Archive for July, 2010

“Seeing the USA, the alternative to foreign travel”

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Warren Resen’s travel article about the Southeast Georgia Coast and The King and Prince Resort.

Warren Ressen explores St. Simons Island and the Golden Isles of Georgia.  He writes about his visit at The King and Prince and tour of the island in the Observer News.

St. Simons Island, Georgia
By WARREN RESEN
w630@aol.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it 

The horror stories of foreign travel never seem to end and yet we still have a desire to travel to other places. The question then is where can we go that is different and yet close to home where we can be in charge of our destiny?
In this case that means not depending on any type of transportation but our own. Well, here is a suggestion about a place different in most respects from a Florida experience yet easy to get to by car in less than a day.
Look north and east at the coast of SE Georgia. Even for Floridians used to the ocean, this is different. Georgia only has 100 miles of coast line, but what a 100 miles it is. It represents an environment unlike any found in most of Florida and yet many people don’t even know Georgia has an oceanfront.
Salt marshes are the most important geographical feature of coastal Georgia. It is estimated that Georgia’s marshes and tidal rivers cover over 700,000 acres, one-third of all marshes remaining on the US Atlantic coast. From the ocean, the coastline looks much the same as when the first Europeans saw this area in the 16th century except possibly for the lighthouses.

Sidney Lanier Bridge

Drive over the dramatic Sydney Lanier Bridge from the Georgia mainland to Brunswick and then cross the seemingly endless miles of coastal marsh to the Golden Isles, named for the brilliant golden color of the marsh grasses in the fall. The light and color change with the time of day and the swiftly flowing tidal waters. Time slows in this enchanted land.
When you see the sign that says, “Welcome to St. Simons Island,” your vacation has begun. Head east on the island’s main road. The foliage is lush and more northern than much of Florida’s tropical landscape. Branches from towering oak trees form a canopy over the roadway hiding the sky. Soon you arrive at the old commercial part of “downtown” St. Simons with its quaint shops and restaurants.
The island does not have the honky-tonk flavor of so many beach resorts. At the end of Mallory Street is the historic lighthouse and fishing pier. Get out of your car, stretch your legs and enjoy a meal at one of the local, non-chain restaurants before going on to your lodgings.
For your stay on this delightful island, there are many inns and hotels from which to choose but not as many as you might expect at a vacation destination. But then St. Simons is not just another beach resort. This is your special adventure, so why not stay at some place equally special?
Archeologists claim inhabitants lived in the area as far back as 13,000 years ago. In modern times the island has been inhabited by the French, Spanish and English, none of whom could have ever envisioned as lovely a lodging as the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. This is the oldest hotel on St. Simons and was originally built as a club and dance hall in 1935. It was THE place to go for entertainment and the first facility on the island with rooms for overnight guests.
After many rebirths and renovations, it is celebrating its 75th Anniversary

King and Prince Indoor Pool

and is still the place to come to for old fashioned, gracious, southern hospitality. But saying it is old fashioned does it a disservice.
Everything is modern. The hotel has been updated to the level expected by discerning patrons. Named for King George and his son Prince Frederick, the hotel is the epitome of old time Southern charm and hospitality. The huge daily breakfast buffet features many traditional foods.
Accommodations are not your usual cookie cutter rooms but charmingly decorated ocean front rooms, suites, guest houses and island villas. My ocean front room afforded me amazing views of both the sunrise and sunset.
The Georgia Coastal Bight, the westernmost part of the Atlantic Bight, is a gentle inland sweep in the Atlantic seaboard that produces the biggest tide variation on the east coast, generally averaging from 6 to 8 feet. Because of this, the beaches often play peek-a-boo; now you see it, now you don’t, depending on the tide. When the tide is out, the beaches are extensive. When the tide is in it’s time to enjoy some of the island’s other amenities unless you just want to take advantage of the hotel’s outdoor or indoor pools.

