St. Simons Island Water Quality: What You Need to Know

Photo Credit: John Getchel Flickr CC2.0

St. Simons Island is a coastal Georgia gem and known as one of the Golden Isles off the Atlantic Coast of the U.S. It’s known for its beaches and southern hospitality. Once voted a favorite beach town in Georgia by Travel & Leisure magazine, the perfect mix of seaside fun and small-town feel has people clamoring to visit St. Simons Island. However, recent concerns about water quality have people wondering if it’s worth it to visit.

Is the Water Safe at St. Simons?

A year ago, 13 beaches were tested around St. Simons Island, including Lighthouse Beach on Jekyll Island, to find that they were potentially unsafe for swimming due to bacterial growth, according to a report by Environment America Research & Policy center Frontier Group. Since that time, the water has been tested to be safe.

Georgia, among other coastal states like Florida, have received government grants to care for their beaches since 2001. Georgia receives approximately $270,000 to $280,000 annually for a total of $5.4 million over the past two decades. An acting administrator of the funds says that clean and healthy beaches are critical for both economic and environmental reasons. Grants received from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allow Georgia to conduct tests that address potential water contamination to keep beaches healthy for vacationers and beach-goers. The water has also been under heavy scrutiny since at least 1999.

Some people who are concerned about the color of the water at St. Simon’s needn’t be. The water at St. Simon’s is often brown in color because there are two rivers that flow into the water full of sediment from the swamps and marshes surrounding the area. Rest assured, with constant testing the water is safe to swim in, and Glynn County even uses nearby water sources from the underground Floridian Aquifer as a source for the municipal water supply.

Water Sports and Recreation at St. Simons

For those who want to enjoy St. Simon’s beaches and water sports, there are plenty of picturesque places to do so. Motorboating, sailing, jet-skiing, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and even kayak tours are all available.

Neptune Park Swimming & Recreation

For a change from the ocean waters, visitors can attend Neptune Park Fun Zone with water slides, swimming pools, and eighteen holes of miniature golf.

Beaches at St. Simon

There are over a dozen beaches you can visit while in St. Simon including East Beach, Massengale Park, St. Simon public beach, Gould’s Inlet, 16th Street Access, Coastguard Station, Little St. Simons, Sea Island Beach, Neptune Park, and more.

Beach Parks at St. Simons

Georgia’s huge Oak trees and vast green lawns are gorgeous near St. Simons and the parks offer beautiful views of nature.

Massengale Park

This park overlooks the beach, and there are lots of clean bathrooms and ample parking. There are shaded areas and playgrounds for children too. It’s a bit of a hike once you park to get to the beach, though, so be prepared to walk.

Neptune Park

This park is at the Southernmost tip of St. Simons in Pier Village. It has a beach-side boardwalk, giant Oak trees, playground, shaded areas, and

Mallary & Kings Park

At the far North of St. Simons, you’ll find these two adjoined parks that offer playgrounds shaded by large oak trees, basketball courts, tennis courts, shuffleboard, picnic areas, concession buildings, grilling stations, and more.

Shopping & Dining at St. Simons

Charming shops abound at Pier Village in St. Simons, located on the south end. This is the island’s downtown social hub, and popular destination for shopping as well as dining with picnic areas and shops that overlook the ocean, a fishing pier, a public library, and even a theatre.

Museums at St. Simons

The St. Simons Lighthouse Museum is a popular tourist destination, located near the village pier. It was built in 1872 to replace the original lighthouse built in 1810 by James Gould from Massachusetts, the first lighthouse keeper. The lighthouse is still functioning today and is one of only five surviving lighthouse towers that remain after the Civil War.

Golfing at St. Simons

Golf has a long history in St. Simons, starting with the late 19th-century millionaire’s club that pitted players against one another for sports and competitive tournaments. Eventually, the world’s most famous golf course designers put their stamp on St. Simons, including Clyde Johnston, Tom Fazio, and Rees Jones. The Golden Isles are now a world-renown golf destination, and high-end hotels line the many 18 and 9-hole courses available to cater to their popularity.

Summing it Up: Vacation at St. Simons?

Though St. Simons Island water quality due to bacterial contamination has been an issue in the past, the many beaches and their water are carefully watched now, supported by federal grants. There are numerous beaches that are perfectly safe to enjoy. In addition to water-centric activities, there are numerous additional things to do that make St. Simon’s completely worth the trip. From golfing at world-renowned courses to walking the beach boardwalks to dining and shopping in Pier Village, St. Simon’s doesn’t disappoint looking for the mossy Oaks and quaint character that only a Georgia island can provide.