By Charlene S. Mixa A great get-a-way in the Golden Isles of Georgia!
Step into a calmer way of life with cool ocean breezes, canopies of moss draped oak trees, vast marshlands, and sandy beaches. Relax in the beauty of Georgia’s St. Simons Island. Learn the enticing history of this charming barrier island. Enjoy southern hospitality. Many travelers speed through Georgia on I-95 going north or south to a destination, by-passing an experience of Georgia’s coast and its enticing Golden Isles. My husband and I look forward to our visit to St. Simons Island, one of the four Golden Isles of Georgia. Just a few miles off I-95, this beautiful island welcomes us. A gorgeous day with clear blue skies we turn on to St. Simons Causeway. Looking out at the marshlands we see the view that inspired poet Sidney Lanier to write his famous poem “Marshes of Glynn”. Driving along Kings Way, we admire the oak trees lining the road and the cozy cottages as we cross the main street on our way to our hotel.
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort is a historic seaside retreat, heralded by generations since opening in 1935. The hotel sits on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and spreads out to several buildings. While the King and Prince has an extensive history, it has kept up with the times to be a seaside resort experience. Our room is terrific! Sliding glass French doors open to a large porch looking out on the Atlantic Ocean. The décor is warm and rich. We especially like the double sinks in the bathroom. As we wander through the hotel and its well maintained grounds, we admire its beauty, the pools, and the ocean view restaurants. The swings along the walkway are perfect for relaxing and watching the ocean or a sunset.
At the Village, which sits on the south end of the island we stroll along the Pier with its panoramic view. To the south is Jekyll Island, west is the Sidney Lanier Bridge, the village shops to the north with the east showcasing the St. Simons Lighthouse and Atlantic Ocean. Arriving just before sunset, we capture some great photos. In the Village, we check out the local eateries and decide on the Blue Water Café. From our table on the second floor, we enjoy our dinner with a scenic view of the Pier and Lighthouse.
Up early, it’s golf at the newly restored and renamed King and Prince Golf Course, Home of the Hampton Club. The course is in excellent condition with challenges for golfers of any level. The front nine is along tree-line fairways with water on some holes. The back nine adds spectacular marsh-framed island holes that are both scenic and unique. No. 14 a Par-5 has challenges of marsh to carry and water protecting part of the sloping green. The S-shaped fairway requires paying close attention to the hole-layout. After golf we have a very good lunch at the Clubhouse and are ready for sightseeing.
The golf course is at the north end of the Island and close to historic Fort Frederica National Monument. We view the movie of the Fort learning how General James Oglethorpe was the founder and leader of the Georgia colony. Oglethorpe selected St. Simons Island as a strategic site for fortification and protecting the mainland. The fort was built and a thriving settlement was established. The complimentary audio tour takes us to this era as we walk the streets along the ruins of the fortification, barracks and homes of the settlement. The tour educates us on life of the settlers, the troops and the battles between Spain and Great Britain for the empire in the southeast more than 250 years ago. We gain a new appreciation and understanding of the dreams and struggles of these early settlers.
Christ Church, set in tall mossy grass under towering oak trees, is nearby and offers afternoon tours. Established in 1808, it is the second oldest Episcopal Church in Georgia. I learned of Christ Church from reading Eugenia Price’s St. Simons Trilogy, about a plantation owner’s family during the 1800’s, who were members of Christ Church. On a previous visit we strolled through the cemetery locating the tombstones of these family members. Today, a docent gives us a tour of this gothic style building with its tall belfry and narrow stained glass windows. She explains each windows’ significance in commemorating the early history of the church and St. Simons Island, as well as the life of Christ. From her explanations, we admire the windows of John and Charles Wesley at Frederica, the founding of Georgia by General James Oglethorpe, and their authenticated unsigned Tiffany masterpiece of a biblical scene. The docent provides insight into the life of Reverend Anson Phelps Dodge, Jr., who rebuilt Christ Church, for whom the largest window was designed and executed in 1899 in Germany. It’s been a full day of golf and sightseeing, now for some relaxation.
After a casual breakfast at the hotel’s Blue Dolphin Restaurant and we set out for the day. At the Village we walk under the large live oak tree with all its picnic tables. Then wonder along the renovated Casino (meaning gathering place) which now houses the library and visitors center. White rockers along the open veranda welcome visitors to sit and relax while enjoying the view of the lawn and ocean. The St. Simons Island Lighthouse is nearby noted as being the oldest brick structure in the area. It is still maintained as a 104-foot operational lighthouse.
It’s 11:00 AM and time to board the St. Simon’s Trolley, a beautiful antique trolley from the 1930’s. Bunny, the “Georgia Peach” of St. Simons Island, greets us for this 90 minute fun-filled tour. With her Southern charm, Bunny gives an entertaining yet informative narrative of St. Simons Island. The tour is an excellent way to experience and learn about St. Simons Island and all it has to offer. Whether it is the historical aspect of the Lighthouse, the Battle of Bloody Marsh, Retreat Plantation or suggestions for places to eat and shop, Bunny gives good information to visitors. Take the tour upon arriving to get acquainted with the Island, then plan the places you want to visit for an in-depth tour.
Go kayaking. With a trusty guide and rental kayaks we are off to kayak the marsh and wetlands at St. Simons. Our Kayak take us to an eastern beach and launches us in the Atlantic Ocean. We each have our own kayak, with foot pedals for rudders which is great. Attempting to get in the kayak as the waves broke coming on shore in the ocean creates a little extra challenge. We manage and then head from the ocean to the inland waterways and marshes. It is fantastic! Paddling and floating along the marsh we see a lot of birds and gained a different perspective of the island. A fun way to see more of the Island.
Following our day of exploring and relaxing, we end our visit to St. Simons with a tasty meal at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill. Taking Bunny’s suggestion we head out to Redfern Village for after dinner cocktails at the Blackwater Grill. We strike up a conversation with a local couple, who share their love for this beautiful island and its enticement. They also introduce us to a favorite appetizer at Blackwaters, the “Dirty Sundae”. An excellent finish for our visit!
If you go:
Simons offers a variety of activities for visitors. There are beautiful beaches to walk, swim and sail; marshlands to kayak; excellent shopping and restaurants. Our focus this visit was golf and historical sites. The Visitors Bureau has great information for planning a visit to St. Simons and the Golden Isles. They even give you the recipe for Brunswick stew and a Low Country Boil!
Note: On one of our visits, we decided since we were up early to head off to East Beach to see the sunrise. The tide was out but to our surprise and utter amazement on East Beach the tide goes out about a mile (or at least it seemed like that). This huge area that is usually under the ocean is exposed for a short time when the tide is out. It was a blast exploring the pockets of the ocean floor. Great sunrise and great experience. We are just sorry, we didn’t take our camera for some photos.
Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia Convention & Visitors Bureau, 4 Glynn Avenue, Brunswick, FA 31520; 1.800.933.COAST (2627);
King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522; 1.800.342.0212;
King and Prince Golf Club, Home of the Hampton Club, 100 Tabbystone, St. Simons Island, GA 31522; 912.634.0255;
Fort Frederica National Monument, 6515 Frederica Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522;912.638.3639;