Apalachicola & St. George Island (& more)

We love it when a friend says, “Hey, we’ve got this place with a big yard/driveway/parking spot – you’re welcome to use it if you’re ever close by,” and that’s how our trip to Apalachicola and St. George Island (a first for me and the kids) turned into a 10-day Christmas-on-the-beach experience. The weather was rainy and cold when we first arrived, but the next 8 days were gorgeous, and we were happy to celebrate Christmas in tank tops, t-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops.

Our favorite things about the area:

  1. Downtown Apalachicola – We love sweet little downtown areas, and this is one of the best we’ve seen. There are little cafes, art galleries, bookshops, and nice little gift shops too – with lots of sea sponges since Apalachicola used to be a big sponge producer – and loads more sweet little gifts. We had so much fun buying fresh cookies and muffins and admiring some stellar pottery and paintings, as well as a few dozen neighborhood cats.
  2. Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve – This place is a little off the beaten path, hidden right between Apalachicola and St. George. Knowing that we love educational-type things (especially the free ones), our friend recommended that we check it out, and we are so glad she did! We walked the nature trail, explored the exhibits (lots of them – with loads of cool stuff), viewed the estuary with binoculars, and even got to hear a bald eagle expert give a fantastic slide show about how bald eagles nest in Florida, live elsewhere in the winter, and always come back to their nesting spots. It was one of the most informative and engaging nature programs we’ve ever seen, and I was so glad to have my family there (even if we had the only kids in the room).
  3. Beaches of St. George Island – White sand begs to be walked on for hour after hour, I think, and that’s exactly what we did. St. George is gorgeous, and the water is beautiful, but December isn’t really great for swimming here, so we walked a bit, plopped ourselves on the sand a couple of days to do some schoolwork, read some books, and beach comb. Not only did we find some gorgeous shells, but we also found a little baby seahorse that washed up (a first ever for us).
  4. Cape San Blas State Park (St. Joseph Peninsula State Park) – Florida’s state parks have a theme. It’s “the real Florida,” and we couldn’t agree more. It’s so easy for us to get disillusioned by the commercialism that has taken over so much of the state, but the Florida state parks are always a refuge for us when we’re here, and this one was no exception. So, we drove the 30 minutes or so out to Cape San Blas, hiked a sweet little beach trail, saw some stellar birds, and played and picnicked until our hearts were content. Then we walked the shore and played by the ocean together. And afterward, we started working towards a Florida state park Junior Ranger badge that the boys hope to earn at our next Florida State Park!
  5. Local shrimp and oysters – Apalachicola used to be quite renowned for their fresh oysters, and while that reputation has waned in recent years, we had no trouble finding fresh seafood – even in the winter. Matthew ate a few dozen oysters at Up the Creek (one of the only oyster joints open in Apalachicola on Christmas week), and we all enjoyed the fresh shrimp we bought at a beach-side stand, cooked up at home as gourmet-quality shrimp and grits.
  6. Being there in December – It’s true; we had a lovely time, but I couldn’t help being thankful we were there in December because my guess is that everything becomes a little more crowded in the summertime.
  7. Proximity to other beaches – On one of our last days in Apalachicola we made the 30 minute or so trek to Mexico Beach and fell in love with the place. I’m always amazed at how different beaches can be just a few minutes away from each other, and this one was just gorgeous! So we did some beach school, made a few sand forts, and enjoyed a frap at Caribbean Coffee (home of some sweet local pottery too). Needless to say, Mexico Beach is definitely on our list for our next west Florida visit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *