Bill Vanderford published this article on Lakeside News after his spring St Simons Island vacation that including historic tours, boating, dining at local restaurants and a stay at The King and Prince.
By Bill Vanderford
St. Simons Island is a golden Georgia treasure
Standing on the wall of Fort Frederica scanning the river and the marshes beyond was serious business around 1740. The British soldiers on guard
knew that the Spanish-held Fort St. Simons was only five miles away and were painfully aware that war had been declared with Spain. Eventually these English soldiers realized that they would have to fight for their lives on St. Simons Island.
Even though the British were far outnumbered, good intelligence, a timely ambush, and some skillful maneuvering of ships and men by James
Edward Oglethorpe made the Spanish believe that the British force was much larger. Therefore, after the historical, but small ambush, known as “The Battle of Bloody Marsh,” the Spanish retreated back to Florida and were never a threat to General Oglethorpe and his fledgling Georgia colony again.
Today, visitors to St. Simons Island can walk the open grounds of Fort Frederica and gaze across the picturesque “Marshes of Glynn” that were made famous by poet, Sidney Lanier (yes, the namesake of Lake Lanier), and never have to worry about being fired upon. This immaculate spot is simply one of many that attracts folks to St. Simons.
For nearly eight decades, families from all over the South have come to this gorgeous barrier island to enjoy the elegant atmosphere, mouthwatering
food, and antebellum style hospitality at the King and Prince Hotel, which was built because of an insult. It seems that one evening in the early 1930s at the nearby Cloister Hotel on neighboring Sea Island, Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn were tossed out for being drunk and disorderly. Horn was a tall, heavy man, and Wynn was a short, skinny fellow, and when seen together, they were affectionately known as “The King and Prince.” So, because of the insult, the two founded the King and Prince as a seaside dance club to compete with the Cloister Hotel. The main hotel building with its classic Mediterranean architecture was completed and opened to the public just in time for World War II in 1941. During that period, the new hotel was converted into a training facility for coast watchers looking for German submarines.
Following the war, the King and Prince opened to families again in 1947 and has continued to serve as a prime vacation destination in the Golden Isles of Georgia. Renovations and expansions were completed in 1972 and 1983,
and the hotel was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996 as the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort. It still offers a unique resort experience with real Southern flair, fantastic and varied cuisine, and spectacular ocean views from almost every room. For information or reservations, call toll-free at (800)-342-0212.
Many golf lovers come to St. Simons to play the recently restored King and Prince Golf Course, which is the home of the Hampton Club. This 18-hole championship course is both challenging and beautifully interwoven with ancient oak trees, island holes, views of birds and wildlife in the surrounding marshes, and picturesque lagoons.
Fishing, birding, and wildlife viewing are always great outdoor endeavors
when visiting St. Simons Island. This huge coastal ecosystem of salt marshes, tidal rivers and creeks is probably the best rearing ground for fish, sharks, and shellfish on the Atlantic seaboard of the USA. This little known fishery is best explored and experienced with an expert local guide like Larry Kennedy III out of Hampton Marina. Larry and his family have been fishing the waters productively as long as I can remember, and have entertained thousands of visitors to St. Simons. For more information or reservations, call 912-222-1687.
Fine dining and local seafood is another highlight of any trip to the Georgia barrier islands, and St. Simons has some of the best! Certainly the chefs at the King and Prince would be in the running in any food and drink contest, but my favorite would have to be Halyards and the culinary artistry of Chef Dave. Being a fisherman himself, Dave loves to have his friends bring by their “Catch of the Day” and allow him to create a succulent meal with his special touch. Both Bill and Cindy Acree told me of magical meals that they have enjoyed with Chef Dave during the Atlanta Braves off season when Bill wasn’t so busy as a Braves executive. For more information, contact Dave at www.halyardsrestaurant.com.
Another interesting, but quite casual eatery, is within easy walking distance
from the King and Prince Hotel. The Saltwater Cowboy is a swinging place with a young, female chef straight out of the Bayou country of Southern Mississippi. She has put together some unique offerings of steak and seafood with a different Cajun rendering. For information or reservations, call 912-634-2102.
