Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Canopied roads, intriguing boutiques, excellent restaurants, challenging golf courses, an expansive equestrian center, beaches, marshes and a hunka history make St. Simons Island, GA., a fun destination.
And, traveling levelers, it's about as flat as land can get.
General James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica in 1736 to protect the Georgia territory he had claimed for England. At the time, the French and especially the Spanish were contending for control of the area.
The town of Frederica grew and thrived adjacent to the fort until 1742 when British troops from Darien and Frederica roundly defeated Spanish invaders from Florida at the Battle of Bloody Marsh.
Ironically, the battle that decided British supremacy in the colonies eliminated the need for the fort and both it and the town were disbanded. Their remains are now protected by the Park Service at Fort Frederica National Monument.
The Feb. 18 founding of Frederica town is celebrated annually with reenactments and demonstrations. Irony continued as this year, reenactors from Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, Spain's East coast bastion, joined the British contingent and the Clann Non Con Highlanders from Darien in recreating their era for visitors.
Tip: Fans of the late author Eugenia Price, who based many of her novels here, will want to seek out some of her other landmarks such as Christ Church, Frederica, where the Wesley brothers, fathers of Methodism in America, first preached under one of the enveloping oak trees. The daily St. Simons Trolley tour, recommended by the author, hits 35 points of interest on the island.
The 1794 frigate U.S.S. Constitution owes its nickname, "Old Ironsides," to the rock-hard live oak timbers cut and milled on the island's north end at Cannon's Point. St. Simons Island timbers were also used in constructing the Brooklyn Bridge. You'll be glad they left some standing.
Tip: Don't miss the Tree Spirits, weathered faces carved into trees - some say they represent sailors aboard St. Simons oak built ships who died at sea. Look for them at Demere Road at Skylane Drive; at the Wine &Cheese Cellar in Redfern Village off Frederica Road and at 3305 Frederica Road.
Accommodations range from B&Bs, motels, rental cottages and condos to the King and Prince, a Historic Hotel of America; Sea Palms golf and tennis resort and The Lodge (Mobile 5-star, AAA Five Diamond, Golf Digest. No. 1 in US) and The Cloister (a Robb Report 100 Ultimate Escape, Travel & Leisure 500 Greatest Hotels in the World, plus Mobile and AAA top rating), on Sea Island, a brief causeway away.
Tip: Locals flock to the 4th of May Cafe on the corner of Ocean and Mallory Street in the Village for reasonably priced, ample and delicious food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Butter Pecan French Toast, $5.95. won't blow your budget but it will blow the diet - worth it.
The Golden Isles area - Brunswick, St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island - offer enough to keep you traveling happily - and flatly! - occupied for a week or more. Located on the south Georgia coast, they are 65 miles north of Jacksonville, FL; 274 miles from Atlanta; 75 miles south of Savannah and 186 miles from Charleston, S. C.
I'll blog more about them in coming days.