Are you coming or what?
I was distracted. The ceiling of stars which spread out above had captured my gaze as I stood practically in the middle of the street. There wasn't any real danger; the traffic on this sleepy corner of St. Simons Island was non-existent. The drive through the marshy expanse of South Georgia had led us far away from the lights of urban civilization, illuminating a display from the heavens which would put anyone's jaw on the floor. For the better part of three hours, all I could think about was the crab leg dinner which awaited us at The King and Prince Resort, and yet that was all momentarily forgotten thanks to the stars, the smell of salt in the air, and the sound of crashing waves in the distance.
MJ was having nothing of it. She was starving - so was I for that matter - and her usual patience with my absent-minded wanderings was wearing thin. So after a warm welcome and thankfully speedy check-in, I ran to the room to drop our bags while she waited in the lobby dreaming of shellfish. After setting up the luggage rack, I grabbed the room key and made for the door but, once again, I was distracted. The glow coming from the direction of our balcony sent me into a Frodo-like trance, however instead of a golden ring there was this...
|My Precious... The moon reflecting off the ocean outside our room.|
When the moon finally released its hold, I half expected to find MJ either passed out from hunger on a couch in the lobby or at a table in the King's Tavern working on her third plate of crab legs. Either way, I knew there were multitude of two things in my immediate future: apologies and crustaceans. You see, Friday night at the King and Prince is all-you-can-eat crab leg night; an event which was on the itinerary before the confirmation even appeared in my inbox. Soon we were presented with our cornucopia of crab, and the delirium which had plagued us both was replaced by shellfish intoxication.
|Where have you been all my life?|
The King, The Prince, and The War
The next morning as the sun peeked through the clouds over the Atlantic, the King and Prince came to life, and so to did its fascinating story. The resort was first opened as a dance club in 1935 by a pair of friends appropriately nicknamed The King and The Prince. Legend has it the club was born after the two had one too many libations at The Cloister hotel on neighboring Sea Island, and were kindly asked to never return. Shortly after it opened a suspicious fire completely destroyed the King and Prince Club, but remarkably, she was rebuilt and back in action just two months later.
|The original King and Prince|
In the summer of 1941, the addition of 110 guestrooms transformed the King and Prince Club into the King and Prince Hotel. The famed dance club was now a beachfront retreat, offering modern amenities and, of course, an incredible ocean side location. The resort rang in its opening with nearly of week of celebration around the July 4th holiday, but sadly, the party was short lived.
|Sunbathers enjoying the beach.|
Less than a year after opening, German U-boats began prowling the waters off St. Simons Island, bringing the harsh reality of World War II to Georgia's coastline and the King and Prince. The resort was transformed into a Naval radar station, housing sailors who were trained in the latest in detection technology. Before the area's fortifications were in place, U-boats successfully sank several ships off the coast of St. Simons, costing the lives of over 20 merchant mariners. News of the sinkings was largely kept out of the public eye, and few Americans, both then and now, understood how close the war actually came to this sliver of Georgia's coast.
|The resort transformed into a naval radar station.|
The Prince Returns
After the war, The King and Prince reopened having never missed a beat. The resort quickly reestablished itself as popular destination thanks in part to numerous upgrades and expansions over the coming decades. The atrium style lobby was added - complete with an indoor pool - additional guestrooms and villas were built, and to the delight of yours truly, the resort was renamed The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort thanks to the acquisition of a Joe Lee designed links.
|The atrium lobby and indoor pool.|
Of all the enhancements to the King and Prince, the most alluring of them all also happens to be the newest. Earlier this year the resort completed an overhaul of the beachfront pool area, creating an oasis for adults and kids alike. Numerous loungers surround the more refined relaxation pool, while just a stones throw away is a shallow lagoon for the little ones to have their fun. In summer and winter alike, the pool deck at the King and Prince is the perfect place to enjoy a libation in the twilight of the evening and soak up the sounds and breeze from the Atlantic.
|The beachfront pool.|
Like the rest of the resort, the guestrooms at King and Prince have kept pace with the ever changing trends in design. Our room was in the Oceanfront Building which, as the name suggests, overlooks the pool and beach. The room was considerably larger than expected for a nearly 80 year old resort, complete with a desk, sitting area, and wet bar outfitted with a single cup coffee brewer and Starbucks to go along with it.
The best amenity of the guestroom, however, wasn't the free WiFi, mini-fridge, or insanely comfortable bed, but one that seems to be overlooked by every other oceanfront resort...a screen door. Part of the allure of an oceanfront room is the ability to open the balcony door at night and listen to the crash of the waves. The problem is after a few minutes the room is often filled with mosquitoes and other flying critters that are better left outside. Aesthetic and cost concerns likely prompt most resorts to leave them off - screen doors are ugly and break easy - but after two incredible nights of sleep I was ready to bump the white duvet from the top of my list of beloved hotel room amenities.
Although the King and Prince has done an excellent job of keeping with the times it has also worked hard to preserve its rich history. The club's original ballroom has been transformed into an elegant dining room while leaving intact the historic stained glass windows which chronicle the story of St. Simons Island. The dance floor may have been covered up long ago, but as we enjoyed breakfast in The Delegal Room it was easy to imagine the space alive with revelers and the sound of big band jazz in the early days of the King and Prince Club.
|The Delegal Room and its beautiful stained glass.|
Long Live the King
Nearly 80 years after two guys were thrown out of a dance club and decided to start their own, the King and Prince Resort is proving that newer doesn't always mean better. The hotel has survived fire, war, and decades of change, yet it still shines amongst an American coastline that's become dominated by one soulless mega-resort after another. The key to the King and Prince's success is simple: the resort possesses something which can't be bought through the latest trends in hotel design and often takes decades to attain... Character.
|I could sit here all day...|
The King and Prince harkens to an era where seaside retreats were regarded as an extension home, and that feeling is evident before you even reach the front gate. The resort isn't found on a traffic clogged section of A1A, but instead within a sleepy residential neighborhood on a small island 20 miles from the nearest interstate. It's comfortable, quiet, and familiar. It invites you to gaze at stars you haven't seen in years, and become lost in a moment while standing in the middle of the street.
Enjoy Your Stay
Special thanks to the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort for hosting our stay. As always, all opinions and pontifications are my own.