Former home to Native Americans, Spanish missionaries and English militia, St. Simon’s Island is now a vacationer’s dream. It’s the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles and the most developed, providing activities for everyone from the history buff, to the laid back beach comber, to families with kids of all ages. If you’re looking for ideas to help plan your vacation to St. Simon’s Island, here are 6 St. Simon’s Family Activities, with ideas for any budget.
We visited St. Simons recently as part of a media trip, but this has always been a favorite family vacation spot.
What to do on St. Simon’s Island
1. The Village at St. Simon’s Island. For those of us looking to keep the kids entertained, the best place to begin is at the Pier. Filled with quaint shops and local restaurants, at least one parent should be able to sneak in a little R&R while the other parent amuses the kids on the playground or helps them fish from the pier. Located beside the Neptune Park Fun Zone, the family can enjoy a game of mini golf, which is open year round, or cool off during the spring and summer in the Neptune Park Fun Zone Pool. It features lap zones, a wading pool, water gym and more. While you’re in Neptune Park, don’t miss the Whale Sculpture, a favorite of the kids. Want to know more about the island? Stop by the new state of the art Golden Isles Welcome Center. The staff can suggest activities, tell about the tree sculptures carved around the island for people to find, and offer an island scavenger hunt for the kids. Costs range from free for the playground, pier, scavenger and tree sculpture hunt to $8 for a round of mini golf or $8 for a day at the pool.
2. The St. Simons Lighthouse Museum One of only five surviving lighthouses in the state of Georgia, the St. Simons Lighthouse has seen its share of history. Originally built in 1810, the lighthouse guided scores of ships safely around the waters before being destroyed by Confederate forces in 1862. The present lighthouse and keeper’s dwelling was built in 1872. Although the lighthouse is still in operation today and maintained by the Coast Guard, the last keeper moved out in 1953 when the lighthouse was automated. Today the stately 104-foot building beckons visitors to climb the 129 steps to the top for spectacular views of the island and surrounding waters. Be sure to watch the informative film in the museum before entering the Keeper’s house to learn more about the history of the lighthouse and the lonely life of the keeper and his family. Interested in a little extra information? Ask about the ghost rumored to haunt the lighthouse.
3. Fort Frederica National Monument. For anyone wanting a glimpse into the past, Fort Frederica offers a fascinating glimpse of colonial life. Built in 1733 by James Oglethorpe, the founder of Georgia, as a buffer colony between the English holdings in the Carolinas’ and the Spanish holdings in Florida, it became obsolete by the 1770’s. Today, people are allowed to wander among the ruins of the fort and see the remains of the English barracks and “magazine” where the ammunition was stored. Be warned! If you go on a day that says “Deerfly level is high,” wear plenty of insect repellent. The Park Rangers are friendly and eager to answer questions. Kids aged eight to twelve can participate in the award winning Junior Ranger program with hands-on activities that are completed on the park grounds.
Cost: Currently, Fort Frederica is a fee-free park! After you have finished the tour of Fort Frederica, stop by the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, also free, where outnumbered British forces defeated the Spanish army.
4. Christ’s Church Located down the road from Fort Frederica, Christ’s Church is one of the oldest churches in the state of Georgia. Begin in 1736 the services were provided to the residents of Fort. Frederica by such august men as John and Charles Wesley. (Yes, that’s the famous one, who later became disillusioned by life in the colonies and returned to England.) The church located on the property now was rebuilt in 1884 and includes beautiful stained glass windows depicting the history of the island. Surrounding the church is the cemetery with statuesque markers from settlers to the island dating back to 1796. You’ll want to take the time to explore the graveyard and learn the fascinating history of the local residents. Cost is free, but donations are accepted. Hours are limited to 2:00-5:00 PM Tuesday through Sunday so plan accordingly. Services are still held weekly on Sunday in the church.
5. LightHouse Trolleys and Boat Tours Want to learn more about the in-depth history of St. Simon’s island? Want to see the island in a new light? Take the LightHouse Trolleys and Boat Tours. The Lighthouse Trolley tours, owned by Cap Fendig, a local resident whose family has lived on the island for generations, offers a “600 years of St. Simon’s History Tour.” Filled with antidotes and insights, this tour stops at all of the island “hot spots”, including Fort Frederica and Christ’s Church, where participants are allowed on/off stops. Other tours include a night time ghost tour and a pre and post Civil War tour with access to historic sites. Cost is $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. Private tours and wedding transportation are also available.
If you’re keen to see a different view, take one of the available boat tours. The morning dolphin tour, which includes bird habitats, shark and dolphin watches as well as spectacular views of the Georgia coast, is a perfect tour for all ages. (Note: There is a possibility of getting wet during the boat ride.) For people preferring a cruise in a cooler time of day, try the relaxing sunset cruise. Fishing and Private tours are also available.
6. Barry’s Beach Service/Ocean Motion Surf Co. For the more adventurous, it’s all about the outdoor activities. Barry’s Beach Service and the Ocean Motion Surf Co. has you covered on land and sea. With over 30 miles of bike trails, you can rent a bike for a day or a week and spend hours exploring the interior of the island. Prefer the ocean? Bicycles are allowed on the beach. Water activities include stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, and kayaking. A two-hour nature kayak tour provides spectacular views of the interior of the island. Tip: This tour schedule can change based on tides so be sure to check times early in the day. It’s a family friendly activity, but participants must weigh at least 50 pounds. The recommended age is five or six and up. Want to lounge on the beach instead? Barry’s Beach service offers umbrella and chair rentals as well. Prices vary depending on activity.
With plenty of options, you’ll find something for everyone. Whether it’s enjoying a relaxing walk on the dog-friendly public beaches or taking a trip into the past, you can find a favorite activity on St. Simon’s Island. Have you visited the Georgia coastal islands? What activity would you like to try first?