If you’re looking for a gorgeous island getaway, you might assume that you must fly to some far-off exotic locale like Bali or the Caribbean. However, there’s actually some excellent sand and surf much closer to home. Southern residents can vacation at St. Simons Island, Georgia. This small barrier island, just north of Jacksonville, Florida, and south of Savannah, Georgia, is packed with lush scenery and amenities, so whether you’re traveling for a few days or a couple of weeks, you’ll be enjoying every moment.
Even better, St. Simons is part of Georgia’s “Golden Isles,” which includes Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Brunswick. Although this guide will focus on places to stay in St. Simons, we’ll talk about nearby activities and amenities.
Although the island is relatively small, it has some distinct sections that can make your stay even more pleasurable. So, to help you plan your getaway more efficiently, we’ll break down the various areas and what you can do, and where you can stay in each locale. For an extra unique vibe on your beach trip, we suggest you skip the St. Simons Island hotels and instead go for private vacation rental properties fit for kings.
Join us for this tour of St. Simons Island.
As the name suggests, East Beach is on the island’s southeastern edge. Vacation properties here are incredible, with most of them offering oceanside views. Another selling point of East Beach is that it’s a dog-friendly area, so feel free to bring your fur babies along.
Top Vacation Rentals in East Beach
This rental property will make you feel like you’re staying on the Italian Riviera and can top any luxury hotel in the area. This upscale and modern vacation home has two floors and a rooftop deck to watch the sunrise and set every day during your trip. While you can’t see the beach from the roof, you can watch the ocean, and East Beach is just a few minutes’ walks down the road.
The home also comes with a saltwater swimming pool so that you can get the beach experience without leaving the property. While it doesn’t have a hot tub, the heated pool will be enough to ease your stress. You’ll be able to spot birds and other wildlife from the back patio or roof deck, so bring some binoculars to get a better view.
This rental is dog-friendly, so you and your pet can take advantage of everything East Beach has to offer. Best of all, the area is secluded and quiet – your own slice of paradise.
If you really want to feel like you’re living in tropical luxury, the Tower House is an excellent choice. With six bedrooms and oceanfront views, you’re sure to cherish every second of your stay. The only problem is that the home is so lovely you might not want to venture outside, even though you’re within walking distance to the beach.
One of the primary features of this house is the covered lanai outback. This area is perfect for dining or watching the sunset, either by yourself or with your family. Even if the weather gets a bit wet and windy, the dining room also has giant windows to help you see out toward the beach.
This rental spans three floors, so even if you’re traveling with lots of people, there’s more than enough room for everyone. There’s also a chef’s kitchen with plenty of space to prepare large meals for both travelers and guests you meet during your stay.
Beachview vs. Marshview
One notable element of St. Simons Island is its two distinct sides. The southern end of the island offers tons of beachfront properties and ocean views. The northern side, however, faces the marshlands and Guale Preserve. While such a small island, both options will provide you will completely different vacation vibes, from strolling beneath the live oaks surrounded by Spanish moss and the salt marsh, to strolling in the sand with the waves lapping at your ankles.
For the most part, vacation rentals will be on the southern end of the island, but you can also find some incredible places to stay in the north. If it’s your first time at St. Simons, we recommend beach view properties. Then, after you’ve experienced the island, you can decide if you want to be closer to the marsh.
Top Beachview Vacation Rentals
If you’re coming to St. Simons for sand and surf, you can’t do much better than beachside access. This rental property has a dedicated stairway to the water, so you can come and go as you please without worrying about parking or fighting other people for the best spot to relax. It’ll feel like you’re very own beach club that only you have access to!
While the ocean is great for the wave experience, it can be even more relaxing to sit by the outdoor pool and watch the sunrise or set. This way, you can still stay wet without the threat of sand or ocean creatures in your swim trunks.
While the home’s exterior is incredible, the inside is just as stunning. This rental comes with a fitness center (complete with a sauna), its own motor court that can fit up to 10 vehicles, and a sunroom that’s perfect for morning meals.
Also, did we mention that this home has six bedrooms, all with their own bathrooms? Overall, you can fit up to 14 people here without feeling cramped or crowded.
