Best Southeast Georgia Retirement Guide – Coastal Retirement Living on St. Simons Island, GA
If you’re looking for a coastal retirement paradise, St. Simons Island is exactly where you need to be. Located on St. Simons Island, complete with untouched coastal beauty found only in a few other places, St. Simons is home to 15,000 beguiled residents. The island is the largest of the four barrier islands known as the Golden Isles along Georgia’s southern coast. The Southern charm, canopy lanes, and long beaches are a draw for many looking to retire away from the hustle and bustle of the big cities. Intertwined with history, the area’s architectural styles include Spanish Mission, Cracker and Tutor Revival while historical landmarks remain from the attempted Spanish invasions, American Revolution battles, German incursions and slave rebellions.
If you’re considering the Golden Isles as your retirement destination, there’s a lot you’ll want to know. Use this comprehensive guide to get you started!
One of the many reasons St. Simons Island is a popular retirement destination for seniors is because of the tax friendliness. In fact, when it comes to tax bases and the cost of living, Georgia is one of the best states for retirees. Here are a few reasons why:
Zero Social Security Tax
Georgia is one of the many states that imposes no tax on social security benefits. Taxable Social Security and Railroad Retirement on the Federal return are exempt from Georgia Income Tax. This is important because social security is relied on by millions of older Americans. No social security tax means more disposable income for retirees on St. Simons Island.
Retirement Income Exclusion
A retirement exclusion is allowed provided the taxpayer is 62 years of age or older, or the taxpayer is totally and permanently disabled. Retirement income includes items such as: interest, dividends, net rentals, capital gains, royalties, pensions, annuities, and the first $4,000 of earned income. Earned income is income from a trade or business, wages, salaries, tips, or other compensation.
A beautiful coastal climate is one of the many reasons people enjoy retiring on St. Simons Island. On average, temperatures range from 43°F to 61°F in January (the coldest month) and from 75°F to 90°F in July (the warmest month). Snowfall is rare in this area with receiving under an inch of snow per year, compared to a US average of 28 inches per year. What winters may lack snow is made up for in rainfall. There are 102 rainfall days per year and on average, the city receives 48 inches of rainfall per year, which is higher than the 2019 US average of 34.7 inches.
People considering a move to St. Simons Island are curious about hurricanes and the island’s infrastructure. Residents experience an average amount of storms throughout the year, and typically not as intense as many imagine. Hurricane season runs from June through November, with the majority of storms occurring in August and September. Local city officials and news outlets notify residents well in advance of major storm activity, and provide detailed instructions of action that needs to be taken.
Health & Wellness
When relocating to a new area, familiarizing yourself with local healthcare options is an important task. One of the most appealing features on St. Simons Island, Georgia is the top-rated healthcare services available to all residents.
The Golden Isles has one premier healthcare system, Southeast Georgia Health System. Their convenient locations and comprehensive operating hours offer a peace of mind for the city’s residents.
Healthcare Systems / Hospitals
Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit healthcare system that has served residents and visitors to the Golden Isles since 1888. Headquartered in the historic port city of Brunswick, the Health System’s mission to provide safe, quality, accessible, and cost-effective care to meet the health needs of the people and communities it serves.
Southeast Georgia Health System – Brunswick CampusThe Brunswick campus is anchored by a 300-bed hospital with more than 300 physicians on its medical staff representing nearly every major medical specialty. The Health System serves as the regional medical center for residents of five counties in Southeast Georgia. It has been accredited by the U.S. News Health 2020-2021 for being a high performing hospital in Heart Failure and COPD.
Fitness Centers and Nutritionists
A vital part of maintaining and improving overall health is through exercise and diet. Identifying age-friendly fitness centers can improve the quality of workout you’re doing. The International Council on Active Aging offers a fantastic resource to help you find the perfect fitness center for you. Nutrition is another aspect of wellness that is crucial to reaching that goal weight or optimal fitness you’re looking for. You can use this tool from HealthGrades to help you identify someone who specializes in dietetics.