Certainly more experiences are available on St. Simons Island including visits to the historic Christ Church, Fort Frederica, Epworth by the
Sea, and the St. Simons Lighthouse. For me, however, the beaches, marshes, old oak trees, and the slow movement of time and tide take me back to simpler time in my youth when my family would visit this magical island during the summer break from school. Sure there are new businesses and different people, but the natural beauty where sea, sky, and shifting sands meet has a soothing effect that transcends all time.
“What kid in all of us wouldn’t want to find treasure?” – Cap Fendig, St. Simons native and 2008 presidential candidate
St. Simons Island is that gleaming treasure. Choose a five hour drive, or a quick flight from Atlanta, as you travel back to a more gracious era. If St. Simons is the treasure, then the crowning jewel is The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. Opened as a seaside dance club in 1935, you feel enveloped in history as you step inside the grand lobby. Overlooking the sparkling Atlantic Ocean, it is not hard to imagine Jay Gatsby holding court while enjoying a gin and tonic at the bar.
With a wide variety of rooms, villas and private cottages, the resort has something for everyone. You may select a romantic king-bedded room facing oceanfront or a cottage for the entire family that has a full kitchen with all the amenities. All you have to do is pick up some fresh Georgia shrimp for the grill.
Four outdoor pools and two hot tubs dot the property, with an additional heated indoor pool adjacent to the lobby. If golf is your passion, complimentary transportation whisks you to the resort’s Hampton Club Golf Course, while giving you a guided tour of the island as an added bonus. Do you crave a massage? Wander over to the cozy Royal Treatment Cottage to release any stress.
The Friday night seafood buffet at the Delegal Dining Room is not to be missed. Trays are laden with crab legs, fried and freshly shucked oysters, boiled, fried and sauteed shrimp along with a carving station and an impressive array of side dishes and desserts. A signature dish of pecan-encrusted tilapia in an amaretto sauce had me wishing I had asked for the recipe. If you are looking for a place off-property, try Saltwater Cowboy, just outside the entrance to the resort for delicious steak.
The King and Prince truly is the epitome of southern charm.
The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
201 Arnold Road
St. Simons Island, Georgia, 31522
Direct: (912) 638-3631
Linda Kissam visited The King and Prince Resort a few weeks ago. She wrote a raving review of The Resort and St. Simons Island. Her review was posted in her blog and on Tripatini.
There’s a lot to be said for Southern hospitality. There’s much more to be said experiencing it for yourself. I was very fortunate to do just that in a five-day trip to St. Simons Island, Georgia. For a traveling wine aficionado and foodie like me, this has got to be one of my top three trips this year. It’s quite clear that Southern hospitality focuses heavily on food and the role it plays in daily life and social interaction. Add some great wines, amazing beaches and fun activities… and Voila! I found Southern nirvana.
For a Southern California girl it’s a bit unnerving to be addressed as “Ma’am “all the time. I am more used to hearing “Babe, ”Dude,” and “Hey”. But there’s a whole lot of emphasis in the South on the etiquette of being addressed as “Ma’am” and “Sir” to demonstrate respect. After about 20 minutes I actually rolled quite easily into the greeting. How nice to find that manners still exist and flourish in today’s casual world.
My St. Simon’s experience began with a 5-hour plane ride to Jacksonville Airport. Arriving a bit late, I decided to rest up and regroup at the newly refurbished and award winning Crowne Plaza Hotel. This is one of the few hotels that still offer a free shuttle to/from the airport. I was treated to an amazing executive level room overlooking a beautiful courtyard. I loved, loved loved the beautiful business center located just feet from my room. It offered a computer and printer to conduct business at and luxe furnishings (including a huge flat screen TV) to stretch out and relax in. I was delighted to also find a great coffee maker featuring lattes, cappuccinos, teas, and hot chocolate; and a refrigerator stocked with ice cream, fruit and other delights. These people understand the business traveler.
