Nestled between the cities of Savannah and Jacksonville, in the southeastern-most corner of Georgia, is St. Simons Island. Our family considers this quaint little beach community to be a little slice of heaven on Earth when it comes vacation time, “our” vacation spot.
St. Simons may not be as well known as some other U.S. beach destinations, but it more than makes up for dearth of name recognition with charm, atmosphere and activities. Although it’s a four-plus-hour drive from our house in Atlanta, when you finally get to cross over F.J. Torras Causeway onto St. Simons, and roll down that window to catch a whiff of that sea-salt and marshy smell, it’s all worth it. Turn right on Kings Way and oak trees adorned with tassels of Spanish moss visually confirm that you’re in the Deep South – but blended in with a bit of the Bohemian, with a dash of Jimmy Buffett flair thrown in for good measure.
After settling in, there’s much more to do than just lounging on the beach all day! The allure and charm of St. Simons arises from the varied mix of activities your family can incorporate into a day. To start with, the island is almost perfectly flat, so if everyone can ride bicycles, alternative transportation is taken care of. Our family loves riding bikes on the island so much that we paid $500 to install a bike rack on our minivan. Two trips later, the bike rack had paid for itself, in terms of bike rental savings.
Once you’re cruising on your bike (if you’ve ditched the car), take your pick from the multiple beaches comprising the sandy shoreline of St. Simons. One popular beach is out in front of the King & Prince Resort, which is a great beach for renting umbrellas for shade, ocean kayaks and all sorts of other fun stuff. There are also numerous public beaches as well, and our family typically goes to one farther south, near the Village. We like it because we all can wade out onto the sandbar during low tide. Something about kids and sandbars go well together, for some reason.
If you desire a little history and relish the chance to walk amongst ruins and relics, check out Fort Frederica. The Fort is always a staple on our schedule, and the seven mile bike ride is almost as much an endurance test as a family outing, but the ride is scenic and pleasant, sore butts aside. If you bike north on Frederica Road and follow the signs, you’ll eventually get to Fort Frederica National Park, which contains the remnants of a British settlement that once thrived on the northern end of the island. The little town finally petered out in the early 1740s after the British defeated the Spanish to secure dominion over Georgia, thereby obviating the military and strategic need for keeping a garrison around. The grounds comprising the former fort are relaxing and quiet, and the layout of the original streets has been preserved so that visitors can “walk” the streets of the town and get a feel for the dimensions of life in the fort.
Not everyone’s a history buff, and if golfing is your thing, the Sea Palms Resort, located in the middle part of the island, is a must-swing destination. The grounds are lush with thick-growing flora, and you’ll get the distinct impression that you’re golfing in the tropics. You’ll also get a great look at some of the fancier houses on the island while you play your 18 holes, although you’ll also want to keep an eye out for your ball too! The grass grows so deep off the fairway (where I spend a good bit of time) that it’s pretty easy for your white pill to disappear in all the greenery.
There certainly is no lack of great lodging in St. Simons, but our family always prefers to stay in the OceanWalk condominium community. Hodnett-Cooper, a local real estate company, has a wonderful website which details available condos for rent, and we definitely have our favorite unit. OceanWalk is a great community with a pond (complete with ducks to entertain the kids), ample parking, tennis and basketball courts, a playground, lots of grassy space and two pools. In short, it’s a wonderful place for families to spend time when not at the beach or out and about town. There’s a great clubhouse with a fitness center, and there are tons of picnic benches and porch swings for relaxing with a drink. At dusk, the OceanWalk community is a downright magical and relaxing place. And just down the road, if you’re so inclined, there’s a Dairy Queen for the perfect capper to a hot, steamy summer night. Along the way to DQ on Mallery Street, you’ll pass more parks with tennis and basketball courts, in case OceanWalk was all full.
If you get a great condo, the unit can be cozy and inviting, lending a more familial air to your vacation than a hotel room would. Also important and a great selling point to us: the kitchen! We’ve grown to love our condo’s kitchen, which enables us to stock up on groceries at the local Winn-Dixie by the airport (and to even bring the ones we have at home). Cooking a lot of our meals helps us to save money but also promotes a relaxing and homey feel to our vacations on St. Simons.
However, there’s plenty to eat on the island, too, lest you think you’ve got to go domestic the whole way. Near the Winn-Dixie, there’s a Bonefish Grille that we’ve enjoyed. Along Ocean Boulevard are the “Crab neighbors” – Crab Trap and Crabdaddy’s – all restaurants we’ve loved over the years. This is not even the tip of the iceberg. The last thing you’ve got to worry about is a shortage of great places to eat on St. Simons Island.
Please consider this the most basic of introductions to our family’s favorite piece of real estate on earth. Take what you like and leave the rest, but most important, get out there and explore the beauty of St. Simons Island!