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A popular Southern vacation destination, St. Simons Island is the largest of the Golden Isles, a small collection of barrier islands just off the coast of Georgia. St. Simons is renowned for its abundant natural beauty, with its soft sandy beaches and streets lined towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss. The northern reaches of the island consist of pristine marshland teeming with wildlife, while its southern coast is a go-to for shopping, dining, and lazy days of fishing from the pier. The island also holds a special place in Georgian history: It is home to the crumbling remains of a former British colony, a battleground that saw armed conflict between the English and Spanish, a 19th-century lighthouses, and one of the oldest churches in Georgia.
Saint Simons Island is located roughly halfway between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida. If you’re arriving by plane, plan to fly into Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), 90 minutes north, or Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), an hour south. The island has no public transportation, so you'll require a car, especially if you want to explore the neighboring islands or the nearby city of Brunswick, Georgia. There are plenty of parking lots around the island’s southern shore. Cars are the main way people get around, although you can also rent golf carts and bicycles on the island.
While the colder months tend to see a marked decrease in tourists, St. Simons Island is a captivating destination no matter what time of year you visit. The downtown area is at its most vibrant during summer, when bars and restaurants are packed and the sidewalks are overflowing with visitors. For those wishing to avoid peak tourist season, spring offers warm temperatures and long days, with fewer competitors for seats at the bar. As fall sets in, tourism begins to dwindle but temperatures remain pleasant. And if you’re hoping to have the beach all to yourself, consider a visit in the dead of winter. With warm temperatures and no risk of snow, St. Simons Island is just as charming in January as it is in July.
Though little remains of Fort Frederica, the ruins of this once-mighty stone fortress are a fascinating window into Georgia’s past. Constructed in the mid-18th century, the bastion originally served as a means of defense against Spanish invaders.
Founded in 1736, St. Simons Christ Church is one of the oldest houses of worship in Georgia. Though the church was established in the 18th century, the original building was badly damaged during the Civil War; the current building was constructed in 1884. With gorgeous stained-glass windows and an expansive historical cemetery, Christ Church is a popular subject for visiting photographers.
Taking in some 600 acres of verdant woodland, Cannon’s Point Preserve is a haven for nature lovers and those hoping to spot some native Georgia wildlife. In addition to its high degree of biodiversity — be sure to spot manatees and whales offshore — the area is also a fascinating destination for history buffs. Explore the park on one of its many trails and you’ll spot the crumbling ruins of a 19th-century plantation as well as a wealth of middens, or shell mounds formed by Indigenous peoples who lived on the island thousands of years ago.