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23 Best Things to Do in St. Simons Island

St. Simons Island

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St. Simons Island is the second largest Golden Aisle barrier island in Georgia. The island was immortalized in Georgia Poet Laureate’s The Marshes of Glynn. This picturesque island is a beautiful place to visit when you want to escape to the coast for salt in your hair and sand beneath your feet. 

Did you know?

St. Simons Island was called Guadalquini by the indigenous peoples who lived on the island. The Spanish arrived later and called the island Isla de Bellanas. The names San Buenaventura de Gualquini and San Buenaventura de Boadalquivi were also used to describe what is now known as St. Simons Island. 

The Best Things to Do on St. Simons Island

There’s much to do on St. Simon’s Island. Your visit can be filled with as much or as little activity as you like. Here are some of the best things to do on the island. 

1. Go to the Beach

St. Simons Island — Photo by Crystal Jackson

My personal favorite thing to do on St. Simons Island is to go to the beach. You can choose between East Beach, Gould’s Inlet, and Massengale Park.

Massengale Park also offers picnic tables and playgrounds, making it a perfect stop for families. For an optimal experience, bring a large-wheeled beach wagon and pop-up beach tent. This will help you haul in your beach accessories more easily.

Plus, the tent will help provide valuable shade throughout the day. A day spent at the beach can happily pass by building sandcastles, swimming in the sea, or flying kites along the wide sandy beaches. 

There’s a convenient restroom by the parking lot, and you’ll also find trash and recycling receptacles there.

Be sure to pack out whatever you bring in to keep the beaches of St. Simons clean and beautiful. You can easily spend an entire vacation simply enjoying the beauty of the city’s beaches. 


You might not be aware that American alligators live in the marshes, rivers, and ponds around the island.

They can even swim in the ocean and are most likely to be found in shallow waters. You’ll want to keep children and pets safe, and never approach an alligator!

2. Visit the Pier

St. Simons Island Pier — Photo by Crystal Jackson

While you’re in St. Simons, don’t forget to visit the Pier. There are plenty of shops and restaurants nearby, and you can fish or crab nearby.

At the time of my visit, a shipwreck of automobiles was being extracted from the ocean, which was a sight all its own. Otherwise, enjoy watching the sun rise or set over the pier.

If you choose to walk the stretch of beach, pay attention to the time of day. This stretch disappear entirely in the evening at high tide, and you don’t want to be caught out on it when it does. 


St. Simons Island is about the same size as Manhattan. The island measures 12 miles long and almost 3 miles wide. 

3. Play at Neptune Park

Neptune Park — Photo by Crystal Jackson

Another island favorite for my family is a visit to Neptune Park. This ocean-front playground is fenced in and provides much to amuse young children.

It’s also conveniently located beside a splash pad, pool, and mini golf course. For families traveling with children, the Neptune Park Fun Zone is an absolute must-see destination.


St. Simons Island was inhabited by indigenous people long before European settlers arrived. It’s believed that there were Native tribes here as early as 6,000 years ago. Tribes included the Guale and Mocama people. In the 1500s, mistreatment of tribes resulted in a clash between indigenous islanders and European colonizers.

Mary Musgrove, daughter of a Creek mother and English trader father in 1700, became the interpreter for General James Oglethorpe when it came to settling the area that is now known as Savannah. While we know that the Guale alone once had a population of up to 4,000 residents, little today is known about these tribes. 

4. Tour the Lighthouse Museum

St. Simons Island Lighthouse — Photo by Crystal Jackson

You can also take a tour of the St. Simons Lighthouse and Museum while you’re in the area. Climb to the top of the lighthouse and learn all about its history.

While the original lighthouse was destroyed during the Civil War, the current version has been in place since 1872 and provides panoramic views that include Jekyll Island, Brunswick, and the southern part of St. Simons. 


St. Simons Island was once known for thriving plantations. The agriculture of the area was developed after the American Revolution. Plantations produced Sea Island cotton, indigo, and rice. Unfortunately, the plantation lifestyle was made possible by enslaved Africans.

