Driveable Getaways: Hiking the Hudson River School Art Trail in the Great Northern Catskills

The view from Sunset Rock, one of 8 sites along the Hudson River School Art Trail in the mid-Hudson Valley region, is very much as Thomas Cole saw it in the 1820s © Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin
Travel Features Syndicate,
My getaway in the Great Northern Catskills of New York exploring the Hudson River School Art Trail starts at the trailhead to Kaaterskill Falls, where you get an amazing view of Kaaterskill Clove (HRSAT Site #4). You gaze out over the gorge where mountain peaks seem to thread together and compare the scene today to the way it is depicted by Hudson River School artist Asher B. Durand’s 1866 painting.
It’s a short walk along 23A (watch out for cars on the winding narrow road) to the trailhead for one of my favorite hikes, Kaaterskill Falls (HRSAT Site #5), a stunning scene that looks remarkably just as depicted in an 1835 painting by Thomas Cole, known as the father of the Hudson River School. “It is the voice of the landscape for it strikes its own chords, and rocks and mountains re-echo in rich unison,” Cole (who was also a poet and essayist) wrote.

Kaaterskill Falls, a 260-foot high double waterfall, the highest in New York State, captivated Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School artists © Karen Rubin/

The Kaaterskill Falls were a favorite subject of many of the Hudson River School painters and for me, is the quintessential combination of stunning scenery plus the physical pleasure of the hike – half-mile up to the base of the double-falls, then another half-mile to the top.
The two-tiered Kaaterskill Falls, 175 and 85 feet, is the highest in New York State and was described by James Fenimore Cooper in “The Pioneers” which Thomas Cole, a friend of Cooper’s illustrated.
There is a small trail through the woods to the very top of the falls. Signs admonish hikers that climbing the ledges beside Kaaterskill Falls is extremely dangerous, and has resulted in numerous injuries and deaths. But the falls are not flowing when I come, so I get to walk on the ledges, giving me a really nervous view straight down and beyond, to the Valley and letting me look at the carved initials and graffiti from the 1920s and 30s, some even from the 1800s. You feel a sense of kindred spirit with those who have passed through and passed on. You feel the height and the proximity to the drop off, and it makes your heart flutter.
Later, I will recognize the view in Thomas Cole’s paintings and imagine how he must have stood in this precise place where you are standing.
It is a half-mile to the base, and another half- mile to the top of the falls, for a total of 2 miles roundtrip. There are some scrambles and it is uphill almost all the way (walking sticks are really recommended), and is thoroughly fantastic.
(The parking lot is just west of the trailhead and across 23A, so you park and walk back along the road, being very careful. Haines Falls NY 12436, 518-589-5058, 800-456-2267).
HRSAT Hikes in North-South Campground
For my second day, after an amazing breakfast at the Fairlawn Inn, I head to North-South Campground, where there are several of the Hudson River School of Art Trail hikes (as well as many other hiking trails) – the lake itself depicted in paintings such as Thomas Cole’s “Lake with Dead Trees,” 1825 (HRSAT Site #6).
The Escarpment Trail to Sunset Rock (HRSAT Trail Site #7) begins along the well-marked blue trail (you cut off to the yellow trail to Sunset Rock) that mostly wraps around the ledges, with the amazing views that so enthralled the artists of the Hudson River Valley. Close to the beginning is a fairly interesting scramble, then the trail winds through the woods along side fabulous rock formations before coming out again to the ledges. You reach Artists Rock at about .4 miles. Continuing on, you look for the yellow trail marker to Sunset Rock and from there, to Newman’s Point.

Taking in the spectacular view along the hike along the Escarpment Trail in the North-South Lake Campground, one of eight Hudson River School Art Trail sites in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York © Karen Rubin/

You can either reverse and come back on the Escarpment Trail, or make a loop, coming down the Mary’s Glen trail, passing Ashley’s Falls.
Mary’s Glen trail can also be the entrance to a difficult hike, to North Point, a distance of 3.2 miles with 840 feet ascent. It is a mostly moderate climb but has some short, steep scrambles over rock, but you come to large open slabs and expansive vistas at North Point, a 3,000 ft. elevation with some of the most distant views.)
Back at the North-South Lake (it’s taken me about three hours taking my time), people are swimming in the hot (near 90) weather.

