Sunbelt Excursions
St. Simons Island
Where History and Beauty Collide
By Debra Pamplin

For those guests to Georgia wishing to visit a unique, tranquil location, they should head over to Saint Simons Island.  Referred to as simply "the island" by locals, this paradise is located just outside of Brunswick.  Families, history buffs and romantics alike should consider the island for their next big getaway.

One particular portion of the island -- the Pier Village -- houses everything your family will need for a perfect vacation.  The main drive in the village, Mallery Street, leads visitors down store-packed blocks that house everything from seafood restaurants to beach attire and fishing gear.  Just for fun, they throw in an ice cream shop, a magic shop and bike rentals.  For those not afraid of the dark, a ghost walk might be of interest.

Hotels include beachfront locales, but all are within walking range of Neptune Park, the lighthouse and the pier.  When choosing a hotel, one name stood out.

Saint Simon's Inn by the Lighthouse

This is the hotel where my daughter and I stayed.  We had the penthouse for a couple of nights, and by the end of our visit my daughter found herself wanting to stay indefinitely.

The lighthouse is St. Simons Island's most visible and recognizable landmark.

The design of the hotel is a very practical one.  An elevator from the parking garage took us to the second floor, and then we were just a few steps from the door of the penthouse.  The balcony door leads to a beautiful view of the lighthouse that is conveniently located directly across the street.

With the cool evening air blowing, we sat outside on the balcony for a little bit, watching folks play mini-golf across the street at Neptune Park or depart the pier after sundown.  The staff was very friendly and provided plenty of brochures and information about the area upon check-in.  The complimentary lemon water that is available was a huge hit with my daughter.

The bedroom inside of the penthouse was decorated beautifully, and the king size bed was very comfortable.  With a flat screen television in the bedroom, and one in the living room, our down time wasn't spent arguing over the remote control.....not that we stayed in the room much, as there was so much within Pier Village to do and see.

Our time at the Pier Village included a nightly stroll at dusk to the Pier, which was located just a few city blocks down the road.  A few times we would walk across the street to Neptune Park and the public swimming pool, to access the Pier via a shorter route.

In the afternoons, we would venture down the road to a few of the shops, always ending up at the Dairy Queen for a blizzard. 

Restaurants were plentiful in the village, ranging from American cuisine to Mexican and, of course, there were a few mouth-watering seafood restaurants as well.  Barbara Jean's was an amazing choice.

Fishing Pier

At the end of the road in the Pier Village, many tourists and locals meet at the pier.  Musicians have their guitars on hand, belting out a variety of musical stylings to the tip-providers, passersby and music lovers alike.

Arriving at the pier at dusk, we were able to take in the breathtaking beauty of the setting sun.  Hues of orange, pink, red and yellow quickly graced the sky before dissolving into darkness.  A sight equally impressive was the quarter moon shining proudly over the Sidney Lanier Bridge.  It was a cloudy night, and the scene was a photographer's dream!

Two Brothers Bike Shop

Also in the Pier village, visitors and locals alike can rent a different mode of transportation.  Tourists can park their cars and simply rent bikes for the duration of their stay.  Two Brothers Bike Shop, located at 227 Mallery Street, provides friendly customer service and reasonable prices.  The owner said that some tourists rent bikes for up to a month at a time.  It is an easy and fun way to get around on the island; bike paths stretch from one end of the island to the other.  Though some paths are more "family-oriented" than others, guests of all ages have enjoyed viewing the island from the seat of a bike.  An added convenience is not having to try and find a parking space.  Fall isn't as busy on the island, but parking spaces at and around the pier always seem to fill up fast.

If a bike isn't your speed, there are places that rent out golf carts.  Pack up your family in a cart and "drive" to your destination with ease.  Another option?  Mopeds.  Available for rent to those 21 or over, a trip around town on a scooter makes for a breezy, enjoyable trip.

Two Brothers offers rentals year-round, but in the off-season they stay busy by offering services in bike repair as well.  In addition, they sell bikes.  No matter how you "roll," the experienced workers at Two Brothers can get you on your way quickly and professionally. 

Lighthouse Museum

Directly across the street from our hotel was the lighthouse museum.  Founded in 1965, this lighthouse has served the community by preserving the foundations of this culturally rich community.