While touring the hotel’s impressive restaurant, conference/event areas, lobby bar, Internet Café, and fitness center, I noticed a solid mix of business and family guests. I headed back to my room where I was met by Executive Chef Arthur White carrying a yummy welcome fruit platter. He was kind enough to sit with me awhile while we talked about his background, his philosophy and the foods he loves to prepare. This 31-year veteran started his career at the property as a dishwasher. His hard work ethic and culinary mastery eventually earned him the top chef spot. He describes his cooking style and offerings as a mixture of Southern, Caribbean, Italian, Cajun and American cuisine. He shared with me that his favorite ingredient is cream as he loves creating cream soups, sauces and Seafood Newburg. Eating at the restaurant is a treat. I highly recommend this hotel for its upscale amenities, friendly business traveler atmosphere, and its family-friendly facilities. How they can blend all that into one fabulous hotel experience I am not sure, but they do, and you should take advantage of it whether flying in for a cruise, a sports game, or a trip to the dazzling St Simon’s Island.
The next morning I was picked up by Max Transport for the one-hour ride to St. Simons and my lodging The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort. I began to first understand the extraordinary St. Simons Island aura as I crossed the five-mile causeway experiencing stunning river views, immense salt marshes, and my first glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. Once on the Island, tunnels of Live Oaks, picturesque ocean-side streets and homes, and all the natural beauty, beaches, intriguing shopping opportunities and an array of restaurant choices all called out to me to stop, relax and renew.
The historic King and Prince Resort has been welcoming guests since 1935. I could go on and on about the historic resort. The room choices are endless and appropriate for every need and budget. Think beach front rooms, villas, suites, and guest homes. Add in 10, 000 sq. ft. of ocean front meeting, conference and function space, wedding facilities and several excellent dining options and you have the ultimate experience. My beach front room was just steps from the beach, was beautifully appointed and featured a lovely patio to chill out on. Wine in one hand, computer in the other… I was soon relaxing on comfortable wicker furniture listening to the soothing sounds of crashing Atlantic waves.
Having met up with several friends, I was soon hopping on the St. Simons Lighthouse Trolley to begin my exploration of St. Simons’ history and the Southern fun and hospitality experience. First stop was the Coast Guard Maritime Museum. This was to be my introduction to the intriguing history of the Georgia Coast. A 20-minute video and a 30 minute tour of the museum explained the ecological nuances of the Georgia’s barrier islands of which St. Simons is the second largest of Georgia’s 18 barrier islands, encompassing 31 square miles. Open seven days a week with an admission price of $6.00, be sure to stop by.
With the day waning, the trolley made a final sunset stop at Gould’s Inlet. Gould’s Inlet is the opening between St. Simons East Beach and the south tip of Sea Island providing inspiring views of coastal birds. Picturesque wooden observation platforms are part of the experience for wildlife viewing. Migrants and resident species of birds can be seen every day. High or incoming tides are best for birding at this site, but something will be there all the time, as was the case with my time there.
Dinner that night was at the hotel in the lovely Solarium. We were treated to appetizers and White Sangria, with a main course of Wild Georgia Shrimp & Grits, seafood salad, and Peach Cobbler…all via a culinary demo featuring Chef Robyn Gomez. Have to confess, up until that night I had never had grits or White Shrimp. Both were exquisite and made an immediate convert out of me. The food, the service, and the culinary talents of Chef Gomez defines gracious Southern hospitality and is definitely what culinary memories are made of. And oh yes, you have to love that the perfect wine – a 2007 MontGras Reserva Sauvignon Blanc from Casablanca Valley, Chile was chosen to pair with the dinner.
Next morning my friends and I popped into the King & Prince King’s Tavern for their world-famous Breakfast Buffet and to listen to a short talk on 75 years of St. Simons History with Curt Smith, the Lighthouse Events Coordinator and Historian. Let me just say that “Wow” defines the buffet and the Mimosa’s. I loved the eclectic mix of Southern focused dishes and all- American favorites.
