Why You Should Visit St. Simons Island, GA
St. Simons Island is the largest of the four barrier islands that make up the Golden Isles. Located on the southern tip of Georgia’s coast, the island’s shoreline is dotted with historic landmarks, museums, galleries, and hotels. With miles of sandy beaches and beautiful salt marshlands, St. Simons Island is the ideal place to plan a getaway and unwind.
Where to Stay
Out of all of the St. Simons Island beach hotels, I would recommend staying at the King and Prince Resort which has been welcoming visitors to their property for over 80 years. Rich in history and teeming with southern charm, it first opened its doors in 1935 as a seaside dance club, and soon after, the main building opened as a hotel to the public. During the war, it was even used for several years as a naval coast-watching facility.
The resort has long been one of the most coveted hotels for vacationers along the Atlantic seaboard. This sprawling ocean-front resort has superior service and outstanding accommodations. The majority of the rooms at the King and Prince Resort have breathtaking ocean views. The beaches in the Low Country are simply magnificent. Often during low tide, you can walk out for more than a mile. The packed sand makes it the perfect place for a long stroll or a bike ride.
What to Do
One of the easiest ways to explore the island is by bike. Rentals are available at Ocean Motion, just one block from the King and Prince hotel. As you pedal your way along the 20+ miles of bike paths around St. Simons Island, you will wind your way past beautiful parks, the Atlantic Ocean, marshlands, and historic sites. Discover the charm of Pier Village as you cycle through town. This is the ultimate destination for boutique shopping and dining.
Be sure to stop at the Savannah Bee Company, where you will find Ted, the honey sommelier. He is incredibly passionate about bees, beekeeping, and the honey he makes. At the store, you can sample several different varieties of honey, as well as taste their fresh honeycomb. They also carry a full line of beauty products that are derived from the best parts of the hive. The Royal Jelly Body Butter is just divine.
Taking a tour with Lighthouse Trolleys, on land or by sea, is another great way to see the Golden Isles. Hop aboard their trolley for a guided sightseeing tour of St. Simons Island. Owner Cap Fendig and his crew stop at spots like Christ Church and the Avenue of the Oaks. Hearing the historical facts of these major landmarks helps visitors to understand the history of some of the most prominent residents of St. Simons.
Visitors can also take a tour by boat with Cap around St. Simons and Jekyll Island. As you wind your way through the marshlands, rivers, and waterways, Cap will point out bird habitats, talk about the shrimping industry and even take you past the Sea Island Golf Club, where the RSM Classic is held.
Often his tours take guests right under the majestic Sidney Lanier Bridge. Not only does it span the Brunswick River, connecting Jekyll Island to the rest of the Golden Isles, but it is also the tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge in all of Georgia.
Also part of the fabric of this history of the islands is the St. Simons Lighthouse. It is one of only five surviving lighthouses in Georgia. When you visit the museum, you will learn that it is actually the second lighthouse to stand in this spot. The first one was built in 1810 by James Gould, a plantation owner who became the first lighthouse keeper. Unfortunately, the original lighthouse was destroyed by Confederate troops and the one you see now was built in 1872. Unlike many other operational lighthouses, visitors are welcome to walk up the 129 circular steps of this tower. From the top, you can see all of St. Simons Sound.
What to Eat on St. Simons
Ask any local on St. Simons Island, and they will tell you that Wild Georgia Shrimp are the best shrimp you’ll ever taste. Restaurateurs display a certain type of pride when they tell you their dishes are served with Wild Georgia Shrimp. Chefs say the reason they taste so good is that they can only be found in the wild, they are never pond-raised, and the spartina grass in the marshland where this shrimp feed gives them their sweet, succulent taste. Look for them on the menus at the local restaurants.
Although it is true that you will find plenty of items made with Wild Georgia Shrimp on the menu at ECHO, the signature restaurant at the King and Prince Resort, be sure to sample some of their other coastal specialties. For breakfast, order the eggs benedict made with crab cakes, fried green tomatoes, and smoked salmon or Canadian bacon.
For lunch with a local vibe, try Gnat’s Landing in the center of town. They serve up fresh seafood, salads, and sandwiches seven days a week. Their fried pickles shouldn’t be missed!
Day Trips from St. Simons Island
If you visit the Golden Isles, take a day trip over to Jekyll Island. There, it is worth taking the 90-minute Jekyll Island Historic District Tour to learn about what was, at one time, the richest, priciest, and most exclusive club in the world. The Rockefellers, Pulitzers, Morgans, and Vanderbilts were among some of it’s most well-known members. You will have an opportunity to go inside two of the cottages and gain a little insight as to what it might have been like to vacation here and belong to the Jekyll Island Club in the late 1800s.
All around the island, you will see large live oak trees, which are the official state tree of Georgia. The trees are covered in Spanish moss, a flowering plant, and provide much-needed shade in the heat of the south. On the tour, you will learn that it is not actually a moss at all; rather, it is a bromeliad which is the same family as a pineapple!
After spending time in and around St. Simons Island, you will likely agree with Smithsonian Magazine’s choice of St. Simons as one of the best small towns in America. It is easy to access, just a short drive from Jacksonville, Florida’s airport.
Disclosure: Complimentary accommodations, meals, and activities were provided by the King and Prince Resort in conjunction with Leigh Cort Publicity. No other compensation was received for this review. This post reflects the honest opinion of my experience without outside influence.