North-South Lake © Karen Rubin/

From here, you can follow around the lake to see the same views that inspired Hudson River School paintings.
You can also take the trail to the site of the Catskill Mountain House (HRSAT Site #8), one of the earliest tourist hotels. The majestic hotel, which was opened in 1823 and accommodated 400 guests a night (Presidents Arthur and Grant were among those who stayed here), burned down in 1963 but the view that attracted visitors still remains as one of the most magnificent panoramas in the region, and can be compared to Frederic Church’s “Above the Clouds at Sunrise” (1849).
It is fun to see the initials carved into the stone ledges from more than a century ago. The Mountain House began drawing thousands of guests each season from all over the country as well as from abroad, who came not just for the cooler, healthier climate but for what had already become one of the most renowned natural panoramas in the young nation: the valley 1,600 feet below, stretching east to the Taconic Mountains and the Berkshires, with the silvery thread of the Hudson visible for 60 miles from north to south. On a clear day, you can see five states – Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York. The hike is just a half-mile with only an 80-foot ascent.
There is a $10/car day use fee for the NYS DEC’s North-South Lake Campground from early May through late October, however the fee is waived for NYS residents 62 years or older midweek. The campground is open for camping from May through October; 518-589-5058 or call DEC Regional Office year-round at 518-357-2234,
The Hudson River School Art Trail also features Olana, the magnificent and whimsical mansion home of artist Frederick Edwin Church. At this writing, the entrancing mansion was not yet reopened to visits, but the 250 acre-grounds and the first-ever “viewshed” to the Hudson River are open (5720 Route 9G, Hudson, NY 12534, 518-828-0135,

Olana, the home of Hudson River School artist Frederick Edwin Church © Karen Rubin/

Also, you can walk the grounds Thomas Cole Historic Site (the home has yet to be reopened, but is marvelous to visit, especially Cole’s studio). (218 Spring Street, Catskill, NY 12414, 518-943-7465,
Get maps, directions and background on the Hudson River School Art Trail at
Also, walk on the Hudson River Skywalk along the Rip Van Winkle Bridge to find incredible river views.
In Tannersvill:e Explore outside at the Mountain Top Arboretum, home to 178 acres of trails, wetlands, gardens, and native plants; go on a mountain biking adventure at the Tannersville Bike Park, part of the Tannersville-Hathaway Trail System.
In Athens: Rent a kayak or paddleboard at Screaming Eagle Outdoor Adventures; explore along the Hudson River at the Athens Riverfront Park and look for the Hudson-Athens Lighthouse.
More information from Greene County Tourism, 800-355 CATS, 518-943-3223,
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New York State’s Path Through History Highlights Transportation Destinations, From the Erie Canal to Montauk Lighthouse

The Otisco, one of Mid-Lakes Navigation’s specially designed canalboats, journeys on the Erie Canal © 2012 Karen Rubin/

Two years ago, we took a houseboat on the Erie Canal to discover -by bike and boat – this fascinating and scenic destination, that brought us to charming towns that had helped turn America into an industrial and economic world power. It is one of the destinations that are part of the Governor’s Path Through History program, highlighting historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State.

“From the untamed beauty of Niagara Falls, all along the Erie Canal, and on to the soaring peaks of the Adirondacks, New York State has a multitude of historic attractions that deserve a visit to experience,” Governor Cuomo said. “Our state has played a particularly important role in the development of transportation industries and technology, and the Path Through History program is a great way to appreciate them. Whatever your interests, New York is rich with incredible destinations that will make any trip around the Empire State an unforgettable experience.”

The Path Through History program makes it easy to explore the state’s canals and transportation history sites. Important in creating the Empire State we know today, Canals and Transportation is one of 13 themes that New York State is using to organize its 500-plus heritage sites. The program’s website provides additional information to plan an itinerary that includes site visits, and identifying markers on major state highways as well as local signage with a distinctive Path Through History logo to help point the way.

Here is a region-by-region sampling of the Canals and Transportation sites highlighted in the Path Through History program along with other fun ways to experience the history of transportation around the Empire State.

Central New York:
The town of Rome was the starting point for a canal system that eventually linked Manhattan with the developing American West. There the Erie Canal Village presents a reconstructed 19th century town complete with a schoolhouse, blacksmith and mule-drawn packet boat rides along the canal. In the town of Chittenango the sight of a 96-foot cargo boat under reconstruction at the Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum puts the scale of the canal’s traffic in perspective. And in Canastota, the Canastota Canal Town Museum brings the history, folklore and engineering achievements of the canal into focus with artwork, artifacts and activities.

