St. Simons Island Getaway Guide For First-Timer Families

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I was thrilled to be invited recently to St. Simons Island, one Georgia’s four Golden Isles barrier islands, for a travel journalist media trip. I learned “how-to” family vacation secrets for the best things to do, eat, and explore on Georgia’s most populated barrier island. I adore the fact that you won’t find name brand hotels on this paradise island that has been maintained with care to preserve its natural charms. Like me, I think you’ll obsess over the moss-draped live oaks that grow near the beautiful sandy beaches. You’ll also fall in love with the slow pace of this colorful beach town and its friendly people.

St. Simons Island coastline and lighthouse on top and Christ Church and green lawn on bottom.
St. Simons Lighthouse & Christ Church pictured.
A special thanks to the King and Prince Resort for hosting us!

I hope you find these family vacation ideas helpful and use this ultimate travel guide to start planning your next trip! Don’t miss all links and extra info at the end!

BEST ST SIMONS ISLAND THINGS TO DO

Having grown up in Georgia, you would think that Coastal Georgia islands would have been our best spring break destinations or summer vacation spots, but our family always ended up in Florida every summer.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know the Golden Isles as an adult!

St. Simons Island, Georgia is a Manhattan-sized barrier island with a laid-back, small community vibe. Even though it’s the largest of the Golden Isles with many shopping, restaurant, and outdoor coastal activities, it’s quiet most of the year and a family-oriented town.

The Georgia Coast is an almost 100-mile stretch of wide beaches, maritime forests, historic sites, abundant wildlife, and where 1/3 of the world’s marshland is nurtured. On this fabulous media trip, we were shown an in-depth “best of” things to see, where to stay and eat – perfect for family-friendly vacations.

Let’s go, shall we?!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS GEORGIA ISLAND

What is St Simons Island known for?

It was named after an Indian village known as San Simon during the 1600s and later anglicized by English settlers.the1660s to 1684. General Oglethorpe began the building of Fort Frederica in 1736 to protect the southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia from the Spanish.

How far is St Simon from Savannah?

Just over 80 miles.

Can you drive to St Simons Island?

Yes, by way of FJ Torras Causeway. From Jacksonville, Florida airport, travel on I-95 North to exit 29, the first Brunswick Georgia Exit. Then take a right off Exit ramp onto U.S. Highway 17. After about 9 miles, take a right onto the causeway.

What airport do you fly into for St Simons Island?

Jacksonville International Aiport (70 miles to SSI), Savannah Hilton Head International Airport (83 miles to SSI), Atlanta International Airport (311 miles to SSI), Brunswick Airport, or McKinnon-St. Simons Island Airport.

How far is Brunswick from St Simons Island?

It is only 7 miles from SSI to the mainland of Brunswick, Georgia.

TAKE AN FAMILY FRIENDLY ISLAND TOUR

A trolley tour with Cap Fendig as your tour guide with Lighthouse Trolleys is a must-do activity with the family. I know I’ve advised this a million times in travel guides of the past, but I’ll say it again…..

The 1st thing you must do when visiting any new travel destination is to take a tour of the town. This allows you to get a “big picture” of where you are AND pick and choose the activities where you’d like to go back and spend more time.

-The How-to Guru

Cap Fendig is a 7th-generation resident and is more passionate about Coastal Georgia history than anyone I’ve ever met. He is literally a walking history book full of fascinating stories and memories of years past. His company offers chartered boats, dolphin tours, and dinner cruises.

St. Simons Island Georgia's Lighthouse Trolley on two-laned road with trees in backdrop.
Lighthouse Trolleys are a replica of the 1800-style ones.

Insider tip: You can bring your own refreshments and your pup along for tours (large ones must be muzzled), and there are bathroom stops midway through.

SPEND THE DAY AT NEPTUNE PARK & PIER VILLAGE

Neptune Park is an incredibly beautiful spot created for families along the Atlantic Coast. Here you’ll find a playground, a mini water park with lifeguards, putt-putt, and more. There’s even an opportunity for swimming lessons and classes.

Parents will appreciate the public restrooms, picnic area, seating throughout, and abundance of shade by the enormous oak trees in the park.

Two kids atop a replica of a whale at St. Simons Island Georgia Neptune Park & playground
Neptune Park, next to St. Simons Pier Village + Lighthouse, rain0975, cc

GET A FASCINATING GEORGIA HISTORY LESSON

You won’t believe the places you can discover on St. Simons Island, Georgia that have a tremendous impact on American History. Georgia may not have topped the list of places that you thought changed the world, but after visiting this historic island, you may change your mind!

Visit the spot where Methodism began, the site where the English defeated the Spanish, the only church where 4 sitting US Presidents sat in public service while in office, and more!

Did you know that during World War II, the U.S. Navy used the airport here for bombers and the King and Prince Resort as a radar Naval Station?

Did you also know that there is a Gullah Geechee heritage on the island with historical sites to visit and festivals to attend each year?

Insider tip: Trust me — call Lighthouse Trolleys to visit these or other venues on the island.

FIND THE BEST VIEWS ON THE ISLAND

Visit the iconic landmark known as the St. Simons Historic Lighthouse and museum that’s been “shining” since September 1st, 1872 (the first one destroyed during the American Civil War).

This beautiful brick tower still serves actively to aid in navigation with the original third-order Fresnel lens that casts its beam 23 miles out to sea.

The Dwelling was home to lighthouse keepers and their families until the light was automated in the mid-1950s. Get the most beautiful view of the island from the 104-foot landing.

Insider tip: More than just a walk to the top, plan plenty of time to hear the history, and then climb, wander, and enjoy it all!

