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A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com

I grew up listening to my grandfather talk about his experiences in the Navy during World War II--he was on an aircraft carrier that was the first to visit both Nagasaki and Hiroshima after the bombs were dropped.

Perhaps because of his stories, I've always been fascinated with World War II, and even partially focused my master's thesis on wartime London and the Blitz. There are so many stories from both the Pacific and European theatres that I could easily write a travel blog just on places related to World War II.

I've been in St. Simons Island over the last few days to learn a bit more about the history of the island (and for a place that's only the size of Manhattan, there's A LOT!). As part of my adventures, I headed over to the McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport to discover how this small barrier island was crucial to the war efforts here in Georgia.

Even before the attack of Pearl Harbor, there were clues that the Axis powers were coming too close for comfort. Along the Georgia coast, people began reporting strange boats, some of which came close enough to shore that guests at the King and Prince Resort could see them from the beach.

In response to this threat, Sea Island resort founder Howard Coffin appealed to the government for a stronger military presence on the island. When little help arrived, the residents of Sea Island and St. Simons decided to take matters into their own hands and petition the First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.

With her help, the Georgia Civil Air Patrol was created, and the islands had a small but dedicated force to help alert the military of U-boat approaches. The patrol used the four-year-old McKinnon airport as their base.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives

Even though what the Civil War Patrol was doing was important--finding U-boats and protecting U.S. merchant ships coming into the Brunswick harbor--they didn't have much support from the government. The men who were involved in the patrol were called the "Sandwich and Suicide Squad" because of their shoestring budget and dangerous missions.

Their planes (shown below) often had to be left in the elements since there weren't hangers available for the aircraft. The Patrol also had difficulty repairing their planes since the majority of the plane parts and scrap metal was being sent overseas.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Winn Baker, Glynn County Airport Commission archives

As America joined the war, the Navy took over McKinnon Airport, though some of the members of the Civil Air Patrol stayed on to help. At this time in history, radar was a brand new tool for the military, and the Navy established a radar school on St. Simons to train people.

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
Photo courtesy of Joseph Schlosser, Glynn County Airport Commission archives

After the war ended, the Navy returned McKinnon airport back to the county, who runs it today.

To make this historic learning experience even more incredible, I headed back the next day to ride in a World War II-era Douglas DC-3. This particular plane was built in 1944 (by the female factory workers who were iconized as Rosie the Riveter!), participated in the European theatre and saw some action on D-Day. After the war, the plane found a new home in Canada, where it remained for nearly forty years.

In July 1986, in celebration of the DC-3's 50th anniversary and the World's Fair on Transportation and Communication, the plane began a round-the-world trip that took two months. On the trip, the DC-3 visited five continents (excluding South America and Antarctica) and made 46 stops. Soon afterwards, Lance Toland, the current owner, purchased the plane. Since Toland has owned it, he's refurbished the plane and has used it for personal transportation. For the most part, though, this grand bird stays grounded these days: "I only fly it between fifty and seventy hours a year," he said.

I went up on the plane one beautiful afternoon with Toland and fellow pilot Winn Baker at the controls.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The owner of the plane, Lance Toland (left), and Georgia Aviation Hall of Famer Winn Baker (right)
Baker, a native of St. Simons, has worked in aviation his entire life, and served as a Delta pilot and one of the founders of the Golden Isles Aviation (an FBO, or fixed base operator) that still serves guests at the airport today. Baker's more than 41,000 flight hours made me feel less anxious about climbing into an aircraft that's as old as my grandparents!

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com

We cruised around Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, and Sea Island in the DC-3, and were treated to some spectacular views of the area.
A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The King and Prince Resort (with the red roofs on the left)

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
The Jekyll Island Club Resort

A Flight Through History: St. Simons Island, Georgia, and World War II | CosmosMariners.com
St. Simons Island Lighthouse
Seeing coastal Georgia from this perspective isn't something that I'll forget anytime soon!

While St. Simons Island visitors aren't able to take rides in the DC-3 on a regular basis, there are restored biplane rides available each summer!

It's amazing how much history there is in this area of Georgia, so on your next trip to St. Simons Island, take some time away from the beach to explore that side of the island.

Have you been to St. Simons Island? Do the WWII connections of the island interest you? Have you ever gone up in a historic plane?

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.

