Thinking about a family escape that doesn’t involve the hassle of air traveling? Today we are in luck to learn about a great weekend escape destination from Atlanta at St. Simons Island and the Golden Isles courtesy of our guest blogger, Lori Brown of Expedition Mom. Lori Brown is the Family Travel Editor for Expedition Mom, a family-travel website specializing in experiential “KNOW before you go” Adventure Guides and City itineraries.
Whatever your family style, it is sure to find a place in the coastal oasis of the Golden Isles. Families will revel in the fun and play of the beach community that is brimming with activity. Without built-up commercialism another layer of peace exists here that seems to only accentuate your choice of adventure.
St. Simons Island, along with the three other barrier islands comprising the Golden Isles, lies midway between Savannah, Ga, and Jacksonville, Fl. The contrast of its tumultuous historical past and present-day luxury, coupled with pristine, unspoiled beaches, marshes, and other habitats, lends to the unique charm of the area.
City: St. Simons and the Golden Isles
Distance: 315 miles
Est. Driving Time: 5 hrs.
Things to do on St. Simons Island and the Golden Isles:
The kids will be off on a climbing and exploring quest as you navigate the oak tree graveyard at Driftwood Beach. Treasures abound. Go at low tide and take your camera.
Families from Atlanta will be amazed to see where some of the giant sea turtle residents of the Georgia Aquarium began their exhibit journey. The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center is home to many species that call the Georgia coast home, including smaller sea turtles. For a more in depth look at the care and rehabilitation of larger sea turtles, be sure to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Current patients can be seen in their holding tanks; informational and interactive exhibits teach families some of the dangers sea turtles can encounter in the wild; and a viewing glass into the hospital may land you the privilege to see patient care in action.
If taking to sea is your desire, then coastal Georgia is the place to be. From the mainland town of Brunswick, just over the bridge, climb aboard with Cap Fendig’s Dolphin Tour. This 60-minute excursion is appropriate for even the younger members of the family. This inlet tour allows you views of the bird sanctuary and lighthouse. For a more ‘hands-on’ experience, jump aboard for a shrimpin’ excursion on Lady Jane to help a biologist catch and sort shrimp. A boiled feast onboard will truly be the freshest catch you have ever eaten.
With so much history in one place, where do you start? Hop aboard the St. Simons Island Trolley Tours for a spin around the island on a vintage trolley. Kids will love sitting on their knees looking out the windows (remember what that was like?). Your engaging, witty, and educational guide will dispense will local lore and knowledge as you cruise by places such as Bloody Marsh, Fort Frederica, and Retreat Plantation. A quick stop at Christ Church allows for some of the best photo opportunities, as well as a moment to stretch your legs.
After your tour, walk straight to the St Simons Lighthouse. Navigational history and haunted stairwells will greet you. Climb the 129 steps of the still operational lighthouse for a top-down view of Village Pier and St. Simons Sound.
On Jekyll, a smaller moving tour can be found on their ‘Passport to the century’ Tram Tour around the historic district. Once a playground of the wealthy, it’s membership once boated representation of one-sixth of the world’s wealth.
Just plain fun
Pier Village is the center of activity on St. Simons. From Pier Village you can walk or fish from the pier, let the kids have some playground fun at the water-front Neptune Park, look for dolphins, or grab an ice cream at St Simons Sweets.
Before leaving Pier Village, buy a kite at Frederica Station Gifts and head out for some high-flying fun on East Beach.
If you are across the bridge on Jekyll, you can do more than use your vehicle to explore the island. Bicycle rentals, including specialties such as surrey’s and tandem bikes allow for a more in-the-moment vantage. Want a less strenuous option, try renting an electric car or embarking on a guided Segway tour.
Places to stay on St. Simons Island and the Golden Isles:
St. Simons Island offers many luxury options that are not just kid-tolerable, but truly kid-welcomed.
At St. Simons Grand, individually-owned condo units provide varying degrees of interior decor and furniture. Full-size kitchens, washer and dryer, spill-safe tile floors, kid-safe and spacious balconies, and easy pool and beach access make this a parent’s dream.A recent stay in unit #202 provided morning views of the waking ocean with our coffee, and dolphin spotting opportunities for the kiddos – all from your own private balcony.
For less ‘home’ feel and more resort living try The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, where you never have to leave. From standard rooms to beach villas, the varying options provide a customizable experience. Resort activities, restaurants, golf, expansive beach, pools, and more provide plenty of on-site fulfillment.
Where to eat on St. Simons Island and the Golden Isles:
The family-friendly options for memorable food abounds in this quaint coastal area.
Visit 4th of May for exceptional southern cuisine, including the BEST pimento cheese, with coastal influence. They go out of their way to make your smallest family members feel welcome and happy.
Barbara Jeans is heralded for their crab cakes, and Sal’s Neighborhod Pizzeria serves up it’s highly-rated New York style pizza.
Southern Soul Barbeque provides a filling experience of barbeque cooked on a wood-fired smoker, plus amped up southern sides. Kids will be thrilled watching planes land at the neighboring airport while enjoying their meal on the covered, outside picnic-style seating.
If you are looking to just unwind for a beautiful sunset, head to Seajay’s Waterfront Cafe and Pub. The relaxed patio atmosphere is perfect for the kids to boogie down to live music, and the sunsets over the harbor are memorable.
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Photo credit: Expedition Mom