Georgia’s Golden Oldies: St. Simons Island.
By Cacinda Maloney
A flicker of light caught my eye, as I squinted in the stark sun to look at miles and miles of sandy brown coastline with its sprigs of green grass. Standing there with my toes in the sand and looking both ways up and down the beach, I saw only a few people and four miles of beach and was lucky to have it all to myself for reflection.
My mind wandered to the past and suddenly it was as if my college-aged son was seven years old all over again and we were searching for seashells on the beach, with his blue water pail, the one with the yellow handle. We would search for miles and miles up and down that beach. We would get up early while everyone else was sleeping and go down to the ocean waters to see what presents the tide had brought to us. We would spend hours picking thru hundreds of seashells, crabs and green glass pebble rocks and put them in his bucket that we would later take to the house where we would remove and wash off each one, organizing them in some way and then show them to his Dad when he woke up. He and I were so proud of our collection and would bring it home for our huge outdoor pot at the house that still stands there today full of these old seashells.
But now they have accumulated dust and debris, like the memories in my mind. I miss those days when life was simple, when seashells and sea glass made us happy, those long days of summer on the sandy beaches, and I am longing for them to return; yet I know they never will.
Pulling into the driveway of the King and Prince Hotel in my Mazda CX-5, I knew I had made the right choice to stay at one of the oldest resorts on the island. I can just imagine the King and the Prince back in the 1920’s, as the two of them got around the island on their golf cart. As the story goes, the two of them were starkly different, one towering over the other, so much so that they developed a nickname on the island as “the king” and “the prince” and soon enough on July 2, 1941, the hotel was born. It has had plenty of reiterations since then, and it continues to be one of St. Simons Islands most luxurious resorts.
This sun-kissed island is also a part of the Golden Isles, where the golden oldies go to live out there lives. The Golden Isles are made up of four islands – St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island. I only had a chance to visit two of these islands while in Georgia – St. Simon and Jekyll Island, yet each one seemed to have their own character and personality. To me, these are the “getaway islands” the ones you need when you want to slow life down and get away.
As the end of day began and the sun started to set, it is evident as to why they call these islands the Golden Isles – because the sun’s rays cast a glow along the shoreline that makes you just sit and stare, or in my case, grab the camera and take hundreds of photo shots of the sun setting, no wonder St Simons Island was awarded America’s Favorite Beach Town by Travel & Leisure.
I had a 2015 Mazda CX-5 from STI, so I wanted to explore the island a bit in my own vehicle and made my way to Pier Village to do some shopping and eventually do a trolly tour.
I ended up missing the turn and had a longer drive across the causeway than expected, so I when calling the St. Simon Trolley on the phone to let them know I was running late, all I could think about was that the lady on the phone sounded just like the famous Southerner Paula Dean, with her thick Georgia drawl, she explained to me how to get there and where the turn off was and that she would call ahead to have the trolley wait (only in small town America does this happen!) I couldn’t help but laugh inside, as I continued to ask her questions just to hear her pronounce the words! It was the cutest thing you have ever heard and the people are quite friendly here!
Once on the trolley tour, I was able to learn more about the history of the island and I enjoyed that the guide Randy pointed out the St Simons Lighthouse that has been in operation since 1872. He also pointed out the first Black Baptist Church on the island, the Irish Cross and then we had a stop at the historic Christ Church, which is the second oldest Episcopal Church in Georgia and is also the third oldest in the nation. There was also a quick stop at a spot where hundred of oak trees were planted in a double line, which makes for a popular wedding photo spot.
St Simons Island is the largest of the group of the Golden Isles, with its live oak trees draped with Spanish moss that line the streets and countryside and ease the visitors to begin the process of slowing down and to start living the island life. Although life is slower here, you can still find plenty of things to do. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at any one of the many courses, as well as there is plenty here for nature lovers, such as fishing, bird-watching, kayaking and even dolphin watching if you catch the time just right
I also had a chance to visit Jekyll Island, which has a history all its own of 20th century titans of industry from the East Coast that used to use this island for a wealthy playground. Driving up thru the low hanging Spanish moss on the old Oak trees, I could see the “cottages” of the Vanderbilts, the Morgans and the Rockefellers on my way to the Millionaires Club, which is now the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.
The Golden Isles are worth a visit and getting there is easy as they are nearly equidistant from both Savannah, GA and Jacksonville, FL and not difficult to navigate to with my GPS system.