A Hauntingly Beautiful Spot at the Edge of the World: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia

A Hauntingly Beautiful Spot at the Edge of the World: Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia | CosmosMariners.com

There are many reasons why you'd want to visit Jekyll Island, Georgia.

There's the Guilded Age-era hunting lodge that was once the winter lodging for the Carnegies, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, and other super wealthy people. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel now a completely restored luxury hotel, and one that I highly recommend. (Even if you can't stay on property, stop by for the afternoon tea!) [Take a virtual tour with this post here.]

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island

A Gem on Georgia's Golden Isles: The King and Prince Resort, St. Simons Island | CosmosMariners.com

For three amazing days last week, I left Landon and Britton at home and headed down to Georgia's Golden Isles. (Don't feel too bad for Britton, as she went to Walt Disney World with my parents!) While I was there, I explored St. Simons Island and used the King and Prince Resort as my base. The hotel is an island landmark--for good reason, as it has long been synonymous with the island's public beach access--and I was excited to see if it lived up to everything I'd heard about it. (Spoiler alert: it did!)

Island Eats: Where to Dine on St. Simons Island, Georgia

When I was at St. Simons Island, it wasn't all exploring the King and Prince Resort and flying around the island on a historic plane.

I had to sample the local fare, too! (I know. It's a tough life I lead. Someone's got to do it!)

Island Eats: Where to Eat on St. Simons Island, Georgia | CosmosMariners.com

Over my few days in the area, I discovered some amazing restaurants, their owners, and their chefs. One thing that I loved about St. Simons Island was how much the locals support their own. I love to shop, stay, and eat locally on my stays, and St. Simons Island had plenty of opportunities for me to do just that.

If you've worked up an appetite playing on the beach or shopping, here are a few great places to dine on St. Simons Island.

Turtle Time: The Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Who doesn't love sea turtles? After all, they all are super chill, have Australian accents, and are experts on the major exit points of the EAC.

Oh, wait. You're telling me that I shouldn't be getting my marine biology lessons from Pixar movies?!

While my sister, Britton and I were visiting the gorgeous Jekyll Island Club Hotel, we headed over to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to find a more reputable learning center than Finding Nemo.

A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep

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

Stately oaks dripping Spanish moss.

Gentile Southern mansions nestled around small parks.

Artsy students hurrying off to class, sketchbooks clutched in their hands.

Sounds idyllic, doesn't it?

You can find all of this (and lots, lots more) on the streets of Savannah, Georgia, one of my top three favorite Southern cities (Charleston being the numero uno in my book, of course, and New Orleans rounding out the trio).

Savannah's historic district isn't very big, but if you're visiting for the first time, you've probably got plenty of questions about what to see and do and where you should stay and eat. This isn't a definitive guide by any means, but hopefully, it will help you dive into the beauty and charm of Savannah.

Where to Stay

In the downtown area, there are plenty of great hotels within walking distance of everything that Savannah has to offer. Over the years, we've taken a bit of a hotel tour with all of the different places that we've stayed.

A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
The view from our room at the Hilton Savannah DeSoto

The Hilton Savannah DeSoto doesn't have a very glamorous lobby (though it does have a Starbucks!) but the rooms have recently been renovated. It's about halfway between River Street and Forsyth Park which puts you within easy walking distance of the entire historic district.

A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Andaz Savannah on Ellis Square
We stayed at the Andaz Savannah (then known as Avia Savannah) one night of our honeymoon and loved the trendy vibe and super modern decor. It's located on Ellis Square just across from the City Market.

For my 29th birthday, we took a trip to Savannah with my parents and my sister and stayed in the Hampton Inn and Suites Historic District. As far as Hampton Inns go, this was a particularly nice one. A note to newcomers: at night, I wouldn't recommend wandering too far off Martin Luther King Boulevard away from the historic district if you stay at this hotel. I never felt unsafe walking to and from the Hampton Inn, but the area behind the hotel towards I-16 gets into not-so-great-for-tourists territory pretty quickly.

A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort from the water taxi

On our most recent trip, we ventured across the river and stayed at the Westin Savannah Harbor Resort. Initially, I was hesitant about taking the water taxi back and forth, but I ended up loving the fact that we could retire to a quiet hotel away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Plus, the views were amazing!

