Monday, August 23, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
Last weekend, I spent a day at one of my favorite Florida getaways - St. George Island, which is situated on the Gulf of Mexico, just 90 minutes from the state capital of Tallahassee. SGI, as it’s known, always has a very secluded feel to it. It’s why the area is known as Florida’s “Forgotten Coast.”
SGI may not have quite as nice of beaches as Destin, Panama City, or Pensacola, all within a few hours to its west; it may not have the high rise condos and many hotel chains; but it is a beach as untouched as most in Florida. In fact, that’s why I like it. It is a small beach town, with only a couple of locally owned hotels (no high rises). Most of the time if you stay a night, a weekend, or a week, you do so by renting out a beach house. It’s a true island getaway.
As my friends and I got into the water, there was no sign of oil anywhere. This is the oil-drenched Gulf of Mexico we had been hearing about? The only thing we had to fight this day was some possible rip tides, but we kept it safe, allowing ourselves to enjoy the large waves created by Tropical Depression Bonnie (which had passed through the Gulf of Mexico hundreds of miles to the south earlier that day). If we had a surfboard, this day would have been ideal - but so far that isn't a sport I've taken up yet.
We then went and enjoyed some great music at Harry A’s, played by our friend Sam Thacker and his band. To keep things humorous, Sam kept introducing his band with a different name in between every song. “We’re Sam Thacker ... and the brown oysters,” he said one time. Next time it was “...and the dirty pelicans.” Finally, “...the dead manatees.” He meant no harm. And surely this isn’t something to joke about. But as we sat in a bar and grille that continues to serve great seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, as we sat on the beaches and refreshed ourselves in the warm Florida waters, we never saw one ounce of what the mainstream media told us about. Instead it felt like normal times on St. George Island - except for the businesses that are hurt by false, or at least over exaggerated reports.
All I could think of is how this might be affecting the small business along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Florida boasts more than 1200 miles of coastline - and 700 miles of that includes sandy beaches. A few miles near Pensacola have been touched with tar balls, but not much else. In fact, at last check, all of these coastlines and beaches remain open for business. Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Bronson declared this past week that “98% of all seafood in the entire Gulf of Mexico is unaffected and safe to eat.”
One of my favorite past times, especially during the summer, is to get out to the beach and in my opinion, Florida boasts some of the best, most diverse, and most unique beaches around. For my friends outside of Florida, I’m happy to make some recommendations: Amelia Island, Miami Beach, Fort Myers, St. George Island, Destin, and Pensacola Beach are some of my favorites. And I’ve heard so much about Siesta Key (near Sarasota) from others that it may be next on my list to check out. Either way, get to some of Florida’s beaches soon. You’ll understand why it is so many millions of people visit here - and why it is so many others choose to make this state home.