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Georgia coastal resorts

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Did You Know … ?

  • In 1908, the Eagle Pencil Company paid $12,500 for Little St. Simons Island to cut its cedars for pencils; the wood was unsuitable.
  • The U.S. hosted the G8 Summit at Sea Island (2004).
  • Secret meetings on Jekyll in 1910 provided the framework for the Federal Reserve System.
  • There is a nuclear bomb buried in the waters off Tybee Island; it is unarmed.
  • By 1900, members of Jekyll Island Club, owner of the island, represented more than one-sixth the world’s wealth.

Barrier island playgrounds

Georgia’s Atlantic coast is lined with barrier islands, but the four closest to the 18th century coastal city of Brunswick — St. Simons, Jekyll, Little St. Simons and Sea Island — are called the Golden Isles. Farther north, Tybee Island is essentially Savannah’s beach. Little St. Simons is reached by boat from St. Simons; the others are accessible by car. Three additional barrier islands are designated as national seashore or wildlife refuges.

Tourism emerged in the late 19th century, starting with St. Simons and Tybee. It took longer for the others to be seen for the retreats they’ve become. All have beaches and, among them, offer the recreational facilities and services appropriate to a location at ocean’s edge. Warm weather makes them attractive year round.

  • St. Simons has a wide choice for accommodations, shopping and restaurants. The Bloody Marsh Battle Site and Fort Frederica, visual reminders of Britain’s fight to keep Spain from controlling the area, are among historical attractions. Visitors can be as active as they wish with cycling, kayaking, scuba diving and the like.
  • Jekyll Island, once a private club for the very rich, is a state park, offering all sorts of recreation — like fishing, golf, swimming, tennis — and sightseeing in a nationally landmarked district. Tourists visit the Sea Turtle Center, which protects turtles that nest in Georgia. Development is limited to 35% of Jekyll’s land.
  • Little St. Simons, privately owned and under the Nature Conservancy’s protection, is a wildlife sanctuary, particularly for birds. The island’s sole accommodation, the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, originated as a 1917 hunting lodge. Non-lodge guests must coordinate day trips through lodge staff.
  • Sea Island is open only to guests at its high-end resorts or its Georgian Room restaurant. For resort guests, choices are legion, ranging from horseback riding, marsh tours and paddle boarding to golf, spa treatments and fine dining.
  • Tybee Island offers five miles of beaches, fishing pier, local seafood, festivals and events year round, plus historic attractions, including Fort Pulaski, which was bombarded by Union troops in the Civil War. Many activities center on the Tybee Pier and Pavilion.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Enter a shrimp-eating contest at Jekyll Island’s Shrimp and Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival, staged in autumn.
  • Climb the 129 steps to the top of the still-active St. Simons Island Lighthouse for the views. Or, climb the 178 steps of Tybee Island Light Station for the same reason.
  • Help the crew (if you want to) aboard a shrimping vessel from Brunswick. Or, choose eco-shrimping tours on Jekyll Island. Or, at Tybee, go crabbing.
  • Rent a kayak for paddling among the Golden Isles. Join a tour that takes you among and beyond the Golden Isles. At Tybee, sign on for an overnight kayaking trip, or make an excursion to Little Tybee Island, which must be accomplished by kayak or something else that floats.
  • At St. Simons, jet skiing, kiteboarding and scuba diving are options.
  • Find the most deserted spot on Jekyll Island’s beaches and chill out with no one — or at least, no strangers — in view.

Things to do for Centrics

  • If a birder, bring the binoculars to Jekyll, St. Simons or Tybee Island. All are part of Georgia’s Colonial Coast Birding Trail, as is the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site at Brunswick.
  • Sign on for a ghost tour on St. Simon’s Island.
  • Join a horseback trail ride on a beach at Jekyll or St. Simons Island. Or, do the same on Sea Island if a guest at one of the island’s resorts.
  • On Jekyll, St. Simons Island or Tybee, try your luck with the deep-sea fishing. Or, at St. Simons, work on your fly-fishing.
  • Sample the area’s military history, which dates to the 1740s when the British defeated the Spanish for control of this area. Relevant sites are Fort Frederica National Monument and the Bloody Marsh Battle Site. Put the 19th century Fort Pulaski National Monument on that itinerary, too.
  • Rent a bicycle and sample the trails on St. Simons.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Overnight at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. When a guest, consider the lodge’s birder tour on an island where 239 species are known to at least drop by. Also, relish the seven miles of undeveloped beach, or play golf.
  • Snatch your chances, with camera in hand, to tour historic districts on Jekyll Island and in Brunswick. Also, gamble on a casino ship in Brunswick. Ditto for Savannah if heading to Tybee.
  • Take a dolphin watching cruise, available at Brunswick, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island and Tybee.
  • Get engrossed by the work at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Watch turtle treatment and surgery; track tagged turtles.
  • Antebellum plantation life is ever of interest. See the Mildred Huie Plantation Museum on St. Simons, as well as the two slave cabins at the former Hamilton Plantation. The Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site at Brunswick appeals to visitors for the same reasons.
  • Exercise your tennis arm, or your golf swing, at courts and courses on Jekyll or St. Simons Island. Or, if a guest on Sea Island, pamper yourself at the over-the-top spa facilities.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult the Georgia Coast at www.visitcoastalgeorgia.com