St. Simons Island Pier in the Golden Isles
8 One-of-a-Kind Ways to Experience Georgia’s Golden Isles
From the smell of the salt air rustling through the marsh to the sight of shrimp boats hauling in the day’s catch, the Golden Isles is like something out of a storybook.
This majestic stretch of coast — which includes St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island, along with the mainland city of Brunswick — teems with coastal charm and unspoiled natural beauty unlike anywhere else in the South.
As a bonus, the Golden Isles is home to three of the four Georgia barrier islands you can reach by car. So, breeze on over the bridges and discover what makes this region such a treasure, starting with this list of one-of-a-kind experiences.
Before venturing out, check the locations and events below for special dates, hours, and policies.
1. Explore Wild & Wonderful Beaches
The beaches of the Golden Isles are as diverse as they are scenic. With its striking “skeletons” of sea-weathered trees, Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island is a photographer’s dream. Expansive East Beach on St. Simons Island is a favorite for shelling, biking, and splashing in the surf. Craving solitude? On Little St. Simons Island, you can spread out on seven miles of private, undeveloped shore. There’s a beach for everyone here, and the fun part is finding yours.
2. Get Up Close with Sea Turtles
Thousands of loggerheads make their nests along the Georgia coast during the summer months. Join a Turtle Walk at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center for a chance to see nesting moms or even hatchlings in the wild. The center is the only sea turtle hospital in Georgia, and visitors of all ages can pop in year-round to see rescued turtles being nurtured back to health. There are plenty of other ways to experience sea turtles in the Golden Isles. Take a visit to Sea Island for an early morning Sea Turtle Dawn Patrol, or meet local wildlife on a guided day trip to Little St. Simons Island.
3. Seek Out St. Simons Tree Spirits
Look closely at the trees of St. Simons Island and you might find a pair of eyes staring right back at you! Either peering out from the trunk or perhaps the stub of a long-vanished branch, the unmistakable image of a weathered face would be one of the island's 11 (and counting) publicly commissioned Tree Spirits. Grab a map, rent a bike from Pedego Electric Bikes, and embark on an adventure to try and spot them all.
4. Soak Up Nature at Its Purest
Pristine estuaries and miles of sandy beaches provide a welcome respite from daily life. Find serene forest and endless marsh views on St. Simons Island’s John Gilbert Nature Trail. Explore trails through maritime forests along Cannon’s Point Preserve. The Colonial Coast Birding Trail, which stretches across the Golden Isles and up the coast to Savannah, is a sanctuary for more than 300 bird species. Look for dolphins, herons, and other critters on a kayak tour with 4-H Tidelands Nature Center on Jekyll Island. Or, book a day trip to Little St. Simons Island to explore wildlife-filled wetlands.
5. Uncover Historical Relics
This part of the Georgia coast is steeped in history. Step back into the Gilded Age in the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District, which was once the retreat of America’s wealthiest families. St. Simons Island is filled with significant historic places, too, including Fort Frederica, and the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum, which is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. In Brunswick, stroll the historic district’s picturesque Signature Squares, which pre-date the Revolutionary War. While you’re there, don’t forget to explore all that Historic Downtown Brunswick has to offer.
6. Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
There’s no dreamier way to explore the Golden Isles than by horseback. Head to The Stables at Frederica on St. Simons Island to join a trail ride through beautiful beach dunes, salt marshes, or maritime forests dripping with Spanish moss. For the youngsters, a guided pony ride around the scenic stable grounds is a perfect introduction to riding.
7. Experience Southern Coastal Hospitality
From comfort to luxury, the Golden Isles has it all. For luxury in the most traditional sense, take your pick of Georgia’s only Forbes Five-Star resorts: The Cloister and The Lodge, both located on Sea Island. Indulge in the luxury of peace and seclusion at The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, an 11,000-acre eco-resort that only hosts 32 guests at a time. Find a selection of other accommodations ranging from cozy condos to retreats and town houses at Hodnett Cooper and Lilmar Properties.
8. Fill Up on Southern Cuisine
An inviting mix of upscale and flip flop-friendly, the Golden Isles’ dining scene is a foodie’s delight. Stop at Palmer’s Village Café on St. Simons Island for everything from banana pudding pancakes to pimento cheese grits. Get your fix of fresh-off-the-boat shrimp, scallops, and crabs at spots like ECHO, Georgia Sea Grill, and Barbara Jean’s. Or, take part in Southern tradition and throw a low country boil with local Wild Georgia Shrimp.