Local's Guide to Georgia Florida Weekend in St. Simons Island, Georgia
Every Halloween weekend, thousands of football fans descend on the Golden Isles for the anticipated brawl between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the University of Florida Gators. This match-up has been going on since 1915 and has been hosted in Jacksonville, Florida since 1933. Being in such close proximity to Jacksonville, many UGA fans, alums, and students congregate in St. Simons Island for the festivities. UGA's fall break typically coincides with this event, causing a circus-like caravan of antsy coeds sitting in traffic along Highway 15 heading for the coast after Wednesday’s classes.
I am a proud University of Georgia alum, but football wasn’t a big deal to me in undergrad or graduate school. I enjoy the fanfare of football, but if the Bulldogs lose, it's not gonna ruin my day. Even if you’re not a huge football fan and don’t mind the crowds, this is a really fun weekend for a mini beach vacay in the Golden Isles.
2018 update: I have to say now that I have moved away from the South, I feel really nostalgic about football. It reminds me of good times in Athens with friends and all of the road trips I took home to St. Simons Island to revel in the Georgia Florida madness with out of town friends. It doesn’t hurt that the Bulldogs have been really good the past couple of years.
Guide to GA/FL weekend in St. Simons Island
Where to Eat over Georgia Florida Weekend
Wake Up | 256 Redfern Village - If you are gonna make it through this weekend, you're gonna need a lot of coffee! Morning, afternoon, or at night Wake Up Coffee in Redfern Village is my go-to. Lots of yummy baked goods, fair trade coffee, teas, and plenty of seating in case you need to catch up on emails before the weekend’s non stop fun. They now have a location in downtown Brunswick too in case you need a pick me up before crossing the causeway.
Palm Coast Coffee | 318 Mallery St - Staying near the Village? Palm Coast Coffee is on the main drag with all your coffee shop favorites, organic teas, and baked goodness. Grab a cup and a seat on the porch and enjoy the people watching. Once the sun goes down, this spot also turns into a bar with live music.
If you have ever been to SSI, then you know the majority of your vacay revolves around eating. For you newbies, pace yourself and prepare to gorge.
Cafe Frederica | 110 Sylvan Blvd: If you’re nursing a hangover or need to fuel up for a long day of shopping, this is the place. My go-to is scrambled eggs with grapefruit, a side of bacon and toast. Feeling sweet? Go for the blueberry pancakes or the cinnamon roll (it's HUGE).
Sandy Bottom Bagels | 242 Retreat Village - yummy bagels with homemade spreads like lox spread, garden veggie, and blueberry.
Sweet Mamas | 98 Retreat Village - a local bakery with monster-sized breakfast sandwiches and muffins. If you can’t decide, get a sackful of pork pops, greasy little sausage and bacon stuffed biscuits that are sure to cure any hangover.
Casual Lunch & Dinner Options
This weekend is a big party so you may want to skip the fine dining and keep it casual. All of these spots are flip flop friendly and easy to bike to from anywhere on the island with the exception of Indigo Coastal Shanty. It is so worth the trip to Brunswick.
Gnat's Landing | 310 Redfern Village - Local favorite bar & grill with a huge patio. I love the fried oysters if I’m snacking; if I’m starving I go with a burger.
Bubba Garcias | 200 Redfern Village- Laidback Tex-Mex food with excellent drinks. Margaritas are too sweet for me so I usually get the Paloma with club soda and grapefruit juice. I love all of their food but the Jerk Shrimp Taco Salad (with cilantro vinaigrette) is so good.
Southern Soul | 2020 Demere Rd - Pulled pork sammie smothered in sauce (I’m a Carolina or Bama Sauce person) or smoked chicken salad sandwich is great for lunch. Take it to go and head to the beach.
The Half Shell | 504 Beachview Dr - Casual raw bar in the heart of the Village. I love hanging out here with a small group to snack on oysters and peel and eat shrimp before a little bar hopping.
