Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @benjamingalland

The Most Unspoiled Beaches on the Georgia Coast

Travelers weary of overdeveloped beaches will find the perfect remedy on Georgia's Atlantic coast. Stretching for 100 miles from southernmost Cumberland Island to Tybee Island, just 20 minutes outside Savannah, the 15 barrier islands on Georgia's coast offer unspoiled natural escapes within a four- to five-hour drive from Atlanta.

Choose any of Georgia's islands, and you'll find a place where the shore is calm and uncrowded. Plan a bucket list trip to experience the windswept national seashore on Cumberland Island, and pack your camera to visit the spectacular Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, one of Georgia's famous Golden Isles. Bring your pets along to St. Simons Island, and plan special family getaways to Little St. Simons Island or Tybee Island

Come along as we discover the charms of Georgia's quiet beaches.

Woman walking near Dungeness ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @natawhee7
Dungeness ruins on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Photo by @natawhee7

Secluded and remote Cumberland Island National Seashore

The largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia, Cumberland Island offers guests more than 17 miles of secluded white, sandy beaches to explore. One of 10 national seashores in the United States protected and preserved by the National Park Service, the island is one of the most isolated parks in the country.

Once the island retreat for the Carnegies, the largely undeveloped island is only accessible by ferry from St. Marys. Plan a luxurious stay at the Greyfield Inn, a day-trip to explore the Dungeness Ruins or a Cumberland Island National Seashore Camping trip for the ultimate Georgia beach adventure.

Tip: A visit to Cumberland Island takes some preparation as visitors are limited, and there are no concessions on the island. Start planning and make reservations through the Cumberland Island National Seashore website.

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo by @christinelentzyoga
Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo by @christinelentzyoga

Otherworldly Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

Just north of Cumberland Island and directly across St. Simons Sound from St. Simons Lighthouse, the lonely spot known as Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island will give you a whole new perspective on beach vistas. The erosion of the island's northern point has resulted in dozens of downed trees left to bleach and dry along the sand. It's a stunning sight and a favorite of photographers.

Enjoy the whole Jekyll Island experience by visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where you can see turtles being nursed back to health after injury and learn more about their fascinating life journeys. Also, be sure to tour the historic district, where fabulous island "cottages" were once part of the Jekyll Island Club, a private retreat for wealthy families with names like Rockefeller, Morgan and Vanderbilt.

Tip: Check a tide chart before you visit so you can see Driftwood Beach on an outgoing tide. The beach isn't as accessible or spacious during high tide.

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

Pet-friendly Gould's Inlet on St. Simons Island

On the northern tip of St. Simons Island's East Beach is Gould’s Inlet. Primarily a bird watching, fishing, and ocean observation area, this pet-friendly beach offers a view of the southern end of Sea Island, just across the river inlet. You'll most likely encounter people fishing off the boardwalk and along the beach, as well as paddleboarders off the distant sandbars catching some waves.

Tip: There is limited parking, but the beach access location offers a shower, water hose, community water bowl for pets, dog bag station, and benches.

Sunset on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia
Sunset on Little St. Simons Island, Georgia

Rustic and private Little St. Simons Island

Does being one of less than three dozen people on a private island appeal to your need for solitude? Little St. Simons Island, another barrier island just off Georgia's coast, is a privately owned sanctuary with seven miles of undeveloped beach. An ecological gem, this island also offers unspoiled maritime forests and marshland easily accessible to its vintage vacation cottages. River and surf fishing, kayaking, nature hikes through the forests and, of course, swimming and shelling at the beach are favorite activities for visitors to Little St. Simons Island.

Tip: Consider sharing the island's unmarred beauty with your extended family for the ultimate in private family reunions at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island.

Tybee Island Lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia. Photo by @mylittlelifesjourneys
Tybee Island Lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia. Photo by @mylittlelifesjourneys

Family-friendly Mid Beach on Tybee Island

The most northern of Georgia's barrier islands, Tybee Island is the quintessential Georgia coastal vacation experience. With its legendary fort, lighthouse, beach resorts and almost endless outdoor recreation, this island is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Amid all that island activity, however, it's still possible to enjoy uncrowded beach time, thanks to family-friendly Mid Beach. Walk the wide stretch of shoreline in search of shells and sharks' teeth, and keep an eye out for dolphins in the waves.

Tip: Bring the shovels and buckets, as the sand here is perfect for castle building!

The unblemished beauty of these five beaches will make you wonder why you ever settled for the crowds. Make your way to Georgia's Atlantic Coast for a taste of wide open, come-and-explore beaches at their best.

Published: February 2021