Friday, August 31, 2018

A family travel guide to St. Simons, GA

With Labor Day coming up this weekend, I thought this would be a great time to share our family travel guide to St. Simons Island.  We took a family trip to St. Simons this past Memorial Day weekend and this gorgeous town is perfect for a long weekend getaway!  With the oak lined streets and stunning landscape, everywhere you turn gives breathtaking views.  There is so much to do and see on this fun little beach island and my favorite thing about it is that it is all so family friendly.  I included in this guide everything that our family did over the weekend that we were there as well as the things that we wished that we had more time for.  I hope you enjoy this family travel guide that I put together for you!

WHAT TO DO:
Like any other beach town, a beach day is an absolute must!  We did the beach 2 out of the 3 days that we were there and it was nice to get out and find some other things to do on our last day.  The weather was overcast which ended up working out perfectly.  We dined, we shopped and we walked around, all without getting hot and sweaty!  St. Simons is a great town for those who like the outdoors as most of their attractions are located outside.

The Beach
While I realize that this is pretty self explanatory, especially being in a "beach town," I wanted to explain a little about the actual beach and why we went to St. Simons.  Unlike the panhandle, the beach here is very flat and hard compared to the white powdery sand in and around the Destin/30a area.  The ocean is shallow and stays shallow for a good ways so we felt super comfortable with the boys and our one year old running out into the water.  When we went to Seaside, FL earlier this year, the ocean got deep pretty quickly when my daughter ran out.  We needed a little more peace of mind this trip.  So if you have never been to an east coast beach and have little ones that you are worried about in the ocean, this is your answer!

St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
There is just something so charming an picturesque about lighthouses in beach towns.  The beauty and architecture of each towns unique lighthouse providing panoramic views will always be a must see for me when I visit.  St. Simons Lighthouse is right along the water and with only 129 steps to the top, this would be a great activity for families.  I might not recommend for young toddlers but children and teens would enjoy this!  

St. Simons Island Pier
The pier is located right beside downtown and is close to many of the islands attractions.  This location makes for a great and convenient place for the kids to play.  Walk down the pier and watch the waves roll in and the boats pass by while the fishermen reel in their daily catch.  Surrounded by playgrounds and beautiful landscape, this is the place to be to sight see and let the kids burn off some energy!

Neptune Park Fun Zone
We didn't get a chance to go here but this is right off of the downtown area and looked like so much fun!  Neptune Park offers swimming, splash pads and putt putt.  This park comes with many options that accommodate all ages.  They have a zero entry area, lap lanes, splash pad fun and a wadding pool.  

The Tree Spirits of St. Simons
This was probably the highlight of our trip and one of the most unique activities I have ever done on a vacation.  There are over 20 faces carved into the oak trees that cover the St. Simons, all hand carved by a local artist.  You can pick up a map of the public trees at the Welcome Center and go on a scavenger hunt to find them.  This is a great activity for kids and also to check out parts of the island!
I posted a guide to finding the Tree Spirits here.

Rent Bikes and Explore the Island
What better way to take it all in than to cruise around the island on bikes throughout your stay!  St. Simons is relatively small so you could easily bike to the beach or to dinner depending on where you stay.  The island is absolutely beautiful with the most charming beach homes and picturesque streets.   This would be a great way ride through neighborhoods and really take in the beach aesthetics!


WHERE TO EAT:
There were so many great places to eat during our visit and of course, we were craving all the seafood!  

Mullet Bay
Out of our entire trip, this may have been my favorite place that we ate at!  From the scenery to the large patio along the street, it was the exact beach vibe we were looking for.  We had dinner on the patio and listened to cool toned live music while we ate.  The kids danced, Loyal and I enjoyed frozen drinks and we all had the best time!  The menu had a lot of great seafood options and we honestly loved every single thing we ordered.  Get the coconut shrimp!

Gnats Landing
Located in Red Fern Village, Gnats is one of a few fun restaurants surrounded by cute shops all within walking distance from each other.  Gnats is super eclectic with bright, vibrant colored tables and scenery.  With great food, a fun atmosphere and a big patio, this  is a great stop either straight off the beach or for dinner one night.

Bubba Garcia's
Another restaurant in Red Fern Village, this is a fun Mexican restaurant with great food and fantastic drinks!  We are big on Mexican food and Bubba Garcia's did not disappoint. I would recommend getting there early for dinner.  There aren't many tables so we did have to wait a little bit but service moved quickly!

Sandcastle Cafe
This is a cute little breakfast and lunch shop in the downtown area, right near the pier. They serve a breakfast buffet 7 days a week as well as a full menu.  The food is great and this is a really convenient place if you are traveling with hungry kids.  We were able to get our plates as soon as we were seated which helped tremendously with our kiddos.  Make sure to get there early because there was already a line before it opened!  

Southern Soul Barbecue 
This was probably the #1 most recommended place on the entire island!    Unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to go here during our visit.  We tried but it was raining and standing in a line that was out the door with kids just wasn't going to work.  We will definitely go on our next visit!

And now for the sweets!

St. Simons Sweets
I can not say enough about this place!!!  We went twice!  They have such a wide variety of sweets from fudge to candy to incredible ice cream flavors that are to die for.  Located right in the middle of downtown, this sweet shop makes it super convenient for grabbing a treat to sit on the front porch with or take to walk around!

Moo Cow Ice Cream
This was our runner up ice cream.  It's a cute little shop right outside of the downtown area (still in walking distance.)  They have a lot of great homemade flavors and a great front patio to enjoy your ice cream.


WHERE TO STAY:
There are a few hotels on the island but I would say that the majority of lodging is with home rentals.  There is only one beach front hotel so most of the beach access is public making it very easy for all hotel guests and house rentals.  The benefit of staying in a hotel would be a pool but there also the public pool mentioned above. 

Hampton Inn St. Simons
This is the hotel that we stayed at which is located in the center of the island.  Even though our hotel was not on the beach, the island is pretty small so everything was still in close proximity.  We were about a 5 minute drive to the beach and 10 to downtown.  The continental breakfast was a huge plus for us with the kids.  



For beach house rentals, I would look on Home Away, VRBO and/or Air BnB.

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