About 10 years ago, I began losing track of the myriad times I’ve visited the Golden Isles. It’s understandable, since I began visiting the enchanting strip known as St. Simons several times yearly.

If anyone had asked, I would have said I knew the island well and would then have rambled on with tidbits about this and that. It is, after all, the place by the water that gave birth to my writing career, after I had the remarkably good fortune of meeting bestselling author Eugenia Price in the cemetery of Christ Church when I was 14. In a place where many people’s journey on earth ended, it was there that mine truly began.

If I had been asked about the legendary King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, I would have recalled vividly the chlorine smell of the indoor pool that was within sight of the front desk for many years until the lobby was remodeled. I would have remembered the seafood buffets and the cabana beachfront room where Tink and I had stayed once. We loved the new brightly colored paisley wallpaper so much that the front desk manager had rounded up a piece of a roll for me to bring home in hopes of matching it.

But recently I discovered how pitifully lacking my knowledge is of both the hotel and the island. Oh, how much was hidden behind the moss-covered fringes of a place I love so much.

Bud St. Pierre, the wildly enthusiastic director of sales and marketing for King and Prince, emailed one day with an invitation to attend a media event at the hotel. Bud, having grown up professionally in other grand historic hotels, has been at the King and Prince for almost 17 years, and his love for his job and this St. Simons’ crown jewel only intensifies as time passes. “Please bring Tink,” he wrote. An email from Leigh Cort, who handles the public relations for King and Prince, followed and — since only the cold grasp of death can keep us away from St. Simons — off we went.

Bud and Leigh crammed five days of fun and learning into three; and though we were tired when it was over, it was the best kind of worn-out feeling. Let me share with you what I experienced during those few days so that you — whether an island resident or visitor — can experience fully the magic of St. Simons.

The Grand Tour

  • Do not miss an opportunity to take a trolley or boat tour with Cap Fendig and his crew of fine people including William Lewis and Reid Walker Harris Jr. — Reid’s father, as a state lawmaker, played a key role in protecting the islands in 1970.
  • Savannah Bee uses every variety of honey to make every taste or beauty product possible. They also use it for mead. I had no idea what mead is until I learned in their village store that it’s the oldest form of alcoholic beverage. Older than beer. Older than moonshine, the nectar of my mountain people.
  • Though I already knew this, I rediscovered how delicious the corn-battered Georgia shrimp is at the Georgia Sea Grill. The service is truly a “Y’all come back again” effort.
  • Don’t miss Palmer’s Village Cafe for breakfast, again in the village. This I didn’t know because I rarely get up in time for morning food.
  • Olive oil is a precise science as presented by sommelier Donna MacPherson, owner of Golden Isles Olive Oil. We had a tasting and I discovered that I had quite happily been using rancid olive oil. Now that I know better, I’ll do better.
  • The view from the lighthouse is spectacular, and the variety of the gift shop is impressive.
  • I discovered that The King and Prince was used by the Navy during World War II, after a German U-boat sank two oil tankers in April 1942, near the hotel.
  • Chef Flack at Echo, the restaurant inside The King and Prince, makes the best shrimp and grits I have ever tasted. It’s made with long-cooking stone grits and smothered in cream and butter. The shrimp, of course, comes from the waters just off the coast of the Golden Isles.
  • The best part, though, was the hospitality, kindness, and respect that showered us during this trip. We felt as treasured as the many jewels of the island. It feels extraordinarily good to be so welcomed to my favorite place.

This is part of a series of articles where bestselling author Ronda Rich recalls how she met and fell In love with the Golden Isles and its people.