St. Vincent Island Beach
Located at the county’s westernmost border, St. Vincent Island is a 12,300-acre undeveloped barrier island owned by the Federal Government and managed as a National Wildlife Refuge. The triangular-shaped island is nine miles long and four miles wide at the east end. The island is a haven for endangered wildlife including bald eagles, loggerhead, green and leatherback sea turtles and migrating wood storks. Alligators, feral hogs, deer, red wolves and dozens of bird species also populate the island.
The island has a rich and varied history. Pottery shards that have been found on the island indicate that Native Americans inhabited the island as early as the year 240. Franciscan friars doing missionary work with the Apalachee Indians named the island St. Vincent in 1633. Creeks and Seminole Indians inhabited of the island in the 1750’s. During the Civil War, a small fort called Fort Mallory was built presumably to defend West Pass. In 1868 local entrepreneur George Hatch purchased St. Vincent Island. His grave is the only marked grave on the island and can be found west of the cabin with a fence around it. In 1908, Dr. Ray Pierce, a New York “pharmaceutical entrepreneur” best known for his marketing success of the health tonic “Dr. Pierce’s Golden Medical Discovery” purchased the island. During his ownership, Pierce imported old world game and used the island as a private hunting preserve. The Sambar deer, an elk from India, acclimated to the island terrain and remains on the island today. He also raised beef cattle which were sold to the Apalachicola market. The island continued to be used as a private hunting preserve until until 1968 when it was sold to the Nature Conservancy which later sold it to the federal government.
Today, St. Vincent Wildlife Refuge offers visitors many activities, such as kayaking, fishing, hiking and biking. The island is only accessible by boat. Regularly scheduled tours of the island are conducted by the Supporters Group of St. Vincent Island. Contact the St. Vincent Wildlife Refuge Office for information. (850-653-8808).