Almost Paradise: A Trip to Dog Island, Florida

If there was a zombie apocalypse and citizens had to choose members of my family to teach them survival methods, I would be chosen, but I’d probably be picked last. 

Growing up in Alaska, you learn how to rough it – how to hunt, how to fish, how to build a house, plant a garden, live without running water. All of these things I begrudgingly learned. Then, I turned 18 and I moved south to civilization. I will take glamping over camping any day of the week. I have grown accustomed to the easy life, predictable as the Walgreens you’ll find on every corner in the southeast.

Living the easy life

So when Thomas said he wanted to go to Dog Island for his birthday weekend, I had to stifle a moan. 

A weekend getaway with a hint of danger 

Dog Island is a 6-mile tract of land smack in the middle of nowhere. I can say this as a matter-of-fact and not opinion because it is located 50 miles south of Tallahassee, Florida, which is the least developed capital city in the entire United States. This too is a matter of fact, as it costs more money to buy a plane ticket out of here than it does to buy a ticket out of Fairbanks, Alaska. 

Besides the remote location, there are other factors that make the Island less-than-appealing to this Alaskan-turned-Floridian. 

Getting to Dog Island, Florida

After you make it out of the Friday 5 o’clock rush hour traffic in Tallahassee, you’ll spend the next hour stuck behind an F-150 pulling a boat bigger than two F-150s going 35 miles per hour through the following cities, I mean towns, I mean villages: Crawfordville, Sopchoppy (home of the worm gruntin’ festival), Lanark Village and finally, Carrabelle  (home of the world’s smallest police station).   

Carrabelle, Florida: home of the world’s smallest police station

The Island is accessible by only plane or boat. We take the latter. After unloading 2 carloads of food, clothes and activities (remember: REMOTE island = you bring your own everything or you die) we play a 20 minute game of “will she or won’t she” with the motors on the boat. There are two.

I’ve learned from past experience you can get across with just one motor, but the 20 minute ride becomes a 40 minute prayer where you start questioning the last time you swam 2 miles in open water (7 years, if you’re wondering). 

Will she or won’t she

Then you dock and unload everything for the 3rd time. And play the same game of “will she or won’t she” but this time with the engine of a 2005 Isuzu trooper. If she starts, you hydroplane across waves of sand to a battered blue house on the beach. 

The battered, blue and well loved house

If she doesn’t, you pop the hood, hopefully have a can of coke to pour over the battery that continually gets corroded by the salty air that finds its way into every metal surface on the island (and this is why you can’t have nice things) and start the engine.

“This is why we can’t have nice things” – Mafia! AKA when metal turns to rust

When you get to the beach, you unload everything for a 4th time and then head up 15 creaky steps to assess the damage that has likely incurred between now and the last time you were on the island. 

Homes on Dog Island

Does the electricity work? Is the water running? Is there enough salt in the tank to kill the sulfur taste? Have any windows been cracked? Do all the doors close? 

Then you move on to the inside. Has the freezer stopped running, causing a gallon of bait fish to melt all over the floor? Are there ants crawling up the walls (hope you remembered to pack the bug spray). 

Slowly you begin unpacking and remembering all the things you forgot – garlic, ketchup. You brought 3 types of entrees but no one brought a green vegetable…

By this time it’s dark. You’re tired but there are no restaurants on the island so you cook, then you clean up. You walk to the bedroom, shake out the sheets (because, bugs) and pass out…

Dog Island: A Hidden Gem in Florida

But every third time you go to the island, you get lucky. And you get out of town early enough to miss the traffic. The boat starts and the car starts and the house is in tact and mostly bug free and you remember the important stuff (wine and sunscreen). 

View from the porch
Paradise

In the morning you wake up, the sun is shining, the blue water sparkles across the sand dunes and the breeze blows just enough to keep the gnats away. You walk out to the beach and look to your left and to your right and all you see is wide natural openness. There are dolphins just outside the surf, jumping in the waves and you think to yourself “yes, this really is paradise”. 

Drifting away
Searching for the perfect shell

Locals island residents (of which there are about 20), will complain every time you mention Dog Island in public. They like their hidden treasure, their undisturbed gem off the coast, and want to keep it a secret. 

Dunes for days
Our treasure
Room for any adventurer brave enough to make the trek

But he reason it’s so untouched, so heaven-like, is because of it’s remote nature. It takes a certain type of person to want to put forth the kind of effort required for a 48-hour getaway. You have to be an electrician, a boat captain, a plumber, a carpenter and sometimes a medic. 

In the end, most people will decide it’s not worth it. That Pensacola, St. George, Destin or even The Keys are far more attainable. But there will be a few rugged adventurers up to the challenge. Who like an element of danger to their weekend getaways. And if that’s the case, then then Dog Island is the perfect escape. 

Sunset on Dog Island

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