For a small town, this island is big on appeal
Travels with Deb
The Bloody Marsh Battle Site is also a part of Fort Frederica National Monument, though it is not on the grounds of the fort. Markers and information panels at the outdoor observation area explain the battle, which once and for all ended Spain’s claims to the Georgia territory. Though the British troops were outnumbered, they caught the Spaniards off guard and ambushed them, successfully halting a planned attack on the fort.
St. Simons’ plantation history is also of note. At one time, there were ten to fourteen antebellum plantations for rice, cotton and sugar on the island. Hamilton Plantation, for example, was located on Gascoigne Bluff near Fort Frederica. Of the several slave cabins built on the grounds, two remain today. They were constructed of tabby, a common building material of the time, which is a concrete-like mixture of lime, sand, water and oyster shells. The structures were divided in the center by a fireplace, thus creating two rooms that housed two families. These cabins, which are now on the National Register of Historic Places, have been carefully restored and preserved displaying many artifact and graphical histories.
Retreat Plantation was another preeminent cotton producing estate on the island. The only remains of this site are the magnificent double row of oaks that were planted back in 1827 to provide an entrance to the place. Today, they serve as the grand gateway to the renowned Sea Island Golf Club. Southern live oak trees are special, as they only grow in three places around the globe: the U.S., two areas of Central America and the west coast of Cuba. The U.S. has over 90% of the world’s supply.
Of the numerous churches on the island, two are famous: Lovely Lane Chapel, the oldest standing church on the island, which was built in 1880 to serve the workers at the lumber mills, and Christ Church, constructed in 1884. The latter, nestled in a serene setting among huge oak trees, is one of the most photographed landmarks on St. Simons.
Several of the above historical sites might also be of interest to literary aficionados, specifically those who are fans of Eugenia Price’s books. The celebrated southern author dedicated much of her literary career to capturing the charm and history of Georgia’s Golden Isles. Through her novels, she brought to life a setting that many readers had never before experienced.
Outdoor activity is a big part of the island’s attraction. Offerings include kayaking, fishing, swimming, golfing, birding, eco cruises, cycling and more. Since the area is quite manageable when it comes to size, renting bikes is a popular way to see attractions, while getting some exercise in the process. There are several companies that rent not only bikes, but other outdoor equipment. Ocean Motion is happy to send you on your way with one of its cruisers so you can ride around the island on more than thirty miles of paths connecting points of interest.
As you meander through forests, along the beaches or down residential streets, look for the Tree Spirits. Pick up a map at the Golden Isles Welcome Center in town and go on a treasure hunt for these unique carvings. There are a total of twenty on the island, but only seven are accessible to the public. They were created in the trunks of trees or branches by sculptor Keith Jennings, who began the project in 1982. The easiest to spot is actually adjacent to the Welcome Center. It’s a mermaid named Cora, who is purported to be the gentle protector of St. Simons’ iconic loggerhead turtles. Legend has it that she waits at the shoreline, humming the sweet song that the loggerheads’ mother uses when laying her eggs in the sand. After the babies hatch and begin to proceed down the beach, Cora leads them out to sea with her voice. Shen then guards them from fishing nets, teaches them how to become strong swimmers and shows them how to eat conch and crab. When the turtles have become fully independent, she leaves them to await the next newborns. Of all the Tree Spirits that Jennings has carved, Cora is the only full-body example; the others are face-only renditions.