A Gem Within a Gem

A Gem Within a Gem

By: Phil Pyle

There is no lack of history on St. Simons Island. From pre-colonial Native American inhabitation to Spanish occupation, and from the American Revolution to antebellum plantation life and from Civil War battles to World War II battles – yes, German U-boats sank two U.S. tankers just off the coast of St. Simons Island – the area has many roots in American history, and its proud residents take careful steps to preserve them, even quite literally.

When George Stewart and his wife Michelle began renovating a 1930s beach cottage near the historic parks, Lighthouse and oceanfront Village districts, their key concern was not to disturb the indigenous vegetation and trees. The towering live oaks around St. Simon’s were so prized for their strong wood as far back as 1812 when they were harvested and shipped to Boston to help build the U.S.S. Constitution, giving her the nickname “Old Ironsides.” Despite having strong wood, as with any plant or tree, their roots are fragile and vulnerable, so the meticulous renovation planning of what was to be the Village In and Pub was designed around their root systems. Hence, not a single tree was harmed or removed from the premises. In fact, the parking area was laid not with concrete pavement but with grass and environment-friendly shell pave, which also serves to protect the trees’ roots and help control water runoff. It is no surprise that the Stewarts were granted a “Good Developer Award” by the island’s environmental protection and conservation group Residents United for Planning and Action.

Though St. Simons is rife with expansive chain hotels and resorts, many travelers as of late are venturing off the beaten path and discovering unique, charming boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns. The Village Inn and Pub is exactly that. The architecture of the Inn keeps in line with the 1930s theme of the original cottage, though the Inn and its rooms are fully equipped with all the modern conveniences travelers come to expect. Therein lies the duality that attracts not only travelers looking for something unique and quaint but also corporations looking for exciting places to hold meetings or retreats, wedding parties wanting a special memory and locals simply wanting a relaxing place to have a cocktail and listen to live music.

Speaking of the latter, the centerpiece of the Inn is the Beach Cottage, where the pub of the Village Inn and Pub is located. One look at the beautiful solid mahogany bar – imported from England, where they know a thing or two about pubs – along with the cottage’s original 1930s stone fireplace, and there is no wonder why this is a favorite spot for locals and guests alike. The Pub opens at 5 p.m. daily and offers a wide selection of beer, fine wines and cocktails – the Wild Orchid Martini is their signature drink – and on weekends, the Pub is an ideal place for patrons to enjoy their libation of choice along with live music.

In the courtyard is a sparkling tropical pool, and overlooking the pool on the sun porch is where continental breakfast is served daily. Another unique element of the Village Inn and Pub that is a testament to the Stewart’s original and thoughtful approach to inn-keeping is the design of the rooms themselves. The Inn offers 28 rooms, but as any returning guest would attest, no two rooms are alike. Each room – each with a private bath, TV and WiFi – is named after a specific person who has important ties to St. Simon’s Island’s history. As Director of Sales, Missy Brandt, explains, “Each of our rooms here at the Inn is named after a famous or infamous person in St. Simons Island’s history. Each guest will receive a little history in their room that will let them know the story. Some of the famous people our rooms are named after are Eugenia Price, a famous author, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, and Sidney Lanier, poet, and they all have ties here to St. Simons Island.”

After checking in and enjoying a peaceful coffee and muffin by the pool, what is there to do before returning later for a sunset cocktail? There are two types of destination travelers. The majority decides upon a locale and then chooses accommodations, but there is a slim minority who find themselves, through no choice of their own, tied to an accommodation in a locale with which they may not be familiar, for example, members of a wedding party or company employees on a business trip. In these cases, people will find that staying at the Village Inn and Pub is likely the best choice someone else ever made for them. Besides the accommodations, the Inn sits in a prime location for venturing out and seeing the best of what St. Simons Island has to offer. “What separates us from other hotels and resorts is our proximity to the village area, and to the pier and to the lighthouse,” says Missy Brandt from the Village Inn and Pub, and that is no understatement. All of the above are within 300 yards of the Inn.

The Lighthouse is a recently restored functional lighthouse, as the name implies, dating back to the late 1800s (the original lighthouse on the island was built in 1802 but destroyed during the Civil War.) The current lighthouse, restored by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, contains a museum to showcase the history of the lighthouse, the historic Coast Guard station and natural history of the surrounding areas. Thanks to the ocean views and the Historical Society’s beautifully managed grounds, the Lighthouse is also a premier location for weddings and corporate events.

Within sight of the Lighthouse is the St. Simons Pier, which is outfitted with outdoor lighting, making for a relaxing evening stroll. From the pier, one might glimpse the North Atlantic right whales in their seasonal migration or the plentiful dolphin that frequent the waters year round.

Also as the name implies, Pier Village is adjacent to the Pier and houses a multitude of unique boutique clothing shops; galleries of local artists; coffeehouses; candy shops; bookstores; fine and casual beachwear; and non-chain restaurants, including, of course, a great offering of seafood. Also, for those wanting to rent a bike or get a broader view of St. Simons Island from a trolley or charter boat – or those who dare to take a ghost tour – the Village is the place to reserve a seat.

If children are in tow, an ideal respite from the “grown up” activities is Neptune Park, also adjacent to the Pier. Here, families can enjoy miniature golf, swimming for all ages in the Fun Zone pool, and a safe and state-of-the-art playground. Needless to say, the beaches at St. Simons are ideal for families, as shallow tide pools and sand bars are perfect for kids. Within a short drive are the historical Fort Frederica, golf courses and other outdoor activities opportunities, such as kayaking through the marsh. After spending a day taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of St. Simons Island, the Village Inn and Pub is the perfect place to unwind after dinner, have a drink with friends at the Pub – or make new friends – and get a great night’s rest.

The historical architecture and ambience of the Inn give a sense of stepping back in time and being close to St. Simons history. Just as St. Simons Island is a beautiful, friendly and unique gem along our Atlanta coast, the Village Inn and Pub is a beautiful, friendly and unique gem within a gem.