The original lighthouse was built in 1804, when plantation owner John Couper sold four acres of his land for $1.00 to the Federal Government.  During the Civil War, the Confederates were forced to evacuate the island.  Before leaving, they destroyed the lighthouse so their opponents couldn't use it as a navigational aid.

It wasn't until 1872 that the island regained the use of a lighthouse.  This time, a keeper's quarters was attached to the lighthouse.  Featuring 129 cast iron steps in a spiral staircase that leads to the top of the lighthouse, this tower stands 104 feet tall, and its light still shines bright every night, sending out a beacon through every storm.

From 1850 to 1972, the light keeper's quarters were used as housing.  After that period, the U.S. government used it for office storage, and the connecting passageway was removed.

In 1960, the U. S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Commercial Fisheries received the lighthouse.  And, in 2004, the deed for the lighthouse was turned over to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.  This occurred after a successful and long lease arrangement with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Society.

A Few Lodging Options

Saint Simons Inn by the Lighthouse, 609 Beachview Drive, Tel:  (888) 367-7270 or (912) 638-1101

The Inn at Sea Island, 100 Salt Marsh Drive, Tel:  (855) 714-9197

Ocean Lodge, 935 Beachview Drive, Tel:  (912) 291-4300

Hampton Inn St. Simons Island, 2204 Demere Road, Tel:  (800) HAMPTON 0r (912) 634-2204

Ocean Inn and Suites, 599 Beachview Drive, Tel:  (877) OCEANINN or (912) 634-2122

Courtesy of Saint Simons Inn by the Lighthouse

This photograph of the Saint Simons Inn by the Lighthouse features stately live oaks in the foreground.
Some Popular Local Eateries

Halyards Restaurant (Seafood), 55 Cinema Lane, Tel:  (912) 638-9100

Palmer's Village Café (American), 223 Mallery Street, Tel:  (912) 634-5515

Crabdaddy's Seafood Grill (Seafood), 1217 Ocean Boulevard, Tel:  (912) 634-1120

Sandcastle Café & Grill (Seafood), 117 Mallery Street, Tel:  (912) 638-8883

The Half Shell (Seafood), 504 Beachview Drive, Suite 1-A, Tel:  (912) 268-4241

Nazzaro's Ristorante Italiano (Italian), 196 Retreat Village, Tel:  (912) 634-6161

Barbara Jean's (Southern), 214 Mallery Street, Tel:  (912) 634-6500

Courtesy of Halyard Restaurant Group

Halyards, owned by Executive Chef Dave Snyder, offers casual dining in an elegant setting.
Tim Ross

Brunswick's dramatic Sidney Lanier Bridge provides easy access to the Golden Isles (St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sea Island and Little St. Simons) from Interstate 95.  The bridge can be seen from several St. Simons Island sites, including the pier and, of course, the lighthouse.

Today, it is one of the three last working lighthouses in the state of Georgia.

The museum is open to the public seven days a week, with the last climb tour beginning at 4:30.

Saint Simons Trolley Tour

Another fun way my daughter and I took in the history of the island was by an old-fashioned, open-air trolley! Celebrating its 21st year, the Saint Simons Trolley Tour, hosted by Bunny, is another island staple.  She was very entertaining, informative and friendly. The tour was packed full of history, spanning over the past 400 years.  Her storytelling skills are so vivid that she was able to hold my daughter's attention as well as that of the other kids beside us for the majority of the trip.

The trolley ride runs about an hour and half, and covers 36 points of interest.  The tour showcased the many well-known, and some not-so-famous landmarks, houses and tombstones that make up the history of the island.  Though we only exited the trolley at one stop, the tour does pause for plenty of photo opportunities at many locations.

The trolley offers tours every day at 11:00 am, and during a select few months tours are offered twice daily.

Go Fish

There were many unique and interesting shops on Mallery Street, but one stood out from the crowd.  Go Fish, a Christian owned store, featured many handmade items.  Items range from earrings to shirts and shoes.  There were art sculptures for sale made by local artisans as well.  Passing by the storefront, the driftwood statue of a horse initially pulled me into the store.

The locations outlined in this article are just a few examples of what makes Saint Simons Island a great vacation destination.  For a great fall getaway, fill up your travel itinerary with this island!


"Lighthouses of Georgia," New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 13, 2014:

"St. Simons Island," New Georgia Encyclopedia.  Retrieved September 13, 2014:

Author:  Debra Pamplin.  Published September 16, 2014.

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