5. Visit the Fort Frederica National Monument

Fort Frederica National Monument — Photo by Crystal Jackson

Fort Frederica National Monument is the archaeological site of a historic battle between the British and Spanish armies in 1742. While the British prevailed, the two would go on to sign a peace treaty in 1748.

Approximately 1,000 residents continued living in the fort until 1758 when the fort caught on fire. These days, the Fort is protected by the National Park Service, and visitors come to St. Simons Island to tour the archaeological remains.

On your walk of the ruins, you’ll learn about the settlers of Fort Frederica, where they lived, and how they lived. You can even see what one of their gardens would have looked like. Stop into the visitor’s center at Fort Frederica for more information about the many sites in the park. 


You might wonder how St. Simons Island evolved into its current name. The origin story is interesting. The name comes from a Yamassee Indian Village near Fort Frederica in the late 1600s.

Later, residents disputed whether the island should be referred to as Saint Simon or Saint Simons.

One resident, a Mrs. Fendig, argued that Simons was most commonly used but this was overruled until a few years later when residents decided she was right. By 1943, the spelling became St. Simons Island.

6. Search for the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island

While you’re visiting St. Simons Island, you can enjoy a treasure hunt for St. Simons Tree Spirits.

While you can’t capture them and take them home, you can enjoy this delightful scavenger hunt around town to see the tree carvings that were created by a local artist and craftsman in the 1980s. There are 20 Tree Spirits on the island. Find them all using a map from the Welcome Center. 


St. Simons Island was declared “America’s #1 Favorite Romantic Town” and “America’s #1 Favorite Beach Town” by Travel + Leisure Magazine. 

7. Enjoy a Dolphin Tour with Lighthouse Trolleys

Lighthouse Trolleys Land and Sea Tours offers several tours that you can take on the island. A favorite of mine is the dolphin tour. Enjoy a 90-minute boat ride around the inland marshes, and you’re sure to spot the bottlenose dolphins that live in the area.

While the boats are covered, don’t forget your sunscreen for added protection. You can bring food and drinks on board for your journey as well.

A sunset guided tour can be an enjoyable way to round out a busy day. 


The St. Simons Lighthouse was constructed in 1810 to provide maritime navigation and defense of the St. Simons Sound. Originally, it was 75 feet tall. Confederate armies destroyed the lighthouse during a Union invasion as they retreated.

In 1872, the lighthouse was rebuilt to 104-feet. A lighthouse keeper’s home was added to the property.

You might be surprised to learn that St. Simons Lighthouse is one of 5 remaining active lighthouses in the state of Georgia.

8. Attend a Local Festival

There are many festivals you can attend on St. Simons Island. Plan your trip to coincide with one of these fun events.

The following is a comprehensive list, but these are the festivals currently on the calendar for St. Simons Island and the surrounding Golden Isles:

  • The Georgia Elvis Festival (November)
  • Shrimp & Grits Festival (November)
  • Sea Island Shrimp Festival (July)
  • Georgia-Florida Weekend & Golf Classic (October/November)
  • SSI Music Fest (July)
  • Running of the Bulls Charity Surf Redfish (October)
  • Golden Isles Film Festival (July)
  • 2nd Annual Spelling Bee(r) Competition (July)
  • Coastal Chaos Fest (October)
  • Boondox Festival (August)
  • Island Treasures (January/February)
  • Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee (January)
  • The RSM Classic (November)


The island might be beautiful, but some of its history is not. Union general William T. Sherman’s January 1865 Special Field Order №15 demanded that plantations be divided and distributed to the former enslaved workers.

However, U.S. President Andrew Johnson overturned this order not even a year later. Freed people ended up becoming sharecroppers on the lands that were once plantations.

9. Visit the World War II Home Front Museum

Another location you’ll want to check out on St. Simons is the World War II Home Front Museum. You can learn about the island during WWII in this immersive and interactive museum.