Christ Church

St. Simons is an outdoor enthusiast’s cornucopia for boating, fishing, swimming, bicycling and birding. Then there are the historical sites and a trip to Christ Church is a must. Or go “downtown” for shopping. But the highlight for golfers staying at the King and Prince is the renowned Joe Lee golf course. The course is as delightful and challenging to play as it is beautiful.
Golfer’s move between beautifully tended greens to a series of four signature holes situated on “hammocks” located in the famous Marshes of Glynn. The finishing holes are played through lush forests. Even if you are not a golfer, a tour of the course is a must.
Nearby can be just as good as foreign for travel, learning and fun. Getting there is easier and a lot cheaper than travelling abroad and the hassle factor drops way down. There is much to see and do in our United States, and Southeast Georgia and the Golden Isles is a good place to start.

“The Highwayman: Birdies and Eagles in The Marshes of Glynn”

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

John Plaisant visited The King and Prince in April and wrote his take on St. Simons Island and the King and Prince Golf Course.  His article can be found in the Daily Times.

The Highwayman: Birdies and eagles in The Marshes of Glynn

Published: Monday, June 21, 2010

Affable live oak, leaning low,

Thus — with your favor — soft, with a reverent hand,

(Not lightly touching your person, Lord of the land!)

Bending your beauty aside, with a step I stand

On the firm-packed sand,

Free

By a world of marsh that borders a world of sea.

— The Marshes of Glynn,

Sidney Lanier, 1842-1881

Second of two parts.

Sidney Lanier was a poet, musician and scholar, widely recognized as poet laureate of Georgia. And the Marshes of Glynn refer to coastal Glynn County, Georgia, which includes the port city of Brunswick and those barrier islands known as the “Golden Isles” — St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.

The winding rivers, unspoiled beaches and vast marshlands of these islands were what Lanier loved and immortalized in “The Marshes of Glynn”, written three years before his death from tuberculosis, which he contracted while a POW during the Civil War. Today, in Brunswick the Sidney Lanier Bridge, a 21st-century suspension bridge spanning the South Brunswick River and the longest bridge in Georgia, is a gleaming sentinel standing watch over his beloved low country.

Although Georgia’s coastline is only a hundred miles long, its half-million acres of salt marshes (also known as tidal marshes) constitute nearly one-third of all the salt marshes on America’s Eastern Seaboard. Salt marshes are coastal wetlands, rich in marine life and plants which grow in protected areas behind barrier islands and in other low-energy areas. They often look like grasslands, as the marsh grasses change with the season with shades of green, gold and brown.

“In the fall, the marshes look like great waving fields of wheat,” noted local historian Mary Burdell.

Some of these enchanting Marshes of Glynn can be found at the northern tip of St. Simons Island, right in the middle of the King and Prince Golf Course, Home of The Hampton Club. In Georgia, where the ghost of Bobby Jones still walks the fairways, golf is more than just a game.

On the back nine, four “signature” holes are situated on “hammocks” — small islands located in the marshes. These beautiful golf holes —12 through 15 — are connected by more than 800 feet of picturesque, elevated wooden cart bridges. The finishing holes then wander through a lush forest of live oak trees. It’s one of those courses that golfers young and old dream about playing.

And it’s all practically brand new with cutting-edge technology.

Originally opened in 1989 and designed by the late Joe Lee, the course got a complete makeover in 2009 from architect Billy Fuller. It’s a restoration of the course’s original design but with the latest surface technology and strategic specifications to challenge both the scratch player and the weekend duffer.

The King and Prince utilizes different grasses for different purposes. All 18 greens have mini-verde, ultra dwarf Bermuda grass, with 60-inch green collars planted with Tifsport Bermuda. All 18 fairways have a new hybrid called Celebration Bermuda grass. All the traps are wrapped in Emerald Zoysia.

