Planning to island hop during your St. Simons Island stay? Make sure to set aside a day to discover Little St. Simons Island, one of the least developed of Georgia’s Golden Isles, with no encroaching commercial presence to speak of. This barrier island on the Georgia Coast is located just northeast of St. Simons Island and Sea Island, across the Hampton River. Little St. Simons Island is situated at the mouth of the Altamaha River, which helps to support the island’s lush landscapes and thriving ecosystems. The island is a perfect day trip escape for nature lovers, or those simply seeking a quieter, secluded getaway.
The Lay Of The Island
Little St. Simons Island covers 11,000 acres, including seven miles of exquisitely unspoiled beaches. Privately owned by The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, the island opened to public guests in 1979 after serving for generations as a private family retreat. It is accessible only by boat. The boat ride from St. Simons Island departs from the Hampton River Marina on the island’s north end, and takes approximately 15-20 minutes. Upon arrival, day trip guests are greeted by experienced local naturalists who will guide their journey on the island.
The island landscape is characterized by mature maritime forests and diverse wetland ecosystems that serve as home to an array of plant and animal species. Explore stands of cypress, cabbage palm, southern live oak, red cedar, southern magnolia, and pine trees, draped in Spanish moss. Among the ample salt marshes and forests, visitors may encounter alligators, armadillo, deer, and dolphins, as well as a plethora of bird and fish species. In the summer months, the island’s beaches become a prominent nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles who bury their eggs amongst the sea oats and sand dunes on the Atlantic Ocean shores. Off-shore, there is even the occasional sighting of right whales making their way up the Eastern Seaboard.
The Day-Trip Experience
The LSSI naturalists make sure to point out all of the island’s hidden gems and top spots that you’d likely overlook on your own. They offer a variety of programs that explore a range of activities on the island, followed by a family-style Lowcountry lunch at the Lodge (sourced from the onsite, certified organic garden and surrounding waters) and a relaxing afternoon on the beach. Day-trips include boat transportation to and from the island, lunch, and all of your tours and activities at a cost of $150 per person. Reservations are required.
Naturalist-led activities are offered every morning and afternoon. These may include hiking, birding, biking, shelling, fishing, and kayaking excursions, as well as historic site tours, reptile safaris, or garden walks. There are 20 miles of forested hiking trails and roads for biking and all-around land exploring intertwined throughout the island.
For on-the-water adventure, explore the tidal creeks in kayaks, canoes, or motorized skiffs – or cast a line in the numerous marshes, rivers, estuaries, or the Atlantic Ocean. Georgia fishing licenses are required, but the onsite tackle shack can provide all the necessary equipment and supplies for a successful outing. Little St. Simons Island offers rare access to one of the most productive fisheries on the East Coast, with the local bounty consisting of redfish, black drum, spotted sea trout, flounder, southern kingfish, and tarpon.
Located along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, Little St. Simons Island is home to over 330 species of birds and is an officially recognized reserve site by the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network as well as an Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy. Bald eagles, wood storks, the eastern screech owl, and several species of woodpecker are just a sample of the large variety of birds that can be found in the area. Naturalist-led tours will show you some of the best viewing areas, as well as bald eagle nests and a rockery. (For additional birding adventures, Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail includes 18 sites extending from Savannah southward to St. Mary’s, and westward to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – five of which are located in the Golden Isles.)
No matter which activities you choose, there is no question that the best way to cap off your island day trip is by enjoying the seven miles of wide private beaches. There is no better environment for swimming, shelling, or just taking it easy. Little St. Simons Island is a little piece of paradise just waiting to be discovered.