Canal buffs will also love Schoharie Crossing State Park in Fort Hunter, where remnants of all three eras of Erie Canal development are visible including a two-mile long segment of the original “Clinton’s Ditch.” The Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park in Fort Plain spotlights life along the Erie Canal circa 1820-1850, while The Black River Canal Museum in Boonville features a full-scale canal boat replica and conveys a sense of the engineering accomplishment involved in building the 109-lock Black River Canal. For more about the Central New York region, visit

The Finger Lakes:
Canal adventures continue just beyond Palmyra in the historic town of Montezuma, where the Cayuga-Seneca Canal shoots off to connect the Erie Canal with 92 miles of the region’s rivers and lakes, including two of the beautiful Finger Lakes–Cayuga and Seneca. The canal-connected waterways and trails provide a relaxed-paced way to explore this sophisticated, rural region, acclaimed for its fine wines, artisanal food and natural beauty, while a number of museums recreate the era when canals put the region on the transportation grid.

In Syracuse, the Erie Canal Museum, housed in America’s only remaining weighlock building, is a hub for narrated sightseeing tours and canal boat charters. In Seneca Falls, the Seneca Falls Museum of Waterways and Industry offers a thought-provoking look at how the commerce and industrial growth powered by the canals helped to foster and spread social reform movements, including women’s rights.

The Finger Lakes also played a key role in aviation. The Glenn H. Curtiss Museum in Hammondsport honors pioneer aviator Glenn Curtiss, who progressed from building bikes and motorcycles to planes, making the first official long distance flight in the U.S. He also built the first seaplanes for the U.S. Navy earning recognition as “the father of naval aviation.” Dedicated to the restoration of World War II and Korean War aircraft, the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group Museum features informational displays as well as air shows at the Geneseo Airport. And in Elmira, the National Soaring Museum explores the challenge and history of motorless flight such as gliders.

Additionally, Canandaigua’s Granger Homestead and Carriage Museum, home to 19th century Postmaster General Gideon Granger, features a carriage museum with more than 100 horse-drawn carriages and offers carriage rides through historic downtown Canandaigua. Transportation by sea is the theme at the Sodus Bay Lighthouse and Maritime Museum at Sodus Point, where a climb to the lighthouse tower offers stunning views of Lake Ontario. For more about the region, visit

Greater Niagara:
The hundred mile footpath between Tonawanda, just outside Buffalo, to Newark in the Finger Lakes, has become a popular destination for hiking and biking. This westernmost segment of the Erie Canal is the longest continuous section of the Canalway Trail. Whether biking, boating or traveling by car, it’s fun to explore the nostalgic small town Main Streets, farmlands, lift bridges and multi-tier locks. As an added attraction, Niagara Falls is just a ten minute drive from Buffalo. The Pierce-Arrow Museum offers a unique collection of bicycles, automobiles, and memorabilia – many of which have a story entwined with that of Western New York’s communities at the turn of the 20th century. In Lockport, the triumph of building the canal is apparent. The town is built around two impressive five-lock staircases that move boats up the steep Niagara escarpment, which visitors can learn about at the new Erie Canal Discovery Center & Flight of Five.

More transportation history beckons at the Historic LeRoy House in LeRoy, which features more than 100 historic vehicles ranging from an ox-cart and antique bikes to a 1908 Cadillac. Naval enthusiasts will want to see the decommissioned U.S. Naval vessels, including the Cleveland-class cruiser USS Little Rock, the Fletcher-class destroyer USS The Sullivans and the submarine USS Croaker, at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. Rail buffs will also find plenty to explore in the region, starting with the Medina Railroad Museum, a beautiful wooden freight depot filled with memorabilia and model trains, which offers train rides along the Canal. The Arcade & Attica Railroad runs steam and World War II-era diesel engines from its historic station in Arcade. The station itself is a museum with everything from antique railroad lanterns to switch locks along with original photographs. For more about the region, visit

The Hudson Valley:
Before paved roads and railroads became commonplace, rivers were America’s highways, as visitors learn at the Hudson River Maritime Museum in Kingston, which features visiting and resident steam tug boats, ice cutters and other vessels as well as the environmental-education vessel, the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and a display on Hudson River lighthouses. The region also is home to Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park in Highland that crosses the Hudson atop the former Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. When the 6,768-foot bridge opened in 1888 it was an engineering marvel thought to be the world’s longest bridge in its day. Today, visitors come to walk, skate or bike across the pedestrian bridge as they admire the stunning views of the river more than 200 feet below. Additionally, the Motorcyclepedia Museum in Newburgh offers over 400 historic motorcycles, some dating back as far as the beginning of the 20th century.

You can also retrace the footsteps of the artists who drew their inspiration from the Hudson River Valley and the Catskills, along the Hudson River School Art Trail.

