I’m pretty sure that everyone, young or old, has a memorable vacation spot that he or she visited as a child. For me it’s St. George Island, specifically the Beach House called Cut Bait that my uncle owned.
I know a lot of people who have been to St. George, but I don’t think they’ve ever been to my St. George. I’ve been visiting the Island since I was about two or three years old when my uncle first opened Cut Bait. Nestled at the very tip of the Island, in a private section of the St. George Plantation neighborhood of beach houses, Cut Bait doesn’t look like a whole lot now: It cowers between the two massive beach houses that stand on either side of it with their shiny new paint and the latest pools that come complete with waterfalls and hot tubs. Its fading paint and sun-worn deck have seen better days, and the houses down and across the street seem to flaunt their sparkling glass and screened in porches to make all the guests who visit Cut Bait green with envy.
But Cut Bait wasn’t always so outdone. When it was first built in the mid-nineties, it was one of the first houses to be constructed in Schooner’s Landing—the gated portion of the Plantation. There were no big fancy houses obstructing the sweeping views of the Gulf across the street. If you took the time to walk all the way up to the roof of the house and looked to your right when you reached the top and you’d see “the cut,” literally a cut in the island that splits the land in two parts—St. George and Little St. George—so that boats can pass through easier. I’ve never been able to cross the cut to get to Little St. George, but my family and I have always talked about doing so. It’s wild and untouched, much like the state park on the opposite side of St. George. The side of the Island that faces the cut is lined with huge boulders that keep the sand from sliding into the Gulf and make for a great fishing spot. I’ve heard that if you walk out on the rocks that protrude into the ocean at sunset you can see sharks coming up to find food, but I’ve never actually seen a shark in the water—I’ve seen plenty of happy, playing dolphins, but never a shark.
After days spent lounging on the deserted beach, one of my favorite things to do was visit Apalachicola, a nearby town that’s easily accessible from the Island, since there’s not much of a dining selection on St. George. My fondest memory of “Apalach” as a kid was visiting Santa Claus, who rides into town on a shrimp boat every year on the day after Thanksgiving. My family and I would eat a yummy seafood dinner at Papa Joe’s, The Owl Café, or Tamara’s Café, head over to the drug store and order a chocolate milkshake to wash down dinner, and, after seeing Santa, would shop around town, hitting favorite stores like The Oyster Catcher and the Grady Market.
St. George and Apalachicola aren’t Panama City Beach. They aren’t all glitz and glamour; they’re homey and a bit worn out, but I’d rather have that beautiful white sand in between my toes and that classic chocolate milkshake in my hands any day of the summer.
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