Monday, May 31, 2010

Island fun on St. Simons

St. Simons Island, GA,  packs a lot of fun in its 12 by 3 miles of mostly dry land. Every time I go I find new things to do in the area and more reasons to return.

The huge, moss-dripping oaks and canopied roads make me smile.  The expanse of marsh makes me sigh and yes, they belong to the "Marshes of Glynn" made famous by poet Sidney Lanier. The first sight of the ocean and its steady breezes makes me take a deep breath of salty, sticky air and fall in love all over again. And that's before I even start poking around.

Old timers fuss about how developed it's become but I lived there briefly way back in 1964 and don't think the additions have detracted from the island's charm. Yet.

Shopping. Shoppers will love the boutiques, galleries and shops of antiques and gifts. I usually head for Redfern Village off of Frederica Road where you'll find Island Breeze which carries everything a female needs for beach and resort attire and a great Doncaster outlet.
You can find fun things in the Village, too. My new most favorite thing came from Serenity Tea Society and Shoppe just behind Barbara Jean's in the Village (Beachview Dr.). The Nomad Mug is a tea brewer, strainer, thermos and glass all in one. Dump in one and a half teaspoons of loose tea, fill with water just before the boiling point, screw in the fitted strainer followed by the cap and you have portable, freshly infused tea. Refill with hot water as you drink it down and you'll have fresh tea all day. Angela Cunningham is the Tea Lady and she can fix you right up. Hardest part is going home with fewer than a half-dozen tins of tea.

Seeing. What you won't see anywhere else includes the Wesley Garden, a tribute to the Wesley brothers, the Revs. John and Charles. Both came over with Gen. Oglethorpe to found the new colony of Georgia. Neither was fond of the heat, bugs or critters, but John managed to inspire formation of the Methodist church and Charles wrote a lot of hymns including "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing". A monument to them is set among more tan 4,000 azalea bushes that bloom riotously in March and April.

Myth no more. Contrary to the popular version found in history books, island historian Mary Burdell says Georgia was not settled by debtors and criminals. The original 114 colonists were carefully screened; each was required to have good moral character and a useful skill.  

Across the street is Christ Church Frederica, an early Episcopal congregation set amid stately oaks. One is credited as being the Wesley oak where John preached his new Methodism but according to island historian Mary Burdell the original died many years ago and two more have usurped its credit. Author Eugenia Price is buried in the adjacent graveyard.

The 1st African Baptist Church is the island's oldest, established in 1851.

I mentioned the "Tree Spirits"  in an earlier post about the island [link] and went in search of them this visit. These are faces and forms sculpted seamlessly into the trees by Keith Jennings. Sadly, they are disappearing as their host trees die of old age, storm or construction damage. Three are supposed to be left but I was only able to find two. The one in the Village on Mallery Street next to Murphy's Tavern and across from the Dairy Queen is the easiest to find and the most satisfying. There's another just outside the Sushi restaurant in Redfern Village off Frederica Road, but it's been surrounded with Christmas lights that detract terribly from its charm.

Doing. Thought I'd done everything fun here until I was introduced to Captain Larry Credle and his shrimp boat Lady Jane, the only one in the country licensed to carry up to 49 people up to 30 miles offshore. Technically, they dock on the mainland but since it's just over the bridge (Behind Spanky's), I'm including it.

Basically, you go shrimping. We had marine biologist Paul Christina with us and seeing and learning about what is brought up in the nets is an education in sea life you won't find anywhere else. Best of all, the nets aren't left out long enough for most fish to be killed. Shrimp, however, are quickly de-headed and boiled for tasting. Heaven.

Eating. Boy, did we ever.  The chocolate chip cookies at the King & Prince Golf Club are worth the calories although no one asked how many we were consuming. Bubba Garcia's makes a mean margarita and the crew at Gnat's Landing knows how to serve up a low country boil and to pick musical combos that don't interfere with conversation but do make you get up and shake your booty. Both are in Redfern Village, right across the street from one another.

A must-try is Tom and Melissa Wellford's Sandcastle Cafe, an island institution for several decades. The breakfast buffet is famous and at $8.35 a real bargain. Be careful, the biscuits almost float off the plate. I hear lunch is just as good - Tom is known for his crab cakes - and it tops my list for next visit to-do's.

Chances are once you spend a day or two on St. Simons Island,  you'll have a next time list, too.


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