Explore The ‘Forgotten’ Coast: Guide To Apalachicola & St. George Island

Happy lady at the beach near Apalachicola, Florida

Here are things to do near Apalachicola and on St. George Island and where to stay to help you plan your next vacation to this charming part of Florida. 

Often referred to as Florida’s Forgotten Coast, Apalachicola and the surrounding coastal area are perfect for those seeking outdoor adventures and a quiet and peaceful beach getaway.

Including St. George Island, this part of Florida is a paradise for Gulf Coast beachgoers. In fact, the beaches along St. George Island continue to rank in America’s top ten.

We had been dying to see what the hype was about, so we drove 2,000 miles round trip to visit. We road-tripped here in mid-May before school got out for summer break. Let me tell you right now: the area did not disappoint. 

Things To Do in and Around Apalachicola + Top Attractions

Happy couple at the beach on St George Island, Florida

Historically hailed as the “Oyster Capital of the World,” this part of northwest Florida is lined with sleepy fishing boats and quaint towns that are now a place for tourists who seek a more low-key experience along the eastern panhandle. 

Apalachicola, St. George Island, Eastpoint, and Port St. Joe are all close together and easy to explore.

St. George Island

St George Island welcome sign

One of the top attractions is a visit to St. George Island, a 22-mile-long barrier island.

Thousands of tourists and locals flock to the island annually because it’s less crowded, the white sand is beautiful, and the water is emerald-green and mostly clear (but not as clear as Pensacola Beach or the Destin area).

Once you get to the island, you’ll be greeted by a few palm trees, a 72-foot-tall lighthouse, and colorful shops full of beach gear, clothes, and ice cream.

St. George Island is accessible via the four-mile Bryant Patton Memorial Bridge over the Apalachicola Bay from Eastpoint.

Visit the #1 Beach in America

St George Island State Park beach

For multiple years in a row, Dr. Beach has rated St. George Island as one of the top beaches in America. With 22 miles of white sand to explore, it’s the perfect place to soak up the Florida sun.

Before visiting, we had heard the white sand beaches were incredible, which was the main reason we decided to plan a beach vacation here. We are so glad we did.

Many times in the early morning, Pablo and I were the only ones on the beach to catch the sunrise.

Explore Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park

Girl standing next to St George Island State Park sign

St. George Island State Park is a paradise for outdoor adventure lovers. It is located on the eastern side of the island.

Along with less crowded beaches than the more public beach access points, the state park is excellent for watching wildlife, birding, hanging out at the beach, launching kayaks and paddleboards, fishing, and biking.

The park has a few trails for hiking through the dunes and pines. Visitors can also bike the main paved road through the park, which connects to the St. George Island bike path that goes along most of the island.

Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins and sea turtles while you spend time near the water. Every morning, we could see a pod of dolphins swimming near the shoreline on the Gulf of Mexico side.

There are also signs at the campground warning people to watch for alligators, though we didn’t see one during our stay.

Camp at Dr. Julian G. Bruce State Park

Camping at St George Island State Park in Florida

The campground inside the state park is stellar. Most campsites are within the trees. Sites include water and electric hookups. There are also two bathhouses.

Bring a mosquito/bug tent to go over your picnic table or lots of bug spray if you plan on hanging outside. 

Be sure to bring your bike. You can bike or walk right to the beach from your campsite. We thought this was the best part of camping here.

If you’re spending the night, you can access the beaches to stargaze and watch the night sky. You also get first dibs on the beach before the park opens to the public.

Planning tip: It is difficult to get a campsite here. The reservation window opens 11 months in advance of the date you want to come, so you need to make reservations about 11 months in advance

Tour the St. George Lighthouse and Museum

St George Island Lighthouse

The Cape St. George Lighthouse is 72 feet tall. Visitors can learn its story and climb 92 steps to the top. It’s one of the top attractions (besides the beach) on St. George Island.

There is public parking next to the lighthouse, and it is a great place to access the seashore on the Gulf side.

Rent Bikes or BYO

Biking along St George Island, Florida

All along St. George Island, you’ll see people riding beach cruisers. You can rent bikes from Island Adventures or bring your own (BYO) to beach hop and cruise along the St. George Island bike path – it is paved.

Rent Kayaks or Paddle Boards

Girl photographing sunrise on St George Island near Apalachicola

If you’d like to enjoy kayaking or paddle boarding while visiting St. George Island, there are a few outfits to rent gear from directly (on the island).

The Apalachicola Bay is a great place to stand up paddle board or kayak, and the little coves on the bay side along the island are fun to explore.

Enjoy the Food Scene on St. George Island

Happy lady at the beach on St George Island, Florida

Yes, there is a Piggly Wiggly and gas station on St. George Island if you plan to camp out or stay in a beach house. We grilled fresh grouper at our campsite and other tasty fresh seafood from the local grocery store.

In addition, there are some good restaurants. We got gluten-free pizza and salads at BJ’s Pizza and Subs.

Tour the Historic Downtown of Apalachicola

Girl and dog walking downtown Apalachicola, Florida

Back to Apalachicola, the historic downtown is charming. Since we camped on St. George Island, we drove to Apalachicola to explore for a half-day trip.

