St. Simons Island, Georgia
Situated approximately 80 miles south of Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, St. Simons Island is the home of nearly 13,000 year-round residents which grows to almost 50,000 during summer months. St. Simons Island, which is known simply as “The Island” to locals, is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles, a formation made up of four islands: St. Simon Island, Little St. Simons, Sea Island, and Jekyll Island. The Golden Isles are one of the South’s premier recreation areas.
Most of the Island’s population lives on the southern tip in a town bearing the same name as the Island, St. Simons. The northeastern part of the island was purchased by the St. Simons Land Trust and turned into a 608-acre nature sanctuary and wilderness preserve. The preserve contains some of the most pristine ecosystems of the barrier islands and includes a maritime forest, a salt marsh, a tidal creek and river shore line, and several ancient shell middens left by the original inhabitants from the Creek Nation. The park also contains the remains of a 19th century plantation, a reminder of the historic economy of the island.
Like many of the barrier islands, St. Simons Island was known for a unique strain long fiber cotton known as Sea Island Cotton. The island was almost entirely clear cut to make way for the huge plantations which became the mainstay of the island’s and the greater region’s economy. Originally occupied by Confederate forces during the Civil War, the Island was abandoned under the orders of Robert E. Lee as the troops were needed for the defense of Savannah. The Island occupies a strategic naval location and was thus taken by Union forces which remained stationed there until the end of the war.
After the war, the plantations were ruined. Many of their former owners had died during the war or made bankrupt, into refugees by the war, or simply dispossessed. Most left and the plantation economy withered and died on the Island. The former slaves remained and founded the town of Harrington in the middle of the Island. Lumber became the next economic staple of St. Simons Island with mills being built at all points on the island. Lumber cut and milled on St. Simons was even shipped as far north as New York City for use in building the Brooklyn Bridge. The lumber trade sustained St. Simons Island until just after the beginning of the 20th century when the Island was, for a second time in its history, logged over.
Tourism, driven primarily by the advent of the automobile, became the dominant economic staple of the Island, a situation that lasts until today. St. Simons Island is cottage country for people living between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida. People come to the island to relax, play golf on one of seven courses, or simply lay back on one of dozens of pristine beaches. Once a year, the PGA’s RSM Classic is played at the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons.
Life on St. Simons Island is bucolic and slow. The Island and nature preserve are a bird watcher’s paradise. Biking, hiking, golf, and tennis are the most popular sports played regularly on the island. Points of interest for tourism include the Avenue of Oaks at the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Course, the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, Christ Church, the Cannon Point Wilderness Preserve, the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, the Lovely Lane Chapel, and the historic Coast Guard Station. Other popular activities in the area include fishing, horseback riding, shopping, dining at one of the island’s many coastal restaurants, and relaxing at local spas.
For more information about St. Simons and the Golden Isles, visit goldenisles.com.
Getting to St. Simons Island from Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport
From Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, take Interstate 95 South to Exit 38 for GA-25 Spur S/Golden Isles Parkway. Turn left onto GA-25, then a slight right onto US-17 South/Glynn Ave. Turn left to take the F J Torras Causeway onto the island.