St. Simons Island is one of the most popular island destinations in the state of Georgia. Whether you’re making a permanent move to St. Simons Island or planning a short vacation, there are some things that you shouldn’t miss.
If you trace St. Simons history back to the very beginning, you’ll find Christ Church. In 1776, John and Charles Wesley began preaching to the natives and never looked back. Today, they are both considered the fathers of Methodism in America, and the church that they founded still stands tall. When visiting, make sure to note the beautiful stained glass windows and ancient oaks. The grounds include a cemetery where early Georgia settlers lie in rest. Christ Church is a must-see for any St. Simons Island tourist.
It seems every coastal city has a lighthouse, and St. Simons Island is no different. It was first constructed in 1807 but subsequently destroyed during the Civil War. The current lighthouse was built in 1872 and is considered the oldest brick structure on St. Simons Island; it is also one of the five remaining lighthouses in the state. In fact, the lighthouse is still operational; climb the 129 steps to the top and see for yourself. Don’t miss the accompanying lighthouse keeper’s cottage where you’ll find a museum and gift shop.
Long ago, in 1736, Georgia founder James Edward Oglethorpe commissioned the construction of Fort Frederica. His purpose was to protect the new colony of Georgia from any possible invader. He was successful, and Fort Frederica grew to become a prospering small town. Many of the original buildings still stand today, and no visit to St. Simons Island is complete without a visit to this famous fort.
History is alive and well on St. Simons Island. The Battle of Bloody Marsh took place on July 7, 1742, when Spanish forces tried to take Georgia as their own. They were defeated by the British, and the legend claims that the marshes were red with the blood of the Spanish.
When you’re in a Southern city, there’s a good chance there is a large garden nearby. St. Simons Island is no different. Wesley Memorial and Gardens boasts over 4,000 azaleas (a Southern specialty) as well as numerous other regional varieties, including oak trees draped with Spanish moss. Several paths lead to the memorial itself, a cross composed of Georgia stone to honor the Wesley brothers, John and Charles. It is a lovely and quiet place to sit, reflect, and recharge.
If you’re a military and history buff, a visit to the Maritime Center at the Historic Coast Guard Station on East Beach should be a priority. There are seven galleries for your enjoyment, each filled with exhibits pertaining to the relationship between Georgia’s military history and the many beaches, marshes, and forests in the state.
If you want to spend time with the white sand on your toes and the sound of the surf in your ears, East Beach is where you should be. There are many activities available here, from shelling to kite boarding; biking is a popular pastime as well, because of the tightly packed sand. East Beach is large and composed of many sections, each easily accessible. Parking is available at several locations, so bring the family and spend the day at East Beach.
Is there anything more unique to the coastal areas of the south than giant, ancient oak trees dripping with Spanish moss? The answer, most decisively, is no. That’s why, when you’re visiting St. Simons Island, you must make a trip to see the famous Avenue of Oaks. This literal aisle of oak trees serves as a dramatic entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club; you’ll regret not visiting this amazing spot.
This church was constructed in 1869 by former slaves and is still in use today. Electricity was only added in the 1950s, and the design is beautifully simple, with round arch windows and bright white siding. A little off the usual tourist path, the First African Baptist Church is an important part of Georgia history and a location that should not be missed.
The Pier Village is essentially the downtown section of St. Simons Island. Here, you’ll find numerous boutiques as well as delicious restaurants. The pier is a popular destination, as well, from which you can see Jekyll Island and surrounding ocean views. You’ll also find numerous picnic areas, if you’d prefer to eat outdoors, and every July 4th you’ll see the annual fireworks show.