St. George Island State Park offers miles and miles and miles of beautiful beaches

The sand. The dunes. The gulf. The serenity of an island in the sun. Without condos.

St. George is a long, skinny barrier island, drifting between Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, just south of Apalachicola. Skip the developed middle of the island and stick to the northeast end, where St. George Island State Park protects nine miles of broad beach. The dunes are high and sculptural, and the surf is calm enough for swimming. After beachcombing, explore the nature trails through pine forest.

The park's campground settles among the dunes, and a tent can get plenty hot on a sunny day. If camping is not your thing, there are accommodations elsewhere on the island, back towards the four-mile-long bridge you used to get here from the mainland.

Birdwatching and fishing are popular ways to pass the time, but our favorite way to while away an afternoon is sitting on the porch of a local restaurant, shucking oysters from the bay and washing them down with an ice-cold beer.

FYI: St. George Island is about 65 miles south of Tallahassee.

Moving on up: The beach has been ranked No. 4 on the 2012 Dr. Beach Best Beaches in the U.S. list, up from No. 6 in 2011.

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