By Kathy M. Newbern and J.S. Fletcher©
(Part 1 in a Series)
Have you ever visited a place and quickly realized you could see yourself living there? That’s what happened on our first trip to St. Simons Island recently, where we stayed a few nights at the historic The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, circa 1935.
This coastal area of Georgia goes by the moniker The Golden Isles, and we promptly recognized why – both the rising and setting sun create incredible moments on these marsh-laden and oceanfront barrier islands.
In addition to St. Simons, The Golden Isles encompass Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Brunswick and Jekyll Island (which we’ll also report on here).
Our stay at the King and Prince Resort was last-minute to break up a 10-hour drive post-cruise from Port Everglades. After six hours on the road, unwinding and relaxing were high priorities. Our beautifully appointed oceanfront king room did the trick.
The room, located in the Oceanfront Building, was spacious and comfortable featuring a writing desk (plenty of available electrical outlets for charging all our electronics) plus loveseat and coffee table. The bed was high quality with plush linens; the coastal décor attractive.
The pièce de résistance, though, was the incredible view of the long stretch of beach and the majestic Atlantic beyond visible from the large, sliding glass door that opened onto a balcony overlooking the resort’s pool and sun deck areas. That vista would afford us a spectacular moonrise over the palm trees as well as a blazing sunrise the next morning. First, however, we were re-energized by the call to explore. So cameras in hand, we hit the beach to follow the sun setting over the St. Simons Sound.
There was a photograph waiting at every turn, from the shorebirds to the spit of land they occupied, exposed most of the time, to curvy sculptures the retreating waves had left behind in moist, firm sand. (See these views in the accompanying slideshow and short video.)
Other walkers were taking advantage of the late day, too. We chased down the sun – unintentionally powerwalking on the beach – as the orange orb was moving lower toward the horizon. From our vantage point, sunset was to the right of the main span of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge. That sunset certainly ranks among the best we’ve seen in the world.
Such solar and lunar events are made possible here thanks to the unique position of this area of the Atlantic coast, which is the most western part of the East Coast – on a map, resting south of Ohio. Proof of the possibilities came the next morning when the golden sky of the rising sun over the ocean greeted us to start one perfect day (which we’ll cover in the Getting to Know St. Simons portion of this series).
We got a good introduction to the area and learned some of the storied history of the resort over breakfast with affable Sales and Marketing Director Bud St. Pierre. We immediately agreed with his statement that the area stands out for its natural beauty. He shared his cell phone pictures of sunrises on the marsh while we shared our sunset shots.
“One guest,” he confided, “stayed up all night just to look at the moon and the stars with no city lights. People (also) love exploring neighborhoods.” We took his suggestion the next day after renting bikes from Ocean Motion Surf Company, a walkable few blocks from the resort. St. Pierre also suggests guests opt for one of the popular trolley tours.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Historic Hotel of America, The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort originally opened as a private dance club. Friends of owners Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn coined its name based on the “regal atmosphere.” The friends apparently found it fit for royalty with its “fashionable parlors, bar, ballroom, ladies’ lounge, card room, outdoor palm garden and elaborate beachfront boardwalk,” according to a resort news release. There’s one wall of memorabilia just off the lobby that’s fun to explore.
That wall, in part, describes a fascinating time in the resort’s history – when German U-boats were sighted off the coast in 1942. Just after, the by-then hotel closed to the public so the Navy could house personnel of NAS St. Simons and set up a radar station on the property. That radar station inspired the name of the resort’s Echo Restaurant, which is the island’s only oceanfront eatery today.
After the war, The King and Prince Hotel reopened. There have been various improvements in succeeding decades including the most recent 2013-14 improvements that have revealed a welcoming, marble lobby entryway with soaring atrium. A “living room” is located off the restaurant bar area – all open – and features a fireplace as well as a row of computer stations, artfully arranged in coastal décor. The renovations kept the decidedly Mediterranean architecture featuring the red-barrel-tiled roof, archways, turrets and towering palms throughout the property.
Accommodations & Recreation
The pet-friendly resort features numerous accommodation options from hotel rooms to two- and three-bedroom villas and stand-alone beach cottages and even a five-bedroom house. Guests stay in the Oleander Building, Historic Building, Oceanfront Building or in Beach Villas and Resort Residences.
In addition to the boardwalk-flanked beach and the clay tennis courts, The King and Prince Golf Course recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. The 18-hole, Par 72 course was designed by Joe Lee and redesigned in 2009 in a multi-million dollar undertaking headed by course architect Billy Fuller. It’s rated among the Top 50 in the U.S. and features stunning views of Spanish-moss-draped live oaks, lakes, lagoons and tidal marshes.
A separate Royal Treatment Cottage is devoted to spa services.
In Summer 2015, The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort earned five awards from the area magazine Elegant Island Living including Best Hotel, Best View from a Restaurant, Best Restaurant with a Beach Vibe, Best Golf Course and Best Massage. The property (three-star rated) was also added to the Southern Living Hotel Collection (the only one in Georgia) in 2014. St. Simons Island itself has been cited as one of America’s best winter beaches, and in 2014, Travel+Leisure called St. Simons one of America’s most romantic towns.
That’s easy to understand: We fell in love with it.
Coming Up: In Parts 2 and 3 of this series, we explore the island by bike including stops at Neptune Park, the town pier and nearby lighthouse, then cover dining at the resort including a reveal of the property’s historic connection to a North Carolina company. Hint: Stained glass is involved.
If You’re Going: Just 15 minutes off I-95, the oceanfront King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort is located at 201 Arnold Rd., St. Simons Island, GA. In addition to family and couples’ getaways, it’s popular for business conferences, meetings, weddings and special events with its 10,000 square feet of function space. For reservations, call 800-342-0212 and check online at kindandprince.com, for various package pricing such as Beach, Bed and Breakfast; All About ‘We’; and Kayak Adventure.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy:
• Other stories by Kathy M. Newbern, Luxury Travel Examiner
• Stories by JS Fletcher, International Travel Examiner
Luxury Travel Examiners Kathy M Newbern and spouse J.S. Fletcher report on luxury destinations, spas and cruising around the globe. They are award-winning members of the Society of American Travel Writers and created YourSpaReport.com and YourNovel.com their personalized romance novel business. Their travels inspire many of their book settings.