After more than 20 years of planning and taking vacations, a few factors have emerged as keys to an unforgettable getaway. In our house, that means a trip to a beach like St. Simons Island, Ga. Sure, we appreciate the grandeur of the mountains and an evening by the fire. But in the final analysis nothing seems to soothe the spirit quite like a few days by the ocean. Here’s our family’s top five keys to a great vacation.
#1: Transition Time
It takes a while to decompress. And we like to mark the miles on our way to the destination. So when we head to St. Simons and see the Sidney Lanier Bridge in the distance – we know it’s time to exhale. Crossing this bridge is the time on the trip where everybody gazes out the window and starts planning all the things they want to pack into the week. Kayaking, fishing, building sand castles. . .and of course all that exercise talk soon turns into talk of food and all the favorite haunts we plan to visit, like Iguana’s for fried shrimp (voted the island’s best many times!), and The King’s Tavern at the King and Prince for their signature muffins. The adults look forward to a frosty brew and a po-boy overflowing with fried oysters. All this anticipation makes the trip more fun. True we almost always run out of time before our “to do” list is crossed off, but it’s all part of the ritual.
#2: The Ocean
Ask almost anyone and they’ll tell you the same thing: the sound of the ocean is healing. The moment I step onto the sands of a beach and am in earshot of the rolling waves, I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders. Even when the water is relatively still, the other sounds of the seaside instantly connect us to nature: sea gulls screaming, kids squealing with delight, and the wind gently flapping flags and kites alike. The one thing you won’t hear on the beach at St. Simons is the annoying sounds of cars. Unlike Daytona and other Florida beaches, this beautiful strip of sand has a strict no-driving policy!
For anyone with a family, this is a no-brainer. Bikes solve a lot of problems. They give restless teens an easy way to navigate and explore their new neighborhood. For otherwise sedentary adults, they provide a fun alternative to driving, and help us burn off a bit of the ice cream and other treats we’re bound to enjoy. But the ten and under set probably enjoys biking the most. As nice as our neighborhood back home is, there are too many cars to make it a safe place for novice bikers. Plus, rent a teen a bike with a basket and you can save yourself a few trips to the local grocery.
What’s better than looking at the ocean? Enjoying what’s just been pulled out of it! Fresh from the docks shrimp on St. Simons is one of life’s simplest and best pleasures. The mild, flavorful taste shines through whether you’re peeling and eating or enjoying them fried, sautéed, swimming in garlic and olive oil. . .Wait, that was turning into a scene from Forrest Gump. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of flavorful seafood on St. Simons Island. If you’re in the mood for a casual sandwich, unwrap and enjoy it on a bench downtown looking over the water. Or book a table for two for you and your honey and share some world class cuisine while you watch the sun set over the water at the King’s Tavern in The King and Prince Resort. These are the flavors that you’ll remember long after your sun tan fades.
The last part of a perfect vacation is what makes every trip unique: surprises. We always try to work in a new experience like crabbing, night fishing, or kayaking at sunrise. Trying new things reminds us that even through a trip may take us to familiar destination, our time there will be special each time. That’s certainly the case when we visit St. Simons. Each visit is different. But each lives up to our family’s test for making every day we share truly the trip of a lifetime, over and over again.