Have you ever wanted to feel like you’re staying at a beachside palace? If so, Village Villa is the vacation rental for you. This home is decked out with everything to make you feel like royalty. The décor and atmosphere are decidedly Old World, complete with statues, old-fashioned furniture, and ornate stonework throughout the house.
When you want to view the beach or the ocean, all you have to do is step outside on either the patio or the second-floor deck. The upper level makes you feel like you’re at a centuries-old villa overlooking the Mediterranean. The bottom level is perfect for afternoon or evening gatherings since it has lounge seating and a fire pit. There are no bad views from Village Villa, and you’ll feel your stress and worries just melt away.
Top Marshview Vacation Rental
The Villas at Gascoigne is a new condo community located steps away from Gascoigne Park. This park is a hidden gem in the area, perfect for relaxing under the oak trees and enjoying the tranquility of the Frederica River, from fishing to kayaking.
Although you might associate a condo with only having a kitchenette, this brand new property has a big enough kitchen for you to cook for your entire family, plus some.
It’s located near the mainland, so provides easy access to those that want to be able to get on and off the island without much hassle. It’s also closely located to the protected forests on St. Simons and historic sites, like the famous Fort Frederica National Monument
Although being next to the beach is pretty impressive, all areas of St. Simons Island are fantastic. As you head further inland, you’ll get to experience island life just as the locals do. Also, don’t worry about being too far from the beach – since the island is so small, you’re never more than a few minutes away.
The main thoroughfares on St. Simons include Ocean Blvd, King’s Way, and Frederica Blvd. We’ll discuss the top things to do on the island later, but being closer inland puts you right next to the action.
Top Village Area Vacation Rentals
Just north of Ocean Blvd sits this massive two-story vacation rental that comfortably sleeps up to 12 people. However, even if you’re not traveling with other families, having so much space can make your vacation feel even more magical. Everyone has room to do what they want, so each person can have their own privacy when needed.
Another selling point of this rental is the abundance of trees and greenery on the property. Even though you’re close to the “urban” areas of St. Simons, you’ll feel like you’re tucked away in your own private world.
Inside, the home is bright and cheerful, with natural sunlight coming in from every angle. You only need to turn the lights on at night since the place is so well-lit during the day. Also, even though the home has hardwood floors, it’s dog-friendly, so bring Fido along for the trip. He can even have his own room.
As a bungalow-style house, this rental is one of the smallest options on this list. However, if you’re not traveling with tons of other guests, staying in something a bit more cozy and comfortable is nice. From a smooth check-in process to free wifi, you’ll have everything you need, plus some, in this centrally located bungalow.
This rental home is tucked north of the village district, but the hustle and bustle of the tourist town are just a few minutes away. If you’re feeling really industrious, you could walk down and spend a few hours before walking back to the house.
Another selling point of this rental is the backyard patio with seating and a fire pit. As the sun goes down, you can eat meals outback, courtesy of the gas grill provided. Then, sit back and relax as you share stories and food and look at the stunning night sky.
What to Do on St. Simons Island, Georgia
Once you determine where you’re staying on the island, the next step is to find some things to do. Fortunately, there are many activities, both on St. Simons and the rest of the Golden Isles. During your visit, be sure to check out some of the incredible restaurants and explore the various outdoor activities. Here are some of our favorite things to do in the area.
Dining on St. Simon’s Island
Just as there are distinct areas where you can stay, the dining options vary at St. Simon’s, depending on where you are.
The best place to grab a bite to eat is the Pier Village, which is along Mallery St by King’s Way. There, you can find all kinds of restaurants, bars, and seafood shacks to whet your appetite and fill your belly.
Since St. Simon’s Island is family-friendly, there are tons of places to bring kids, but there’s also fine dining around. Some top hotspots in Pier Village include:
- Brogen’s Bar and Grill – Brogen’s is one of those old-school places you come to when you want to share a pint with friends or eat a meal with the family. Since it’s a beach-adjacent restaurant, you get a mix of local flavors and traditional dishes. Highlights include sandwiches, burgers, and seafood. However, if you’re looking for something healthy, try one of Brogen’s signature salads.