There are of course, dozens of other places to stay in the historic district including the Mansion on Forsyth Park, the Hyatt Regency, and the River Street Inn


What to Eat

The answer to this is everything. (I kid. Sort of.) If you're interested in the super popular restaurants of the historic district, head over to The Lady and Sons or The Pirates House. I, for one, was pleasantly surprised by The Pirate House, and their BLT salad is one of my favorite meals in Savannah. I love that you get to dine in the historic buildings which date back to Savannah's colonial days. While Clary's Cafe is one of those incredibly popular spots, it comes by the fame for the right reasons. They serve a top notch breakfast here all day. I'm a huge fan of their strawberry cream cheese French toast!

A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Outside the Pirates House Restaurant
The River Street area has lots of places to eat. Huey's is right by the water, so you can watch the barges come down the Savannah river while you eat a muffaletta. Kevin Barry's Irish Pub is also a popular spot by the water.

Another concentration of restaurants is in and around Ellis Square. In the City Market, you can grab some tasty wings at Wild Wings Cafe or build your own pizza over at Vinnie Van GoGo's (the pesto pizza with mushrooms and onions is a personal favorite).

Sample some local brews over at Moon River Brewing Company or Southbound Brewing Company. Southbound is just outside of the historic district, so you'll have to hop in your car if you're staying downtown.

What to See

On your first trip to Savannah, you absolutely have to allot time just to wander: part of the city's charms can only be absorbed when you're away from a guide book or a tour bus. Park your car and walk from spot to spot on your itinerary--everything's close enough to easily walk if you're in decent shape.
A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
One of the many beautiful historic houses in downtown Savannah

  • Take a historical tour. Savannah dates back to 1733, so you've got almost three centuries of happenings to discover. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, as Savannah offers walking tours, trolley tours, and carriage tours
  • Get spooked. If you're into the paranormal (or if you just like being scared a little!), Savannah's supposedly one of the most actively haunted cities in America. I guess the people who lived there liked it so much that they couldn't leave when they shuffled off this mortal coil. While there are ghost tours by foot and by trolley, my favorite is one that takes you around in an old hearse. I've taken a lot of ghost tours, and the Savannah Hearse Ghost Tours remains at the top of the list for both Landon and I. (And no, they didn't pay me to say that!)
  • Find the perfect souvenir. From your standard t-shirts and blankets in River Street shops to the first edition books over at the Book Lady Book Store, you'll be sure to find whatever tickles your fancy. Stroll down West Broughton Street for a bit of everything from Banana Republic to the Savannah Bee Company.  
  • Support the local arts. With one of the nation's top art schools (Savannah College of Art and Design, affectionally known as SCAD) located in downtown, you can be sure that there's no shortage of art galleries and exhibitions. There's an incredible rotating gallery on East Liberty Street where you can view and buy the work of SCAD students and faculty. 
A First-timer's Guide to Savannah, Georgia: Where to Visit, Eat, Shop, and Sleep | CosmosMariners.com
Outside of E. Shaver Booksellers, one of my favorite independent bookstores in Savannah
Other great spots to include on your trip are the fountain at Forsyth Square, the Juliette Gordon-Low house, the Mercer Williams house (famous for being the home of the songwriter and the later living quarters of Jim Williams, who features heavily in John Berendt's book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), and Bonaventure Cemetery (the gorgeous final resting place of Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, who's tombstone inspired my blog's name!). 

What to Know

  • Check the calendar. If you're going around the time of the Savannah Marathon or St. Patrick's Day, prepare to pay higher prices and deal with bigger crowds. The St. Patrick's Day parade draws over a million visitors and is consistently ranked among the nation's biggest St. Patty parades. 
  • Expect to pay for parking. As with any historic or downtown district, parking is at a premium. Even if you're staying at a hotel in the downtown area, you'll still see a parking surcharge on your hotel bill. If you're driving in from a hotel elsewhere, there are plenty of parking garages and on-street parking meters. 
  • Make use of the free transportation. The Dot trams run in a circle around the historic district, and the River Street train takes people along the waterfront. There's also a water taxi that goes in a triangle between the Westin (across the Savannah River from the historic area), the Waving Girl statue, and the Hyatt Regency. 
  • The Hyatt Regency on River Street has free bathrooms on the second floor. Technically for the use of those attending a function in one of the ballrooms, these bathrooms are always clean and generally empty. There's also a nice seating area for nursing moms who want a little privacy. 
This post contains affiliate links to the hotels listed. If you choose to book through those links, I will receive a small kickback from the sale at no additional cost to you. 

Have you visited Savannah? If you have, what was your favorite part? If you haven't, is Savannah on your travel list?

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

If you liked this post, you'll love my other first-timer's guides! Check out the guide for each city by clicking on the image below:

First-Timer Travel Guides 
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The Ultimate List of Fun Things to Do in Macon, GA

The Ultimate List of Fun Things to Do in Macon, GA | CosmosMariners.com

On your next trip to the South, skip the big cities like Atlanta and Orlando, and head to Macon, Georgia, instead. With a rich past, a surprising musical history, and gorgeous outdoor activities, Macon mixes the small town charm of the South with modern cuisine and tours.

Here are my favorite fun things to do in Macon, GA, arranged by areas of interest!

Wandering around Jekyll Island

During the short time I was on Jekyll Island, I ended up taking over four hundred pictures. Have I mentioned that I love photography? I don't have any formal training, but I still find satisfaction in framing a good shot and capturing that tiny bit of life. 

I've already treated you to several posts focusing on the inside of my home-away-from-home Jekyll Island Club Hotel, but there's more to the island than the awesomeness that is the JICH.

The Literary South: A Book Lover's Road Trip Itinerary

The Literary South: A Book Lover's Road Trip Itinerary | CosmosMariners.com

Confession: I am a bibliophile.

As a kid, I would hide for hours in closets, in bathrooms, and in trees to read my latest treasures from the library. As an adult, I don't get that luxury as much as I'd like to, but I still try to sneak in as much face-to-book time as my writing, blogging, and toddler will allow.

In college, I started out as in philosophy (since I was told that was a good major for future law students, as I was at the time), but lasted a semester before I switched to English. Thank you to the genius who created the English major, so that I could read and learn and nerd out on novels and short stories and essays for a living!

A Short History of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Jekyll Island Club Hotel history
I'm one of those people who love learning about the history of a place. I've been known to research the previous owners of the houses that we're thinking of buying just because I want to know more about those homes' stories. I love genealogy and learning more about all of my great-great-great-people.

It's no wonder, then, that I dove into the history of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. And there was plenty of it for me to swim around in luxuriously.

Road Trip! Jekyll Island Bound

Fall really is the perfect time to travel in the South. The weather is (slightly) cooler than it has been, and the crowds are so much lighter.

I'm taking full advantage of this gorgeous time of year and heading out on a road trip with my sister and daughter in tow. 

Our destination? Somewhere that I've wanted to visit for a long, long time:

The Jekyll Island Club Hotel on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island Hotel Club, Jekyll Island, Georgia
Eek! I'm so excited!!

From the Mountains to the Sea (and Everything in Between): 2014 in Review

What a year. After the whirlwind that was 2013 (a year that included an awful pregnancy, two hospitalizations, the hellacious birth of my daughter, a rough postpartum experience, a house flood, and the death of my grandfather), I needed 2014.

Thankfully, 2014 was a huge improvement on 2013, and, over the last twelve months, I've had the opportunity to see so many wonderful things. My freelance writing has kept me busy (and in enough money to keep traveling!), and my daughter has blossomed from a barely crawling six-month-old into a running, thriving 19-month-old.

Let's take a look back at the year, shall we?

2015: the Good, the Bad, and the Blog

2015: the Good, the Bad, and the Blog | CosmosMariners.com

Oh, 2015. What can I say about you? You've been simultaneously wonderful and wretched, and you've reminded me of just how little control I have, despite my best efforts to the contrary.

I remember writing this post at the beginning of January 2015 and being so excited to see what would happen over the next 12 months.

At that moment, I had no clue how much lay ahead of me both in my personal life and with my writing and blogging.

This year has held some incredible highs and some devastating lows, but I've come out on the other side wiser, more dedicated to what's important to me, and more secure in what I'm trying to accomplish.

Why Having Kids Shouldn't Stop You From Traveling

Why Having Kids Shouldn't Stop You From Traveling | CosmosMariners.com

Three years ago, I found out I was expecting a little girl. To say that I was excited was an understatement. Soon afterwards, someone asked me if I was going to buy new clothes when I became a mom.

And by that, this person wasn't inquiring if I needed a new size postpartum or if I was going to update my wardrobe.


This person was asking if I was going to get a "mom wardrobe," a concept I'm still a little confused about. Immediately after delivery, did I need to take all of my skinny jeans to Goodwill in exchange for high-waisted, ill-fitting ones? Did I need to give up my beloved scarves and headbands for something more boring?

Cruising into Our Fifth Wedding Anniversary

I first met my husband Landon in August 2003. We were freshmen, and he was helping my roommate move into our room.
Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
November 2003, just a few months after we started dating (the first time)

I didn't know it then, but seven years, many breakups (one that lasted over two years), and an engagement (to another person) later, Landon and I would get engaged. 

And unlike my first engagement, this one would actually stick. I'd still be petrified at the thought of getting married, and I'd seriously consider my dad's offer to go get ice cream rather than walk down the aisle, but I'd go through with it. And be so, so happy I did. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Getting hitched, May 2010

I've now known Landon almost half of my lifetime. We've watched one another grow from headstrong, stubborn teenagers into well-rounded, responsible adults (who are both still pretty headstrong--and stubborn). We've bought two houses together and supported one another as we began parenthood. 

We've traveled as much as our jobs, student loans, and budgets would allow since we've been married. We've ziplined in St. Maarten, explored Scotland, snorkeled in the Bahamas, watched plays on London's West End, and traveled all over the Southeast

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Edinburgh Castle, 2011

For our honeymoon, we decided to go on a cruise through the eastern Caribbean: I'd just finished my graduate program, and I wanted nothing more than to relax for a few days. That week-long trip allowed us to learn about one another's travel habits (good and bad!) since we hadn't done much traveling with one another while we'd dated.  

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Honeymoon cruise, 2010

We enjoyed ourselves so much on that trip that we've made the anniversary trip an annual tradition. We went to Jekyll Island, Georgia, Balsam, North Carolina, and St. Petersburg, Florida, for our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th anniversaries, respectively--they were smaller trips, but just as much fun. 

Cruising into Our Fifth Anniversary | CosmosMariners.com
Jekyll Island, Georgia, 2011

Now, five years into this marriage gig, we're headed back out on another cruise--but this time, we're going to the western Caribbean. Even though the locations are different, I hope we manage as much relaxation and fun as we did on our honeymoon cruise. 

Since I'm going all out on this trip and making it a real vacation, I won't be working next week. (Plus, have you seen how much wifi is on a cruise ship!?!) 

However, I am leaving the blog in the hands of some very competent guest bloggers while I'm lazing by the pool and soaking up some sun, so show them some love next week. I'll be back to life as usual on Monday, June 1 with lots of pictures, stories, and adventures from our Caribbean cruising. 

Happy 5th anniversary to us! 

How do you celebrate your anniversary? Have you taken a cruise? How did you like it?

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Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip!

The last few weeks have been a little hectic. I was in Charlotte back in March, then hopped over to St. Simons Island, Georgia, for a few days earlier this week. Now, we're heading out on a fun-filled road trip down to Florida's Gulf Coast!

Yes, it's been busy--and will continue to be that way well into the summer--but I wouldn't have it any other way. (Spoken like a travel blogger, right?!)

Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip! | CosmosMariners.com
Bye, everyone! See you after I back into the mailbox!

Over the next week, Landon, Britton, and I will explore several spots in and around St. Pete Beach as a part of the Florida Superior Small Lodging Association (FSSLA) blogger road trip. In addition to being a great way to highlight locally owned and operated hotels and inns (a cause close to my heart!), this trip will also be the first trip that all three of us have taken--without any other family members--since we went to Savannah, Georgia, when Britton was six months old.

It will also be the longest road trip that Britton's taken to date, but we've got our fabulous road trip bag packed, her DVD player and her favorite movies, and a bunch of books for her to read. Plus, we're hoping she'll sleep most of the way down there!

We're stopping off in Orlando for a few days on our own before kicking off the FSSLA portion of the trip in Pass-a-Grille. We'll then head up to Indian Rocks Beach for a bit and finish off the trip with a stay in St. Pete Beach. If you've been to any of these areas, make sure to tell me what we should do and eat!
Time to Hit the Road: Heading out on Our Florida Road Trip! | CosmosMariners.com
Paddleboarder at Indian Shores, Florida

I've only been to the area once: Landon and I went to Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa last year for a whirlwind three-day trip. One this upcoming road trip, I'll have more time to explore the restaurants and beaches, so share your ideas for me in the comments.

