If you have kids, you know that just taking them somewhere awesome is no guarantee that they will put down the phone, gaming device or whatever their current obsession is. It’s a struggle that more and more families with teenagers and older kids are experiencing. Our Inquisitive TravelingMom found herself constantly pointing out sweeping vistas, cool roadside attractions and more to oblivious children on her recent road trip. Determined to have her family experience more, she found outings on St. Simons Island that her kids just couldn’t ignore.
My family loves the Georgia Coast, but we found ourselves visiting the same favorites year after year. That’s fine for some, but I’m not the Inquisitive TMOM for nothing! I knew there was more of the Golden Isles to explore and I wanted to experience it. We parked ourselves at the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island and set out on a screen-free quest.
Become a Junior Ranger at Fort Frederica
The National Park Service offers a fabulous Junior Ranger program that allows children and tweens an interactive way to explore a park site. A clash in 1742 at Fort Frederica ensured that Georgia would be a British colony instead of a Spanish colony. The Junior Ranger program is for ages 6-12 and varies from park to park, but the Fort Frederica program is award-winning. Their workbook is well-illustrated and full of interesting stories and details about the Fort and subsequent town life. Each child is issued a colonial style hat and a haversack containing items such as a spyglass, compass, a colonial toy and more. These items are turned back in at the end of your visit, but the workbook and Junior Ranger badge is yours to keep.
Take A Walk In The Woods At Cannon’s Point Preserve
Plantation owner Daniel Cannon was gifted this land by General James Oglethorpe, thanking him for helping establish the town of Frederica. Once a busy property, the land was abandoned after the Civil War and left to return to maritime forest. It’s 608 acres are undeveloped and contain multiple ecosystems. You can stay on the main path or branch off to any of the well-marked hiking trails. In addition to the natural beauty and wildlife, you can also see the ruins of an 18th century house, Cannon’s plantation home as well as outbuildings and slave quarters from the early 1800’s. Be sure to pack your water, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray. This facility is a wilderness preserve and the only amenity is a porta-potty at the trail head.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum
Climb the 129 steps of one of only five remaining light towers in Georgia. Originally built in 1810, that structure was destroyed by Confederate forces in 1862 to keep Union forces from being guided to the island. The current structure was built in 1872. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views of not only St. Simons Island but of nearby Jekyll Island as well. The lighthouse is still operational and the light can be seen as far as 23 miles out to sea. At the base of the lighthouse is a museum for exploring. Currently on exhibit at the museum is a display of photographs from the 1930’s documenting historical structures that have vanished from the Georgia coast.
Climb And Play At Neptune Park
If you’re not too worn out from climbing the lighthouse, head to Neptune Park next door to the lighthouse. You’ll find a fun playground for the younger kids, while older kids can explore the adjacent park with massive live oaks that are begging to be climbed. All ages will love the Fun Zone Mini-golf and pool with kid’s splash area. The pool is open seasonally, from May through Labor Day. The playground and mini-golf, however, are open year-round. The park is on the waterfront but there is no beach area. However, there are plenty of picnic tables and room to run!
Search For Tree Spirits
If you have that feeling that someone (or something) is watching you, you could be right. Artist Keith Jennings carved more than 20 images in the iconic oak tree on St. Simons Island. These are the St. Simons Island Tree Spirits. The spirits span from small faces to full-bodied mermaids. Seeking out the Tree Spirits is a fun way to explore the island and brings the fun of a scavenger hunt to your vacation! This is a great free, family activity when people need a break from the beach and the sun. As mentioned, there are more than 20 images but only seven are only public property. You can download a map or visit the Golden Isles Welcome Center for a map. Here’s a hint – the Welcome Center is a great place to spot your first Tree Spirit!
Using these locations and, of course, time on the beautiful beach, I managed to not only keep my kids off screens but worn out! My crowning achievement was my youngest child, age 8, falling asleep at 8:30 one evening. That’s good parenting right there. St. Simons Island offers your family as many or as few activities as your mood allows.