- The Half Shell at the Pier – If you’re going to eat by a fishing pier, you have to sample some freshly-caught seafood. One item you’ll notice on many menus is Georgia shrimp, which are caught off the coast and taste superb. This place also offers oysters, ceviche, fish tacos, and various sandwiches.
- Palmer’s Village Cafe – If you’re a morning person, there are some incredible breakfast and brunch spots on the island. Palmer’s is a local favorite because of its delicious omelet and egg dishes. However, those with a sweet tooth will also appreciate the French toast and pancakes (try them with banana pudding on top!).
If you venture north to the island’s center, you can still find some seafood restaurants, but the area has a lot more variety, including Mexican, Thai, sushi, and good old-fashioned southern barbecue. Some of our favorite places include:
- Southern Soul Barbecue – When you have a hankering for ribs, brisket, or pulled pork, you should come to this award-winning restaurant. The meat falls off the bone, and the sauce is worth the trip by itself. Our mouths are watering just thinking about it.
- Bubba Garcia’s Mexican-Inspired Cantina – Mexican food is always a staple of family-friendly dining, but this place also caters to an older crowd, thanks to its bar and plentiful drink options. Bubba’s blends Mexican, Caribbean, and southern flavors to create unique dishes you can’t find elsewhere. For example, the jerk chicken burrito served with black beans and pineapple.
- Salata – Just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean you need to be unhealthy. Salata allows you to create your own salad from scratch, so it’s just as delicious and nutritious as you want it to be.
Attractions on St. Simons Island
Although you might plan to spend most of your time on the beach or chowing down on some delicious food, there are quite a few things to do on the island and in the greater Georgia coast area. Whether you like to explore the history, nature, or modern attractions, Saint Simons Island has it all. Here’s a rundown of our top spots to visit:
- Neptune Park – Swimming or lounging in a pool is not quite fun enough for the whole family. Instead, why not check out the Fun Zone Water Park at Neptune Park? You’ll find slides and water activities for all ages, making it the perfect way to spend your days on the island.
- Pinball Palace – If you’re a pinball wizard, you need to make a pilgrimage to Pinball Palace. This place is technically a museum, but you get to play with all the machines, so it’s interactive history at its finest! This museum is on Brunswick Island, which is super close to St. Simons. Bring the kids and see how long you can play before your hands get tired. Beyond pinball, the location also offers arcade games and a bounce house.
- Emerald Princess Casino – Gambling is not legal in Georgia, so you won’t find any casinos within the state. However, the laws are different out on the water, which is why the Emerald Princess is such an attractive jewel. Book your stay aboard the world-class boat and try your luck at various casino games. The Princess has craps, blackjack, poker, roulette, and slot machines galore. The ship also has a cafe so you can eat between rounds. Plus, the views of the water are spectacular. You can catch the boat on the northern tip of Jekyll Island.
- Sea Palms Resort Golf Club – There are actually quite a few golf courses in the Golden Isles, but Sea Palms is one of the best options on St. Simons for avid golfers. Since it’s further north, it’s nestled within the marshlands, so you get the best of both worlds. Better yet, the entire course was redeveloped in 2019, so it’s still fresh and relatively brand-new. You can work on your drive at the driving range or just play the spectacular 18 holes. Once you’re finished, be sure to eat and relax at the onsite restaurant.
- St. Simons Lighthouse Museum – The St. Simons lighthouse has been around since 1872, although the current structure was built after the destruction of the original lighthouse during the Civil War. You can learn more about the history and heritage of the site at this museum.
- St. Simons Trolley Island Tours – If you can’t get enough history at the Lighthouse Museum, why not take a guided tour throughout the island and learn more about its past? These tours are lots of fun for all ages, and they’ll show you parts of the island you would otherwise miss. The tour is only 90 minutes, so you can incorporate it into your day pretty easily.
- Georgia Sea Turtle Center – Since you’ll already be next to nature, why not get up close and personal with your favorite sea creatures? The Sea Turtle Center is on Jekyll Island, and it’s the best place for you and your little ones to see these magnificent animals live and in person. The center offers indoor and outdoor activities, and guests of all ages can share in the experience.
As you can see, St. Simons Island is a jam-packed adventure waiting to happen! Book your vacation today and see what you can discover!