OTHER FAMILY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES

Golf, bike riding, beachcombing, fishing, crabbing, kayaking, bird-watching, and tennis are a few other activities that can be enjoyed here!

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…

TRANSPORT TO A SECLUDED BEACHFRONT WORLD

Hosted for four glorious days, I found the secluded oceanview paradise very relaxing! The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort has a laundry list of awards like TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for nine years running.

I can see why!

The King and Prince Club opened as a seaside dance club in 1935, opened in 1941 as the King and Prince Hotel, and later became a naval coast-watching and training facility during WWII.

Aerial view of the King and Prince Resort, courtesy of the King and Prince
The King and Prince Historic Lobby, courtesy of the King and Prince

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, the King and Prince Resort looks like a Mediterranean Castle to this day. From the bright atrium lobby and fireplace to the spectacular ECHO restaurant and oceanfront pools and dining, the King and Prince Resort is a lovely example of true Southern hospitality.

My view from Oceanfront Room, courtesy of the King and Prince

The variety of accommodations in a historic hotel is a unique character and one that families appreciate. Choose from a beautifully appointed room with a pool or ocean vista view, private beach villas, or resort residences for large families and small groups. We toured a five-bedroom home on the property that would be the perfect family reunion or couples vacation retreat.

My relaxing oceanfront room, Johnson Pictures, Inc. 2008

Visited for generations because of its luxury atmosphere and amenities, families love the beachfront fun. Here the family can dine, swim, relax, get a relaxing massage, attend an oceanfront yoga class with an East Beach Yoga instructor, and play a round of golf. The concierge will even work with Ocean Motion Surf Company nearby to assist you with outdoor activities like stand-up paddleboarding, biking, or kayaking through the salt marsh.

Insider tip: Join the King and Prince Resort’s email list to stay up-to-date with their current deals so you can get the best deal for your money!

GET FRESH ON THE GEORGIA COAST

Our entire trip to St Simons Island, Georgia revolved around food and I wasn’t mad about it. There are 67 restaurants to choose from – many locally-owned!

We were treated to King and Prince Resort’s in-house restaurant, ECHO, as well as Georgia Sea Grill, Gnat’s Landing, and Golden Isles Olive Oil company. All three locally owned establishments impressed us with their fresh entrees and family stories.

The lovely Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island
Caesar salad with fresh Georgia shrimp at Gnat’s Landing restaurant, locally-owned by a Father & two sons
Golden Isles Olive Oil market chef is shown making a bisque in the Olive Oil kitchen
Enjoyed our olive oil education & tasting at Golden Isles Olive Oil

I highly recommend all three!

My favorite foods from the trip were the fresh shrimp at Gnat’s landing and the hearty breakfasts at ECHO, right inside the King and Prince Resort. The island’s only oceanfront restaurant, ECHO, pays tribute its Naval history during War World II and serves up incredible southern coastal cuisine with sweeping views of indoor/outdoor dining.

ECHO Bar and Living Room, courtesy of the King and Prince
ECHO Restaurant dining room within The K & P, courtesy of the King and Prince
An ECHO restaurant breakfast treat
St. Simons Island ECHO restaurant serves up incredibly hearty breakfasts with this steak, eggs, potatoes, and toast dish!
My hearty breakfast dish of steak & eggs at King and Prince Resort’s ECHO restaurant

Insider tip: Check out the wonderful and reasonably priced ECHO room service menu. YUM!

YOU MAY ALSO NEED

When you need something cute for your travel essentials like your passport, air ticket, and credit cards, you can feel safe knowing there is an RFID blocking shield material that helps prevent your vital private information from being disclosed. All is genuine leather and in many CUTE colors!

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BEFORE YOU GO – TIPS & OTHER LINKS & INFO!!

Most of the year, St. Simons Island is still flying under-the-radar as far as tourists go. Of course, summer temps bring more families to the beach. I heard a rumor that Spring Break week and GA-FL weekend both bring large crowds. I would avoid a family vacay during those time frames, personally.

Otherwise, every other day of the year will do! I hope this has been helpful to help you plan your trip to the Golden Isles very soon!

King and Prince Resort: 201 Arnold Rd, SSI

ECHO Restaurant: 201 Arnold Rd, SSI

Lighthouse Trolleys Land & Sea Tours: Load at SSI Pier

Neptune Park: 550 Beachview Dr, SSI

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum: 610 Beachview Dr, SSI

Georgia Sea Grill: 407 Mallery St, SSI

Gnat’s Landing: 310 Redfern Village, SSI

Golden Isles Olive Oil Gourmet Market: 306 Redfern Village, SSI

East Beach Yoga: 1205 Ocean Boulevard, SSI

Ocean Motion Surf Co: 1300 Ocean Blvd, SSI

RELATED POSTS

HOW TO ESCAPE TO THIS LUXURY ST. SIMONS BEACH RESORT (Day #1)

8 IMPRESSIVE THINGS TO DO ON ST SIMONS ISLAND WITH OLDER KIDS & TEENS (Day #2)

THINGS TO DO IN HILTON HEAD ISLAND + WHERE TO STAY + BEST FAMILY RESTAURANTS

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Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost and Okefenokee Living Magazine and other publications, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist and lover of all things ‘calm & cozy home.’

She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about southern family destinations and creating cozy homes they can’t wait to go home to.

Her hope is that overwhelmed women feel like family travel and cozy home gurus in their own right.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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1 Comment

  1. Tom Schoene
    October 18, 2020 / 10:46 am

    Best oysters ever at “Catch 228”.

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