Georgia on my Mind at St. Simons Island
by Larry Berle
Ray Charles’s Classic hit “Georgia on my Mind” is running through my head as I walk on the beach here on St. Simons Island. Then, as I enter the lobby of the King and Prince resort, I ask myself how this place got its name. I heard competing explanations. If you need a special reason to sample the many charms of this island resort, perhaps the chance to come and sort out the origins of its name will fill the bill.
The King and the Prince is not the only resort on St. Simons Island, but it is the only one on the beach, which is just 100 feet from my room. If you aren’t relaxed when you get here, you will be after you listen to the ocean lap against the shore and feel the gentle sea breeze rush over you. There is an 8- to 10-foot tidal difference here, so the miles of beaches are mostly hard-packed, a great spot for long walks. If that’s not enough, the hotel just completed a multimillion-dollar renovation of the lobby and public spaces and the result is glorious. After a wonderful night’s sleep, I opened my eyes to a budding sunrise over the Atlantic. What a wakeup call!
This area, known as the Golden Isles, consists of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island. It’s about an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville, Florida and an hour south of Savannah, Georgia. One of the first things I noticed as I came on the island were the huge hundred-year-old oak trees, draped in Spanish Moss, casting their canopies over most of the roads and bike paths. They’re just a beautiful sight.
My first stop after checking in to K&P was the Echo restaurant for a quick bite of lunch, here in the lobby. My table was wedged between the 5 swimming pools and the Atlantic Ocean. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich, which I expected to be like most grilled chicken sandwiches I have eaten over the years. But, no! First of all, it’s served on a grilled Challah bun. More important, it’s garnished with apple compote, although it didn’t get my attention until I tasted it. Then I realized I was savoring one of the best grilled chicken sandwiches I have ever tasted. How simple and wonderful is that? I am getting the recipe from the chef.
The King and the Prince has 190 rooms—hotel rooms, some one- and two-bedroom villas, and even a few homes that have as many as five bedrooms. There are many poolside activities for kids, and your kid will probably get his own crown at check-in.
There are also many family activities available on the island. Check the hotel web site: www.KingandPrince.com
Great stuff to do:
Shrimping on the Lady Jane
I had never been on a shrimp boat until today, and it was a fascinating experience. Lady Jane is a working, 60-foot shrimp boat with a marine biologist on board. We watched as they set the net, trawled the bottom of the ocean, and emptied the net on board. Over 100 forms of sea life tumbled onto the marine biologist’s table. She identified all the underwater life that gets caught in the net, told us how they fit into the food chain, and tossed them back in the water. Our net even brought up a of couple two- foot sharks. It’s a great experience for the family. The same folks also run Blue Dolphin Tours and a Pirate Adventure. www.ShrimpCruise.com
Del Sur Artisan Eats
In 2011, Hernan Stutzer opened Del Sur Artisan Eats in Miami, Florida. After a visit to St. Simons Island in 2012, Mr. Stutzer decided to move to St. Simons, and in August of this year he opened a Del Sur Artisan Eats here. As we dine, it has been open less than three months. It is a fantastic addition to the culinary landscape of St. Simons. Mr. Stutzer has combined the culinary arts of Argentina and Italy. If it seems an unlikely combination, just wait until you try it. He served us a fabulous tasting menu that could easily be from one of those New York eateries that is so busy you can hardly get a reservation.
Breakfast at the Sandcastle
This was a treat and a wonderful place to enjoy breakfast indoors or out. It’s just one building away from Neptune Park pier by the sea. If you like cinnamon rolls, you are gonna love the Sandcastle. www.sandcastleatthepier.com
St. Simons Lighthouse
Here is where you can learn much of the history of St. Simons: plantation life during the slavery period, the Civil War era, the ecosystem of the marshland that surrounds these islands, and of course the history of this lighthouse. Tour the old light keeper’s home and hike up 129 steps to a spectacular view from in front of the light. No building on the island is allowed to be taller than the lighthouse.
Lunch at Southern Soul
You better get here early because this small place fills up. Order at the bar and they bring the food to your indoor counter space or to the outdoor picnic tables. The barbecue smokers are outdoors. This is rustic and so wonderful. It’s easy to find because the tantalizing aroma wafts over you from at least a couple of blocks away. It has even been featured on the Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Meet the chief smoker and you quickly learn how passionate he is about his barbeque.
This is a beautiful historic all-wood church, built in 1883 with tongue and groove and pegs and not one nail. In 1736, John and Charles Wesley, acknowledged as the fathers of the Methodist Church, began holding services under the live oak trees at this location. Four sitting presidents have worshiped here—George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge.
Cap Fendig seems to know all there is to know about St. Simons Island, and more. He took us to the lighthouse, the smallest national park in the U.S. (Bloody Marsh), Christ Church, some old plantations, and many more sites worth seeing. This man is a wealth of knowledge
Other Family Activities
Horseback riding on the beach, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Bird Watching, Open Cockpit Biplane tour, Jekyll Island Segway tour, Sea Kayak through the marsh, deep sea fishing, and bike tours, to name a few. There are miles and miles of bike paths on St.Simons, so if you like bikes, you probably don’t even need a car. For details on these activities visit: http://www.kingandprince.com/family-activities.aspx