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A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com

Escape to the coast and spend time on Georgia's Golden Isles. Even though I only live a few hours north of this gorgeous part of Georgia, I hadn't explored the area until just a few years ago. Once I went for the first time, I was hooked and have been back multiple times in consecutive years!

The Golden Isles stretch along Georgia's coast and include four islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island. Sometimes, Cumberland Island to the south is also included in mix, too--since it's nearby, I'll throw in some tips for it as well since it's such an interesting place.

Where to Stay

I've had the opportunity to stay in several locations along the Golden Isles; while these are some of my favorites places and recommend all of them, this is just a sampling of the accommodations in the area.

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island
One of the nicest hotels I've had a chance to stay in (both in friendliness and amenities), the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island will be your home away from home in the Golden Isles.  [See my review here.] Located on the only public beach on this island, this resort has multiple options for accommodations, including oceanfront suites, poolside rooms, and self-catering multiple bedroom apartments.

The Cloisters on Sea Island is a five star resort that offers everything from golfing to spa treatments to tennis lessons. Back in 2004, the 30th G8 Summit was held here because of its seclusion.

The Hampton Inn and Suites on the southern tip of Jekyll Island is just a few years old and is located right on the beach. Hang out by the pool when you're tired of the beach or the fire pit when the sun goes down. If you're interested in biking around the island, the hotel offers inexpensive bike rentals.

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Jekyll Island Club Hotel, Jekyll Island
The Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a place I hold near and dear to my heart, is an incredible find: once the winter hunting lodge of the Carnegies, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers, the property fell into complete disrepair in the 1970s. It lovingly was restored in the late 1980s by a group of dedicated local businessmen and is now a unique getaway and wedding destination. (For more information on the hotel's history, check out this post, and, for a virtual tour, see this post.)

Booking.com

What to Eat

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com

  • Start your day with a hardy breakfast at the Sandcastle Cafe and Grill near the pier on St. Simons Island. 
  • Chow down on Chef John Palacio's creative takes on locally sourced seafood at Echo, located inside the King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island. 
  • Indulge your Edwardian side with high tea in the Riverview Lounge at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel.
  • Hang with the locals and watch the game over at Gnat's Landing on St. Simons Island. Try the fried pickle appetizer basket; for those not allergic to shellfish, I've heard the St. Simons Stew is wonderful. 
  • Get comfortable at Brogan's on St. Simons Island. The burgers are delicious!
A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com


  

What to See

A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island
  • Try to spot the wild horses of Cumberland Island.
  • Explore the marine life of the Golden Isles on the Lady Jane, a shrimping trawler that gives you a hands-on look at what's swimming, crawling, and living in the local marshes.  
  • Walk along Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island and admire the haunting natural beauty of this area. 
  • Take a tram tour through Jekyll Island's historic district. This is the only option if you're interested in seeing the interior of one of the 3,000 square foot cottages. 
  • Learn how to save the sea turtles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Participate in one of the hourly information sessions, get to know the center's rescued turtles, or watch a surgery. 
  • Hike up to the top of the St. Simons Island Lighthouse, one of the few lighthouses still in use. There are 129 steps to the top!
  • Discover more about the history of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel in one of the daily walking tours. Unlike the tram tour above, this walking tour focuses exclusively on what's happened inside the main hotel; you also get to peek inside the Presidential suite if it's available. 
  • Cool down at the Jekyll Island Summer Waves Water Park. It's the perfect remedy for those long, hot summer afternoons!
  • Learn about the history of St. Simons Island at the Marshes of Glynn and the Fort Frederica ruins
A First-Timer's Guide to Georgia's Golden Isles: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island

What to Know

  • Cumberland Island and Little St. Simons Island are accessible only by boat. Cumberland Island has a regularly schedule ferry, but Little St. Simons Island does not. Those staying at the lodge on Little St. Simons will need to arrange pickup by the lodge's private boat; if you're interested in taking a day trip to Little St. Simons, tours are run a few times a month and include round trip boat transportation. 
  • The islands are not connected by bridges. If you're on St. Simons and want to go to Jekyll, you'll have to head back to the mainland and then hop on the causeway. If you're island hopping between the Golden Isles, make sure to allot plenty of time for transportation; they might be situated closely on a map (you can see Jekyll clearly from St. Simons), but driving between the islands takes more time that you'd think. 
  • Sea Island is a gated community, so you're not able to wander around there unless you have dinner, spa, golf, or tennis reservations. 
  • The currents at Driftwood Beach are very strong; don't attempt to swim here. If you're interested in taking a dip in the Atlantic, head to the eastern side of the island where the currents aren't so treacherous. 

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Have you visited any of the Golden Isles? What would you like to see or do?

Check out my other first-timer's guides!
First-Timer Travel Guides First-Timer's Guide to St. Augustine, Florida First-Timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia First-Timer's Guide to St. Pete Beach, Florida First-Timer's Guide to Charleston, South Carolina
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