Senior Living Communities
Retirement communities are an excellent choice for seniors living on St. Simons. Eliminate the burdens of home maintenance while indulging in culinary programs, unique social events, activities, daily wellness programs and access to industry best care services. The top-rated community in this area is Marsh’s Edge. Their community offers 55+ active adult living, independent living, assisted living, memory care, and senior rehabilitation. To learn more about Marsh’s Edge, click here.
Food & Drink
A melting pot of unique fare and libations, St. Simons Island offers a wide range of options for residents. From authentic southern cuisine and seafood to pizzerias and local burger joints, there’s a lot to choose from. Here are the top rated restaurants and drinks in St. Simons Island:
Top-Rated Restaurants on St. Simons Island:
Georgia Sea Grill407 Mallery Street
Owned by restaurateur, Zack Gowen, Georgia Sea Grill has been a staple on St. Simons Island for generations. When he purchased it, he took their ‘perfectly good’ cuisine to ‘top-rated’ with fresh locally-sourced ingredients paired with exquisite wine and skills culinary artists.
Sal’s Neighborhood Pizzeria3415 Frederica Rd. #E
Comfort food is what Sal brings to his neighborhood pizzeria. His pies and Italian dinners reflect heritage and recipes passed from generations. He believes that Italians truly have a romance with food.
Southern Soul Barbeque2020 Demere Rd.
Housed in a former gas station, Southern Soul BBQ pulls the best flavors together to astounding effect. The pulled pork and the soul burger juicy are must-orders. For dessert, make sure to order the fried oreos.
Porch549 Ocean Blvd.
Nashville Hot Chicken meets St. Simons Island! Owners, Palmer and Mills spent over a year coming up with the magical combination of heat, spice, and southern sass.
The Crab Trap1209 Ocean Blvd.
A favorite of locals and tourists, The Crab Trap has been a favorite on St. Simons Island for more than 45 years. This island landmark is still owned and operated by the original family. Make sure to try their famous “Blue Crab” cocktail to complete your dining experience.
Top-Rated Drinks in Branford:
Centrally located on St. Simons, Gnat’s has a friendly atmosphere and great American fare. Live music is happening on the porch through the week and with over 11 draft beers and cocktails, it’s the perfect place to hangout.
The Rooftop at Ocean Lodge
Where old world elegance meets modern luxury. Located on the 5th floor of the Ocean Lodge Hotel, The Rooftop offers the perfect view of St. Simons. A full menu of craft cocktails makes it the perfect place for happy hour with friends!
Castaways is an inclusive hangout on St. Simons Island for those looking to have a great time with friends. Their establishment is home to pool, darts, Keno, video bowling, karaoke, and a jukebox for fun games and dancing.
Barrier Island Brewing1226 Ocean Blvd Ste 1
Opened in October 2019, Barrier Island Brewing is located in the heart of St. Simons. They offer a unique experience that celebrates craftsmanship and promotes local food, beverages and artisans. All beer is brewed on-site using the innovative SmartBrew system, which, partnered with Brian Watson allows Barrier Island to craft some incredible beers.
Brogen’s South200 Pier Alley
If you’re looking for a classic Southern bar, Brogen’s is your place! Its incredible two-story porch near the water is the perfect spot to kick back and enjoy a cold one.
If you’re looking for a place to shop on St. Simons Island, you’ll find a multitude of local boutiques and niche stores! The island shopping scene supports local vendors and those who live in the area, you won’t find any big box or commercial stores. However, if you’re looking for that big store feel, there’s some close by for your shopping pleasure!
Pier Village (In Downtown St. Simons Island)
The St. Simons Pier Village is located in the heart of the island. Along Mallery Street, you’ll see stores like Island Dog, Savannah Bee, St. Simons Sweets, St. Simons Bait & Tackle, Golden Isles Bracelet, and more!