Back on the trolley, the group headed out for an afternoon of golf and lunch at the King and Prince Golf Course. Paired up in two’s in golf carts we toured the award-winning course well-known for its challenging layout amongst ancient forests, vast salt marshes and dramatic island holes. Had to love the two alligators sunning themselves on the 15th hole (see on the left)! After the tour we were treated to a golf lesson including a swing lesson and a putting lesson. I sucked big time at learning how to swing a club, but was dynamite in the putting class. Lunch came next in the comfortable clubhouse overlooking the huge lake that adds to the challenge of the course’s 9th hole. If it’s golf you like, this is the place for you. Also a great place for a wedding.
Back at the hotel I opted for a walk on the beach at low tide. The soothing coastal air and wet sand beneath my toes reinforced that this untouched island haven is a luxury of time well spent. Dinner was a short stroll away at the Saltwater Cowboy. Owner George Stewart‘s vision for this casual eatery centers around steak, seafood, low country boil, burgers and a nice selection of cocktails, beer and wine. I had a lovely Cabernet with my generous tasty 16-oz Rib Eye. Open seven days a week for dinner, enjoy the frequent live music and really cool bar.
Up early the next morning, our group was back on The Lighthouse trolley to the Sandcastle Café. Tim and Melissa Welford have a gold mine in this village, “hole in the wall.” The place was crowded, and for good reason. The food is good, plentiful, affordable and easily lives up to its “family legend” status of 20 years. Order off the menu or enjoy the breakfast buffet. Afterwards stroll the shops and sights that make up this scenic waterfront village. I certainly scored in several of the boutique shops, but in a few hours I was back on the trolley heading out for lunch at Southern Soul BBQ.
This is what I had been waiting for …Southern BBQ, and I was not disappointed. Another crazy-busy spot this Southern smoke joint slow hardwood smokes their ribs, chicken, sausages and beef. Featured on Food Network’s, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” this is a local landmark and deservedly so. Eat inside or outdoors, expect a short wait, and delicious melt-in-your mouth BBQ. Geese I really really loved the variety of squirt bottles of spicy, mild, smoky, and Carolina- style sauces available at each seating area. Get yourself some spicy ribs, sweet tea or cool beer, and be ready for the experience of a lifetime.
Filled to the gills, we were off to an authentic shrimp boat experience aboard the “Lady Jane.” For me, this particular experience was my “Wow” moment of the trip because it brought together all the St Simons Island puzzle pieces together. it was the culmination of the beauty, the brawn and the ecological magic that makes this place so special. The Lady Jane is a United States Coast Guard certified 49 passenger steel shrimping vessel painstakingly refurbished for an enjoyable seafaring cruise. Lady Jane is the only shrimp vessel on the entire east coast that has been certified by the USCG to carry 49 passengers. Our crew and guides, Paul Christian (Marine Biologist), Phillip Flournoy (Marine Biologist)and a very mature and focused teenager Clifford Credle (aspiring Marine Biologist) dredged the inland coastal waterway for shrimp. We were invited to help sort through the catch of shrimp, Bonnethead , Blacktip, Sand shark, Horseshoe Crab,Puffer Fish, Amberjack, Crocker, Spot, Whiting, Bluecrab, and Skate while learning about the waterway ecology and each portion of the catch from Cilfford. As a extra bonus we were offered fresh shrimp to eat, boiled and prepared by First Mate John Tyre. Weather is never a concern, as the Lady Jane performs quite nicely in the protected waters of St. Simon Sound, has an air conditioned cabin, restroom, and large open decks with ample room to walk around and enjoy the views. About $40 per person, this is a deal …and a memory for a lifetime.
The “Southern” experience is something I highly endorse. If you’ve never been a part of this engaging phenomena, I suggest you start the discovery process at the King and Prince resort on St. Simons Island.
If you already know what I am talking about, then you know how right I am … so what’s keeping you from booking a room at The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, and falling in love all over again?