By: Casey Drum
UGA’s fall break always falls on the last weekend of October, more notably the weekend of the Georgia v. Florida rivalry football game. Athens has cooled off, and it has been a tradition for years for students to make the five-hour drive to St. Simons Island. To many undergraduates and recent graduates, this weekend is known as the “Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.”
This year, however, the infamous weekend is changing. Glynn County is cracking down on the beach party, better known as “Frat Beach,” and the underage drinking and irresponsibility that comes with the long weekend. County commissioners sent a letter to UGA, as well as University of Florida, surrounding South Georgia colleges and local high schools, warning students of precautions this year.
Glynn County Commissioner, Dale Provenzano, wants to remind UGA students that the tradition of the Georgia Florida weekend has always been the coming together of students and alumni on St. Simons Island before gameday. Alumni love to share “back in my day” stories with current students. Provenzano says that Frat Beach has only become a tradition within the last five or six years, and he hopes to bring back the true tradition of bonding over a love for UGA and football.
Many students, such as Alexis Cason, a sophomore management information systems major from Peachtree City, have considered canceling their reservations altogether. Although Frat Beach will not be the same as students remember from years past, that does not mean you should cancel your trip. There are countless places to explore while in the Golden Isles. Some students only ever see the beach, but that is not all that the 17 square-mile barrier island has to offer.
Many people are unaware of the history that resides on the island. St. Simons is the home of Fort Frederica, a fort settled by James Oglethorpe in 1736 to protect the British colony of Georgia from Spanish raids from the south. Visitors can take a ranger-led tour of the national park. Entrance into the park is free; making this a great learning experiences combined with breathtaking marsh views.
On the other end of the island resides the current St. Simons Lighthouse, built in 1872. Visitors can climb the 129 steps to the top, reading about its history along the way while taking in the views of the surrounding barrier islands from the top. There is also a geocache to be found at the top of the lighthouse, placed by one of the current light keepers. It costs only twelve dollars to tour the lighthouse and museum.
A short walk from the lighthouse will bring you to the pier and village area. Patrons can fish from the pier or walk on the beach. The pier is the focal point of the village, which is home to many restaurants and shops. Grab an ice cream cone from St. Simons Sweet Shop, and take a stroll through the village. Most of the restaurants offer outdoor seating so patrons can sit outdoors and enjoy some local seafood.
You can also make your way off the island to do some exploring. A ten-minute drive off St. Simons and over the Sidney Lanier Bridge will bring you to another barrier island, Jekyll Island. There is a five-dollar toll to get onto the island. Jekyll is a smaller residential island home to more history, golf courses, beaches and etc. Visitors can take the Millionaires Village tour, which tours the cottages owned by notable millionaires in the early 1900’s, such as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, and more.
Visitors to Jekyll can play one of the four golf courses, or if you cannot stay under par, try your hand on the putt-putt course. Visitors can also learn about the wildlife in the Golden Isles by visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. The center is committed to increasing wildlife awareness and offers an interactive exhibit and gallery with a rehabilitation pavilion, which commonly houses sea turtle patients. With a college ID, entrance is six dollars. While on Jekyll, visitors should make their way to a unique spot known as Driftwood Beach for a relaxing end to the day.
On gameday Saturdays, many locals make their way to Brogen’s Food and Spirits in the village, regionally known as “Bulldawg Headquarters.” If you are not making the hour trip to Jacksonville for the game, Brogen’s is the place to be. Brogen’s waitress Arielle Madala says that, weather permitting, they will place televisions outdoors so patrons can enjoy the game, food, beer, cornhole and even some live music along with the South Georgia weather. Brogen’s is conveniently located just across from the pier, with an awesome view from their upstairs seating area. UGA students will be happy to know that Brogen’s offers cans of Hopsecutioner from local brewery Terrapin.
These are the traditions that St. Simons locals hope the Georgia Florida weekend will make its way back to. Many students are used to the beach party, but the UGA student body should not be deterred from visiting St. Simons Island over their fall break. Visitors can find plenty to do while in the Golden Isles. The region is full of history that visitors can experience. If students are just up for a relaxing weekend, St. Simons is the place to spend it. So do not cancel those reservations just yet, because you can still have a fun-filled, safe weekend on St. Simons Island.