Indigo Coastal Shanty | 1402 Reynolds St, Brunswick, GA - If you need a break from the crowds of the island, head to the mainland and enjoy some delicious Caribbean cuisine on the Shanty’s deck. Jerk anything rules here.
Regardless of the cuisine served, most SSI restaurants are accustomed to the"Island Style" dress of visitors and locals alike. If you want to kick it up a notch and get out of your bathing suit, check out one of these swankier spots.
Delaney's Bistro & Bar | 3415 Frederica Rd - Their entire menu is delicious but if you plan on going out afterward, opt for the tapas menu with dishes like lamb pops and burger sliders. After dinner, skipping dessert is not an option. Choices vary by season but are always delightful. If they have the chocolate bourbon pecan pie or the white chocolate cheesecake, just do it.
Halyards | 55 Cinema Ln - The bar is the best seat in the house IMO. Apps and small plates are the way to go if you plan on bar hopping and there is plenty of variety to please a group. The Mussels & Chorizo are my favorite to share (or not).
Shopping, Prepare Your Wallet for Monster Sales
This weekend boasts plenty of sidewalk/tent sales because of the influx of visitors. Don't be dissuaded by the crowds though, most of the sales are absolutely worth waiting in line for a dressing room.
Tibi Outlet | 28 Market St Suite 120 - This is my first stop of the weekend. During GA/FL weekend they typically a huge sale and stay open throughout the weekend making it convenient for visitors and locals to come shop. The designer, Amy Smilovic, is a fellow UGA alum and grew up in St. Simons and was kind enough to bless us with the outlet. The prices are much friendlier than what you’ll find in other boutiques and they often have runway samples!
Cloth & Label | 3105 Frederica Rd - Super cool boho boutique carrying lines like NSF, Amo, and Sundry
Viola's Market | 266 Redfern Village - One of my all-time favorite shops with antiques and accessories for your home and garden.
Two Friends | 295 Redfern Village - Cute and colorful shop with lots of fun gifts and casual clothing. They have fun events and sales going on during GA FL Weekend.
Market at Sea Island | 351 Sea Island Rd - Lots of yummy regional foods perfect for happy hour or hosting a game-watching party.
Every now and then you and your wallet might get tired from all that shopping; if that happens then head to the beach. You'll be hard-pressed to avoid the craziness on the St. Simons Island beaches. If you're wanting more peace and quiet on your beach walk, I'd head to Sea Island or Jekyll Island's Boneyard Beach.
Where to Watch the Game
Like I said before, watching the game is not of the utmost importance to me. However, I do enjoy the snacks that go along with football. A lot of places have boiled peanuts or oyster roasts happening during the game for free or cheap so you can snack on something without having a table.
The Village: Anywhere in the Village will be a madhouse on game day. But if you can handle it, by all means.
Redfern Village: Bubba Garcias, Gnat’s Landing, and Catch 228 will all have the game on and the beer flowing. These spots will probably be a little less crowded.
If you're watching the game at home, think ahead and order BBQ to go from Southern Soul or stock up on gourmet snacks to create your own tailgate boards at the Sea Island Market.
St. Simons Island Bars for After the Game
There are a lot of bars in St. Simons so these are just a few options if you’re looking for a specific atmosphere or drink. Remember this is a busy weekend in St. Simons, so if you don't like being close to your neighbors, you might think about skipping the late-night scene.
If you're brave…
Craft beer at Bubbas Up (above Bubba Garcias) - They usually have several Georgia offerings like Creature Comforts (Athens) and Wild Heaven (Atlanta) on tap and a good bottle/can list. Grab a seat on the porch for a view of Redfern and some stellar people-watching.
Mellow nightcap at Village Pub at the Village Inn - This restored 1930s beach house turned B&B has a small bar with a beautiful patio, yummy snack mix, and friendly bartenders.
Karaoke at Castaways Lounge - Sing and dance the night away on stage at Castaways. Waffle House is nearby when you’re ready for an All-Star Breakfast.
Whether or not you care about football, this is a fun weekend to experience St. Simons Island.