One of the most unique and popular shopping districts on the island! Redfern village is the quintessential coastal town hangout. In the village you’ll find great restaurants, locally-owned boutiques and art galleries. Tenants in Redfern include Chadwick’s Jewelers, ALo Naturals, Righton Books, Island Gallery, Crystal Earth, Cutie Patooties Children’s and more!
Just minutes from St. Simons is Brunswick, home to Glynn Place Mall. This shopping, dining and entertainment destination is home to over 50 retailers including department stores like Belk, Hibbett Sports, Bath & Body Works, American Eagle Outfitters, and more!
While there aren’t any professional sports teams in the area, those who live on St. Simons are fans of Georgia Sports. They support collegiate teams like the Georgia Bulldogs, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, and Georgia Southern Eagles. In addition to collegiate teams, residents are typically fans of Atlanta-based professional teams like the Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Falcons (NFL) and Atlanta United (MLS).
Golf is a mainstay on St. Simons Island with some of the most beautiful courses in the nation. Each year at Sea Island Golf Club, Davis Love III hosts The RSM Classic, an official PGA Tour Event. While a 3-hour drive from St. Simons Island will land you at Augusta National. This course is home to The Masters PGA Tournament, one of the four major championship courses in professional golf.
Parks & Recreation
The St. Simons coastline is accentuated by impressive parks, recreation facilities, and beaches in the area for residents and tourists alike to enjoy. The natural splendor of the Golden Isles extends past its golden-sand shores for hiking, history, picnics, dog parks, and more! In addition to public recreation areas, the St. Simons Land Trust is a private organization dedicated to preserving the natural and scenic character of the island.
Here are a few of the top beaches, parks, and recreation facilities on St. Simons Island:
Beach Access Points on St. Simons Island
There are over 20 beach access points on the Southeastern side of the island. Each access point varies in amenities and parking areas. Parking is free.
St. Simons Parks with Public Beach Access:
- Coast Guard/East Beach Located at 4100 First St. East Beach is the most popular beach on the island. Restroom facilities, beach access with ADA accessible mats, and a seasonal concession facility make it the place to kick back and enjoy that coastal sunshine!
- Massengale Beach Located at 1350 Ocean Blvd. Massengale is a favorite for families of all ages. There’s plenty of room to spread out and with ADA accessible mats, restroom facilities, picnic tables, grills, and a playground it’s a great spot for a day with the kids!
Demere Park (1219 Demere Road)
Home to the first Glynn County skate park, a ball field, community building, and butterfly garden! Demere park is a great spot for a picnic!
Frederica Dog Park
Bring your four-legged family members out for a day of fun at this fenced-in play area for pups! Maintained by Glynn County, the dog park is shaded, with a seperate area for big and small dogs to roam, play and make friends!
Cannon’s Point Preserve
Owned by the St. Simons Land Trust, this dirt walking/biking trail includes many stops, passing maritime forests, marshes, and more! It’s a 5-mile round-trip trek through the wilderness with a fun view from the observation tower.
Since May 2016, the St. Simons Land Trust has acquired 258 acres of Musgrove property which has become the Guale Preserve. It is a conservation partnership to protect this rare and beautiful piece that is home to some of the most ecologically significant habitats in Georgia.
Arts & Entertainment
The sounds of music create a vibrant coastal lifestyle; most spots on St. Simons are small, local, and laid back! Some of the top locations to enjoy local performers are:
- Bennie’s Red Barn
- Gnat’s Landing
- Wee Pub Beach
- Village Inn & Pub
- Catch 228
Each corner of St. Simons and the Golden Isles is filled with history and preserved in museums throughout the area. There are museums for all interests with new exhibits consistently rotating in for residents and visitors to enjoy! Favorite local museums frequented by residents and visitors alike include:
St. Simons Lighthouse Museum
Explore the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum in the Keeper’s Dwelling and discover the fascinating history of Coastal Georgia through colorful exhibits of rare artifacts, historical photographs, and interactives designed for the whole family.
