The coast of Georgia has several enchanting island surrounded by beautiful marshlands and sandy beaches. Whether it’s taking a stroll on the beach or visiting the many historical landmarks you will enjoy countless breathtaking views during your time on these serene barrier islands. After a trip to Savannah, I decided to explore some of these coastal islands on my way south to Florida.
My first stop took me to Tybee Island which is the easternmost point of Georgia. Tybee Island is full of coastal charm and is only 18 miles from Savannah. When I arrived to Tybee it reminded me of an old fashioned beach town filled with unique shops, art galleries and delicious restaurants which are locally owned. The island is also a bike friendly community, where most people prefer to ride their bikes around town. The best part of a daily bicycle ride is cruising along the beach shores. Yes, riding a bike in the sand! What a great way to enjoy the beach! One favorite site on the island was the Tybee Island Lighthouse. I knew I had to make the climb up the spiral staircase of 178 steps to reach the top of the lighthouse. It was definitely worth the hike, because I was surrounded by gorgeous views of the island. If you are looking for relaxing retreat then Tybee Island is your answer where everyone is on island time.
The next island on my agenda was St. Simons which is the largest of the barrier islands and only a 12 mile drive from Brunswick. To my surprise, St. Simon’s streets are lined with stunning oak trees and the downtown village has charming stores and restaurants. St. Simons also has a variety of attractions to explore, such as The Lovely Lane Chapel built in 1880 which is the oldest church on the island. The grounds surrounding the chapel are beautifully landscaped overlooking the bluff which makes it a popular wedding venue.
Next I headed toward the St. Simons Lighthouse which let me on a trek of climbing 129 steps. The journey to the top of the lighthouse was well worth it, I enjoyed amazing panoramic views of the island.
On the north end of the island is home to Christ Church which was built in 1820. This enchanting church with its Gothic steeple and roof looks straight out of a storybook nestled among live oak and holly trees. Across the street is Wesley Memorial which has a beautiful Celtic cross as the centerpiece surrounded by lovely gardens.
The most notable landmark on the north side of St. Simon’s is the historical Fort Frederica. I strongly encourage everyone to take the time to go see this National Park which is free to visit. Although Fort Frederica mainly consists of ruins of a once thriving community it still is wonderful adventure. At the visitor center I picked up a map of the park and toured the grounds. Frederica was built by General James Oglethorpe to protect Georgia from an invasion from the Spanish. When Frederica was constructed in 1736 it was a planned town like Savannah with Georgian style houses.
As I walked along the streets looking at remnants of buildings, I imagined how grand this former military town looked when it was a thriving settlement. Today a small portion of the fort still stands among picturesque landscaping of majestic oak trees with moss draping off them overlooking the marsh.
If you like scavenger hunts, St. Simon has seven tree spirits on public property to discover. The welcome center has maps of the location of each tree spirit on the island. It’s a fun excursion finding the trees and a great way to see the island. I will give you a hint there is a tree spirit located outside the visitor center near the building.
After I left St. Simons I traveled to the town of Brunswick, established in 1771 by General Oglethorpe. It is a quaint coastal town with deep historical roots that is often referred as a modern day colonial city. As I walked through the town I felt like I was stepping back in time strolling among buildings with their original Victorian architecture. Many of the historical buildings such as the Old City Hall, Glynn County Courthouse, and Customs House have been restored to their original splendor.
The town is also home to Lovers Oak, this tree is believed to be 900 years old that resides in the middle of neighborhood. I was amazed at how gorgeous the large oak tree was with all its knots and massive branches. According to legend this has been a meeting place of lovers beginning with Native Americans who would kiss under the branches. If you visit Brunswick with your sweetie make sure you stop and smooch under the branches of the Lovers Oak.
Brunswick was another town laid out using the Oglethorpe plan similar to Savannah; it has fourteen squares with Hanover Square being the most lavish of them. Restoration efforts are ongoing to preserve the parks and squares for everyone to enjoy.
My last stop took me to Jekyll Island. Jekyll Island is a tranquil island and was my favorite of the barrier islands that I visited. A priority on my agenda was to go to Driftwood Beach, located on the north end of Jekyll Island. This certainly is no ordinary beach; it has massive oak trees of all shapes and sizes with moss dangling from their branches adding to the islands allure. As soon as my toes hit the sand I was immediately captivated by the shoreline covered with enormous driftwood. Although the beach resembles a graveyard for trees it definitely a photographer’s paradise. Breathtaking is the only word to describe Driftwood Beach!
Also on the island is the ruins of the oldest standing tabby structures in Georgia; the Horton House which was constructed in 1743. The Horton House was once a thriving plantation on Jekyll Island. Directly across the road is the DuBignon cemetery that has beautiful views of the Marshes of Glynn.
Jekyll Island is also well known for having the largest historic districts in the country. A guided tram is available for a tour of many of these historic homes that once were vacation homes to the elite; the Rockefeller’s, Pulitzers, and Vanderbilt’s.
The best thing about Jekyll Island is that they have a strict conservation rule that limits development on the island. For the nature enthusiast this means the majority of the island will always remain in its natural environment.
Georgia’s beaches are unique and full of plenty of southern charm. They are not like their neighbor Florida, covered with palm trees and tropical plants, but instead they are surrounded by gorgeous oak trees dangling with moss, immersed along paths where history was made. I had a great time exploring the Georgia coastline not only was it beautiful but very informative in the history of Georgia. I had a great time and I know you will too!! Safe travels!