There’s also a 6,500-square foot mini-verde putting green, a 3,000-square foot mini-verde chipping green, and five target greens that have been added to the driving range.

“We’re the only course in our region with these types of grass, and our golfers are amazed at the fantastic course transformation,” declared Rick Mattox, the golf club’s general manager.

What most impressed me, however, is the course’s fairness. It is not a particularly long course — 6,462 yards from the back tees — and although challenging, the course is set up to reward the good shot. If you can “manage” your game, keep the ball in play, you can register a good score requisite to the level of your ability. Golf should be fun, and this course bears that in mind.

There are five playing distances for the par 72 course — Old Ironside, Live Oak, Dogwood, Magnolia and Azalea — but the 19th hole is always a relaxing seat on the clubhouse veranda in the shade of trees dripping with Spanish moss. Even a bad round looks pretty good from that vantage point.

If you want to see for yourself, go to www.kingandprince.com on the Web and check out the course’s virtual flyover. Using the latest technology, there’s a computer-generated 3-D animation of each individual hole. You’ve probably seen similar computer generations on television. Most recently, this technology was used on telecasts of the Masters Championship in April.

And the golf course is open to all. Members of The Hampton Club and guests of the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort are, of course, always welcome, but the course is also open to the public, which means that any island visitor or local resident can get a tee time, too.

Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band

Of the sand-beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land.

There are 13 barrier islands lining Georgia’s 100-mile coastline, with Tybee Island at the north and Cumberland the farthest south. But St. Simons Island is the only one that was never privately owned. With its beautiful beaches, rustic rental cottages, lovely bed and breakfasts and wonderful hotels like the King and Prince, St. Simons has always been a favorite vacation destination for Georgians. Even for non-golfers. In fact, vacationers have been coming here since the 1880s, and when the Torras Causeway, connecting the island to the mainland, opened in 1924, tourism became the major player in the island’s economy.

The island stretches about 15 miles from north to south and actually has a year-round population of more than 15,000. In fact, there are two elementary schools on the island, although middle school and high school kids must be bused to the mainland.

The island has a little something for everyone, including a number of significant historical sites, fine dining and great shopping. There’s the friendly little village at the south end in the shadow of the island’s historic lighthouse, which is now the home of the Coastal Georgia Historical Society which operates a museum in the original lighthouse keeper’s residence. And over on East Beach, there’s the Maritime Center at the historic Coast Guard Station.

There’s also horseback riding, swimming, hiking, birding, kayaking, fishing, and cycling among the myriad selection of outdoor activities.

But this part of Georgia is golf country as much as any place in America. Augusta National, home of the Masters, is just 200 miles away. The home of the PGA, fabled TPC Sawgrass with its iconic island green, is only an hour to the south in Ponte Vedra, Fla., and golf mecca Hilton Head, S.C., is not much more than 90 minutes to the north. Just a bit farther north is the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area, perhaps the most popular golfing destination east of the Mississippi.

And the King and Prince isn’t the only golf course on St. Simons. There’s also the Retreat Golf Course, the Sea Island Golf Club, which opened in 1928, and the Sea Palms Golf Club. At the entrance to Sea Island Golf Club, you’ll find the fabulous “Avenue of the Live Oaks,” a breathtaking stretch of beautiful old live oak trees in perfect tandem, planted by Anna Page King, who grew up on what was once the Retreat Plantation. She married a Philadelphia lawyer named Thomas Butler King, who went on to become an important 19th century Georgia politician.

At the north end of the island, near the King and Prince Golf Course, is Fort Frederica National Monument, built by James Oglethorpe, a British general and founder of the colony of Georgia. He chose the site on St. Simons Island to defend the colony’s southern border against encroachment by the Spanish in Florida.

The first and only battle ever fought at Fort Frederica was in 1742, when British forces pushed back the Spanish once and for all, confirming Georgia’s place among the British colonies. And we all know how much those Brits love to play golf.