For more about the region, visit

The Adirondacks:
This region of high peaks and whitewater rivers also had a brief brush with car manufacturing. Today, the Champlain Valley Transportation Museum in Plattsburgh is housed in a factory that produced exquisite Lazier Motor Company automobiles and race cars from 1905 to 1910. The museum has expanded its scope to celebrate the region’s rich transportation history through its collection of vintage automobiles, boats and trains. Kid-friendly exhibits include a Vulcan Locomotive that kids can climb around and more than 750 Diecast model cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, tractors and fire trucks. The museum also provides transportation on the replica Sail Ferry Westerwax to the Bluff Point Lighthouse, which still operates and includes displays about the lighthouse itself and the ecology and history of the area. For more about the region, visit

The Capital-Saratoga region produced trains, and the ALCO Heritage Museum in Schenectady, currently closed for renovations, aims to share the history of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), which built steam and diesel locomotives. The Saratoga & North Creek Railway boasts vintage cars that make multiple stops along the Hudson River and offers breathtaking views of the Adirondacks. The cars are also kitchen-equipped to provide fresh meals prepared to order.

Vintage car lovers will also enjoy the Saratoga Automobile Museum. For more about the region, visit

The Catskills:
About 150 years ago, before the era of cars, train service opened up the Catskills and spawned an era of grand hotels and friendly guest houses. Although roads have displaced trains as the route into the region, several vintage trains still operate as tourist attractions. The Esopus Scenic Train, which departs from Mt. Tremper, stops at a 1900’s railroad depot, now home to the Path through History’s Empire State Railway Museum. The important role of river travel is the focus of tours (reserve in advance) at the working Hudson-Athens Lighthouse, located between the towns of Athens and Hudson. For more about the region, go to

One of the brightest lights shining on Lake Erie emanates from the Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse in Dunkirk. The 61-foot tall lighthouse, established in 1826, continues to guide sailors navigating Lake Erie. The lighthouse was automated in 1960 but still uses its original 1875 Fresnel lens. Guides here tell tales of the many shipwrecks off the coast and take visitors up the Lighthouse’s spiral stairs to the upper observation level, the restored 1800 lighthouse keeper’s home and a museum with nautical displays and military memorabilia; new this year are ghost tours.

You can also enjoy the Salamanca Rail Museum in the town of Salamanca, where a restored 1912 passenger depot uses artifacts, photos and video to paint a picture of the days when rail was the main way to travel from city to city. The station’s rich red oak wainscoting and two-story skylit ceiling have been restored based on the original architectural plans and include authentic nostalgic touches such as the “Ladies Retiring Room” sign and the telegraph machine in the ticket office. For more about the Chautauqua-Allegheny region, visit

New York City:
New York City can proudly claim the Brooklyn Bridge, the first steel-wire suspension bridge in the world and the longest of its day, and the landmark Beaux-Art Grand Central Terminal, celebrating its centennial this year with exhibits, events and an audio tour among its transportation icons. Not surprisingly, the city is also home to one of the world’s premier museums devoted to urban public transportation history. The New York Transit Museum, housed in a former 1936 subway station in Brooklyn Heights with an annex at Grand Central Terminal, explores the development and importance of public transportation. And for one of the best values in the city, residents and visitors can enjoy the views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and the Manhattan skyline on a free Staten Island Ferry ride between the tip of Manhattan and Staten Island. For more about New York City, visit

Long Island:
Authorized by Congress in 1792, the Montauk Point Lighthouse has been part of Long Island’s land and seascape for over 200 years and its 100-foot tall tower still serves as an active aid to navigation. Tours of this National Historic Landmark include a visit to the former keepers’ dwelling, containing the apartments of the head keeper and his two assistant keepers; the Fire Control Station, a tower built during World War II which served as part of the extensive East Coast Defense Shield and the lighthouse tower itself, completed in 1796. Long Island’s seafaring past is also vividly portrayed at two wonderful museums: the Sag Harbor Whaling & Historical Museum, set an 1845 Greek Revival whale ship owner’s mansion, and the Long Island Maritime Museum in West Sayville, where maritime history comes to life on a sail aboard a landmark historic vessel (reserve in advance) and visits to landmark homes.

