Sometimes there’s nothing as exciting as discovering unique shopping areas in a destination you hadn’t expected would offer so much. St. Simons Island, about a one-hour drive from the Jacksonville, Florida airport, is such a place.
A high-scale island that caters to families who want an affordable vacation (a stay at the King and Price Beach & Gold Resort is the place to be), and is home (seasonal) to the Fortune 500 crowd, it was surprising to find affordable, unique pieces in trendy shops throughout the downtown area. But that was but one small perk in a recent visit to the 18-mile long island — with a population of 21,000 seasonally.
The culinary scene, which is trendy and not just about shrimp ‘n grits (although there are plenty of these sweet island tastes at almost every eatery), includes top restaurants such as Halyards, serving the freshest and tastiest tuna tartare with ctrius aioli, as well as offering cooking classes through its USA Island Cooking Classes program. The drive to Halyards is your first course for dinner, aesthetically speaking, as the road that leads to this eatery is a tree tunnel of old oak trees accessorized with Spanish Moss. In business for 11 years, Chef Dave Snyder is one to watch, especially when he’s kneading his own cheese curd and water to make fresh mozarella. While Halyards is a bit more of an upscale dining experience, Chef Dave offers a scaled down version of more affordable tastes at his neighboring Tramici restaurant. And then there’s Palmer’s Village Cafe, the newest spot in town for breakfast and lunch, where Chef John Belechak serves southern specialties that will tempt you to return over and over again. If your in the mood for some low country pub food, head to Saltwater Cowboy and you’ll “git” your fill. Learn firsthand about the shrimping industry of the island onboard the Lady Jane, an absolute must for those who want to be in-the-know.
Not sure what else to do while on the island? Take a tour on the Lighthouse Trolley with “Cap” Fending and you’ll learn about life on the island, with personal anecdotes from a man that once ran for the presidential election, but now relishes in a life of sharing his experiences and knowledge of St. Simons Island through group tours on the trolley, as well as dolphin and fishing excursions. If you want to know more about the history of the Georgia Coast, you can head to the Coast Guard Maritime Museum and get your fill, courtesy of Curt Smith, or hop on a bicycle and get lost in the island’s surrounding beauty of beaches and residential areas. Ocean Motion offers kayak rentals and bicycles with baskets and locks so that you can cruise along 21 miles of bike paths! Oh, and it also has a great sports shop and clothing store.
Need to sweeten things up a bit? Head downtown to St. Simons Sweets and grab a pecan, Rice Krispie treat — or two.
If you, or someone you travel with loves golf, a must go-to spot would be the King & Prince Golf Course, a championship course that’s worth a golf cart drive through just to witness the beauty of the landscape.
Need a bit of culture? You’ll be sure to get your fill at the Left Bank Art Gallery, especially if you stay and chat with owner, Mildred Huie Wilcox, a southern belle who will leave you in awe with stories from her past experiences living in New York City as a fashion model, and stories of life on the island with her late-husband.
With so many treasures to experience on St. Simons Island, this is a destination worth exploring.