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February 2018
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Senior Spectrum Publications

Simply Smart Travel
by Jeff Orenstein and Virginia Orenstein
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St. Simons Island, GA.

A 2014 aerial photo of the King and Prince on the Atlantic.
A 2014 aerial photo of the King and Prince on the Atlantic. It still looks like this despite the hurricanes. Credit: King and Prince Courtesy photo.

Despite being hammered by 2016 and 2017 hurricanes, St. Simons is doing just fine. Named for a Spanish monk, this gorgeous and historic island is located just off the coast of Georgia.

It is the largest of a chain of Georgia barrier islands known as the Golden Isles. Other islands in the chain are Jekyll, Little St. Simons and Sea Island.

Accessible by highway from the mainland, the St. Simons of today is a peaceful resort town with its streets sheltered by a mature canopy of mossdraped coastal live oaks and full of quaint shops and restaurants. Its earlier history, however, was far from peaceful.

For at least two millennia, it was a native American fishing ground. In the 18th century it was the venue for the rival imperialisms of the new British colony of Georgia and the Spanish in Florida, based in St. Augustine. The area was known as the debatable land so Georgia's founder, James Oglethorpe, established Fort Frederica in 1736 on St. Simons to control the shipping lanes.

The pier and the imposing bridge to the island
The pier and the imposing bridge to the island can be seen from the top of the St. Simons lighthouse. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

During the war of Jenkins Ear in 1742, Spanish and British forces clashed on the island. Fort Frederica's troops defeated the Spanish, ensuring Georgia's future as a British colony. Today, the archeological remnants of Fort Frederica are protected by the National Park Service. Rangers conduct a fascinating tour there.

The St. Simons lighthouse and museum
The St. Simons lighthouse and museum are good places to seek the island’s rich history. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

The island was also home to nine slaveryera rice and cotton plantations and, in the 20th century, developed into a shrimping and tourist mecca. Over the years, it has attracted preachers John and Charles Wesley, U.S. Presidents, the G8 International Conference, the superrich and a cohort of smart travelers seeking a relaxing getaway.

21st century St. Simons’ attractions include friendly people, a great waterfront hotel, scores of restaurants, a public pier, an historic lighthouse and museum, parks, golf courses and a shopping village. It also boasts extensive marshes, eight to tenfoot tides, an impressive tree canopy and fine beaches with almost universal public access. A zoning ordinance that permits no building taller than its surrounding tree canopy has kept the island free of highrise hotels and condos and gives visitors the feel of returning to an earlier era of American leisure.

Before You Go

For a list of area attractions and tour suggestions, check:

Christ Church Cemetery
Lifetime island resident, charter boat captain, local politician and island historian Cap Fendig, owner of Lighthouse Tours, talks about who is buried at historic Christ Church Cemetery. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

Getting There

St. Simons is just offshore from Brunswick, Ga. Accessible by car off I95 and U.S. 17, it is an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville, Florida.

There is a large private jetport on the island and nearby Brunswick (BQK) Airport, a former Naval Air Station, is served by Delta Airlines. Jacksonville (JAX) and Savannah (SAV) airports are both less than an hour and a half away and have extensive connections.

The closest Amtrak stations are in Jacksonville (78 miles) and Jessup, (48 miles), offering Florida to New York service.

The King And Prince hotel can arrange for airport and train station pickups with advance notice.

Getting Around

There is no island public transportation system but there are taxis and trolley services conducting island tours. Renting a bike is great because rental places and bike paths are almost everywhere.

When There Mustdos for a short trip are:

18th century cannon
This 18th century cannon is at Fort Frederica. The bridge in the background was not part of the scene when the battle between the British and Spanish took place here in 1742. Credit: Jeff Orenstein

If You Have Several Days

In addition to the above:

When To Go:

St. Simons has a yearround good climate. August and September are usually hot but winter is mild and a great time to celebrate the holidays islandstyle. October and March are usually superb.

Jeffrey Orenstein, Ph.D. and Virginia Orenstein are travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. Their Simply Smart Travel column appears in newspapers and magazines in eight states. Reach them at jorenstein@SimplySmartTravel.com