Gould's inlet on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Photo by Ben Galland

Gould's inlet on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Photo by Ben Galland

Best Things to Do on the Coast

Start with this list, and don't be surprised if you get lost in the wonder of the Georgia coast.

Georgia's beautiful Coast region has something for everyone. Explore the historic squares in Savannah and visit the storied swamps of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. Definitely don't miss your chance to discover the beaches along Georgia's 100-mile coastline. Each one offers a different experience. So whether you're looking to shop and stroll in a small town, enjoy fresh-caught seafood, or escape to a wild, undeveloped shore, the Coast has you covered.

Things to see & do

Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah. Photo by @goanniewhere
Wormsloe State Historic Site in Savannah. Photo by @goanniewhere

Plantations

Georgia's Coast is rich with African American heritage. At St. Simons Island's Hamilton Plantation, for instance, two 1833 slave cabins remain standing — tabby houses, built of oyster shells, lime, sand, and water. The plantation was once owned by Scotland native James Hamilton, and the cabins are believed to have belonged to slaves with elevated positions in the local hierarchy. The Cassina Garden Club took ownership of the cabins in 1950 and carefully restored them, complete with graphical histories and displayed artifacts.

Just beyond the ancient gates, Wormsloe State Historic Site provides what may be one of Georgia's most captivating roadways — a mile-long tunnel formed by live oaks dripping with Spanish moss. It feels otherworldly, but the state-owned former plantation is just a 15-minute drive from Savannah’s historic core. Venture off the iconic entrance, and explore a system of trails, Isle of Hope views, and the 1745 ruins of a tabby house, the city’s oldest standing structure.

More: The 16 Most Instagrammed Places in Georgia

First African Baptist Church in Savannah. Photo by @genteelandbardsavannah
First African Baptist Church in Savannah. Photo by @genteelandbardsavannah

Historic sites

Up the road in Savannah, which was considered a leading port in the transatlantic slave trade, a walking tour pays homage to African Americans' journey from enslavement to emancipation. Sites of interest on the Footprints of Savannah tour include auction blocks in the city's historic squares, City Market offices where enslaved people were purchased, and the Underground Railroad stop that was First African Baptist Church.

More: 6 Inspiring Black History Stops Near Savannah

Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center & Museum in Riceboro, Georgia
Geechee Kunda Cultural Arts Center & Museum in Riceboro, Georgia

Learn about regional culture

Throughout the region, customs of the Gullah Geechee people — descendants of Africans who labored on plantations from North Carolina to Florida — are carried on by the ancestors of coastal slaves today. Those include basketmaking, music, and religious beliefs. Sapelo Island, accessible only by boat, is considered one of the last intact Gullah Geechee communities on any U.S. island.

Tree spirit at Gascoigne Bluff on St. Simons Island, Georgia
Tree spirit at Gascoigne Bluff on St. Simons Island, Georgia

Tree spirits on St. Simons Island

Visitors should keep their eyes peeled (and cameras focused) on grand old oak trees around St. Simons Island, where artist Keith Jennings began carving ghostly faces into trunks in the 1980s.

More: Mystical Legends of Georgia Folklore

Rooftop bar at Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah. Photo by @mbottiglieri
Rooftop bar at Perry Lane Hotel in Savannah. Photo by @mbottiglieri

Rooftop Bar at Perry Lane Hotel

Marketed as Savannah’s best rooftop bar, Peregrin offers sultry libations alongside jaw-dropping views. Try the Perry Lane Special, which includes cognac, curacao, absinthe, sparkling wine, and lemon.

More: Rooftop Dining Destinations in Georgia

Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @justin.hardigree
Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @justin.hardigree

Dungeness Ruins on Cumberland Island

The ruins stand opulently in brick and stone, as if in defiance of the 1950s fire that claimed the rest of the mansion. Dungeness was built by Thomas Carnegie and his wife in 1884.

More: Cumberland Island: From Camping to the Carnegies

American Prohibition Museum in Savannah
American Prohibition Museum in Savannah

American Prohibition Museum

Described as "Not Your Typical Dry Museum" and Savannah's "Best Kept Secret," America's only museum devoted to Prohibition has a sense of humor about the libation pushback that started with the temperance movement of the 1850s and drowned in the great repeal of 1933. Upgraded tickets include a Prohibition era cocktail.

More: Georgia's "Secret" Drinking History

Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Photo by @roses_and_butterflies
Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Photo by @roses_and_butterflies

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

The Peach State's only sea turtle rehabilitation facility and education center is also a star attraction on Jekyll Island. Opened on the site of a former coal-fired power plant in 2007, Georgia Sea Turtle Center hosts behind-the-scenes tours (to show how ailing turtles are healed) and outdoor excursions all year long.

More: How to See and Protect Sea Turtles on Georgia's Coast

Sapelo Island Lighthouse. Photo by @emilyrjwagner
Sapelo Island Lighthouse. Photo by @emilyrjwagner

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

A red-and-white-striped beacon, Sapelo Island’s circa-1820 lighthouse is an unmissable landmark standing five miles off Georgia’s mainland. Two decades ago, the original brick structure, cistern, and oil house were painstakingly restored with a spiral staircase inside — allowing visitors to climb up to the lantern room, which had been dark for nearly a century.

More: Georgia's Lighthouses

North Beach on Tybee Island. Photo by @brogan_logan
North Beach on Tybee Island. Photo by @brogan_logan

North Beach on Tybee Island

Tybee Island's North Beach offers a chill alternative to the bustle of Tybrisa Street's bar scene. Encompassing a large portion of the barrier island, the area is loaded with great beaches and historical landmarks, plus colorful boutiques and local dives like Huc-a-Poo's, a beloved pizza joint.

More: Things to Do on the Coast

Ask a local

Charisse Bruin, @charissestyles, is a personal stylist and the fashion-savvy proprietor behind the Charisse Styles brand. She lives in Savannah.

St. Patrick's Day in Savannah
St. Patrick's Day in Savannah

What’s one thing all visitors to your region should do?

Low-key adventure? Kayak to Ossabaw Island. Looking for mania? St. Patrick’s Day festivities.

Dock at Sunbury Crab Co. in Sunbury, Georgia
Dock at Sunbury Crab Co. in Sunbury, Georgia

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Vic’s on the River — get the crawfish beignets as the app, for sure — but Sunbury Crab Co. has the best locally caught seafood. The seafood mélange has crab, shrimp, lobster, and more.

Summer Waves water park on Jekyll Island, Georgia
Summer Waves water park on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Where would you recommend someone go with kids?

Summer Waves is a staple, a coastal theme park. It’s just about an hour drive from the metro Savannah area, so it’s far enough for a not-so-far family vacation or day trip with the kids during the summer.

What’s something surprising about your region?

This is the only area in the world where dolphins lure fish to the shoreline to eat them.

What do you love most about living here?

Besides easy accessibility to the water, I love the Coast’s rich history.

Published: February 2020