Transportation also looms large at the Long Island Museum of American Art, History & Carriages in Stony Brook, which has over 200 horse-drawn carriages and other rare artifacts from the era. Admired for their beauty and craftsmanship, the carriages reflect an important part of America’s industrial and transportation history. Long Island also played key roles in aviation history, as visitors learn at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City. Here visitors learn how Long Island’s flat terrain at the edge of the nation made it a natural launch point for aviation pioneers including Charles Lindbergh, as well as a center for large commercial and World War II plane producers such as Grumman. For more about the area, visit

The Thousand Islands-Seaway:
Boldt Castle, Singer Island and many of the region’s most famous sites date back to the late 19th and early 20th century when the area became popular with America’s wealthy industrialists. Then as now, many popular tourist destinations, including some eye-popping mansions-turned-museums, were accessible only by boat, conveying a sense of the importance of water travel to the region. More than 300 finely-crafted boats and thousands of boating artifacts can be seen at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton. And the Tibbet’s Point Lighthouse in nearby Cape Vincent features its original working Fresnel lens along with a telescope for surveying. The lighthouse also offers hostel lodgings for those who want to overnight. In Oswego, the H. Lee White Marine Museum displays Native American dugout canoes and other boats. For more about the area, visit

About Path Through History
Path Through History highlights historically and culturally significant sites and events throughout New York State. The program, introduced by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, builds on New York’s already robust heritage tourism attractions. The initiative is currently focused on 13 themes including: Arts & Culture, Natural History, U.S. Presidents, Women’s Rights, Canals & Transportation, Civil Rights, Colonial History, Immigration, Innovation & Commerce, The Revolutionary War, Native American Heritage, Sports History and the War of 1812. Important heritage sites and events across the state were selected with input from leading historians. For more information, visit

Each week, I LOVE NEW YORK social media channels will highlight one theme from Path Through History, featuring photos, videos, event itineraries and more to showcase the rich history of New York State. Follow I LOVE NEW YORK on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or use #LoveNYHistory to join us on the journey down New York’s Path Through History.

Follow I LOVE NEW YORK on social media:
Twitter: @I_LOVE_NY
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For more information, visit

See also:

A gal getaway hiking New York’s Hudson River School Art Trail and slideshow

Getaway on the Hudson River School Art Trail: Thomas Cole National Historic Site and slideshow

Getaway on The Hudson River School Art Trail: Frederick Edwin Church’s Olana and slideshow

Journey by boat and bike along the Erie Canal: Macedon-Fairport-Pittsford and slideshow

Erie Canal journey by boat, bike: Exploring canaltowns from Pittsford to Albion and slideshow

Erie Canal journey: Albion-Medina bikeride is most scenic, illuminating and slideshow

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New Mobile App Helps Travelers Find Their Perfect Beach

Beachgoers have a newly redesigned mobile tool to help them plan a trip to the beach, U.S. Beach Finder.

Visit South Walton, located along a 26-mile stretch of Northwest Florida’s Coast,  has launched Generation 2.0 of its mobile application, the Visit South Walton Perfect Beach app.

The location-aware app, which is now available for Apple iPhone and Android smartphones, gives travelers real-time information, including weather forecasts, ocean conditions and more, for their closest beach anywhere in the United States. The new, highly visual app is user-friendly and provides an advertisement-free experience to help users find their perfect beach.

In conjunction with the app, Visit South Walton has launched Generation 2.0 of its mobile application, the Visit South Walton Perfect Beach app, that serves as a comprehensive guide to South Walton’s 16 unique beach neighborhoods.

Information on South Walton accommodations, dining, events, entertainment, shopping and popular activities, as well as beach conditions and weather, are available at your fingertips. The app even boasts a Sunset Calculator feature, a great resource for both amateur and professional photographers and event planners looking to capture that perfect moment between day and night. Nature-lovers and adventure seekers will appreciate the app’s Ecosploring feature, which maps out activities beyond the beach, highlighting the destination’s beautiful state parks and hiking, as well as biking trails.

“Generation 2.0 of our Visit South Walton Perfect Beach app provides users a rich and intuitive experience. Travelers can use the app to explore the many offerings of South Walton’s 16 beautiful beach neighborhoods or to learn more about their closest beach,” said Jon Ervin, director of marketing and communications for Visit South Walton. “It’s great whether you’re planning a trip from a distance or using it as a guide when visiting South Walton.”

When outside South Walton, the U.S. Beach Finder function provides information travelers need to plan their next beach excursion anywhere in the United States by displaying the user’s closest beach. From real-time temperature and sunrise/sunset information to tides and surf advisories, the app provides everything travelers need to plan a safe and enjoyable beach excursion.

iPhone and Android users can now download the free app in the Apple Store and Google Play.

