Ever since I was a little girl I've been enamored with the live oak trees on St. Simons Island. Their old, gnarly limbs telling stories of centuries gone by. The elegant Spanish moss blowing softly in the wind, protecting their long-kept secrets. The golden light filtering through moss and limbs giving them that dreamy and enchanting feeling that I love so much. And one of my favorite places to soak in the splendor of these old beauties is the island's breathtaking Avenue of the Oaks.
This spectacular tree-lined pathway is truly a sight to behold. And a walk beneath the trees' canopy of deep green leaves and vast networks of twisting limbs is an experience that can't be missed. Particularly during the morning and evening golden hours of the day.
But the history surrounding these famous trees might surprise you. Read on to learn more about this antebellum plantation turned photographer and nature lovers' paradise.
What is the Avenue of the Oaks?
The Avenue of the Oaks is the iconic grand entry lane leading to the renowned Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island. This captivating pathway is adorned by a magnificent double row of nearly 200-year-old live oaks, creating a picturesque scene that beckons visitors to explore its natural beauty.
But beyond their visual appeal, these trees offer a sense of connection to the past and a reminder of the island's enduring heritage. Walking beneath their intertwined branches, you can't help but feel a reverence for the passage of time and the natural beauty that has thrived throughout the years in the old South.
What is the history of the Avenue of the Oaks?
Originally known as Retreat Plantation, this beautiful stretch of land on the southern tip of St. Simons Island was once one of the Lowcountry's most prosperous plantations. From 1760 until the start of the Civil War, this area experienced a thriving era of cotton and rice plantations, and Retreat Plantation became known worldwide for growing high-quality Sea Island cotton.
Then in 1826, a woman by the name of Anna Page King inherited the land and took it upon herself to plant the renowned Avenue of the Oaks. Legends speak of Anna's gorgeous gardens and her remarkable ability to cultivate an abundance of flowers on Retreat Plantation, with the flowers' fragrance reaching sailors before the island shores came into view.
Nearly 200 years later, these trees now stand at attention to welcome visitors to the Sea Island Golf Club. And a stroll through the magnificent tree tunnel, formed by the intertwining of ancient branches draped in Spanish moss and covered with local flora, is a sight that will absolutely take your breath away.
Where is the Avenue of the Oaks?
Saint Simons Island's famous Avenue of Oaks is located at the grand entrance of the Sea Island Golf Club. To catch a glimpse of its spectacular beauty, visitors can take a scenic drive towards the Lodge at the Sea Island Golf Club and then follow the route back. This circular path allows for a leisurely journey along the majestic row of live oaks, offering an opportunity to soak in the beauty of this iconic St. Simons landmark.
What's the best time to visit the Avenue of the Oaks, St. Simons Island?
Because it is surrounded by an active golf course, visitors should plan their visit to the Avenue of the Oaks accordingly. I recommend exploring it during off days and off times (as well as during the off-season if you have the choice!). Weekends and golden hour tend to be the busiest times, so keep that in mind because although parking is free, it's extremely limited.
And no matter what time of the day or year you visit, make sure to always stay alert! It’s easy to get lost in thought as you meander through this enchanting pathway of old live oak trees, but be careful (and keep a close eye on your kiddos!) because cars are consistently entering and exiting the club via the roads on either side of the path. Not to mention the occasional stray golf ball that may come flying your way!
Directions to the Avenue of the Oaks
Although the address of the Sea Island Golf Club is 100 Retreat Avenue, to get to the Avenue of the Oaks from anywhere on the island, I recommend entering "Avenue of the Oaks, Canary Drive, St. Simons Island, GA" into your mapping app.
Canary Drive is the side of the road that leads to the golf club while Retreat Ave. is the side of the road that leads away from it. However, these locations are actually the same place, which can sometimes cause mapping mishaps. I know this from experience as Google Maps led me on a wild goose chase the first time I plugged in "Avenue of the Oaks!"
To help you plan your visit to the Avenue of Oaks in St. Simons Island, here are some important details you will need:
- LOCATION: 100 Retreat Avenue / Canary Drive
- GOOGLE MAPS: Avenue of the Oaks, Canary Drive, St. Simons Island, GA
- HOURS: Open all day year-round
- PRICE: Free
- PHOTOS: Priceless!
For more ideas on what to do while on the island, make sure to check out my guide to the 37 Best Things to Do in St. Simons Island. And if you're interested in digging deeper into the details of the Golden Isles and some of the most popular attractions in the area, you might enjoy reading:
- Where are the Golden Isles and What Are They Known For?
- Sidney Lanier Bridge: Crossing the Brunswick River in GA
- Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island: All You Need to Know
- St. Simons Island Lighthouse: A Prominent GA Landmark
- Tabby Cement: All About this Historic Coastal Concrete
Avenue of the Oaks FAQS
The Avenue of the Oaks is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque locations on St. Simons Island, but it can sometimes be mistaken for other renowned tree sites across the southern region. To clear up any confusion, let's address some frequently asked questions about the trees of St. Simons while highlighting other notable Lowcountry tree destinations as well.
Where is the Forrest Gump Avenue of the Oaks?
Many scenes in the movie 'Forrest Gump' feature live oak trees in some capacity. However, the famous "Run, Forrest, run!" scene where Forrest is chased down an oak-lined avenue by high school bullies in a pickup truck is located in Yemassee, South Carolina.
What kind of oak trees are on St Simons Island?
St. Simons Island boasts a magnificent display of Southern live oak trees (Quercus virginiana), which can be found lining the streets, in parks, and along roads leading to its various beaches. They are a beloved part of the island's landscape and provide a shady respite from the hot sun.
What is the oldest tree on St Simons Island?
The Lover's Oak is a live oak tree located near St. Simons Island, Georgia. It is estimated to be over 900 years old, making it one of the oldest trees in the United States. The tree is located in the historic district of Brunswick at the intersection of Albany and Prince Streets.
What is the famous oak tree in Georgia?
There are many famous oak trees in Georgia, but some of the most notable include:
- The aforementioned Lover's Oak in Brunswick, GA
- Candler Oak in Savannah, GA
- The Big Oak in Thomasville, GA
- Plantation Oak in Jekyll Island, GA
Is St. Simons the only place with an Avenue of the Oaks?
No, there are a number of other cities and states that boast beautiful oak tree-lined streets. Some of the most popular places to find an Avenue of the Oaks draped in romantic Spanish moss include:
- Beaufort, SC
- Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens in Mt. Pleasant, SC
- Charleston, SC
- Coffin Point Plantation in St. Helena Island, SC
- Mobile, AL
- Pike Road, AL
- Floral CIty, FL
- Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah, GA
Avenue of the Oaks: The Wrap-Up
One of the most beautiful historic sites on Saint Simons Island, the Avenue of the Oaks is more than just a scenic pathway. It's a place of history. A place of wonderous natural beauty. And perhaps most importantly, a place that reminds us of the importance of taking a moment to pause, to breathe, and to embrace the simple beauty that surrounds us.
So if you find yourself on St. Simons Island, make sure to carve out some time to take a leisurely stroll amongst these old live oak trees and to appreciate the history that these remarkable trees represent. I promise you that it's an experience you won't forget.
A writer and photographer, Allie Albanese is the founder and curator of Parched Around the World. Here she aims to tell stories about the intersection of food, drinks, cultures, and traditions in places near and far.
Allie holds a Master’s degree in Journalism from American University and for more than a decade has worked as a freelance travel, food, and drinks journalist for various publications across the United States and abroad. When not out in search of the next story to tell, she calls her beloved St. Simons Island home.