Although leaving Tybee Island, the subject of our previous post, was a downer, our second island hop on the Georgia and Florida coastal town tour landed us on one of the four barrier islands in the Golden Isles — St. Simons Island. The Golden Isles, nestled between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida, includes Brunswick on the mainland and the islands of St. Simons, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island. Voted America’s #1 Romantic Town and America’s #1 Favorite Beach Town by Travel and Leisure, St. Simons was a must-see destination on our tour. But knowing little about what to do and where to stay, we consulted fellow travel bloggers James and Terri Vance, writers of Gallivance. Good thing we did. Their suggestions formed the basis of our two-day sightseeing joy.
Pier Village of St. Simons pulled us in — we thought we’d just take a quick drive around town. But at the sight of so many people — families mostly — walking out to the pier, we parked immediately. St. Simons Island Pier is THE place for strolling, fishing, taking pictures and looking back at the mainland at more places you want to see like the lighthouse, Neptune Park, and stately homes along the water.
The family-friendly nature of St. Simons charmed us — pathways, park benches, and play structures provide gathering spots for people of all ages.
A short walk from the park took us to St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum (101 Twelfth Street). With 129 steps to the top, St. Simons Lighthouse bests the Tybee Lighthouse by one step. First constructed in 1807 by James Gould, the original St. Simons light was destroyed by Confederate forces. The current lighthouse, built in 1827, replaced the original one a mere 25 feet away from the first location with a lighthouse keeper’s house erected beside it. Although Gould had to climb the original lighthouse several times a day to keep the flame lit, no one is needed now since a Fresnel lens and timer were added in 1953. (For the full history, click here.)
Perhaps the beauty of St. Simons for us, however, lay in its natural scenery. Small parks tucked into various areas of town are ideal for wandering about, and, if you did nothing else but note the live oaks and Spanish moss, you would have an excellent feel for the area.
We paused for photographs and reminiscences since we both grew up in South Louisiana, knowing massive trees such as these quite well.
James Vance (Gallivance) encouraged us to set our alarms, head out early to Gould’s Inlet (Fifteenth Street, Bruce Drive), and take in the St. Simons sunrise, a favorite activity for him and wife Terri. We did. Sitting in our car in the dark in the public parking area, we watched as others gathered — some with dogs, others alone — all waiting for nature’s show.
But, alas, no sun rose on the two mornings we braved the cold and darkness. Not to worry, however. We loved the gray atmosphere, the light misty fog, and our leisurely stroll along this premier beach property.
A conversation we initiated with a local, however, netted us a new term. Do you live here? we asked. I do, said the man. And I come out every morning to walk along the beach near the Johnson rocks. Johnson rocks? we asked. Yes. Brought to the beach during the Johnson administration, he chuckled. And thus the name. So we, too, feeling smug with our new-found local term (accurate or not) walked among and along the “Johnson rocks,” capturing an early-morning glimpse at low tide of the now-visible sand bars and people carrying coffee mugs as they slid into morning calmly.
St. Simons is more than just a beach town. It’s a place for year-round living with its natural beauty, city planning that ensures family activities, and a restful, mostly unspoiled view of the Old South — at least along the coast.
If you’re planning a trip to St. Simons:
Check out these informative sites for where to stay, eat, and play:
Where we stayed: Village Inn and Pub (500 Mallery Street; 912-634-6056; http://www.villageinnandpub.com/) Lovely traditional rooms, Continental breakfast, on-site pub.
Where we ate: Barbara Jean’s (214 Mallery Street; 912-634-6500; http://www.barbarajeans.com/) Casual atmosphere, seafood and Southern cooking (excellent crab cakes and shrimp and grits), pleasant service.
In our next post, we’ll show you Fort Frederica and Christ Church, two St. Simons attractions everyone should see.
And there’s plenty more to do on St. Simons, according to the website — golf, fishing, biking, etc. Check it out here! You just may have to go Coasting in St. Simons!
Previous posts in the Coasting series: