While many people venture to Georgia to visit Atlanta or to simply experience some of that good, old-fashioned southern hospitality, there’s so much more to the state than meets the eye. The more obvious attractions certainly make the journey worth it, but an area that flies slightly under the radar that’s no less enticing is St. Simons Island.
Among the state’s glorious barrier islands, St. Simons ranks as the largest of all. It’s situated in the Golden Isles, and offers visitors to Georgia an alternative to the chaos of bustling city life. Here, you’ll find yourself immersed in the complete opposite. Beach life is the main scene, and there are wonderful tourist spots to visit alongside haunts that only locals can truly appreciate.
With so many vacation rental homes to choose from, you and your family or group of friends will have no trouble finding the perfect place to relax on the seaside.
Summer is, of course, a wonderful time of year to visit. It’s also when most tourists flock to town, so if you’re hoping to avoid an influx of people, you may prefer to book your stay in the fall. It’s slightly cooler, and because it’s quieter you may be more comfortable if you’re specifically seeking some solitude.
Whether you’re planning a getaway to St. Simons Island downtown or just want to learn more about the area, this handy guide will help you get the lay of the land — so you can make like a local when you do finally venture there.
Getting to Know Downtown St. Simons Island
Glynn County is home to downtown St. Simons Island. It’s approximately 75 miles north of one of Florida’s most populated cities — bustling and vibrant Jacksonville. It’s also roughly 80 miles south of Savannah, so if you’re visiting either of those areas you’re in a prime position to soak up some island life, too.
The downtown area is known as the St. Simons Island Pier Village district. It’s located where Beachview Drive and Mallery Street meet, and it’s essentially the place to be if you’re hoping to stumble across the who’s who and what’s what of the area. Think of it as the jewel in the Golden Isles crown.
It’s an area packed with activities of all kinds. Whether you’re looking for the best place to dine with your family, hoping to grab a cup of coffee before your morning walk, want to connect with the locals, or pick up some souvenirs for your loved ones, you can check absolutely everything off your list in downtown St. Simons Island.
Of course, there’s more to the area than the obvious shopping and dining. You can also indulge in some spectacular views of your surroundings while you’re there, too. Make your way down Mallery Street and you’ll arrive at the promenade leading to St. Simons Island Pier.
Here, you can simply bask in the beauty of St. Simons Sound, observe lovely Jekyll Island, and marvel at the splendor of the well-kept St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum. Dating from 1872, it was designed as a replacement for the original lighthouse, which was lost in the Civil War in the early 1860s. As one of just five light towers left in the state, it’s well worth at least a glimpse — not least because it’s still a functioning structure that lights the way for vessels that venture into St. Simons Sound.
Then there are, of course, the breathtaking oceanfront views. If you’ve longed for a moment to yourself or simply want to book a vacation so you can truly get away from it all, you just won’t find a better place for it. The downtown area may bustle with activity, but if you know where to look, you can easily find spaces that provide you with the peace and quiet that you crave.
It All Happens on Mallery Street
Think of Mallery Street as Main Street. A quick zip down the street takes you through the beautiful downtown community, which is packed with everything from cozy and quaint cafes with outdoor seating to wonderful shops where you’re sure to find items you love for everyone on your list — and a little something for yourself too, of course. What’s there to see, do, buy, and eat? Here are a few highlights you won’t want to miss during your visit.
Where to Eat
With no shortage of great places to eat, you’ll have your fair share of delicious restaurants all throughout St. Simons Island. For the best ones right in the downtown area though, these are our favorite.
Georgia Sea Grill
- 407 Mallery Street, Simons Island
- (912) 638-1197
For the freshest seafood in town, locals know that the Georgia Sea Grill is the place to go. Owner Zack Gowen is committed to sourcing only the freshest local ingredients from the establishment’s very own Potlikker Farm. There’s even an option to grab a quick bite to go from Three Little Birds Fly In, Fly Out when you don’t have time to sit down and dine.
- 549 Ocean Blvd., St. Simons Island
- (912) 634-5168
Porch is the place to visit if you’re craving some seriously good fried chicken — the type with a reputation as one of the best picks in town. They offer roasted chicken too, along with tenders, catfish, fried shrimp, and an array of sandwiches, salads, and sides. Just steps from the ocean and right off of Mallery Street, it’s easy to get there by foot.
