Florida has no shortage of romantic weekend escapes, but few spots offer both beauty and isolation. St. George Island is one of those blessed destinations. Roughly halfway between Tallahassee and Panama City on the Gulf Coast, this 22-mile barrier island boasts some of the best beaches on the Gulf. Unlike other top beach towns, St. George Island has managed to maintain its low-key vibe, proudly claiming the designation “Florida’s Forgotten Coast.” The island makes for a perfect weekend escape this Valentine’s Day.
WHERE TO STAY
Though St. George Island and its environs have several inns in the Old Florida style, an Airbnb may be your best bet. The site offers plenty of beachfront homes with views of the Gulf of Mexico. They make the perfect nesting spot for a romantic weekend for two (or three—many of the homes are pet-friendly).
WHERE TO PLAY
St. George Island offers no shortage of recreational activities. Hire a fishing charter for the weekend and expect to reel in sheepshead, speckled trout, flounder, redfish and tripletail. Prefer to keep your feet on dry land? Rent a bicycle and explore the six miles of paved pathways that run parallel to the island’s main road, Gulf Beach Drive. Paddleboard the flat waters of the bay. Climb the island’s historic lighthouse. Explore the many dog-friendly beaches and restaurants with your pup. Or simply stay in with a bottle of champagne.
WHERE TO EAT
Apalachicola Bay, which sits between St. George Island and Florida’s mainland, has long been famous for its oysters. At one time, the bay provided more than 90% of the state’s oyster supply. Though the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is considering a five-year ban to halt the harvesting of the area’s wild oysters in order to restore the natural beds, oysters remain an important part of the local food scene. Paddy’s Raw Bar (240 E. Third St., St. George Island; 850.927.2299; paddysrawbar.com) is popular with both locals and visitors. This casual, open-air restaurant faces the bay and offers scratch-made surf and turf favorites. Don’t miss the St. Cheddar oysters topped with bacon, jalapeño, peppers, onions, cheddar cheese and hot sauce.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
St. George Island State Park (1900 E. Gulf Beach Drive, St. George Island; 850.927.2111; floridastateparks.org) spans nine miles and includes beaches, dunes, bay forests and marshes—all of it pristine. During the day, the park is an excellent place for swimming and sunbathing. Birders love it, too. At night, the park offers one of the best places to stargaze along the Gulf Coast. With minimal light pollution in the surrounding areas, visitors can see unrivaled views of the Milky Way. Bring a blanket for snuggling with your sweetheart under the stars.