Neptune Park, located between the village and lighthouse, is St. Simons’s most popular park, where visitors can picnic, take a trolley tour of the island, fish off the pier, stroll on the pathway, or relax on a bench. Here visitors may listen to the cackling of iridescent boat-tailed grackles in the live oak canopies, or the screech of begging seagulls, or the noble silence of brown pelicans perched on the pier. One might want to examine finned trophies that lie gasping in buckets, if local fishermen have been lucky angling the deep currents that flow past the pier. The beach is best explored at low tide, when one might find whelks, horseshoe crabs, and sand dollars.
The park’s name is not in honor of Neptune, the god of sea, but Neptune Small, a slave that belonged to the Thomas Butler King family of Retreat Plantation, today the site of Sea Island Golf Course. During the Civil War, Small accompanied one of the Kings’ sons, who was killed during the Battle of Fredericksburg. Small retrieved the body from the battleground and bore it back to Savannah under very difficult circumstances. The family buried the son at Christ Church, and Small chose to return to Virginia to accompany another son for the rest of the bloody conflict. After the war, Small was given a plot of land on the plantation, located at the park, and he continued to work for the King family as a free man. When he died in 1907, he was buried in a small graveyard on Retreat Plantation.
Two exceptionally large Live Oaks are found shading the park, where visitors can use picnic tables, a playground, miniature golf, and benches and lounge chairs for contemplative views of sparkling St. Simons Sound. Neptune Park Casino has a public swimming pool open during summer. A 1.5-hour trolley tour leaves from here to other points of interest on the island, but some may prefer to see it under their own steam by using the biking/jogging path. The fishing pier is open to fishing, crabbing, and shrimping.
- Directions: From Brunswick, cross F.J. Torras Causeway. Go right on Kings Way to Ocean Boulevard. At Mallery Street, turn right to village and public parking.
- Activities: Historic touring, picnicking, bird-watching, miniature golf, swimming, fishing, crabbing, beachcombing.
- Dates: Visitor center is open 7 days a week from 9–5.
- Facilities: Visitor center, park, picnic tables, parking, swimming pool, restrooms, biking/jogging trails, lighthouse and museum, beach.
- Fees: A fee is charged for the trolley tour, Neptune Casino Swimming Pool, and miniature golf.
For more information: St. Simons Island Chamber of Commerce, Neptune Park, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. Phone (912) 638-9014. The Links Miniature Golf, phone (912) 638-0305. St. Simons Island Casino Swimming Pool, phone (912) 638-2877