The Highwayman appears twice monthly in the Sunday Times. Comments and questions are welcome. E-mail The Highwayman at hwm4travel@comcast.net.

Way Stations

While visiting St. Simons Island, plan to have breakfast or lunch at the Sandcastle Cafe in the village, just up the street from the fishing pier. The Sandcastle has become a local legend of sorts, a feel-good story about Tim and Melissa Wellford. Down on his luck, Tim bought the little “hole-in-the-wall” establishment 21 years ago with a few hundred dollars, a promise and a dream. Tim and Melissa turned the cafe into the most popular breakfast spot on the island.

Today, locals arrive early for coffee and stay half the morning. Visitors come in for Tim’s fabulous breakfast buffet. Tim and Melissa enjoy schmoozing with the customers, treating strangers like old friends and family. It’s a fun and tasty experience.

For a casual dinner and some authentic Southern cooking, you might want to try Gnat’s Landing in Redfern Village, a shopping area just off Frederica Road near the island’s midpoint. There’s plenty of live music and good food presented by another of the island’s local entrepreneurial celebrities, “Boz” Bostock.

Upstairs at Gnat’s is Bubba Garcia’s Mexican Cantina — home of the $8,000 margarita. No, it doesn’t cost $8,000 … but it tastes like a million.

Gale Horton Gay writes about visiting The King and Prince in Champion Newspaper

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Gale Gay recently visited The King and Prince and St. Simons Island.  Her article about her wonderful stay was published in championnewspaper.com.  Read the following article to hear about The King and Prince’s 75 years of history as well as see raving reviews of local establishments, including Gnat’s Landing, Serenity House Tea Society, Sandcastle Cafe & Grill, and the Lighthouse Museum.

Royal treatment extended to all at The King and Prince Resort

It’s a funny thing about our first impressions—sometimes we can be so wrong.

Pulling into the sprawling and palatial The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simon’s Island with its stately soft yellow building and distinctive red tile roofs, I jumped to the conclusion that this historic property would be stuffy and, perhaps, pretentious.

It didn’t take long for me to realize just how wrong I was. The King and Prince is historic all right with 75 years of tradition on Georgia’s Golden Isles. However, it is a relaxed resort, with diverse facilities—including a wide assortment of guest accommodations—and staff who are genial and welcoming. The royal treatment is generously extended to all, which makes this resort an ideal place to stay—whether for a weekend getaway or a longer family vacation.

Interestingly, the King and Prince sits at the end of an ordinary street in a modest neighborhood, which only adds to its charm. It’s like coming upon a hidden jewel. And with its back hugging the Georgia coastline, the Atlanta Ocean is just a stones throw away from the resort’s pool, restaurant, special event spaces and guest rooms.

However, this is no cookie-cutter resort. Its Mediterranean architecture is distinctive, visually enhanced when the sun hits the roof’s red tiles. Guests can choose among 198 rooms in suites, beach villas, cottages and private guest houses. Rooms are sumptuously appointed and bathed in shades of soft yellow and other neutral tones and paired with bold blues or gentle greens.

The property has had a long and colorful history. Opened in 1935 as a seaside dance club, the King and Prince Club grew into the King and Prince Hotel six years later when the main hotel was added. Local historians point out that dance clubs were big back then and when another opened nearby, a rivalry grew. It was destroyed by fire in 1935 and amazingly rebuilt in a mere 60 days—only to be ruined by fire again in the late 1930s.

During World War II, the hotel served as a naval coast-watching and training facility, and there are many intriguing stories about that chapter of its existence. It wasn’t until 1947 that the property returned to usage as a resort. In 2005, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places.

Guests today have the choice of having meals in the Delegal Dining Room (Sunday brunch is spectacular and a bargain at $21.95 per person) with its one-of-a-kind stained glass windows depicting local scenes and history or in the King’s Tavern or at the laid-back Beach Bar and Grill (all have views of the Atlantic Ocean).