World War II Home Front Museum
Developed by Coastal Georgia Historical Society and designed by Gallagher & Associates, the museum brings to life Coastal Georgia’s contributions during World War II. Located in the Historic Coast Guard Station, The Coastal Georgia home front story reflects the experience of many Americans during World War II – civil defense activities such as blackouts, food rationing and buying war bonds, and sending sons and daughters off to join the nation’s military.
Maritime Center at Historic Coast Guard Station
The St. Simons Coast Guard Station at East Beach was constructed as one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Public Works Administration projects in 1936. The Station’s “First Watch” took place on April 1, 1937. Learn about the fascinating history of the Coast Guard on the Golden Isles at this unique museum!
Located in Brunswick the Pinball Palace is a gamer’s paradise! The collection of pinball machines that once began in a garage have become well-maintained collector items shared with the public. Over 100 pinball machines, 50 arcades, from the 1950’s through current hits are all available to play as a price for admission.
Fort Frederica Monument
Fort Frederica National Monument preserves the archaeological remnants of a fort and town built by James Oglethorpe between 1736 and 1748 to protect the southern boundary of the British colony of Georgia from Spanish raids. About 630 British troops were stationed at the fort. Today it is preserved by the United States National Park Service.
The main highway through Eastern Georgia is Interstate 95 (1-95). I-95 connects travelers up and down the east coast from Northern Maine to Southern Florida. Main access to St. Simons is via Highway 17 and the Torras Causeway.
While there is no public transportation available, residents and visitors can drive their personal vehicles on the island. Car rentals, private transportation, as well as ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft are available. Some residents on the island find golf carts to be a great mode of transportation. Golf carts must obey all traffic laws, must be street legal, and driven on streets where the posted speed is 35mph or less. They are not permitted on sidewalks.
The flexibility in airport options makes it easy to host friends and family or to head out on vacation. Located in the heart of the island, is the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport which offers no commercial flights but welcomes private aviation. For commercial flights, about 20 miles outside of St. Simons is the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (BQK). BQK offers Delta Connection flights each day to Atlanta, Delta’s main hub that flies worldwide.
While BQK is close to St. Simons Island, if you’re looking for a larger airport there are two that are in relatively close proximity. Jacksonville, Florida (JAX) and Savannah, Georgia (SAV) are a little over 1-hour away.
According to Realtor.com, the median listing home price on St. Simons Island is $425k, while the median sold home price is $472.5k. Median listing home prices are $228 per square foot.
As you’re researching neighborhoods on St. Simons, you’ll find many attractive areas and neighborhoods. Whether your decision is based primarily on location, square footage, or an amenities list, housing on St. Simons has much to offer. Here are a few neighborhoods you’ll find yourself seeing over and over again:
Located near the southwestern tip of St. Simons Island, this gated community is home to scenic marsh and river views on the island. The proximity is great for travel to both the village area of St. Simons and the amenities at The Lodge at Sea Island.
Just past a set of private gates off Sea Island Road, the exclusive 70-home neighborhood of Hawkins Island awaits with elegant homes set along winding drives featuring amazing river and marsh views. This southern paradise is minutes away from the shopping and dining on St. Simons to the gorgeous beaches, golf and recreation at The Sea Island Club.
A privately owned island of Glynn County, Georgia and is an important part of the beautiful Golden Isles of Georgia. Just east of St. Simons Island, Sea Island is a resort town that offers luxury and class to its residents.
Just north of St. Simons Island, Dock Junction is a taste of the coast with lovely homes, positive job prospects, unique shopping, and delicious restaurants.
Myrtle Beach Awaits
St. Simons Island is an island paradise primed for your coastal retirement. The tax benefits, weather and ecological serenity make it an excellent choice. You’ll wonder why you didn’t move here earlier.