Georgia has a beautiful coastline filled with history, culture and wildlife. A mass of barrier islands creates numerous beaches and nooks perfect for a weekend away, while luxury resorts along the coast offer a tranquil retreat. Rich with wildlife and protective dunes, marshlands and waters, this part of the east coast boasts small towns and historical ruins, which can be explored by foot or bike. Southern seafood is abundant in the region, so definitely munch on fried fish, oysters, hush puppies and shrimp and grits. If you’re ready to sink into the captivating Georgia coast, these are the top beaches to hit up.
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Sapelo Island is one of the Georgia Barrier Islands and one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets, as it remains protected by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Sapelo is only accessible by hopping on a small plane or more easily the ferry, which only takes under ten minutes and departs from Sapelo Island Visitors Center. Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, the University of Georgia Marine Institute and 70 descendant residents are the only civilization to be found permanently on the island, so it’s a surreal place to see. R.J. Reynolds Mansion, an 1810 home, has been restored to accommodate a handful of visitors, and there’s also a nearby public beach.
Home to Cumberland Island National Seashore, the historic, diverse ecology and environmental integrity of the island is tightly preserved. Dunes, lakes, and marshes house an array of wildlife and create stunning island scenery. Dungeness Ruins more famously define Cumberland, in addition to other sites like Plum Orchard, and Greyfield Inn that depicts the former luxury way of life that has since been abandoned. Old cars still sit somewhat preserved on crumbled roadsides, and wild horses now roam instead. Seventeen miles of beaches can be accessed via a short ferry ride.
St. Marys is considered to be the “Gateway to Cumberland Island”, as this is the starting point of any journey out that way, via ferry. State parks, birding trails, biking, fishing charters, golfing and waterfront event venues are amongst the perks of visiting this more inhabited beach destination. Hop on a tram tour to explore shops, historic buildings and other significant sites. Stop by Orange Hall to peer into the antebellum lifestyle, and be sure to check out the local food scene. Fulford’s Fish House, Captain Seagle’s Restaurant offer tastes of the fresh, southern style seafood of St. Mary’s.
Sometimes considered an extension of Savannah due to the close proximity, Tybee Island is an alluring destination in Georgia. Some come to enjoy the Atlantic beaches, in addition to wildlife exploration, as a wide variety of birds flock around the island and turtles nest on the shores. Chow down on seafood and barbecue at Gerald’s Pig and Shrimp because their cuisine nails two dominant categories of southern deliciousness. Bubba Gumbo’s is also a beloved place to eat seafood. Tybee is a cool little place with old and new influence, and once even pirates roamed the shores.
You’ve likely seen photos of the iconic Driftwood Beach on the north side of the island with its contorted trees are strewn about the sand, which serves as a stunning silhouette against the sunset. A total of 10 miles of unique beaches envelope Jekyll. Corsair Beach Park is located close to shopping at Beach Village, Glory Beach Park is lined with sand dunes and the easily accessible Great Dunes Beach Park is perfect for parking and picnicking. Visit the scenic Ocean View Park for its strolling paths running along the shoreline and South Dunes Beach Park with its boardwalk leading to the sand. The island also focuses on eco-tourism.
Sea Island is basically owned by one luxurious resort, Sea Island Resort, naturally. Classified as a Forbes Five Star accommodation, a stay on this island is nothing but mesmerizing. Amenities galore, from swimming in swanky pools, horseback riding to unwinding in a breathtaking spa, this is the place to go to feel like royalty. While many world-class dining opportunities are onsite, the Georgian Room is renowned for its award-winning cuisine and impeccable French techniques, so it’s a “must” if wanting to immerse in the full Sea Island experience. And let us not forget the pristine beaches.
St. Andrews Beach
Near Jekyll island, but to be distinguished separately is peaceful St. Andrews Beach, where visitors are likely to see dolphins and a variety of birds. People also come to collect impressive, intact shells that wash ashore. Picnic areas are open to the public, as well as a historic site housing the Wanderer Memorial in Honor of Africans who were brought here and pulled into slavery. This area of the Georgia coast is more disconnected and serene, while you’ll still find conveniences such as restrooms and designated trails.