For additional information, visit

King & Prince Resort on St. Simons in Georgia’s Golden Isles Has Storied Past and Playful Present

The King and Prince on St. Simons Island among Georgia’s fabled Golden Isles has been welcoming guests since 1935 and still offers a traditional, old-fashioned Southern hospitality © 2013 Karen Rubin/

by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

The King & Prince on St. Simons Island among Georgia’s fabled Golden Isles is a resort with all the delights one can imagine to draw generations of families, honeymooners, empty-nesters and golf enthusiasts. A member of Historic Hotels of America, what makes the King & Prince so special is its connection to St Simons Island and the history of the Georgia coast – in fact, the America’s colonial past and the Civil War.

Indeed, each of the 235 members of Historic Hotels of America is unique, with its own special history, personality and character. Each has a special connection to place as well as events and people. These are so much more than mere buildings, structures and rooms. They embody the spirit and lore. These properties keep – and tell – the stories of the people and place – and as a result, you feel a connection to the generations who have stayed here before – and you come away from this step back into time realizing that people then are not so different from people today. That is very humbling. And while they are all distinct and different – some are grand and luxurious and some are modest inns – I have always come away with a very special experience (800-678-8946,

The King & Prince resort’s storied past dates back to 1935, beginning with Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn founding their own private club after being thrown out of the Sea Island Club for being practical jokers and troublemakers. They built their club as a gambling, drinking, dancing destination. Mysteriously, their club burned down within a matter of months of opening. They rebuilt and opened again and that building, too, was burned down. But the third time was the charm.

View slideshow: King & Prince Resort on St. Simons in Georgia’s Golden Isles

Every owner of a historic property adds to the story, and also takes on the responsibility (most say it is a love) of caretaker, steward, guiding and nurturing the hotel for future generations. The Sturdivant family of Mississippi bought the King & Prince in the 1970s and turned the King and Prince into the jewel of their company, MMI Hospitality.

Over the last 10 years, they have invested $15 million in renovations to the golf, lobby, pool and rooms: the Historic Building was renovated and restored in 2003; the Oceanfront Building rooms where we stay were renovated from 2007-9; the golf course was done in 2009,the pool complex redone in 2012, and even during our visit, they were putting finishing touches on the renovation to the ballrooms, front desk and executive offices.

The renovation has preserved what is so special about the King & Prince. For example, the ballroom, which overlooks the water and is so popular for destination weddings and special events, has these utterly exquisite stained glass windows, each that meticulously tell a story.

All the windows but the north wall were installed in 1938 and designed by High Point Glass and Decorative Company from High Point, NC. Three additional arches were discovered on the north wall during renovations in 1983. Three new stained glass windows were designed by the son of the original artist.

The historic building of the King and Prince Resort has Cabana rooms with oceanfront parlors and patios © 2013 Karen Rubin/

The Historic Building also has specialty accommodations including oceanfront suites, Tower rooms, and Cabana rooms (my favorite) with oceanfront parlors and patios (I vow when I return this is where I will stay).

The resort is its own village, with several different buildings offering a combined total of 194 rooms.

There is also the Oleander Building with spacious rooms each with its own balcony and ocean view; and Beach Villas with two and three-bedroom accommodations and full kitchens, living areas and patios or balconies; and Resort Residences which are quaint one-bedroom beach cottages and private homes with up to five bedrooms.

Our room in the Oceanfront Building has a refreshing nautical color palette of blue and white, and when we open the balcony door, the sea breezes flush through. We overlook the newly redone pool complex (stunning) and the lush landscaping, palm trees, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

Within minutes of gazing out to the water, I see a pod of dolphins swimming by.

Exploring the King & Prince

The King & Prince resort offers today’s vacation goers what resorts have always offered previous generations: rest and respite, a place to be together, updated to be sure to for modern tastes. But then again, the resort was modern in its day.

In this age when time seems to be sped up so much, these historic hotels have a timelessness that makes you feel as if time stops when you walk through. You take a breath as you cross the threshold, like a “zen” aura.

This is what I hoped for – and found – as I explored the King and Prince, but what I had not ever known was how historically significant St. Simons Island was.

And while there is plenty to do at the resort – especially playing its championship golf course – it is also the base from which to explore, preferably by bicycle, this interesting island.

I am off to explore.

The pool complex at the King and Prince was redone in 2012, part of $15 million in renovations to the historic resort over the past 10 years © 2013 Karen Rubin/

A focal point for the resort is the oceanfront pool complex, which was completely redone for the resort’s 77th birthday. It is absolutely exquisite, with three different pools, lush landscaping, dramatic lighting at night, and a new Ocean Terrace Grille lets you dine amid the magnificent ambiance.

