St. Simons Island. Photo by Mark Durant, @iammarkdurant
Guide to St. Simons Island
Ranked a top coastal small town, this island is big on appeal. Here are a few quick tips for things to do, places to stay, great restaurants and events you'll love.
Originally inhabited by the Creek tribes, St. Simons Island was at different times "discovered" by the Spanish, French and English. The Georgia colony was established by King George and led to the creation of rice and cotton plantations. The African slaves that were brought over to work them developed their own unique culture, the Gullah community, which is still present today. There are reminders of the island's history, including a colonial fort and antebellum plantations. Visitors can play 99 holes of golf, relax on beaches and ride miles of bike trails.
Things to Do
Whether a peaceful sunrise walk, a sunny afternoon building sandcastles, or stargazing at nighttime, St. Simons' beaches are a must-see. The East Beach is a favorite, and many of the island’s beaches are pet-friendly.
St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
As one of only five surviving light towers in the state, St. Simons Lighthouse Museum has been restored with its original Fresnel lens. It continues to be a navigational aid to incoming ships. Visitors can climb the 129 steps to the top and wander the museum in the Keeper’s Quarters, which details the lighthouse’s history.
Cannon's Point Preserve
Cannon's Point Preserve is a 600-acre green space on the north end of the island that features native species, maritime forest and miles of marsh linked to the Altamaha River Delta. Artifacts have been found dating back to 2500 BCE as well as from a 19th century plantation.
World War II Home Front Museum
The World War II Home Front Museum focuses on the island’s history as the site of a Coast Guard Station during World War II. The interactive exhibits are housed in the station that was used by the servicemen and women starting in 1937.
There are more than 20 miles of paved bike paths on St. Simons, many of which will take you around to different beloved restaurants, attractions, and historic sites. Borrow a bike from one of the shops around town or bring your own.
St. Simons Island Tree Spirits
Find all of the St. Simons Island Tree Spirits, which are a number of oak trees with whimsical faces carved into them. They were carved in the 1980s by artist Keith Jennings, inspired by the mythology surrounding sailors lost at sea. The Golden Isles Welcome Center has a map that shows you where to see them.
Christ Church Frederica
On the site of Christ Church Frederica, John Wesley of England helped found the Methodist church. The oak-lined area's first church was built in 1820 but was damaged during the Civil War. The current building was built in 1884 and is open for tours. The grounds contain the graves of famous Georgians like Eugenia Price.
Fort Frederica National Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument is a colonial site dating back to the 18th century where a boundary was established between British in South Carolina and Spanish in Florida. The fort was established in 1736 by James Oglethorpe. The Spanish were thwarted and the garrison disbanded, but it remains an archaeological site today, protected by the National Park Service.
Avenue of the Oaks
The iconic Avenue of the Oaks that marks the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club is one of the most beautiful landmarks on the island. Available to guests of the Cloister and Sea Island members, these majestic trees were first planted by Anne Page King.
Places to Stay
King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
The historic King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort has rooms with ocean views, patios and balconies. They also have multi-room houses and villas, five oceanfront pools, two tennis courts, massages, a golf course and a restaurant with the island’s only oceanfront dining.
Village Inn & Pub
Countless publications have celebrated the Village Inn & Pub, which is nestled into live oak trees near the historic village. The 1930s-style inn features uniquely decorated rooms. There’s also a cottage, an English pub and daily continental breakfast on the sun porch.
St. Simons’ newest hotel, Home2 Suites, features all suite rooms with separate living areas, full kitchens, sleeper sofas and work areas. Guests also have access to free WiFi, free daily breakfast, a business center, fitness center, laundry facilities, an outdoor pool and outdoor grills. They’re also pet-friendly.
Strachan Carriage House
Step back in time at the Strachan Carriage House, a cozy space that can accommodate up to 16 people. They have a private pool, hot tub, outdoor shower, living and dining areas, and a professional-grade kitchen. Guests also have access to free WiFi and a library of beach reads.
The Grey Owl Inn
The Grey Owl Inn offers five suites with private baths. Enjoy daily breakfast, afternoon high tea, and evening wine and cheese hour. Best of all, it’s a short walk from the beach, lighthouse and village.
The Inn at Sea Island
The Inn at Sea Island is on St. Simons but feels like an island within itself. With mid-priced accommodations, guests have access to the resort’s amenities, including three championship golf courses, the restaurants at the Cloister, and the award-winning spa.
Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals
Relax in your own space with Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals, which can help you find the right space for your group. The company has more than 400 rental homes and condominiums in its inventory.
Places to Eat
For such a small island, there is no shortage of delicious places to eat on St. Simons Island.
Georgia Sea Grill
Georgia Sea Grill opened in 1997 near the pier and is known for its seafood. They open daily for dinner in their main dining room, but they also have a wine bar and regular bar. Reservations are recommended.
Iguana's Seafood Restaurant
If you’re in search of wild Georgia shrimp, look no further than Iguana's Seafood Restaurant. The island-inspired eatery at historic Pier VIllage has a diverse menu, but save room for complimentary soft-serve ice cream for dessert.
Golden Isles Olive Oil Wine Bar
Part store and part restaurant, Golden Isles Olive Oil Wine Bar at Redfern Village is an essential stop for home cooks and foodies. They have more than 60 flavors of infused olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as cheeses, charcuterie, pestos and tapenades. The wine bar has a menu of light bites and offers wine tastings.
Bring your friends and family to Tramici, the island’s best Italian restaurant. The neighborhood restaurant has a brick oven used to make the perfect pizzas, along with menu highlights like spaghetti, lasagna and other Italian dishes.
Palmer's Village Cafe
Five-star chef John Belechak is at the helm of Palmer's Village Cafe, a relaxed eatery that features Southern coastal dishes. The restaurant is open for breakfast and lunch throughout the week and dinner on weekends.
Porch serves all sorts of Southern fare but is known for Nashville-style hot chicken, catfish and wild Georgia shrimp. Cool off with one of their drinks like craft beer, wine and frose (frozen rose).
Southern Soul Barbeque
Named one of the best barbecue restaurants in the country, Southern Soul Barbeque is an essential stop, featuring pork, turkey and brisket smoked for more than 12 hours. Don’t skimp on the four homemade sauces and sides like hoppin john, collard greens and Brunswick stew.
There’s always something going on in St. Simons Island.
Georgia Sea Islands Festival
The Georgia Sea Islands Festival in June celebrates the African American musical traditions, crafts and food of the barrier islands. The Georgia Sea Island Singers perform and have been a highlight since 1977.
Celebrate the Fourth of July with the annual St. Simons Island Sunshine Festival at Pier Village. A tradition for more than 60 years, the event includes fireworks, an arts and crafts show, a 5K and fun run, and other family-friendly festivities.
The RSM Classic
Golf fans flock to the island for The RSM Classic, which joined the PGA Tour in 2010. Held at the Seaside Course at Sea Island Golf Club, the November event also raises money for local charities. Come see why it was a favorite of Georgia golf legend Bobby Jones.