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Beaches, Parks & Wildlife Refuges

Some experts consider the 9 miles of beaches in the Dr. Julian G. Bruce St. George Island State Park among America's best. This pristine nature preserve occupies the eastern end of St. George Island, about 15 miles east of Apalachicola. A 4-mile-long paved road leads through the dunes to picnic areas, restrooms, showers, and a boat launch. An unpaved trail leads another 5 miles to the island's eastern end, but be careful: It's easy to get stuck in the soft sand, even in a four-wheel-drive SUV. From a hiking trail leading from the campground out to a narrow peninsula on the bay side, you can see countless terns, snowy plovers, black skimmers, and other birds. Entry costs $6 per vehicle with up to eight occupants, $4 single-occupant vehicle, and $2 per pedestrian or bicyclist. East End access costs $6 per person. Campsites go for $24. The park is open daily from 8am to sunset. Pets are allowed only on campgrounds. For more information, contact the park at 1900 E. Gulf Beach Dr., St. George Island, FL 32328 (tel. 850/927-2111; www.floridastateparks.org/stgeorgeisland).

If you'd rather stay on St. George Island in one of 270 privately owned rental homes, from luxe six-bedroom beach homes to old-fashioned Florida cottages, call Collins Vacation Rentals (tel. 800/423-7418; www.collinsvacationrentals.com). In addition to the state park, the island offers restaurants, bars, and some of the best fishing in the state.

There are no facilities whatsoever at the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Apalachicola and accessible only by boat. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has left this 12,358-acre barrier island in its natural state, but visitors are welcome to walk through its pine forests, marshlands, ponds, dunes, and beaches. In addition to native species, such as bald eagles and alligators, the island is home to a small herd of sambar deer from Southeast Asia. Red wolves are bred here for relocation in other wildlife areas. St. Vincents Island Shuttle Service (tel. 850/229-1065; www.stvincentisland.com), at Indian Pass, 21 miles west of Apalachicola via U.S. 98 and C.R. 30A and 30B, will take you to the island in a pontoon boat. If you bring your bike, the boat will drop you at one end of the island and pick you up at the other. Call for prices and reservations, which are required. The refuge headquarters, at the north end of Market Street in town, has exhibits of wetland flora and fauna; it's open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm. Admission is free. For more information, contact the refuge at P.O. Box 447, Apalachicola, FL 32329 (tel. 850/653-8808).

The Apalachicola National Forest begins a few miles northeast of town. It has a host of facilities, including canoeing and mountain bike trails.

Cruises 

Jeanni McMillan of Journeys of St. George Island (tel. 850/927-3259; www.sgislandjourneys.com) takes guests on narrated nature cruises to the barrier islands, and on canoe and kayak trips in the creeks and streams of the Apalachicola River basin. She also leads night hikes with blue crab netting, shelling excursions, and fishing and scalloping trips, plus excursions tailored exclusively for children. Prices range from $250 to $450 per person. Reservations are required, so call to find out what she's offering when you'll be in town. Jeanni also rents canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and sailboards. Closed January and February.

You can go afternoon or sunset sailing on the bay on Capt. Jerry Weber's 40-foot sloop Wind Catcher (tel. 850/653-3881). The 2 1/2-hour voyages on Apalachicola Bay cost $35 for adults and $30 for children 15 and under, including snacks and soft drinks. Reservations are essential. Or you can rent the entire boat for your own private sail for $210 for 2 1/2 hours.

Fishing 

You can't go oystering, but fishing is excellent in these waters, where trout, redfish, flounder, tarpon, shark, and drum abound. The chamber of commerce can help arrange charters on the local boats, many of which dock at the Rainbow Inn on Water Street. For guides, contact Robinson Brothers Guide Service (tel. 850/653-8896; www.flaredfish.com). Rates run about $375 for a half-day and $500 to $550 for a full day for up to four anglers.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.