There is a family-friendly wading pool with water features, shaded areas and castle-building space; a lagoon-style pool with underwater benches and deck-jets; a formal relaxation pool with chaises, umbrellas; and an oceanfront deck where you can lounge.

There is also an indoor pool.

I’m loving the name they have given to the historic beach cottage where they offer spa treatments, The Royal Treatment Cottage. The quaint cottage is designed for relaxation, with a fireside relaxation lounge, changing cabanas, and quiet treatment rooms. The focus at The Royal Treatment Cottage is on massage therapies and treatments, both traditional and customizedSwedish, aromatherapy, reflexology, sport-specific, side-by-side for couples, and custom therapies. Massage appointments at The Royal Treatment Cottage are available daily (based on availability) and require advanced reservations.  (Click for a complete listing of services,  912.638.3631, ext 5690.

There are also tennis courts and a tennis pro on property.

I head for the beach, the best place to completely decompress as you walk.

By now it is sunset, the colors changing the landscape so dramatically moment by moment.

I walk back along a small promenade that goes in front of the beachfront cottages, where there are delightful swing chairs.

We head to dinner at The King’s Tavern Restaurant as couples arrive, every woman in a red dress, for a special ball in the ballroom.

The King’s Tavern Restaurant

The King’s Tavern Restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offers a perfect atmosphere:  very colonial, with a fireplace and wood paneling. Here you delight in Southern coastal cuisine while enjoying the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean through a gorgeous oval picture window.

The dinner selections this evening include baby spinach and artichoke salmon; Atlantic salmon; Angus beef rib eye, 12 oz ;  New Zealand rack lamb loin); Surf & turf, Crab legs. They offer a special where you can get all you can eat crabs legs, served on an enormous plate; there is also a prime rib special that is superb.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tomato/mozzarella appetizer and the crab-shrimp bisque was sensational, a perfect texture and flavor.

For dessert, we enjoyed the Granny smith caramel apple pie, key lime pie. Other popular selections: the Southern bourbon peace pie; triple chocolate cheese cake.

We start our day with the Southern Breakfast Buffet that includes King and Prince Muffins, Omelettes Made-to-Order, Belgian Waffles, Cheese Grits, Sizzling Bacon, Sausage Patties, Biscuits & Gravy, Fresh Fruit, Pastries, and much more. There is also an a la carte menu. Offering a delicious selection of fresh local delights, dine ocean side while choosing from chef inspired soups, salads, and sandwiches, or try the signature Shellfish Spaghetti.

The King and Prince was in the midst of transitioning to a new Executive chef, Jason Brumfiel, who had been at the Cloister Hotel on Sea Island. He brings a farm-fresh-to-the-table orientation and a focus on healthy dining experiences.

At The King and Prince, Jason is creating dishes with an elegant yet delicate hand. He uses his knowledge of global cuisine and ingredients to add an exciting twist to Southern culinary traditions  that have been the Resort’s signature for nearly eighty years.

The pool menu is being enhanced with more healthy options as well as grab-and-go salads, wraps, Gazpacho, Mediterranean selections, but there will still be burgers and fries (you have to).

King & Prince Golf Course

The back nine holes of the King and Prince golf course is famous for the marsh and natural setting – there’s even an eagle’s nest © 2013 Karen Rubin/

In the morning, we get to experience one of the unique attractions of the King & Prince – its championship golf course.

The King & Prince Golf Course is on the north side of St Simons, about a 30-minute drive along the 16-mile long historic Frederica Road from the resort on the southeast corner of the island.

It is one of the most beautiful courses I have ever played on.

Unlike tennis, where the environment and atmosphere play hardly any part, golf courses are unique settings, and the King & Prince is an outstanding golf destination. It is no surprise that Golf Digest Magazine featured the King & Prince among its “36 Best Buddies Trip Destinations” – and I have to believe that is because the course isn’t just great for golf, it is a destination you want to experience.

The King and Prince is designed to wind among the ancient oaks (you can spot an eagle’s nest at the 13th hole), vast salt marshes, and dramatic island holes (see for yourself: you can actually take a 3_D, hole-by-hole flyover of all 18 holes online, www.kingandpricecome/golf.php).

Originally designed by architect Joe Lee, the 18-hole, par 72 course is renowned for a group of four spectacular signature holes on the back nine, carved from the marsh “islands” and accessed by 800-feet of elevated cart bridges.

The championship course underwent a $3.6 million renovation in 2009, improving play and the golf experience.

