How do you capture a cosmic blazing sunrise, a dusky purple sunset, a playful dolphin peeking out of the ocean for a brief moment? Where can a solo traveler find a place of solitude for a few days that might change or enhance a memorable getaway? Perhaps it was time to stop dreaming about life and start living the dream. One of the advantages of traveling alone is allowing for more discovery of yourself without reserve.
A recent ‘escape’ to the historic King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island was an idyllic destination. I yearned for the sound of waves, seagulls and quiet. Luckily I knew where to find it. (So did the Timucuan and Guale Indians around 2000 B.C.)
St. Simons Island, Georgia, has a colorful history — of European occupations and the dramas of English, Spanish and African history. Wars, forts, the timber era and plantations overlap generations, while the rich delta soil of the island was ideal for agriculture, primarily cotton.
Today’s hidden pathways, hundreds of years of moss-draped live oak trees, mysterious cemeteries, ruins of antebellum mansions and familiar Southern family names offer a glimpse into the soul of St. Simons.
The seaside Resort (circa 1935) has prospered and continues to embrace its heritage. As I drove across the causeway over the Intracoastal Waterway, colorful marshlands waved in the breeze, taking my hand and escorting me to the front door of The King and Prince.
Driving on Kings Way, I felt as if I had been transported to another time, although the island isn’t just a page in a history book. It’s a sanctuary for international visitors and residents that could be royalty or everyday folks. There’s an island sentiment that everyone is a friend with a twinkle in their eye. They, too, feel like they discovered paradise — and they have!
Nestled in a residential neighborhood, the hotel’s architecture is distinctively Mediterranean: yellow stucco with a terra cotta tile roof. Green awnings, oceanfront swings and manicured gardens slowed me down to a relaxed pace.
The first activity was to slide my balcony door open and inhale the ocean and beach. Not being beholden to a companion on a schedule, everything seemed more beautiful, almost played in slow motion. I felt indulgent with the anticipation of doing exactly what I wanted to do: nothing but snap photos of the expansive beach and sky. The getaway had begun.
Bicycling on the island is a marvelous way to explore. With more than 25 miles of contiguous paths that are safe (many hidden from the road through forests and along waterways), I walked one block from the hotel to Ocean Motion and chose the bike style and size for me. Included was a helmet, lock and basket which made me feel confidently prepared wherever I meandered. (Rentals are $12/half day, $49/week.) They are specialists in family biking with infant seats and tandem bikes, even setting up kayaks and beach umbrellas & chairs that make it easy to vacation.
I biked southward to the Village, a Mecca of shops, cafés, lighthouse, fishing pier, galleries, community theater, visitor center and a retro slice of life reminiscent of the island of yesteryear. I could have spent an entire day drinking in the authentic charm and camaraderie among the people.
I parked the bike in front of St. Simons Sweets; the shop’s bright cheeriness brought an immediate smile to my face as they satisfied my craving for chocolate peppermint fudge. I felt like Willy Wonka, faced with an enticing profusion of homemade confections and vowed to return again for a cone of one of their cleverly concocted ice cream flavors.
Getting back on my beach ‘buggy’ (there is hard-packed sand everywhere on the East Beach side of the island), I yearned for the solitary exercise of biking another few miles past the golden marshes toward the hotel and onward.
History is everywhere on the island and nobody tells the story better than native son ‘Cap’ Fendig, whose family’s presence goes back to the mid-1800s, making it one of the oldest and largest local families.
My spontaneous soul directed me to hop aboard one of his scheduled Lighthouse Trolleys and enjoy Cap’s passionate colorful stories as we visited a superb collection of landmarks. We made stops at Christ Church, Fort Frederica, Epworth-by-the-Sea, Bloody Marsh, the Lighthouse and island ‘must see’ treasures. Whether you’re a first time island visitor or a ‘hooked on the island’ regular, Cap and the drivers impart ‘inside local knowledge’ of where to eat, shop and have fun.
It wasn’t until I boarded Cap’s boat, Puddle Shuttle, for a glimpse of the coastal waters surrounding St. Simons that I felt the true island magic. Leading fishing and boating excursions for more than forty years, Cap opened the door to his ‘discovery tours,’ which go way beyond looking for beautiful dolphins.
The generations of experience he has lived become part of his guests’ adventure. We cruised through marshlands, creeks, rivers and small winding waterways to view bird habitats, innumerable dolphin sightings, alligator haunts and fish jumping everywhere! Most amazing to me was learning that Georgia possesses one third of the marshlands of the entire East Coast of the US.