That moment when you leave our beautiful beach side community and visit another beach side island community, yet it is so different and ultimate heaven! A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the historic King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simon's Island, Georgia just an hour and forty five minutes north of Jacksonville. It is a historic hotel that opened in 1935 on St. Simon's Island as a private dance club nestled beach front on an island the size of Manhattan, but with only 29,000 residents...and about 29,000 large and ancient Spanish moss draped live oak trees. From being open to the public as a hotel in 1941 to being a naval watch and training facility during World War II, to being remodeled in 2013, the rich history of the hotel is as unique as it is relaxing. And the relaxing part fits right in to the island vibe - the pace is slower on St. Simon's, the thin roads through the oak tree lined streets have a lower MPH, the houses are large and majestic and many are home to retired couples or professional golfers traveling most of the time, and the nature lined golf courses and ocean front views and breezes make you want to breathe in and exhale into a relaxed state of mind.
The resort plays host to many family friendly activities, acts as a relaxing home base to exploring the island, and is home to local Georgia seafood (insert shrimp and grits here), southern beans and rice, and other South Georgia delicacies. I had the once in a lifetime opportunity of being hosted by the King and Prince as they shared the best places to explore, the best foodie spots around town and at the hotel, and gave us a behind the scenes tour from a 6th generation local. They shared their best southern hospitality and we left feeling refreshed, 10 lbs heavier, and like we had lived there our whole lives, part of the island community. While there we researched the best family friendly activities! Scroll down below as we share the top 10 family friendly fun that starts with the historic King and Prince!
1. Explore King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
If your kids are anything like mine, one of their favorite parts of their vacation is exploring the hotel! The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort was no exception. With the historic feel, the wide open lobby, ancient architectural maps of the King and Prince plans, what seemed like secret passages leading to the old main entrance, and the beautiful scenery, they were in hotel heaven! They climbed up and down the stairs, found the seashell tic tac toe at the fire place, and explored the pool and fire pit area outside. They had so much fun exploring and could have become tour guides by the time they were done. We loved watching them explore and loved getting acquainted with our home for the next three days with them!
2. Head to the Beach
The King and Prince is the only beach front resort on St. Simon's Island. Families can enjoy the relaxation and fun on the beach, watch the sunrise, take a jog like I did at sunrise, and walk their dogs. Getting down to the beach is easy with just a few stairs and a short walk to the shoreline making back and forth travel from beach to hotel easy with kids. The beach has rocks installed just on the border of the hotel wall only to help protect the historic hotel on this moving and natural barrier island, which is something Floridians aren't used to seeing, but you quickly forget about the rocks once you're busy enjoying the views. It was raining the day my family was there, but that didn't stop us from exploring!
3. Enjoy the King and Prince Pools
Let's be real - kids LOVE swimming and can be in the pool for hours!! The King and Prince has three pools and they are heated in winter. One is special for kids with a froggie fountain, it is shallower so they can walk around, and it has a shaded sand play area right next to it. During the spring and summer seasons they have food service at the pool so you don't have to pack a lunch and you don't have to dry off and go back to your room to eat. There is plenty of shade under the gazebos and palm trees and the pools overlook the ocean for maximum relaxation potential!
4. Enjoy Golfing at the King and Prince Golf Course or Mini Golf at the Pier
King and Prince has a shuttle to their signature golf course about 30 minutes from the hotel. It has marsh framed island holes, natural maritime hammock beauty framed with ancient live oak trees draped with moss as well as huge pine trees. We enjoyed exploring the course via golf cart and viewing the amazing Georgia homes framing the course. If you have a golfer in your family, this is a must play course on your visit.
If the kids don't play golf yet, head to the pier in downtown St. Simons! They have mini golf overlooking the sound.
5. Go on a Hunt for Tree Spirits
Now this activity speaks to my heart! St. Simons Island residents love their trees, especially their ancient live oak trees. They were planted to help with shade and channeling the wind during hot summers and they rarely cut down - they are a protected and majestic species on the island! In the 1980s, artist Keith Jennings came to the island and gave 20 of the oaks "tree spirits." He carved faces or shapes into them and visitors bringing the trees to life. Visitors can go on a scavenger hunt to find the trees that were marked with spirits and see the intricate carvings in person. You can find a map for the Tree Spirits, here or at the King and Prince resort concierge desk. I had fun finding two of them and they were really neat to see! The first is #4 on the map - a tiny angel. The second is #2 on the map, a sea turtle.
