Our family of ten rented a house on St. George Island, Florida so that everyone could have a beach vacation. St. George Island is a quiet barrier island in the Florida Panhandle and makes a great family getaway if you like spending time together at a quiet family oriented beach.
Why St. George Island?
We used to own a vacation home in a fishing area about 45 miles east of here. When we wanted to go to a “real” beach, we would drive here on day trips. St. George is a long barrier island and consists of beach houses, a long bike trail, and Julian Bruce State Park on the eastern end of the island. The state park has preserved long vistas of undisturbed dunes covered with sea oats. The beach is white sand, and the clear blue-green water is fairly calm, making it a great place to bring small kids.
It is devoid of distractions such as water parks, tacky souvenir shops and noisy bars. It is a place to go if you want quiet relaxation. The island reached by a long bridge from fishing town of Apalachicola on the mainland. There are a couple of grocery stores in this town but more importantly you can buy locally caught fresh seafood here.
Using HomeAway to Rent the House
We used the website HomeAway.com to rent the house. There has been a lot of furor lately about HomeAway. Apparently they have started charging a fee to renters to use the service. Homeowners have complained that this fee has been killing their business. I have looked at my invoice and either the fee is hidden within the total charge, or I was not charged this fee. The only fee we were charged was a $200 refundable damage deposit. HomeAway basically serves as a portal through which homeowners and renters communicate. Our initial contact with the owners was through the web site, but after that we dealt with the owners directly. We paid our deposit and made our final payment by credit card while on the phone with the owner. We found the whole process to be straight-forward and painless.
The photo above shows the house we rented. It is known in local real estate parlance as “beachside” which means it is one tier back from direct ocean front. We walked on a dedicated path between two ocean-front houses to get to the beach. We thought this was a good trade-off as the ocean front houses rent for at least 40% more. We paid about $2200 for one week for seven adults and three kids under five years old. The house was typical 70’s construction and is a four bedroom two bath house. Each room had digital cable TV and we had WiFi. The best part of the house for us was the fully equipped kitchen which we used every day, all day.
Eating on St. George Island
From our many trips here in the past, we got into the habit of stopping to get ice cream after we crossed the bridge onto the island. Aunt Ebby’s has been scooping up ice cream for over 20 years, and apparently we aren’t the only ones who have made this a regular part of their trip. As you go up the stairs to the shop you are greeted by a sign that says “You have just climbed off one scoop of calories.” If only it were so. The kids used to eagerly look forward to this stop. Now the grand-kids are enjoying it too.
Home Cooked Gourmet Dinners at the Beach
We arrived at the house in four separate vehicles. On arrival day, everyone was responsible for their own meals. Most of us just stopped at restaurants prior to arrival. Others got sandwich stuff and ate at the house. But on the succeeding days we cooked all our other meals. Each adult had a day that they were responsible for shopping for, preparing, and cleaning up after meals for ten people. We all love seafood, so each day one of us would go one of the grocery stores on the mainland, and then stop at one of the seafood shops before returning to the island. We discovered that the small express grocery on the island has better food that the big grocery stores in Apalachicola, but you still have to go the mainland for the seafood.
Everyone is a good cook and we are all big eaters, so we did not eat cheaply. Each day we probably spent $60 on seafood. But the meals we had were delicious and could not be bought at any price in the local restaurants. Of course beer and wine flowed freely as we didn’t have to drive home after dinner!
The weather was hot, the water was warm, and the beach was beautiful. Everyday was brutally sunny but a couple of days we had some rainy respites that cooled things off again. I took this photo from the deck of our house. The three-story house in the photo is right on the beach. These large beachfront homes rent for about $7000/week!
Julian Bruce State Park, St. George Island, FL
The crown jewel of St. George Island is the state park, which makes up the eastern end of the island. You enjoy wide vistas of sea oat-covered sand dunes, and deserted beaches. One evening some of us walked to the state park along the beach. Description not necessary: