When she started out at the front desk of Southern Retreat RV Park, Jo Collins didn’t expect she’d be taking over general management of the rest of the park in a few years, much less overhauling the park’s restaurant and entertainment options.
She started in April 2021, and wasn’t quite content with the state of the park. At the time, it didn’t offer much in the way of entertainment for guests and the buffet the park offered at the time was lacking. It’s not unusual for people to check in later in the day, easily past 7 p.m. The buffet’s hours weren’t cutting it. Many were more interested in simple pub food than anything else.
“They wanted to know where they could get a burger and a beer without unhooking,” Collins said.
It all added up to one thing — a full refresh, and that’s what they did. The restaurant at 7445 Blythe Island Highway is part of a relatively new effort to get the park integrated into the Golden Isles, she said. The new interior layout is focused on being open and accessible, giving plenty of space for folks to gather around the bar and mingle.
It’s already become a frequent hangout for RV guests, but also for local bikers, veterans, law enforcement personnel and others. Her husband and son-in-law are both in law enforcement, so it’s important that the bar provides a welcoming atmosphere for them, she said.
“I’m a people person, so I love the chatter,” Collins said. “You see people coming together — you see people who’ve never met getting a beer together, buying rounds for the bar, just having a good time,” she said.
The name, much like the restaurant itself, is also new. Though, there’s no secrets behind it. Given the region it’s in, the new owner, Mario Garcia, thought something fishy, like Fish Tails, would work. Collins, thinking more in terms of “tale” than “tail” swapped the words.
“What bigger ‘fish tale’ can you think of than a mermaid?” she said of the nod to their mascot.
It’s not just the food she hopes will attract people but several community activities the park offers as well, from live music and karaoke nights to rock ‘n’ roll bingo, fundraisers for organizations like an equestrian rescue and a local 8U baseball team and a paint-and-sip event hosted regularly by local artist Clint Hobby, just to name a few.
That’s not to mention holiday events, including an Easter egg hunt, a visit from Santa Claus and an upcoming celebration of Memorial Day. One biker group even decided to hold a fundraiser for charity at Fish Tales.
“There’s always something going on,” Collins said.
It sprung from Collins’ research into other RV parks, seeing that many competitors and those in other regions hold things like movie night and cornhole tournaments for guests, but Southern Retreat did none of that.
Another angle to establish the park as truly local is the restaurant’s signature beer — Fish Tale Ale. It’s brewed by Silver Bluff Brewing Co., which worked with the park staff to craft something matching the menu. She described it as hoppy, fruity and refreshing.
Being part of the community also means knowing the lay of the land. People here on vacation often ask about things to see and do in the Golden Isles, and the staff are always ready to direct them to places like the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, downtown Brunswick’s First Friday, the beaches on St. Simons and Jekyll islands, and other places around town.
The changes are part of a much larger expansion at the park, she said. Garcia took over as the owner a few years ago and has an agenda to expand the park in a big way. New appointments include over 500 total RV spaces and three cabins, a bigger pool with a cave and waterfall, a mini golf course and more.
Collins is excited to be involved in that, but truly loves the community aspect. She’s from the Midwest and moved to the Golden Isles after her husband was transferred to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
Even before moving to the coast, though, Collins loved swimming and diving. Making a home in the Golden Isles only amplified that.
“I need to be in water, it recharges my batteries,” Collins said.
Since then, she and her husband have become pretty committed to staying here, and her kids have moved to the coastal region as well.
For those who want to get a little taste of what the overhauled restaurant offers, she suggested trying a beer cheese burger. It’s unlikely to be as good as what Fish Tales can offer, she says — made at home, it won’t include the signature Fish Tale Ale — but it’s a taste of what to expect.
½ lb fresh ground burger patty
Directions: Grill up a burger to your liking — the internal temperature of a rare burger is 120 degrees; medium rare, 130-135 degrees; medium, 135-145 degrees; medium well, 145-155 degrees; and well done, 155 degrees and over. If at home, the FDA recommends cooking ground beef to 155 degrees, but Fish Tales will make burgers to order. Add the toppings, put the beer cheese on last, and finish off with the bun. Fish Tales makes its Fish Tale Ale Beer Cheese in-house, but feel free to substitute your favorite beer cheese recipe at home.