We'll list of our favorite NATURE ATTRACTIONS in order of proximity to Heron Now.
1.THE VIEW FROM OUR HOUSE AND DECK: The list begins with the view from our living room and its adjoining deck. Grab a chair , a book, and a beverage. Let nature come to you. Before my kids, I would spend hours at a time never leaving the deck.
2.THE BEACHES(200 yards from front door): We have two beaches within walking distance. The gulf beach at 11th Street East and the bayside beach at the end of Bell Street.The gulf beach is perfect for lounging, building sand castles, and playing in the surf. Stroll and explore the wonders of the tide-- compare a morning stroll with a sunset stroll with a moonlight stroll. The bayside beach can be an unexpected delight. Our kids love to play there on the sandy beach where the lagoon empties then fills via a small channel. This is where we launch our kayaks to explore the adjacent one mile of undeveloped bayshore of Unit Four of the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. Part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and part of the Apalachicola Paddling Trail. See link to article on press page.
3.THE RESERVE AT 6TH STREET EAST( 5 blocks away): The far west end of the reserve mentioned above. Accessed by walking or kayaking west along the bayshore from our house . We tend to drive the kids to the parking lot at 6th Street and start from there. Explore wonderful tide pools, wetland habitat and a sandy beach in a compact area.
4.THE ST GEORGE ISLAND STATE PARK( 2 miles away):Another Great Florida Birding Trail site. So many different adventures that we have not explored them all. But we can recommend the following.
- The gulf beach here is world famous.Where else can you walk for miles without seeing a man-made structures or perhaps even another human? There several places to access the beach and two points do have restrooms, showers, shelters for picnics( yes, exceptions to the man-made structures comment).
-Great walking trail along East Slough. At first beach access with facilities, park at eastern most edge of lot. Across Gulf Beach Drive is a short boardwalk that takes you to a deck with a spectacular view of East Slough. The trail continues along the slough . It joins another trail coming from the Sugar Hill campground and leading to the bayside of the island( Gap Point).
-Put in kayaks or canoes at Youth Camp site and paddle around Goose Island. We saw two pairs of nesting Bald Eagles in spring 2009. Every 10 yards we were stirring up red fish that churn up the water as they swim away.
- Youth Camp area also has great birding especially during spring and fall migration
-Even if you are not camping , visit the Sugar Hill camping area for several reasons. We park at the playground and swing for a while. Then walk back toward the campground restrooms. You will see a sign for the interpretative center. Continue on the path past the interpretative center and in a few minutes you arrive at the bayshore. This is another great place to put in a kayak or explore by foot at the lower tides . Last of all, serious hikers might enjoy the long hike from the playground to Gap Point on the bayshore( 5 miles round trip).
5.THE NATURE CENTER AT APALACHICOLA NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH CENTER( 8 minutes away at the Eastpoint end of the bridge to St George Island):The newly opened Nature Center is a world class destination.It is open to the public and free.Hands on exhibits keep kids and adults interested for hours while educating about the plants, animals and habitats found in the area. Don't miss this gem.
6.LITTLE ST GEORGE ISLAND AND ST VINCENT ISLAND(15-30 minutes, only by boat): Another Great Florida Birding Trail site. "Journeys", a local eco-tour shop, offers 1/2 or full day charters to explore Little St. George and St. Vincent. From our experience the trips have been wonderful. We have had great visits from dolphins, found great shelling beaches, and explored deserted beaches. Journeys offers a variety of adventures including fishing charters, guided eco-trips of the gulf, bay, and river. They offer powerboat/sailboat /kayak rentals.
7.GUIDED BOAT TOURS OF THE APALACHICOLA RIVER: Several captains operate these tours including Journey's noted above.
8.GULF SPECIMEN MARINE LAB( 30 minutes away in Panacea): Truly unique aquarium showcasing the creatures of the gulf. Our kids love the touch tanks and insist on stopping every year. It might not be a reason to leave St George Island if you are only in town for a week , but if you happen be traveling through Panacea, it is worth a stop.
9. ST MARKS NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE(60 minute drive): Another birding hotspot especially for ducks in the winter. Also the monarch butterflies migrate through in October and there is a festival to celebrate the migration.
OTHER NATURAL ATTRACTIONS THAT WE HAVE NOT VISITED YET BUT EXPECT TO BE FAVORITES
- all nearby sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Download Map and Description
-Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab and it's Outreach Program(40 minute drive): From its website:
"Outreach activities at the FSUCML include teaching, research, and service that engage us with the public and with policy makers in ways that advance the public good and the FSU and FSUCML missions. Our purpose is to educate people of all ages and walks of life about coastal and marine issues of ecological importance. Our primary public outreach vehicles are through our monthly Coastal & Marine Conservation Lecture Series (open to the Public), our newsletters (appearing twice a year), our Open House (occurring every other year), and the ever-popular award winning Saturday-at-the-Sea Program geared for middle school students. We also provide several short courses for adults, some just for fun and others for professional development on a variety of relevant topics."
-Apalachicola National Forest: I have to assume some great nature here, but we have not explored this area.
In terms of owners favorites for DINING ATTRACTIONS , remember that we have two kids so we might be missing some of the more grown-up experiences.
But again our favorite place( with kids) to eat is at Heron Now on the deck. And we go for easy. - buy jumbo shrimp from Doug's trailer at the lighthouse and steam( or saute, or bake,or...) them at home. Buy some vegetables and beverages and kick back. The Bubba Gump Shrimp Cookbook is on the bookshelf for ideas. See if you like Dale's trailer better, but we like Doug.
- buy some fresh fish and cook at home
-if you are tired on cooking and still want to eat at Heron Now, consider BJ's Pizza(the shrimp and pesto pizza is expensive but fun). Or consider rotisserie chicken or BBQ ribs from the Market at the Blue Store. Drop by the market early in your stay and find what days ribs/ chicken are offered and when you have to place your order.
For ice cream after dinner at Heron Now , ride bikes down to Aunt Ebby's ( our favorite but open seasonally) or Subway( open year round).
Having young kids, we have not experimented with the variety of restaurants that area has to offer.And restaurants are likely to be more expensive than you expect. Nevertheless, we love eating at Caroline's on the River because the food has been good and the view amazing. We also have had pleasant experiences at Tamara's and at That Place in Apalach. Other fine restaurants that we have not tried ,but would like to , include the Owl Cafe and the Magnolia Grill. All these restaurants offer more variety than simply fried and broiled seafood. The Old Time Fountain grill serves ice cream , floats, malts, and shakes in the original 1950's interior.
On St George Island , Eddy Teaches Raw Bar is a low key but popular destination. In my opinion, the restaurant food on the island is not as good as in Apalachicola. But for convenience and a gulf view , try the Blue Parrot. For music try Harry A's.
OTHER OWNER'S FAVORITES:
- East Point Library has computers with internet access
- Rent bikes on St George Island
- Rent kayaks on St George Island
The Apalachicola Bay Chamber of Commerce website has a wealth of information with links to other attractions, restaurants, and services: