Georgia's Golden Isles
Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, lie the mainland city Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Spanish explorers came to the area more than 400 years ago, seeking gold. Instead they found astonishing beauty, mild weather and a natural radiance that inspires the name, The Golden Isles.
Located along the Intracoastal Waterway, the landscape is defined by vast expanses of marshland, punctuated by small islands, between the Atlantic Ocean and the mainland. The marshes and the rivers that flow through them on their way to the sea teem with all sorts of fish, birds and animals.
Mainland Brunswick was named for Braunsweig, Germany, the ancestral home of King George II who granted Georgia's original land charter. The city's streets and squares are laid out in a formal grid, similar to Savannah and other colonial cities, and continue to bear their colonial names.
Old Town, a National Register District, is filled with majestic homes noted for their turn-of-the-century elegance and eclectic mix of styles. The burgeoning downtown is filled with interesting antique shops and a growing number of specialty shops and art galleries. At Mary Ross Park on the waterfront, you'll see fleets of shrimp boats that work the local waters and contribute to the area's rich seafood industry.
St. Simons Island, the largest of the Golden Isles, is just across the Marshes of Glynn, immortalized by Georgia poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the island's streets, creating an image worthy of Faulkner. The Village offers a charming selection of shops and restaurants that range from fine dining establishments to casual outdoor eateries. A wide range of lodging accommodations is available on the island, for every price range.
Young visitors will especially enjoy Neptune Park, with its mini-golf course, playground and the fishing pier. They may even see a shark or some other sea creature, landed by one of the local anglers. St. Simons Island offers plenty of interesting historical sites and attractions, from the St. Simons Lighthouse (a working lighthouse in operation since 1872) to Bloody Marsh, where British and Scottish soldiers successfully defeated a larger Spanish force and ended Spanish incursions outside Florida.
Fort Frederica National Monument and historic Christ Church are on the island's north end. There are great beaches (check out East Beach by the old Coast Guard Station) and a nature center that offers fun day programs for kids.
Little St. Simons Island is a private island accessible by boat. St. Simons Island's north end, offering accommodations for up to 30 guests - a wonderful destination for family reunions and small group gatherings.
Sea Island, home to The Cloister, a world-class resort renowned for its luxury and gracious service, now offers new Ocean Houses, with beautiful oceanfront accommodations and flexibility for accommodating groups of most any size. Top-notch amenities include a full-service spa, golf, tennis, Shooting School, horseback riding, kids programs, a private beach, fishing, waterway excursions and more. Special theme weekends throughout the year are devoted to ballroom dancing, bridge and fine wines.
Jekyll Island was once an exclusive winter retreat for some of America's wealthiest families. Their exclusive Jekyll Island Club, a collection of "cottages" and a variety of support structures are now a National Historic Landmark, the Historic District is open to the public. Today, owned by the State of Georgia, the island retains much of its natural beauty and offers a wealth of amenities and activities including 63 holes of golf, tennis, beaches, 20 miles of bike paths, mini-golf, nature tours and Summer Waves waterpark.
Golfers will find plenty to captivate their interest on Jekyll and the mainland, with 234 holes of golf on 16 different courses. Or, try your luck aboard the Emerald Princess casino/cruise ship, which offers afternoon and evening cruises from downtown Brunswick.
Brunswick & The Golden Isles offer a great selection of accommodations, ranging from convenient Interstate hotels to island resorts, waterfront hotels, and small inns. Several companies offer rental cottages and there are three campgrounds: two on the mainland and one on Jekyll Island. Getting to Brunswick & The Golden Isles is a snap.