Newsletter Signup | Subscribe to Magazine

Golden opportunity

Discover 8 hidden gems in the Golden Isles


Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, lie four beautiful barrier islands — St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island — and the mainland city of Brunswick. Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hummocks, define the breathtaking landscape and create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land reaching out to the barrier islands. With all the awe-inspiring landscapes and unique adventures available, it’s hard to know where to start. Try these suggestions with images from GoldenIsles.com.

1. Must-photograph landscape

Driftwood Beach Driftwood Beach is a beautiful stretch of land at the northern end of Jekyll Island where weathered tangles of driftwood are scattered across the sand to create a hauntingly beautiful place to enjoy a sunrise or a coastal stroll.

The activity: This beach is a photographer’s paradise – and it is unique depending on the time of day or even the season you visit. Bring a camera and add to your photography collection.

The secret: Bring a hammock to hang from a sturdy driftwood tree or a picnic blanket to lie on the sand and cozy up for a breathtaking sunrise.


2. Must-do experience

Horseback riding on the beach Horseback riding is one thing; horseback riding on the beach is an entirely different, bucket-list-worthy experience. Feel the coastal breeze in your hair as you stroll along the Golden Isles’ pristine coastline – where it’s just you, the horse, the sand and the sea.

The activity: There are several places you can explore on horseback – from beaches to plantations, historic districts to maritime forests.

The secret: While there are several places to ride, the Marsh Trail Ride and beach rides on Sea Island are quiet, private experiences you won’t want to miss. The Stables at Frederica guide these adventures from Rainbow Island.


3. Must-see piece of history

St. Simons Lighthouse Built in 1872, the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum is one of only five operational lighthouses on the Georgia coast – and the Keeper’s Dwelling has been turned into a quaint museum that houses St. Simons Island history you won’t want to miss.

The activity: Climb 129 steps to the top of the lighthouse for incredible views of the Golden Isles.

The secret: If you are visiting at the right time, you might be able to catch one of the Little Light Music Concerts on the green just outside this gorgeous landmark.


4. Must-experience natural retreat

Little St. Simons Island Accessible only by boat from the north end of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island is an 11,000-acre natural paradise – and it’s an all-inclusive resort for 32 lucky guests per night.

The activity: Most visitors head out for a day trip to Little St. Simons Island, which typically includes the boat ride to and from, a guided nature walk, time on the 7-mile-long, untouched beach, and a fully catered, locally sourced lunch.

The secret: Stay overnight at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island for additional one-on-one time with knowledgeable naturalists, time to explore the island on two wheels, naturalist-led kayaking opportunities, and lengthier nature walks that will help you get a better idea of what coastal Georgia nature is all about. Cell service is limited, so it’s truly an incredible way to unplug, relax and learn something new.


5. Must-explore historical landmark

Jekyll Island Historic District Once a vacation spot for the most elite crowds, the Jekyll Island Historic District is now one of the largest ongoing restoration projects in the South. It received its historic designation in 1972 by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The activity: Explore the entire landmark. Whether by trolley, by horse and carriage or by foot, tour the area to get a glimpse of historic luxury at its finest.

The secret: Interested in living that elite life? You can stay at the original clubhouse, now known as the Jekyll Island Club Resort, to get a taste of the luxury this historic district represents – and what members described as its “sense of splendid isolation.”


6. Must-find local art

St. Simons Island Tree Spirits If you look closely at certain majestic oak trees that cover St. Simons Island, it’s possible to find one gazing back at you – either peering out from the trunk or from the stub of a long-vanished branch. These are the tree spirits of St. Simons Island.

The activity: Spend the day on a one-of-a-kind scavenger hunt while you search for the local tree spirits around St. Simons Island, and find them all.

The secret: There’s a whole mythology and story surrounding these weathered faces. Discover the legends the locals love.


7. Must-encounter wildlife

Sea turtles Loggerhead sea turtles have called the waters along the southern coast “home” for centuries. As a protected species, sea turtles are so incredible to learn about and see in their natural habitats – if you’re lucky enough!

The activity: All year long the Georgia Sea Turtle Center offers education on sea turtle research and rehabilitation in the Golden Isles. Visit the center to see their scientists and doctors at work – in addition to meeting some of the patients.

The secret: If you visit during the summer sea turtle season, joining a sea turtle patrol with a naturalist is one of the most awe-inspiring and humbling wildlife encounters you could hope for.


8. Must-visit downtown hub

Historic Downtown Brunswick Discover history, inspired cuisine and Southern hospitality in Historic Downtown Brunswick: From shopping to dining and more, you won’t want to miss this rich experience.

The activity: There are so many possibilities in Historic Brunswick, there’s something for everyone: explore a historic plantation with the history buff; find each signature square of Brunswick with the outdoors-lover; peruse the adorable stores with the shopper; enjoy coastal Southern cuisine with the foodie.

The secret: If your visit overlaps the first Friday of the month, you’ll get to experience a local favorite event famous for shopping, dining and entertainment. Check the events calendar at goldenisles.com for more details.