And chefs at King and Prince know how to make an event special. In celebration of the resorts 75th anniversary I was fortunate to sample a seven-course dinner with dishes that reflected each decade of the resort’s history and included a Poached Salmon Louis for the 1940s, Escargot in Puff Pastry for the 1960s and Creole Black Grouper for the 1980s. Each dish was something to marvel at before devouring it.

Those with golf on their minds will likely be in a state of anticipation about playing at the recently restored King and Prince Golf Club. Located about 12 miles from the resort, the 18-hole, par 72 golf course presents unique challenges as golfers work their way past forests and through salt marshes, lakes and lagoons. Although I’m not a golfer, a golf cart tour (including more than 800 feet of elevated cart bridges) almost made me want to hit the links.

Back at the resort, there are also four outdoor pools, one indoor pool, tennis courts, a fitness center and massage and reflexology services at The Royal Treatment Cottage. A walk on the beach may require a walk through the neighborhood to reach a nearby park that has easy beach access. The tide is often so high directly behind the resort that the beach there is underwater.

For more information on the King and Prince resort, visit www.kingandprince.com.

Don’t miss things to do/places to eat on St. Simons Island

Shrimping aboard the Lady Jane is a relaxing and fascinating way to spend part of a day. Captain Larry Credle and his crew not only take visitors out for a sea adventure, they also provide a lively and insightful lesson on shrimping and the sea life in St. Simon’s Sound. Credle and company take pride that their excursions take place on a U.S. Coast Guard certified 49-passenger steel vessel that has been retired from active shrimping. Watch as the crew lowers the gear and after a while raises the net with its bounty of shrimp as well as crabs, stingrays, flounder, jellyfish and an assortment of other creatures that the crew is happy to identify. A highlight of the trip is when a pot of shrimp caught the day before are cooked with spices and served hot. The two-hour cruises run $39.95 for adults and $25 for children younger than 6. www.credlesadventures.com. (912) 265-5711.

Gnat’s Landing. Any place that puts equal emphasis on its entertainment and its food and describes itself as “flip-flop” friendly is my kind of place. Located in Redfern Village on the island, Gnat’s Landing offers bar drinks, seafood, sandwiches, salads and specialties such as a Fried Green Tomato Club, Fried Dill Pickles and Vidalia Onion Pie. I suggest that those in search of a lively time get a table on the large side porch where the musicians and singers perform (and there’s plenty of room for dancing). Located at 310 Redfern Village. www.gnatslanding.com. (912) 638-PEST.

Serenity House Tea Society and Shoppe is a lovely tea emporium in the village that carries more than 70 teas from India, Africa, China and South America. The owner and staff are exceeding knowledgeable about the black, green, white and flavored teas and extremely willing to share their knowledge. The shop also sells tea accoutrements such as mugs, teapots, strainers and personal tea bags. Loose teas range from $8 for two ounces to $54 for a half pound. The shop is located at 504 Beachview Drive. www.SerenityHouseTea.com. (912) 638-0381.

Lighthouse Museum and Maritime Center provide a look back to when the lighthouse was part of guarding the coast. Exhibits about the routines and responsibilities of the guardsman who were stationed on the island in the early 1940s are displayed. In the Maritime Center there are seven galleries that are home to exhibits about the beaches, marches and forests as well as the areas’s Coast Guard and military history. The lighthouse grounds also include an 1890 oil house and a Victorian style gazebo. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Located at 4201 First St. www.saintsimonslighthouse.org. (912) 638-4666.

Sandcastle Café & Grill is a great spot for a casual breakfast or lunch. Their $8.35 daily breakfast buffet comes with biscuits, muffins, three kinds of sausage, bacon, corned beef hash, hashbrowns, fruit, tea, coffee and orange juice and made-to-order eggs. Also unlimited pancakes, French toast and waffles. Located at 117 Mallery St. (912) 638-8883.