I'll also be sharing as much as I can while we're on the road, so keep checking back on the blog, my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Where do you love to go on your road trips? Have you been to the Gulf Coast of Florida recently? If so, what do you like to do?

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Weekend at Fort McKinley, Georgia

My family is (and always has been) big on family outings. As kids, my sister and I were packed up each summer for our family vacation. Sometimes, we'd go to Disney World; other times, it was Canada, Pennsylvania or California. My parents included us on the planning, so we learned about the history of the places we'd see and thus, were a little more prepared to appreciate the things we were to see soon.

We still keep up the tradition of the family vacation even though we're much older and we've expanded (hello, son-in-law Landon!). Since college, we've gone to Louisiana, Disney World (as much as things change, they stay the same!) and the North Carolina mountains. I can count myself among the lucky few who enjoy spending time with their families, and have the means and time to do so.

This weekend, we headed off in true family-vacation style to Richmond Hill, Georgia, where we rented a cabin for a few days. We stayed at Fort McKinley State Park on the outskirts of Richmond Hill, and it was so pretty! It was so much fun to have some time to relax before school starts back next week.

We stopped at the Old Sheldon Church in Yemassee, SC, which was burned during the Civil War.

Later on Saturday, we went to Wormsloe Plantation in Skidway Island, GA, just outside of Savannah.
Give me a screened-in porch, a wooden rocker, a glass of tea and a book, and I'm a happy gal.

20 Southern Islands on the Atlantic Coast

20 Southern Islands on the Atlantic Coast | CosmosMariners.com

There's nothing like digging your toes in the sand and escaping from the rest of the world for a few hours on a sunny summer's day. Thankfully, for those of us living in or visiting the Southern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, the Atlantic coast is rife with choices on places to do so. 

While there are many, many beaches along this stretch of coastline, here are places unconnected from the mainland where you can live the island life. 

North Carolina
1) Outer Banks
The most famous of the North Carolina islands, the Outer Banks are actually one long string of islands that reach into Virginia. While the miles of beach are a major attraction, there are some beautiful lighthouses to climb (those hundreds of stairs are worth the view at the top), a mystery to uncover (the Roanoke Colony in the 1600s disappeared without a trace!), and two important brothers to remember (Wilbur and Orville Wright, the inventors behind the first airplane that flew!). 

2) Carolina Beach
This island has an aquarium at one end and a park on the other. And what do you find in the middle? A wide, flat beach that allows you to do two things that are nearly unheard of in this day and age: 1) drive on the beach, and 2) camp on the beach. While I actively try to avoid camping of any sort, my husband went with friends a few years back and had a blast!

South Carolina

3) Pawley's Island
Their motto is "shabby chic," and, indeed, the weatherbeaten cottages on this tiny spit of land south of Myrtle Beach have their own kind of class. Other than the quiet life it offers (there are no stoplights or stores on the island), this part of the Hammock Coast is known for the Grey Man ghost who reportedly shows up before a hurricane hit and warns homeowners to leave. According to legend, those who see him will have their homes spared in the storm. 

4) Isle of Palms
20 Southern Islands on the Atlantic Coast | CosmosMariners.com

Of those on the list, this island and the one next on the list are closest to my heart since I grew up on them. Isle of Palms has come into its own in the last twenty years or so, as it now has a beautiful county park right on the ocean, as well as multiple places to eat and shop near the pier. You won't find any high rise hotels or apartments here, though, as IOP has committed itself to staying local and quaint. 

5) Sullivans Island
Even more low key than Isle of Palms, Sullivans Island doesn't have any stoplights (just one blinking crossing light) or hotels. It does, however, have some amazing restaurants--Poe's Tavern is my personal favorite--and a beach that usually only draws locals. Be careful, though, and don't swim anywhere near the harbor end of the island as there are some horrible currents caused by the tanker ships.

6) Folly Beach
Of the three major islands around Charleston, Folly Beach has a lock on quirkiness! There's a beautiful beach that offers the best waves in Charleston, and the Washout is a favorite surfing spot. Folly Beach is more developed than Sullivans and IOP, so you've got more choices on where to stay and eat. 