“Our long awaited golf course renovation now features Mini-Verde greens, 60-inches of Tif sport collars, Celebration tees, roughs and fairways – and our traps are wrapped in Emerald Zoysia,” said Rick Mattox, Golf Club Manager “We’re the only course in our region with these types of grass and our golfers are amazed at the fantastic course transformation.”

Each green has four different grasses – so it looks lush, and enhances the playing experience.

What I find particularly striking is that instead of “men’s” and “women’s” tees, they have five different tees, so you don’t have to be self-conscious about your play, and you can enjoy playing more. Beginners (and occasional golfers like me), can avoid the frustration of attempting to hit over water and marsh (and spend more time enjoying the serenity of the view!).

Golf is social, but it is a game you play against yourself. Here, you really do get the peace, the zen aspects of golf.

I was surprised to learn that it also is one of the most affordable golfing experiences for a course of its quality – astonishing: King & Prince guests play for $79 (and there are golf packages that include balls, carts, multi-day); walk-ups are invited ($115) (Tip: everyone wants to play in the morning so it is easiest to get time in the afternoon).

The Hampton Grill is a  lovely restaurant in the clubhouse – more like a parlor than a restaurant. Its famous for its chicken salad (they’ve been making it the same way for 24 years) and seasoned fries. The prices are actually very reasonable – Caesar salad $6.75, Asian chicken salad, $8.75, burger $7.75, sandwiches $5.75-9.75.

A Resort with a Storied Past

I get back to the King & Prince in time to hop on the Lighthouse Trolleys Tour, which appropriately starts for me with a history of the King & Prince.

The historic King & Prince Resort, on the beach of St Simons island, has been welcoming guests since 1935 © 2013 Karen Rubin/

The King and Prince originally opened in 1935 as a private club – that everyone seems to agree upon. But there are several versions of the origin of its name. One version is that its owners, Frank Horn and Morgan Wynn, two “cut-ups,” practical jokers, and basically troublemakers, opened their own private club after being thrown out of the Sea Island Club. The name was derogatorily applied to suggest their self-importance and the fact that one was tall and the other stocky; another version is that the name “befitted its regal atmosphere.” (I have my own notion that the name came because of there was a landowning family, King, who owned one of the largest plantations, Retreat Plantation.)

They built their club for gambling, dancing and drinking – and had pavilions. But just three months after opening, a fire, attributed to arson, destroyed the Club. Two months later, the rebuilt King and Prince Club reopened with the Mediterranean architecture. That, too, was burned down and they rebuilt again.

At the onset of World War II, radar was in fledgling years. It was developed first in England but the technology was brought here to St. Simons for further research and development of enhanced radar. A top-secret project, St. Simons was selected as a radar research facility because of the island’s isolation from the mainland. The government took over the King & Prince was taken over by the government as a naval training facility and a radar station.

The Lighthouse Trolleys tour is fascinating (more to come); 912-638-3333,, and shows off many places I come back and visit in more depth – plenty to fill out a week’s holiday: the St. Simons Island Lighthouse (which you can climb; this one dates from 1872) and Maritime museum and AW Jones Heritage Center (, and Neptune Park Pier village (the waterfront park is marvelous and there is a new Fun Zone playground), which is a block-long “downtown” of shops and restaurants (the island has more than 20 galleries and antique shops); the St Simons Island Island Playhouse theater and Library, historic sites including Bloody Marsh, Christ Church (dating from 1884, has a Tiffany stained glass window, and cemetery that is absolutely fascinating, (, and most fascinating of all, Ft. Frederica National Monument, where you can see ongoing archeology of the colonial-era community (

My favorite way to get around is also a major activity here: biking.

There is a bike-rental shop, Ocean-Motion, a short walk from the King & Prince, and miles and miles of paved paths around the island; Ocean-Motion also organizes kayak nature tours (1300 Ocean BlvdSt. Simons, 912-638-5225, 800-669-5215).

And we are off to explore the island (see next).

St. Simons Island is one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, a popular resort playground lying midway between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, offering a mix of natural beauty, rich history and quaint charm, and year-round pleasant weather.

The King and Prince offers guests a complete resort experience, including beachfront activities to horseback riding, tennis, biking and fishing. A variety of tours are available that provide samplings of the area’s history and culture, whether by foot, bike, trolley or boat.

High season is from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-August, with a bump around spring break, mid-March through mid-April. Low season is from the week after Thanksgiving through mid-February. Check the website for a host of packages and specials.

The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, 201 Arnold Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522 

See also:

Eagle Island, one of Private Islands of Georgia, offers rare experience and slideshow

Discovering Sapelo Island, Georgia and Gullah-Geechees of Hog Hammock and slideshow


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