The first time I saw St. Simon’s Island it was the result of a breakdown on I-90 traveling from Florida to North Carolina. After waiting 5 hours for AAA to no avail, a kind innkeeper picked my daughter and me up and took us to their hotel on the Georgia Coast.
A Welcome Arrival
Wow. From complete frustration to utter surprise! Georgia’s coast is stunning and I couldn’t wait to explore it more under better circumstances. I was especially interested in getting back to charming St. Simon’s and I had the opportunity when The King and Prince Hotel invited me to experience their form of Southern Hospitality.
As its name suggests, The King and Prince is a royal property with history and a prominent perch overlooking miles of pristine beach. It is a world-class resort that caters to romantics as well as families and, from what I hear from an executive who has been there, they do a mean meeting. I personally think I would have a hard time concentrating with that coastline and the sumptuous Bloody Mary bar that’s a small meal in itself.
My room at The K and P had a stunning view and I gasped when I entered it. From the door I could see the beach and overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. I didn’t want to leave the well-appointed and fresh suite. The bed was fabulous. Each morning, sunrise would nudge me awake and I could see for miles before I ever stepped foot on the ground. But, the King and Prince is more than just a pretty view.
Coastal Dining at ECHO
The Georgia Coast is shrimp country and to kick off our stay, ECHO Restaurant Executive Chef James Flack, a local boy who incorporates the beauty of St. Simon’s Island seafood and elevates it to haute cuisine, did a demo of island favorite shrimp and grits. One of my favorite dishes of all times, Flack’s version was memorable, especially when paired with 2012 Jordan Chardonnay, a popular wine on the restaurant’s extensive wine list.
ECHO, the resort’s fine dining restaurant, is the result of a major makeover of the hub of The King and Prince or The Castle. Gone was the indoor pool and, in its place a lively bar that focuses on craft beers (and the aforementioned make-your-own Bloody Mary bar) and casual but excellent dining. The outdoor pool and dining area was expanded and offers ocean views while swimming.
The name ECHO reflects the role The King and Prince played in the Second World War. Built in 1935 as a dance hall, a hotel was added in 1941. During World War II, the K and P served as a Naval coast-watching and training facility with radio operations headquartered in this strategic location. The hotel reopened as a resort in 1947 and has seen several updates in the decades since then.
The Island’s History
St. Simon’s Island is filled with history and wonderful Southern characters who love to tell her story. If you go, try to take the Lighthouse Trolley Tour led by the original “Cap” Fendig who grew up on St. Simon’s and is a venerable dictionary of the island’s history.
Jump aboard his trolley and head to beautiful Christ’s Church Fenwick and its cemetery full of the gravestones of those who founded St. Simon’s, including a plantation owner’s wife who built a small school for both her children and those of her slaves. Yes, the story of St. Simon’s does include sad details like the taking of Indian land and slave trade, but it also includes early commerce, farming and fishing and served an integral part in World War II, including discovering German U-boats off the Georgia Coast. The landing of those enemy boats could have brought the United States much closer to the War in Europe.
Visiting the Lighthouse
The St. Simon’s Lighthouse and Museum is a must-see when visiting St. Simon’s. Originally built in 1807, the lighthouse continues to be operational today. The museum charts the operations of a lighthouse then and now and the demands on the lighthouse keeper and his family to keep the light going at all hours. The job was relentless before the years of automation and GPS, but the lighthouse kept many ships from wrecking on the Golden Isles of St. Simon’s, Jekyll and Sea Islands.
Exploring the Island
One of the most popular ways to experience St. Simon’s quiet streets, architecture, historical sites, shops and restaurants is by bike. Miles of roads and trails as well as beach riding at low tide take you wherever you need to go with little to no traffic.
In quaint downtown St. Simon’s, stop in Savannah Bee where founder Ted Dennard related the story of how he started keeping bees in Savannah and was the only one under 60 in the beekeeping club! Still pretty young and the head of a chain of stores based on honey in all of its forms and flavors, Dennard’s enthusiasm is contagious. Try the different types of honey and the meads (honey-based cider) as well as the lotions and shampoos.
More Great Food Experiences
Eating at The King and Prince can’t be beaten but, being the South, there are many dining experiences to be had on St. Simon’s Island. For a good dose of everything fried (including dill pickles) and a good beer, try Gnat’s Landing and it’s low-slung picnic tables and sports screens.
And for spectacular seafood that reflects the waters surrounding St. Simon’s, the Georgia Sea Grill has the freshest fish presented elegantly for a memorable meal. Their high approach to low-country cuisine includes many forms of Georgia shrimp and some local bison and lamb.
My time on the fabled St. Simon’s Island may have been short, but it was just a teaser for many return visits. Once you meet the people of the island and witness their quiet approach to life, their warmth and hospitality and their pride of being from or just being lucky enough to discover the Island, you realize the St. Simon’s life is contagious. I just can’t wait to get back to The King and Prince and walk the beach, watch the waves, drink a Bloody Mary and eat some shrimp. And then do it again!