It's a coastal gem.

By J I Baker

The largest of Georgia's Golden Isles, St. Simons Island lies just across the Marshes of Glynn, made famous by poet Sidney Lanier, who called them "a world of marsh that borders a world of sea." These days, it's also a world of commerce, with plenty of diversions and a wide variety of excellent cuisine. But, hey, you came to the beach—you want seafood, right? There are so many options worth recommending here, but start with Crabdaddy's Seafood Grill and The Crab Trap, neighboring joints on the island's southern end. Locals argue over their relative merits, but Crabdaddy's is our favorite, combining a casual family vibe with the slightly raucous feeling of a friendly dive bar.

Around the corner, you'll find an actual dive bar in Beachcomber BBQ & Grill. Just don't ask barkeep George what kind of wine he serves or if they offer beer on tap (no). "What did you expect?" he'll say. "It's a barbecue joint." Here, locals drink Heineken, play keno, and feast on ribs that rival those of Southern Soul Barbecue, Beachcomber's more famous counterpart. Some say Beachcomber is the better of the two. If you have a bone (or a whole plate of them) to pick with this hog heresy, consider that one of Southern Soul's co-owners has been rumored to eat at Beachcomber.

Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island
Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Had your fill of ribs? Try the pies at Sal's Neighborhood Pizzeria; the doughnuts and freshly ground beef patties at Certified Burgers & Beverage; or more upscale options at Halyards, Tramici Neighborhood Italian, Delaney's Bistro, and Georgia Sea Grill.

If you're craving red meat, head to Bennie's Red Barn, the island's oldest restaurant. Located in (you guessed it) a red barn, Bennie's is the place for steak, but save room for the signature Raccoon Frozen Cocktail, a dessert drink with spiked chocolate ice cream. Breakfast is the specialty at Palmer's Village Cafe, offering Buddy's Banana Pudding Pancakes and a Chix Pot Pie omelet stuffed with crumbled biscuits. Sweet Mama's serves pastries, cakes, and the Pork Pop (a mini biscuit with bacon, cheese, and sausage that's a local favorite—and a bargain at 65 cents each). Go early. They sell out fast.

East Beach on St. Simons Island
East Beach on St. Simons Island is the perfect spot to chill in a chair or play in the surf.
| Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Peter Frank Edwards

You'll find many lodging options on St. Simons, but The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, a member of the Southern Living Hotel Collection, is one of the only oceanfront hotels. Perched on East Beach, a stretch of the island's finest waterfront, the elegant, over-80-year-old venue is also near Mallery Street, one of the area's two main drags (the other is Redfern Village).

Christ Church, Frederica on St. Simons Island
Novelist Eugenia Price is buried in the cemetery at Christ Church, Frederica.
| Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Peter Frank Edwards

From there, visit the famed St. Simons Lighthouse Museum or catch a trolley tour of the island's historic highlights. You'll stop at sites like Fort Frederica National Monument; Christ Church, Frederica, where Eugenia Price (who wrote novels about the area) is buried; and Ebos Landing, where a group of Africans drowned themselves rather than be enslaved in 1803. (It's believed to be haunted.)