St. Vincent Island in Florida.

© Bess Parker/Shutterstock

St Vincent Island

Gulf Coast

Just a few minutes from Apalachicola, but accessible only by boat, lies this pristine island. Its pearly dunes reveal 5000-year-old geological records, while its pine forests and wetlands teem with endangered species such as red wolves, sea turtles, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. Fishing's permitted on lakes except when bald eagles are nesting (generally in winter). For those sick of the high-rises and bikini-clad crowds of the gulf beaches, it's the perfect getaway for a day of hiking and solitude.

The island is home to a family of red wolves, one of the last wild populations in the world. These rust-colored wolves once populated the forests and marshes of Eastern North America, but were driven to the point of extinction by human expansion and hunting. You probably won't see them – the wolves are notoriously elusive, and reserve managers do what they can to keep them from becoming too comfortable around people – but you may well spot their tracks on the beach.

To get here, hop aboard the St Vincent Island Shuttle, which can also take your bike ($20), or rent you one of its own ($25, including boat trip). Phone for schedules and reservations; they require a certain number of passengers to depart.

The St Vincent National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center is located a few minutes walk from downtown Apalachicola, in the historic Fry-Conter house.

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