On Tuesdays, you can stop in to hear the storytellers share experiences from time at home and abroad serving during the war. This extensive museum gives us a look at the past and how the homefront rallied around the troops and did their part to aid in the war effort. 


During World War II, St. Simons Island was active with German U-boats. Two ships, the Texas Company oil tanker S. S. Oklahoma and the S. S. Esso Baton Rouge, were torpedoed by the Germans in April of 1942.

You can learn more about this time in history at the Home Front Museum.

10. Tour Christ Church Episcopal 

Another popular stop in St. Simons is Christ Church Episcopal. You can visit the historic cemetery Tuesday through Sunday. This church is one of the oldest churches in Georgia and has been active since 1736.

Reverend Charles Wesley, author to more than 6,000 hymns, briefly lived and served at the church before his strident sermons led to a revolt of his parishioners. You don’t have to be religious to enjoy this beautiful glimpse of history, but if you are, the church still holds services to this day. 


A part of the island’s history involved the Methodist conference and retreat center Epworth by the Sea, which opened on Gascoigne Bluff in 1950. 

11. Walk the Alice Richards Botanical Trail

Don’t miss out on the Alice Richards Botanical Trail at Frederica Park. It was named for a part-time resident of the island.

You can participate in a scavenger hunt, learn about the native plants were reintroduced along the trail, check out the fairy houses, and walk a labyrinth. You’ll find a playground, jogging trails, picnic shelters, restrooms, and a dog park adjacent to the trail. 


St. Simons Island isn’t just a place to relax and enjoy a scenic vacation. It has also inspired literary works of fiction. In 1961, Eugenia Price visited St. Simons. This visit would inspire her first fiction novels – the St. Simons Trilogy. 

12. Go Kayaking or Paddle Boarding in the Salt Marshes

There are many different companies that offer kayaking or paddle board tours of the salt marshes around St. Simons Island. This is a wonderful way to see the area.

You can get outdoors, enjoy nature, and discover a whole new perspective of this beautiful area. If you have your own kayak, canoe, or board, check out the many boat ramps where you can launch during your stay.

13. Rent a Bicycle

You’ll find bicycle trails winding all around the island, and renting a bicycle can make for a pleasant day’s excursion on St. Simons Island.

You can even sign up for a bike tour for a 2–3-hour ride packed with sights and led by guides knowledgeable about the island. You can even bring your own bike for exploring this beautiful resort town. 

14. Take the St. Simons Island Gullah/Geechee Tour

You can take Gullah/Geechee tours and workshops on St. Simons Island to learn more about this rich cultural history.

The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition, Inc. sponsors historic tours of Southend, Jewtown, and Harrington — the Gullah/Geechee Nation communities remaining in the area. While you’re in the area, don’t neglect learning about its cultural ancestry.

15. Visit Ebo Landing

Ebo Landing is a sacred historic site marking one of the more painful histories of St. Simons Island. In 1803, 75 Nigerians who were stolen from their land and held captive aboard a Georgia ship bound for the island and a future of slavery.

The Africans were able to throw their captors overboard where they drowned. Once the ship docked, all 75 Nigerians walked into the swamp — choosing death over enslavement. This uprising has evolved in African America storytelling to become “The Myth of the Flying Africans”. 

16. Take a Horseback Tour of the Golden Isles

You can also enjoy St. Simons Island by horseback. Tour a horseback tour and see the Golden Isles in a way you’ve never seen them before.

You can tour the Musgrove Plantation, the woods surrounding the town of Frederica, and even tour the beach and salt marsh coastline for the chance to see some of the area’s most spectacular wildlife. 

17. Take an Island Trolley Tour

You’ll want to head to Pier Village to take a St. Simons Island Trolley Tour.

This notable tour will take you by the lighthouse, the Bloody Marsh historic site, Fort Frederica, Retreat Plantation, and Christ Church. It’s one of the most popular ways to see the island. 