The historic downtown area has eclectic boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and raw bars where you can order seafood and enjoy drinks. Many of the restaurants have open-air seating.

We stopped at the Apalachicola Bee Company to enjoy the famous Tupelo Honey and sample some tasty mead (honey wine).

We also got Bear, our dog, a few new toys and treats at Oysterbones.

The historic area, near the Apalachicola River, is pet friendly, so it is cool to bring your dog while out and about exploring.

Go on a Ghost Tour

Man and dog on the pier on Apalachicola River

If you’ve been following us for a while, you know we love haunted places, so we had to share when we saw a ghost tour around the historic part of Apalachicola’s downtown.

Check out the Apalach Ghost Tour calendar to plan a spooky adventure.

Orman House Historic State Park

Orman House in Apalachicola, FL

Just outside of downtown Apalachicola, you can drive to the area’s famous Orman House Historic State Park. It’s a historic antebellum home whose owner brought the cotton export industry to the site in the mid-19th century.

Chapman Botanical Gardens

Three Soldiers Detail in Apalachicola, FL

Right next door to the Orman House, visitors can also tour the Chapman Botanical Gardens. There is a butterfly garden and green space walkways leading through the park. You can also take a moment to view the Three Soldiers Detail, a bronze art memorial for the Vietnam War.

St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge

Beach boardwalk along St George Island

Located nine miles SW of Apalachicola and only accessible by boat, you can cruise to the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge protects two islands.

Catch a tour boat there with St. Vincent Island Shuttle and Fishing Charters. They offer island day trips.

Apalachicola National Forest

Campsite at St George Island State Park

When driving to the Forgotten Coast, if you’ve never been and are planning on spending time at the beach, you’ll be surprised to see the forest go up to the coastline.

With 574,000 acres, the Apalachicola National Forest is the largest national forest in Florida and has places to camp if you want an off-the-beaten-path adventure.

Check out recreation.gov to find campsites. 

Dog-Friendly Beaches

Man and dog walking on beach near Carrabelle, FL

Another thing that drew us to this part of Florida is that most beaches are dog-friendly. So, if you’re road-tripping with your furry family member(s), most of the public beaches in the area allow dogs.

We visited the beaches in Carrabelle, East Point, and St. George Island, and Bear, our toy Aussie, enjoyed them too.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach within St. George Island State Park.

Many restaurants also allow dogs on the patios.

Where To Stay

St. George Island – If you plan to visit the area, the best place to stay is on St. George Island. You can camp at St. George Island State Park or rent a colorful beach house.

We made reservations to camp at the state park 11 months in advance. Visit the Florida State Parks website to make reservations. As I said above, campsites are hard to get—you’ll need to plan.

Eastpoint – If you’re pulling an RV and can’t find a campsite on St. George Island, there are quite a few RV resorts to stay at in Eastpoint right on the bay. Before arriving at St. George Island, we spent one night at Coastline RV Resort. The facilities are very nice, but there is no shade.

Apalachicola – If camping isn’t your thing. No worries. If you’d like to indulge in the Southern hospitality and charm the area is known for, stay at one of the historical hotels in Apalachicola.

Popular places to stay for those wanting historical accommodations include the Gibson Inn or Combs Inn & Suites.

You can rent houseboats from Houseboats at River Watch right on the Apalachicola River.

There are several places to stay in Apalachicola – so find the vibe that is best for you.

Port St. Joe – Located about 30 minutes from Apalachicola, Port St. Joe is another cute and laid-back coastal town to stay at and explore. Choose from an array of beach bungalows/cottages, B&Bs, and other vacation rentals next to the water.

Be sure to swing by the Cape San Blas Lighthouse as well.

Best Time of Year To Visit

Man watching sunset on St George Island, Florida

We enjoy visiting Florida in early May. It is warm enough to wear shorts and hang at the beach, but the summer crowds and heat haven’t quite picked up.

It is also outside of Hurricane Season, which is June through November (so keep that in mind).

But really, there isn’t a wrong time of year to visit unless a Hurricane impacts your travel plans. That’s what makes Florida special. You can plan a vacation year-round.

Why Is It Called Old Florida?

Fishing boat on the Apalachicola River pier

If you’re wondering why this part of the panhandle is hailed as “Old Florida,” it is because it hasn’t been developed as much as the areas further west along the Emerald Coast.

It also used to have a thriving oyster fishing scene, but that has been paused since 2020 due to environmental conditions.

The waters of Apalachicola Bay are known to produce some of the best oysters in the world, but for now, harvesting is paused for the health of the environment and the declining oyster population.

Enjoy The Forgotten Coast

Apalachicola, St. George Island, and Eastpoint are lovely parts of Franklin County to visit (Port St. Joe is in Gulf County). From the beautiful beaches and the state park to the delicious local restaurants with fresh seafood, we bet you’ll have a wonderful time touring around.

Since getting to Apalachicola is only an hour and a half from Tallahassee, it’s a great place to visit for the weekend. The locals are super friendly, and there are so many great things to see and do.

It’s a special part of the Sunshine State that Floridians cherish, and tourists who appreciate a low-key vibe love.

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. Burt Randall on June 24, 2023 at 12:42 pm

    It sounds like you & Pablo had a BLAST !!

    I love the beach to swim.