6. Visit the St. Simons Lighthouse, Neptune Park and Fun Zone, and Pier
In the St. Simons Island Historic District at the pier, there is plenty of fun for families! There are two playgrounds at Neptune Park that overlook the waterfront ocean. Since this is home to one of the largest car shipping parts on the east coast, kids can watch containerships floating into harbor. The Neptune Park Fun Zone hosts the Fun Zone pool and Splash Park open during the spring and summer seasons. While you're there, you can walk a few feet to the lighthouse and climb to the top, go fishing on the pier, and even watch a local artist work on the pier as she paints local landscapes. The public library is right at the lighthouse area and don't forget to enjoy the oak trees throughout the space that provide shade in summer...and beautiful photo backdrops!
7. Go Biking
St. Simons Island is small enough to bike around so grab a bike and trailer a few feet away from the King and Prince at Ocean Motion and see the island by bike. Ride down to the pier and restaurants, find the tree spirits, or take a ride on the beach during low tide. There are plenty of live oak draped bicycle paths to explore and get some fresh island air and exercise!
8. Take a Guided Tour with Lighthouse Trolleys
One of the first locals we met that welcomed us to St. Simons Island at the King and Prince was Cap Fendig. A 6th generation native of the island, you'll see signs all around town with the Fendig name: Fendig Signs, Fendig Realty, Fendig attorneys, doctors, etc. But Cap had so many requests for info about the island and requests for tours, he bypassed the high profile careers of held by his family name and started Lighthouse Trolleys. Now he provides tours for visitors to the island, he drives wedding guests to their destinations and he provides water tours to see dolphins and learn the maritime natural history of the area. Cap took us on tours with at least 4 different vehicles or boats and was so rich in knowledge about the history that we could explain all about St. Simons to anyone by the time we left our trip. BE SURE to ask him where he got married on the island and he'll tell you the funniest tale that shocked ALL his wedding guests - even his own children! (Tell him that Terri with Fun4FirstCoastKids.com sent you so he'll remember our group over and over again!)!
9. Visit Fort Frederica
James Oglethorpe from Britain established Fort Frederica in 1736 to protect the Georgia Colony from the Spanish control in Florida. It was here on St. Simons Island that the British defeated the Spanish Troops in 1742 and Georgia was secured as a British Colony. Today Fort Frederica is a National Park and families can tour the property to learn about nature, explore the visitor's center with coloring and educational panels and displays about the fort, and take a tour to learn about the archaeological finds at the site. Kids ages 8 - 12 can become Junior Rangers and receive a colorful pop up book with hands on activities using props to complete the activities. Upon completion, they receive a certificate and stamp! There are ranger led programs, an historical video about the site, and you can explore on your own or bring a picnic lunch. This is a great site to learn history and archaeology, and, as Cap Fendig says, to stop and think about how one moment in history changed everything. Georgia could have easily been a Spanish led colony and how different things would have been!
10. Enjoy Local Georgia Dining
Three words: Shrimp and Grits! St. Simons Island dining was nothing short of exquisite! It reminded me of eating in Europe - the food is fresh - from the farm or ocean out back, and that makes it have so much depth with taste. The Georgia shrimp came from the very shrimp boat we saw on our dolphin tour, the fish was from the sound as well, the hoppin' john rice and peas were from a local farm, and the beans, whether it was bar b que or southern style, were from local farms. Even the local crabs from St. Simons are shipped to Maryland and are known as the "Maryland crabs!" Everything was plated beautifully, ingredients were picked to perfection, and everything down to the crab soup was lick the bowl amazing. We had the honor of meeting every chef at every restaurant we toured and learned how they designed the dinner menu, how they got into cooking, and how they love their jobs. If you are a foodie lover, get to St. Simons and Echo St. Simons at King and Prince as quickly as possible!! I've included all of our restaurant stops so you can visit these restaurants on your trip!
How I enjoyed my time on island time at St. Simons Island! The relaxation, the food, and the fun activities for families were just what I needed to wind down from a busy year. I hope this blog helps you find fun for your family! Find more info on King and Prince and more family fun, visit their website, here.
Disclaimer: My lodging, activities, and meals were hosted by King and Prince. All photos and opinions are my own. If you're considering a trip to St. Simons Island to stay at King and Prince, follow them on social media or visit their website!