If you’re looking for remote along Florida’s coastlines, Little St. George Island should be on your bucket list, with over 9 miles of undeveloped beach only accessible by boat. Located seven miles south of the town of Apalachicola, Florida, the island is separated from St. George Island by Sikes Cut, a man-made pass dredged in 1954, and St. Vincent Island by West Pass, a natural inlet into Apalachicola Bay. An overnight stay at one of the lightly-used primitive campsites is almost a must to make the most of your visit, since the island offers boating, kayaking, fishing, hiking, primitive camping, wildlife viewing, and shelling opportunities.
Location: Little (Cape) St. George Island
Length: 3.3 miles
Lat-Long: 29.603103,-85.049676 (Marshall House dock and field station)
Fees / Permits: none
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Bug factor: Moderate
Little St. George Island is only accessibly by boat. Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico can be challenging for smaller boats as well as kayaks and canoes. Use good judgement when choosing to cross the bay, and carefully consider tides, winds, and potentially severe weather. Visitors may tie up their boats to the wood docks near the Marshall House at their own risk.
Many boat launches can provide access to Little St. George Island, including public ramps at Indian Pass, Battery Park in Apalachicola, and on St. George Island. Boaters will need to travel between 9-13 miles in order to reach the Island Ridge Trail, near the center of the island and the Marshall House Field Station. Another good option is to book a day trip with a local outfitter.
West Pass, Marshall House dock and field station, and Sike’s Cut are the three main access points to the island, from which the trails are easily explored. Most roads, trailheads, and trail junctions on the island are named and marked with wood “street” signs.
At the very west end of the island at West Pass at the large kiosk, visitors can look across the natural inlet to see the cabin on St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. A short trail (0.2 miles, blazed red) gives access to two primitive campsites in the dunes and pines. From West Pass, the center of the island is about a 4 mile walk on the beach.
The east end of Little St. George Island is an ideal place to fish from shore or on the jetties, or by boat and kayak. A 0.2 mile trail connects the information kiosk at the near the jetties to Sike’s Cut Trail as well as to two primitive campsites. An easy but unshaded 1.6 mile loop (blazed red) can be made by hiking both Sike’s Cut Trail and the Gulf beach. Beachgoers wearing sandals should exercise caution when using the trails here because of poison ivy, briars, sand spurs and cacti.
Explore the center of the island via its sand roads and trails. From Marshall Dock, take either Short Road (0.75 miles) or Long Road (1.2 miles) south for direct access to the Gulf Beach. Both roads are made up of soft sand, so carrying beach gear or coolers may be a workout! The primitive Island Ridge Trail extends west (1.2 miles, blazed red) from the Short Road and eventually meets up with Old Bay Road (1.1 miles) at the bayshore to make a moderate 3.3 mile loop from Marshall House, per the mileage chart below. Just east of Marshall House, two primitive campsites are available at the Government Dock area as well as along a trail that meanders about 1 mile to the beach. Chances are the only other footprints you’ll see on at these designated campsites are the prints of raccoons, tortoises, coyotes, and lizards.
Island Ridge Trail is appropriately named as it meanders through the scrubby, parallel dune ridges stacked along the middle portion of the barrier island. This part of the island is a mini version of the more complex dune and swale system found on its neighbor to the west, St. Vincent Island. A little over two-thirds down the Island Ridge Trail is one of the higher elevations (just over 21ft) on the island. This vantage point allows views of both Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf between the slash pines and cabbage palms.
Many thanks to Caitlin Snyder, Stewardship & GIS Specialist with the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve, part of FDEP’s Florida Coastal Office, for providing this hike.