- 200 Pier Alley, St. Simons Island
- (912) 638-1660
Come for the food, stay for the live music. There’s plenty to enjoy at Brogen’s South, from a menu filled with seafood, salads, and sandwiches to drink specials galore. The vibe here is laid-back and relaxed, just like the spirit of the island itself. Take a seat at the bar or enjoy your meal outside with family and friends.
Palmer’s Village Cafe
- 223 Mallery St., St. Simons Island
- (912) 634-5515
Relaxed and breezy but with an underlying upscale vibe, Palmer’s Beach Café is a great place to go if you want to soak up some of the area’s world-famous ambiance, mingle with the locals, and partake in some mouth-watering fare while you’re at it. Here’s where to come when you want a fresh omelet or a stack of pancakes to satiate your appetite in the morning.
- 214 Mallery St., St. Simons Island
- (912) 634-6500
If you’re craving some cozy ambiance and homestyle cooking, look no further than Barbara Jean’s. Serving the community since 1998, the family-run establishment offers a menu packed with fresh seafood and traditional southern-style dishes. They’re especially known for their crab cakes and homemade breads.
Where to Shop
Savannah Bee Company
- 315 Mallery St., St. Simons Island
- (912) 771-8972
Dedicated to the protection of one of the world’s most precious resources, the Savannah Bee Company is an outstanding source of all things honey. You’ll find the fan-favorite Whipped Honey in a range of flavors, honey-based hand soaps and moisturizers, and cute accessories for the home and garden.
- 209 Mallery St., St. Simons Island
- (912) 638-9400
You’ll find the best souvenirs in downtown St. Simons Island right here. The gift shop is packed from wall to wall with everything you could possibly need to remember the time you spent on the island — along with plenty of fun finds for everyone back home, including baseball caps, water bottles, sunglasses, SSI bumper stickers, and so much more.
Golden Isles Bracelet Co.
- 215 Mallery St., St. Simons Island
- (912) 638-3636
If you’d love to take a keepsake of your visit home with you, visit the Golden Isles Bracelet Co. Everything is crafted with pure gold and silver, including a wide range of bracelets, earrings, pendants, and toe rings. They’re adorned with cute charms, from hearts and peace signs to leaves and fruits.
What to Do Outside of Downtown
Rent a Bike to Explore the Area
Because there’s so much beautiful scenery in the area, it’s well worth renting a bike so you can spend your time riding around town and taking in your surroundings. Take advantage of the myriad soundtracks and the shading oak trees swaying overhead. You’ll find plenty of open space, along with many places to dine and shop, rounding out your bike ride nicely.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum
Make a visit to St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum a priority, too. Walk through and browse the interesting artifacts and photographs that detail the rich and fascinating history of the Georgia coast. You can also head to the second floor and find out what life was like in the early 20th century for the lighthouse keeper’s family, who resided there.
Spend Time at the Parks
Beautiful parklands abound, too, including Mallery Park and Neptune Park. Offering plentiful green space, picnic tables, and plenty of room for you to enjoy your surroundings, soak up the sunshine, and contemplating swimming or kayaking in the water, these areas are true odes to Mother Nature at her finest. If you happen to be visiting during the 4th of July or Memorial Day, you’ll find these are great spots to spend your holiday, too.
Visit Fort Frederica National Monument
If you’re particularly drawn to nature and history, make room in your itinerary for the Fort Frederica National Monument on Frederica Road. Shaded by oak trees sits what is left of the Fort Frederica archaeological site. A highlight of any experience in coastal Georgia, this beautiful site offers a humbling look at the area’s rich history. Note that the park may be closed due to inclement weather, and is also closed for business on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Enjoy Your Time in Downtown St. Simons Island
There’s a lot to see and do on humbling St. Simons Island. With miles of beaches, historic attractions, plentiful sidewalk space, plenty of fresh greenery, lively restaurants, charming shops, and beautiful scenery, it’s a wonderful alternative to the hustle and bustle of big-city life. Whether you need a break from the noise or you want to explore a slower pace of life in Georgia, you’ll find much to see, do, and experience on St. Simons Island.