My family has been going to St. George Island for decades. Which means this Florida island has some pretty special memories. Lots of beach time, hunting for crabs, and playing in the ocean.
I’ve already written about some of the fun things to do on St. George Island, but I wanted to give a little vacation recap and highlight some favorite moments from our trip this past summer (in July 2021) here.
A Rough Start
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you know that our family has some pretty notorious bad luck on vacation. And we started out this time with my parents having a flat tire which then resulted in an actual broken part of their car and they had to find a car repair place open on a Sunday morning that could get the part they needed in so they could leave.
Your mom calling you at 6 a.m. the morning you are supposed to leave to tell you that they might be one or two days late to the beach is not really the way anyone wanted to start out.
Needless to say, it was a little stressful getting there, but my parents only ended up losing a few hours (got a miraculously quick car repair!) and still managed to get in late Sunday night!
Where We Stayed
Whenever we’re at St. George Island we try to rent a house on the beach. We’re usually there with family (this time with my parents and my aunt), so we all split the cost of the house and are sure to have enough bedrooms for everyone.
We also have some other specifications: we always want a screened porch, because the bugs in the evening are just too bad. (Honestly, I see houses all the time when walking along the beach and I truly don’t understand why they haven’t screened those porches in.) And this time we also needed a dog-friendly house.
Tip for renting houses on St. George Island: try to book sometime in the fall for the following summer! We didn’t book until right after Christmas and definitely had few options!
Luckily we found just what we needed: a three bedroom house with a screened-porch on the beach that allowed dogs that wasn’t outrageously priced. A needle in the hay stack, I tell you. (At least by the time we were looking.)
Another fun fact about our house this time — we were right next door to a house we stayed in in 1996, when we took one of our most memorable beach vacations with some family friends! We had talked for years about trying to find where that house was again. In fact, when my mom and I took a walk that morning we were looking at all the houses along the beach because we knew we were close. But we didn’t see it.
Then we were eating dinner on the porch that night and my mom looks up at the house next door (across an empty lot) and goes, “Hey. Is that it?” And it was!
Probably a random and weird story that only matters to me, but we thought it was a fun find!
Most of our time at St. George Island is just pure beach fun! Kayaking, swimming, building sand castles, playing bocce ball.
We had kind of rainy weather on the first day, but then it cleared up the rest of the week.
True confession: I have always been a little scared of swimming in the ocean. It just feels like you never know what could be lurking there. My kiddo though? Wants to swim in the ocean ALL. THE. TIME. Which means I’m getting better at it too. (Although I am super grateful to Gerrit for doing most of the swimming with her at the beach).
This year we brought a random inflatable tube from Target that ended up being the hero of the trip though. We spent hours riding waves in on the innertube, which surprisingly, for only $5, held up the whole week.
Ok. Time to talk about the most memorable experience of our week. The dolphins!
Pretty much every day you can see dolphins out in the Gulf a little ways out from shore. They swim past in the morning and evenings a lot, and sometimes in the middle of the day. And I’m not sure if it’s just where we happened to be on the beach, but it seems like we saw a lot more pods swimming by than usual!
One day there had been a lot of dolphins out swimming and fishing, and I took the kayak out with my kiddo. The dolphins that had been out had moved along, but we were kind of hoping more might swim by at some point. (Just want to make this clear because you should always keep your distance from wild dolphins and shouldn’t pursue them closely!)
After just a little bit I heard them.
I hadn’t expected this: that the first sign of dolphins being near you is hearing them breathe. I looked over and sure enough there was a small pod swimming toward us in search of some fish. We stayed as still and as quiet as we could, and they ended up swimming RIGHT in front of us.
It was an absolutely incredible experience. And Gerrit had been flying his drone too, so he saw them coming before we did and got an amazing picture. (Note my hand over my mouth in amazement.)
We were lucky enough to get to experience this more than once too. There were SO many dolphins out that week that there were a couple other times we had the kayaks out and dolphins happened to swim near us. Absolutely incredible.
When we go to the beach, we actually don’t eat out all that much. Part of this has to do with the fact that there just aren’t a ton of restaurants around. But part of this is that we’d rather be able to chill out at the beach house and not feel pressured to get cleaned up to go out every night.
Whether we are traveling with my family or Gerrit’s family we usually split dinner duty up. So in this case, Gerrit and I had two dinners, my parents had two, my aunt had two, and we went out one night.
In case you’re looking for a few beach food tips (which…this is making me think it might deserve it’s own post…) here’s my strategy: cook as much as possible ahead of time. Because when I’m at the beach I do not want to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen.
It’s kind of become tradition for me to cover the first night’s dinner. I make a mushroom lasagna ahead of time which I freeze and then heat up in the oven when we arrive. I’ll also have broccoli already chopped which I’ll roast in the oven, and some garlic bread which takes just a couple minutes to put together and bake.
For my other night what I make will depend on want other people bring. This year, I made burger patties ahead of time and froze them, so we just had to defrost and grill them. Then we had bagged sweet potato fries and a quinoa salad that took me about 20 minutes to make one morning.
And that was it for the cooking for me! Everything else was lots of cookies and snacks that we made ahead of time.
We always take one morning to go into Apalachicola to do some shopping and eat lunch. But I have to say, I have never seen Apalachicola as crowded as it was this year.
I don’t know if it’s because people are having to stay more local for their vacations this year? Or this area of the coast is getting more popular?
We’ve never had an issues with crowds or lines before, but when we wanted to get ice cream we actually had to come back later because it was so crowded.
We still love Apalachicola of course. The Grill downtown has the best grouper sandwiches. And we always stop by Downtown Books and Purl for some books.
But it will be interesting to see how this area of the coast changes in the next few years, how much demand grows or whether crowds die down a bit once there are more options for travel opened up.
St. George Island will probably always be our favorite beach though because we love the low-key vibe and have so many special memories here. So I know we’ll be back. (We always are.)