While many U.S. cities are experiencing fall weather, there are still destinations along the southern coast that are beach-ready. For example; St. Simons Island, Georgia — which was recently listed as one of America’s Top 10 Beach Resorts by AOLTravel.com. The Largest of Georgia’s four Golden Isles, St. Simons is my favorite. It’s small enough to enjoy every part of it during a weekend visit — by land, air, and sea.
Start off on land with a historic tour of the island. See its maritime history at the Fort Frederica National Monument, where the colonists won a major naval battle during the Revolutionary War. Then tour the old Coast Guard Station which was built by the WPA in 1935. It houses the Maritime Center with interactive exhibits on the Native American first inhabitants of the island, the island’s World War II history when the U.S. Navy used it to watch for German war ships, a tiny bit of history of the black slave descendents in the area who maintain the Gullah culture, and the island’s shipping and fishing history. You can also visit old plantations as well as the Tabby House, a souvenir and gift shop housed in a former slave cabin. The historic marker outside gives a little history of the blacks who were enslaved on the island before the Civil War. (Image: St. Simon’s Island Beach)
Then head for The Village at the center of the island where you’ll find plenty of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. I visited various shops for great bargains on beautiful, beach and sundresses and colorful, beach jewelry for only $3. And I loved the fragrant teas at Serenity House Tea Society & Shoppe. The woman-owned shop is a feast for your senses of smell and taste with unique teas like Mint Green Gunpowder Tea and Mango Tango. Owner Angela Cunningham is known on the island as the Tea Lady. After a spot of tea, head over for a real down-home meal of fried shrimp, shrimp and grits, fried pickles, fried catfish and a low-country boil at Gnat’s Landing. This is one of my favorite places to hang out because of the relaxed atmosphere, outdoor dining, friendly service and nightly live music. If you can make it there when the duo “DeFunk” is playing, you’ll get a real treat in R&B, Pop and Neo Soul music.
And no land tour is complete without visiting the recently renovated St. Simons Lighthouse, a working navigational beacon since 1872. Be sure to tour the light-keeper’s residence and discover the history of this great historic site. You can get a bird’s eye view of the lighthouse from a helicopter via Dragonfly Copters Tours. This woman-owned business is one of the most fun on the island. Owner and Chief Pilot, Angie Griffin, will have you soaring like a bird over St. Simons and all of the Georgia Golden Isles. It’s a great way to see the lush topography of the islands, and you may even catch a glimpse of an alligator or dolphin.
For a more up-close look at sea life, try a dolphin watching tour, a fishing tour, or a shrimp boating tour on the Lady Jane. I really enjoyed learning how shrimping has been done for generations, and got to eat some delicious, freshly caught shrimp, to boot! But if boating isn’t your cup of tea, you can just enjoy swimming in the inviting waters or walking along the sandy beaches of the island. And there’s no better place to do that than at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort. The historic resort is celebrating it’s 75th anniversary and has special offers on their rooms and suites next month. For more information on lodging and activities on St. Simons Island, visit www.explorestsimonsisland.com. So get in that last beach trip before the season ends. And remember: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain
Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.