by Guerry Norwood
St. Simons Island’s beaches are limited to the southern end of the island in a band stretching 4 miles from Gould’s Inlet on the eastern side to King Creek on the southwestern side. The beaches have experienced tremendous changes since the beginning of the island’s recorded history, and continue to erode and accrete as a response to the effects of wind, waves, tides, and storms. Taylor Schoettle’s study of the beaches in A Naturalist’s Guide to St. Simons Island is an excellent primer on the subject. Not many sea turtles nest on St. Simons Island for reasons not entirely understood but probably due to the island’s mix of currents, sand quality, width of beach, rock seawalls, beach orientation, and development. From 1994–1998, an average of only one sea turtle has nested on St. Simons a year, compared with 74 on Sea Island, which has roughly the same length of beach.
St. Simons Beach, the area between the King and Prince Beach Resort and fishing pier, through the years has been assaulted by currents, tides, and storms and has eroded significantly. If not for the placement of the Johnson Rocks in 1964, naturalist Taylor Schoettle believes the beach would have retreated all the way to the brick county buildings behind Neptune Park. In the 1920s, the beach extended out to the wings of the present pier, and the old pier extended the length of the new pier from that spot. In the 1920s, people could drive their cars on the beach from the pier to the King and Prince, something that would be unthinkable today. At low tide, beachcombers can walk to the King and Prince, but at high tide, much of the beach is submerged as waves crash on the seawall known as the Johnson Rocks.