by Carmel L. Mooney
One of our best family vacations was to the Golden Isles of Georgia. We arrived in the mid-afternoon affording us time to enjoy the gorgeous grounds and beautiful, several-hundred-year-old majestic oaks covered in Spanish Moss, surrounding the pool at our hotel.
The Saint Simons Island Best Western was a truly beautiful hotel property complete with lovely architecture, spacious grounds, a gazebo, a massive pool, and all the amenities we could need. It’s unusual to find a hotel that kids rave about for months, but this was one.
It was our first time to the Golden Isles nestled on the Georgia coast between Savannah and Jacksonville. Brunswick and four barrier islands make up these magnificent jewels.
In the morning we visited the lighthouse on St. Simons Island and we hiked numerous nearby nature trails which allowed us to see several historic churches and monuments dating back to the 1700s. We stopped in a couple of art studios and were pleased to see how friendly and talented the locals were and very happy to share tidbits of history and offer suggestions for our little getaway.
By lunch, we had worked up an appetite and enjoyed the best crab cake sandwiches ever at a waterfront café on the Jekyll Harbor Marina on Jekyll Island. Even the iced tea was strong, full-bodied, and flavorful, not for the faint-hearted.
Later we toured the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Hospital, where we watched surgery being performed by skilled doctors on sick and injured sea turtles, some huge and some very old. We saw rescued turtles in tanks, all with fascinating histories and backgrounds, and they seemed to understand instinctively the care and compassion they were receiving.
The pinnacle of our day was a Shrimpin’ charter on the Lady Jane Shrimp Boat. Our crew caught lots of fascinating creatures in the nets, which were dragged up three separate times for all the kids to meet and explore the diverse catch with each drag. My tween daughter loved the hands-on experience as she bounced puffer fish like rubber balls and petted tiny sharks.
We saw and touched bonnethead sharks, ancient horseshoe crabs, silver eels, pufferfish, squid, rays, skates, and naturally, lots of shrimp were sorted out from the rest and cooked dockside for our enjoyment. The competent crew taught us a little about each species before throwing back the specimens, except for our shrimp dinner of course.
Back at the hotel that night we were lulled to sleep by the numerous huge bullfrogs happily serenading us throughout the grounds, as we dreamed of our next trip to such a beautiful and unique place.
Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples.