Wednesday, May 8, 2013

St. Simons Island - Coastal Georgia's Golden Isles

View of Jekyll Island from St. Simons Island

I rolled down my windows as I exited I-95, smelling the salty sea air as I headed east toward the Atlantic Coast.   Passing through the small port city of Brunswick, I  turned into the bluebird sky and vast salt marshes that welcomed me here to the Golden Isles of Georgia. In the distance, a mighty suspension bridge loomed like the Titanic, waiting to whisk me to my destination of St. Simons Island.

Located about an hour south of Savannah and the same distance north from Jacksonville, Florida, the Golden Isles are comprised of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.  The lovely barrier islands may just be the best-kept secret in the Southeast, where Southern charm and hospitality are alive and well and a world of relaxation awaits.

King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
I spent 3 nights at the historic  King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island and spent my time exploring the islands and indulging in fresh and fantastic seafood. It was hard to leaving this sprawling seaside resort -- King and Prince is a charmer with 3 pools, a spa, golf, a beachside patio and the only oceanview dining on the island.

But it's hard for the Getaway Girl to stay put. There is too much to do and see on  St. Simons Island, which has a year-round population of nearly 20,000. I hopped aboard the Lighthouse Trolleys for a  tour and to learn about the history of the island. Fifteen plantations once grew cotton here, and you can still find bits and pieces of them, along with a historic fort, churches and graveyards amid picturesque live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. There are shops to browse, a pier to fish off, and  many miles of bike trails.

If you like fresh seafood, you'll be in heaven here on the Golden Isles. As Cap Fendig, lifelong resident and owner of Lighthouse Trolleys told me, "we love to eat here on St. Simons Island ... that's why you see so many restaurants ...  going out to eat is something we do nearly every day." Indeed, fresh shrimp is served everywhere, along with grits,  crab cakes, oysters and lots of Southern soul.

Trawling on the Lady Jane brings up a baby sea turtle!
One of the most interesting side trips I took while here was a shrimp boat excursion on the Lady Jane out of Brunswick. This renovated shrimp trawler takes out tourists into the salt flats,  brings  in a few loads and dumps then right in front of you.  It's almost shocking to see the diversity of live sea critters the net unleashes  ... all kinds of fish, crabs, rays, even a sea turtle (don't worry, they all go back into the water). A marine biologist does a show and tell with all the slimy critters as Edna the pesky pelican stands over his head and trys to snatch the booty (great entertainment!).

If you are looking for a super relaxing ocean getaway, I highly recommend St. Simons Island.  I'll post on my visit to Jekyll Island and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center next.

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