It’s not hard to understand why this stretch of the Georgia coast is known as the Golden Isles. Miles of marsh grass wave in the breeze, carved by streams, rivers, and inlets to form a jigsaw puzzle of islands. The sun rises like a glittering coin over the Atlantic and blankets the marshlands in gold and amber as it sets over the isles. Poised on the mouth of the sound leading up to the bustling port city of Brunswick, is St. Simons Island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles.
The Spanish named the island and the sound after a Catholic saint during 16th century exploration of the Southeastern coastline. You can see Spanish influences throughout the region, including the architecture. Mediterranean arches, turrets, clay tiles and stucco make haunting backdrops for the Spanish moss dripping off the massive trees overarching the buildings and lining the streets and lanes. The island has maintained its quaint seaside charm through decades of development in the islands and cities surrounding this wild island treasure.
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
The jewel of this golden isle is the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort. Perched on the white sandy shore near the mouth of St. Simons Sound, this historic hotel offers panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the coastline stretching north and south. Built in 1935 as a private dance club for the well-heeled of the area, it added lodging to its original structure in 1941 and opened to the public as a hotel. There was nothing as magnificent as The King and Prince anywhere along the Southeast coast when it was built and even today it rises above many of the cookie-cutter resorts now dotting the coast and the Isles.
A spacious, bright and airy lobby greets you from the main entry of the King and Prince. You can see the Moorish design in the arches that line the coastal stretch of the lobby interior. Natural wood bannisters, trim and ceiling beams encasing dark embossed tin tiles add warmth to the lobby’s light interior. Just beyond the reception desk is the cozy living room area, complete with massive fireplace.
Guests at the King and Prince have a deluxe array of choices in room types to meet budget or family needs. Oceanfront rooms in the historic building are only steps from the beach, with spacious bathrooms and separate sitting areas. Luxury amenities such as in-room Keurig coffee stations, Bath & Body Works toiletries, and large flat screen televisions are standard in every room. Stretching beyond the historic main building are the Beach Villas. These roomy accommodations offer two- or three-bedroom apartment size villas with master bedrooms, full kitchens, dining areas and private patios or balconies.
Stepping up the game in privacy and luxury at the King and Prince are the Residences. Spread throughout the resort, these six individual houses include quaint beach cottages and executive-level houses with ample meeting and entertaining areas (with as many as five bedrooms).
Scenic and challenging golf
Competing with beach and ocean activities on St. Simons Island are the resort’s tennis courts, pools and golf course. While the formal name of the King and Prince includes “golf resort,” the greens are actually a bit of a drive to the northern-most end of the island. Known as the Hampton Club, this golf course shuttles hotel guests straight to the course for a day of golf among the salt marshes, swampy lagoons, towering palmettos and grand oaks draped with Spanish moss.
The course was renovated in 2009 with renewal in turf and design enhancements to the original 18-hole, 72-par design. Four of the holes sit upon individual marsh islands accessible by elevated cart bridges, making for challenging play. Practice areas include a driving range, putting green and a chipping green, and golfers can grab lunch or post game cocktails in the roomy clubhouse. You can take a virtual flyover of the entire course from the resort’s website for an overview of this distinctive course.
Georgia Coastal cuisine at its finest
The King and Prince is renowned throughout the Golden Isles for its Friday night seafood buffet and its sumptuous Sunday brunch. Set in the resort’s Delegal room, the Friday night seafood buffet features various preparations of the region’s distinctive wild white shrimp, plus platters of crab legs, chilled and steamed; oysters, both fried and on the half-shell; clams and mussels, along with entrees of salmon, catfish, tilapia, sole, grouper and other chef selections. Sunday brunch includes an omelet bar, plus a wide variety of southern comfort foods such as grits, plain, creamy with cheese, or spiced to delight with shrimp; smoked BBQ ribs; buttermilk fried chicken; succulent pot roast and gravy, crispy fried catfish and plenty of other chef surprises.
The Delegal room itself is a thing of beauty. Commanding the eye is the view of the Atlantic from the windows lining the oceanfront wall. Set above the oceanfront windows and around the entire room are eleven spectacular stained glass windows depicting the history of St. Simons island.
Additional dining choices at the King and Prince include Echo set in the hotel’s turret, which is also lined with oceanfront windows for stunning ocean views.
Relax and rejuvenate
Guests of the King and Prince who find they’re not getting enough exercise running or strolling along the sparkling beach of St. Simons, bicycling down the moss-covered lanes, or browsing through the myriad shops in town can visit the resort’s fitness center next to the tennis courts. Here you’ll find treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and exercise balls to augment a fitness routine.
The Royal Treatment Cottage, an intimate spa retreat set on the water’s edge on the King and Prince property, has a full menu of massage therapies to rejuvenate body and soul. Lunch can be ordered from the concierge and enjoyed in the tranquility of the cottage either before or after treatments.
Out and about the jewel of Georgia’s Golden Isles, the island of St. Simons, you’ll find boutiques and souvenir stores, coffeehouses and cafes, candy stores and cocktail happy hours. You can rent a bicycle at Ocean Motion (walking distance from the King and Prince) and pedal around the island’s 21 miles of winding bike paths.
Take a trolley around the island
Hop on the Lighthouse Trolley for a guided tour of St. Simons island. The trolley can take you from the Coast Guard station, now the St. Simons Maritime Center, with history of the island––including its fascinating mission as a coast watching and training facility during WWII––to the working lighthouse; to the first English speaking church founded in Georgia, the picturesque Christ Church in the island hamlet of Frederica; around town and through the moss-lined lanes from the north end to the south. If you’re lucky to get Cap Fielding as your trolley guide, you’re in for a treat with his arcane knowledge of the region’s colorful history.
On the water excitement
Travelers seeking new experiences can get thrills and chills from a shrimping trip on the waters off St. Simons Island on The Lady Jane, a former working shrimp boat now USCG certified to carry passengers. The Lady Jane, run by Captain Larry Credle, is an educational and tourism expedition not to be missed.
Guests board The Lady Jane in nearby Brunswick, then head into the waters of St. Simons Sound. Once clear of the marshes, Captain Credle drops his shrimp net and trawls until he figures he’s got a good catch. The net drips with surprise as it lifts from the sea, then releases with an awe onto the ship’s sorting deck. All hands aboard have a chance to sift through the treasures in the net, the jewel of the catch being the wild white Georgia shrimp. It’s not unusual for the net to bring up stingrays, puffer fish, several varieties of flounder, shrimp and crab—including the distinctive horseshoe crabs––plus beautiful whelks. A naturalist on board identifies the different fish in the catch, displays and passes them around for passengers to examine up close. Don’t be surprised if the net pulls up a loggerhead sea turtle, a protected species in these waters. When loggerheads are caught, they are weighed, measured, and photographed, then immediately released. The loggerhead details are sent to the Georgia Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
Everything but the wild white shrimp is released into the sea to carry on the cycle of sealife. While cruising back to harbor on The Lady Jane, a shipmate cleans and shells the shrimp, then serves it fresh on a platter with homemade cocktail sauce and lemon. Seafood doesn’t get fresher than this.
Getting to St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island is easily accessible from international airports at Savannah/Hilton Head to the north and Jacksonville to the south, while Delta brings in three flights a day to nearby Brunswick Golden Isles Airport.