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ST. GEORGE ISLAND
Drive time: 1 1/2 hours from Tallahassee
Best for: Those who want to hole up together in a gorgeous house with just a stunning beach and each other for entertainment
The Home: St. George Island is not your typical resort town. There’s not a high-rise hotel or a shopping mall in sight, thank goodness, and it takes a lengthy drive across a four-mile bridge to reach the secluded island. Styles range from two-bedroom cottages with picture-window views of the Gulf of Mexico and Apalachicola Bay to palatial six-bedroom homes with swimming pools and wraparound porches. Opt for a rental home on the west side in the private Plantation community, and you can cruise winding wooded roads and shaded trails through grassy dunes to the jetty at the western tip. On the eastern end of the island, the homes’ main attractions are beachcombing and bicycling to St. George Island State Park (floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland), nine miles of pristine, undeveloped shoreline and salt marshes.
Eats: Check out Islands Choice (850.927.2999) seafood trailer for right-off-the-boat Apalachicola Bay oysters (three dozen for $15.95, a bargain!), fresh wild shrimp, locally caught grouper, crabs and scallops.
Explore: Keep an eye out for dolphins, bald eagles and ospreys as you walk your dog on the secluded pet-friendly beaches. During the summer, loggerhead sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs, and in October migrating monarch butterflies drift across the island. Adventurers can climb the 92 steps to the top of the newly erected Cape St. George Lighthouse (stgeorgelight.org) for 360-degree views. Stargazing at the night’s pitch-black sky reveals the clearest diamond-studded heaven.
Don’t Miss: For the one day you might just long for civilization, drive to Apalachicola, a nearby historic fishing town. Stroll the streets filled with art galleries, antiques shops and boutiques. Stop at Boss Oyster (apalachicolariverinn.com/boss.html) for a serving of plump Apalachicola oysters that are shucked while you wait.
Book: Collins Vacation Rentals (collinsvacationrentals.com) offers modest two-bedroom to luxurious six-bedroom homes. Seasonal rates: $500 to $6,000 weekly.
By Vicky Hodges