18. Go Shrimping Aboard the Lady Jane

One of the more interesting immersive experiences on St. Simons Island is a shrimping tour aboard the Lady Jane. You’ll learn about sea life as the crew explores each trawl.

Once a commercial shrimp trawler, the Lady Jane is now exclusively available for ecotourism, which you’ll support with the price of your tour.

19. Play Golf at the King and Prince

There are many golf courses on St. Simons Island, but one of the most popular is located at The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort.

Fans of the sport can choose from numerous scenic courses around the island. Enjoy golfing through ancient forests, around salt marshes, vast lakes, and impressive beaches. 

20. Explore Cannon’s Point Preserve

Cannon’s Point Preserve offers 600-acres of beautiful protected greenspace open to the public. It’s connected to the Altamaha River delta, one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the country.

Find middens dating back to 2500 BCE, plantation ruins, a maritime forest, and six miles of marshes. 

21. Visit the Avenue of the Oaks

One of the most simple but beautiful experiences on St. Simons Island is to stroll through the Avenue of the Oaks. Anna Page King inherited Retreat Plantation in 1826 and planted the famous oaks that now mark the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club.

Legend has it that Anna Page King’s garden had so many flowers that sailors could smell the blooms long before they could see the shores. Happily, the oaks are still available to view. Take a stroll between them and enjoy the magnificence of these 160-year-old live oak trees. 


Live oak timber was used to build the U.S.S. Constitution. One of the top island locations to visit is the Avenue of the Oaks, which is located at the entrance of the Sea Island Golf Club. It was first planted by Anna Page King in 1826. At the time, it was the entrance to Retreat Plantation. 

22. Take a Selfie with Wally the Whale

Wally the Whale St. Simons Island — Photo by Crystal Jackson

Over at Neptune Park, you’ll find Wally the Whale. This beautiful work of art is perfect for a selfie.

Just remember that he’s not to be climbed on or treated like a playground, and a nearby sign serves as a reminder that he is, in fact, a precious artwork and that visitor should treat it accordingly.

Pilot whales swim in these waters and have even required rescue from residents. While you’re enjoying the park and the pier, stop by to say hello to Wally. 


If you translate the St. Simons Island name of Isla de Bellanas, you’ll realize that it’s named the Isle of Whales due to its location as calving grounds for the North American Right Whale. You can find a sculpture of a North American Right Whale and her calf in Neptune Park.

These whales are listed as endangered with fewer than 350 North American Right Whales remaining in the world. Only about 70 are female whales who reproduce. Enjoy visiting the sculpture of Wally the Whale and baby, but just remember to look and not touch this wonderful work of art. 

Image courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

23. Go on a Ghost Tour with the Lighthouse Trolley

A trip to St. Simons Island won’t be complete without a ghost tour. Lighthouse Trolleys Land & Sea Tours offer a one-hour open-air trolley tour that leaves from St. Simons Fishing Pier. Learn about Mary, the Wanderer, St. Simons Island’s resident ghost.

Visit a graveyard of indigenous peoples, ride down the Avenue of the Oaks, and learn more about the lighthouse. This haunting tour is perfect for anyone who wants to combine the islands thrills with chills.

It’s unsurprising that St. Simons Island is considered by many to be haunted. As a popular location for slaving ships, the death toll in this area is egregious.

While Mary, the Wanderer, might be the islands most popular resident ghost, the history of the island itself is haunting and serves as a reminder of the wrongs human beings can do to one another.

St. Simons is a beautiful resort town with much to see and do, but it’s important to understand the history of the island and how it evolved over the years to a welcoming vacation hotspot. 

Visiting St. Simons Island

St. Simons Island is one of my favorite barrier islands on the Georgia Coast. While I could easily spend an entire vacation enjoying the beautiful beaches and strolling down the pier, there’s so much more to see and do in the area.

History buffs, cyclists, and adventurers will find plenty to do on the island. You’ll be able to shop local, eat local, and support ecotourism in the area. 

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