7) Edisto Island
No stoplights--and only handful of stop signs. What Edisto Island does have are miles of bicycle paths, cute stores, and hundreds of family-owned beach houses. Unlike some of the other island spots along the South Carolina coast, Edisto's homes are (relatively) inexpensive, and most have been in the same family since the island began major development in the late 60s. 

8 & 9) Kiawah Island & Seabrook Island
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The Sanctuary Hotel on Kiawah Island

I put these two together since they're right next one another, and they share a main shopping and dining area. Both of them are ritzy and offer some of the most expensive real estate on the South Carolina coast. Kiawah Island is known for its golf courses and was where the 2011 U.S. Open was held. 

10) Hilton Head Island
Another popular town for golfing and family vacation, HHI has all of its businesses tucked away from the main roads. Driving through the island, you see lots of palm trees and greenery, but very few business signs--by design. If you're in town, you have to head to the Salty Dog Cafe for some pizza and one of their famous shirts. 

11) Daufuskie Island
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Daufuskie's main street

A little known gem of a place just off the tip of Hilton Head, Daufuskie Island is only accessible by ferry and has no cars on it. Pat Conroy, the Southern author, taught here in his early career, and wrote his first novel, The Water is Wide, based on his experiences here. 


12) Cumberland Island
Another island with ferry-only access, Cumberland Island is a great place to explore an unspoiled barrier island. Rent a bicycle to see more of the island, or take a tour led by park rangers to see the ruins of the 22,000 square foot house that the Carnegies built here in the early 1900s. There are two different places to camp on the island, but visitors need to bring all of their supplies.

13) Jekyll Island
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Originally started as a winter hunting lodge for the likes of the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Carnegies, Jekyll Island is now a state park. You can still stay at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, which has been completely refurbished, and tour some of the cottages in the historic district. There's also a beautiful driftwood beach on the northern end, and a wide, flat beach along the eastern side. 

14) St. Simons Island
Another of the Golden Isles (along with Jekyll), St. Simons was once composed of several cotton plantations. Now, it boasts an adorable downtown area and several award-winning hotels including the King and Prince. Make sure to stop by the lighthouse!

15) Tybee Island
Just a few miles away from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is popular with vacationers and Savannahians alike. The island is quite populated and has adorable, brightly colored houses tucked down its side streets. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, so, if you choose to vacation here, you won't ever need to leave the island!


16) Amelia Island
One of Florida's barrier islands, Amelia Island has quite the storied past, and local historians claim that eight different flags have flown after this island during its existence (French, Spanish, British, Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and United States). Nowadays, it's home to multiple golf courses and the Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.

17) St. Augustine Beach
For those visiting St. Augustine who need a break from the history of the downtown area, St. Augustine Beach offers camping and relaxation just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of St. Augustine. I can remember staying here when I was very little with my parents in my grandparents' motorhome. Good times were had by all!

18) Miami Beach (Fisher Island and Grove Isle)
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The lights and Art Deco buildings along South Beach are world famous--and for a good reason. When you're done with the beach for the day, all you've got to do is hop over to the restaurants and nightclubs across the street. Fisher Island, part of the Miami metropolis area, has one of the highest per capita incomes in the United States, and is only accessible by private boat. Grove Isle is another private island where you can go to escape the world--and, best of all, there's an award-winning spa to help you do so.

19) Key Biscayne
Located just south of Miami Beach, Key Biscayne is a fairly large island with condominiums, schools, shopping, and dining. With four different beaches to explore, Key Biscayne isn't just a residential area. Pack a picnic and while away the day at Crandon Park, or dine al fresco by the ocean over on Key Biscayne's main street. 

20) Florida Keys
20 Southern Islands on the Atlantic Coast | CosmosMariners.com
Hemingway House, Key West, Florida Keys

A trip to the tropics without ever leaving the U.S., the Florida Keys are a series of islands trailing from just off the coast of Miami all the way down nearly to Cuba. Party the night away on Duvall Street in Key West, or kayak in the mangroves off of Islamorada. Don't forget to grab a slice of key lime pie-- despite what some imitators might try to convince you, real key lime pie is yellow, not green.


While these are some of my favorite islands along the Southern Atlantic coast, there are many, many more. Which ones do you think should have made the list? Have you been to any of the ones listed above? Which is your favorite?