Outdoor Exploration on Little St. Simons Island

Autumn crept in briefly a few weeks ago, as much as it can in the renegade Southeastern US, where sometimes we spend Christmas in shorts and other times we shiver around backyard bonfires. Our weather from September through April is unpredictable, so you never quite know what weather you’ll get when planning a trip to this region.

Grab a chair and rock away

Grab a chair and rock away

Case in point: I scheduled my first visit to the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island in April on a weekend that saw more rain than any other in 2014 so far. Inches and inches and inches! I was soaked to the gills for the entirety of my stay in South Georgia, and while it was fun in its own way, the deluge prevented me from checking out the majority of Little St. Simons’ natural wonders.

It’s truly an outdoor destination and one I’d rather not explore from the confines of a poncho…

Welcome to The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island

Welcome to The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island

Fast forward to September. I scheduled a return visit to the island and prayed for clear skies.

Ominous clouds on the beach

Ominous clouds on the beach

I didn’t get the clear skies I’d hoped for, but I did get something even better. An early cold front brought rainless clouds and a chill to the air. Perfect for autumnal outdoor explorations.

A ghost crab says hello to Angie Away readers near and far.

A ghost crab says hello to Angie Away readers near and far.

Each day at the Lodge, the island’s naturalists schedule optional activities for the maximum 32 guests, including fishing – surf or river, kayaking excursions, hikes and bike rides.

Today's schedule. Do it all or none of it - totally up to you.

Today’s schedule. Do it all or none of it – totally up to you.

Grab a bike and go for a cruise.

Grab a bike and go for a cruise.

Most items on the schedule are active options, such as exploration by bikes or kayaks of the island’s 10,000 acres of wilderness. You can only access the Lodge by boat, so once you’re out there, you’re truly one of just a couple dozen people within shouting distance.

And that wee human imprint makes wildlife encounters much more likely than you might expect.

Acres of marsh are lush with wildlife

Acres of marsh are lush with wildlife

My favorite moment of this trip: meeting a mama and two baby raccoons while out for a bike ride

My favorite moment of this trip: meeting a mama and two baby raccoons while out for a bike ride

During my brief 2-day trip, I saw a rare chocolate brown deer bounding through the woods, a mama and two baby raccoons, several alligators, a nesting osprey, some screech owls, roseat spoonbills and wood storks, and a whole passel of armadillos.

An osprey protects its nest at the edge of the marsh

An osprey protects its nest at the edge of the marsh

There's a baby gator in this shot - can you spot him?

There’s a baby gator in this shot – can you spot him?

When I think back to my childhood, I realize that some of the best times I had were those spent outdoors with my brother. We didn’t have a timetable or a schedule or a plan, we just fearlessly explored our backyard, got dirty and came inside when the street lights came on.

Spending the weekend in the great outdoors of Little St. Simons Island felt like the grown-up version of exploring my backyard.

Choose a path and a bike and the day is yours

Choose a path and a bike and the day is yours

But watch out for cactus!

But watch out for cactus!

Shipwrecked horseshoe crabs littered the battered beach

Shipwrecked horseshoe crabs on the battered beach

A view across the marsh, which connects the forest to the beach

A view across the marsh, which connects the forest to the sea

Feeling tired and not up to biking? Hop in the back of a truck for a naturalist-guided excursion

Feeling tired and not up to biking? Hop in the back of a truck for a naturalist-guided excursion

While Little St. Simons is perfect for the outdoor adventurer, it’s also got an element of rustic luxury that I certainly never found in my childhood. After a full, active day of biking and hiking and kayaking and critter-spotting, I loved coming home to the main dining room where tables are set family style. Meeting new people and conversing over dinner and wine (all included in the price!) was a highlight of every day.

Dinner time!

Dinner time!

Cuisine at Little St. Simons is varied, plentiful and delicious.

Cuisine at Little St. Simons is varied, plentiful and delicious.

After a day of exploring the marsh, the woods and the beach, guests come to cocktail hour absolutely ravenous. There were rarely leftovers after our meals as the hungry and active bunch could really pack away the calories after covering miles and miles throughout the day.

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And fortunately for the active clientele, bedtime comes early on this island. There are no TVs to entertain, so once the evening’s final naturalist program is concluded, most guests wind down with a book by the fire or a glass of wine and a rocking chair.

Pour yourself a drink... it's all included!

Pour yourself a drink… it’s all included!

Storytelling among guests is common in the main lodge

Storytelling among guests is common in the main lodge

Of course I have to mention downsides, though having now visited the island twice, I’m happy to report there are few. The big issue for anyone spending time in the marshy wetlands of South Georgia is the abundance of mosquitos, but the Lodge provides ample repellant, so you’re mostly covered. Still, it is helpful to bring insect-repellant clothing if you have it, and long sleeves & pants for days spent exploring the woods & marsh.

The common area at the Helen House

The common area at the Helen House

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Perfect for a much-needed escape from hustle and bustle, or perhaps a family reunion or even just a romantic outdoorsy getaway, The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island is one of my top picks for a weekend trip from Jacksonville.

So what do you think about Little St. Simons? Would you spend a weekend exploring the woods and looking for alligators?

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Thanks to the Lodge for hosting my stay and providing such perfect weather! All opinions are my own.

COME AWAY WITH ME!
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