The Golden Isles of Georgia
One last stop in Georgia, then we’ll be heading into the sunshine state for the winter. For our final exploration in the peach state, we ended up near the Golden Isles of Georgia. On the southern end of Georgia’s scenic coastline is a collection of barrier islands. With their history, natural beauty and huge variety of recreational opportunities, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons, Sea Island and the mainland port of Brunswick make up the Golden Isles. The area is surrounded by expansive golden marshes, miles of sandy beaches, breathtaking views, maritime forests and generations-old oak trees draped with spanish moss.
Jekyll Island is Geogia’s jewel, for several good reasons. There are only a couple hundred homes on the island and only the northern part is developed, with the majority of the island remaining as dedicated conservation space. As we biked on the excellent paths (17.5 miles), we experienced its tranquility – partly because we were here during off-season 😉 – and its wild side. Biking underneath magnificient moss-draped oak canopies, along golden marshland and on the beach made us really feel near nature as we appreciated the beauty.
We wanted so much to be active here and enjoy the island with its surrounding natural side, but the weather was mostly a killjoy. After the one beautiful day that we spent on our bikes, the rain, wind and cold temperatures prevailed.
Then one morning we decided to walk part of the trail, rain or shine. Wow, did it rain! We walked the southern end of the Jekyll Island Trail, for it was wooded and lined with palmettos, pine trees and beautiful live oaks. We managed to cover only a quarter of the island before gusting winds and torrential rain finally wore us down. Even the seagulls were hiding from this storm!
Unlike the many islands we’ve visited and biked that were overrun by hotels and vacation rentals, Jekyll Island is unique. The strict conservation clause limiting future development, preserving wildlife and protecting natural habitats has led to keeping 65% of this island natural and wild.
Driftwood Beach, as the name implies, is littered with dramatic, snarled tree trunks. The exposed root systems of upturned trees made the beach very picturesque.
Some other pics from around the island:
St. Simons Island is the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles. It lies across the Marshes of Glynn, which were immortalized in a poem about the beautiful marshes that surround the area. The poem was written by Sidney Lanier, who was from Georgia and after whom the beautiful bridge is named.
Traversing the causeway over the estuaries and the salt grasses in the marshland, we were led to moss-draped, stately oaks lining the winding streets of the island. Just awesome!
Driving past those oaks gave us a different, haunting feeling as we meandered along. Some live oaks are also draped with fall colors. These ancient oaks form a perfect backdrop for the many inns, homes, resorts and restaurants. There is also a shopping village and golf course on St. Simons. Speaking of restaurants, I had THE BEST shrimp and grits (s&g) ever at Halyards, where the chef won first prize in the local s&g competition. Click here for picture. It was the perfect way to end my Georgia s&g orgy!
But one area really stood out – the Avenue of the Oaks – where a double row of magnificent live oaks planted in 1826 served as an entrance to what was then a prosperous cotton plantation called the Retreat Plantation. Today the avenue is now the grand entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club.
I was mesmerized by the dancing birds rolling with the waves and wind at East Beach.
Downtown Brunswick is home to a significant live oak tree called Lovers Oak. This 900-year-old oak has served as a meeting place for lovers since indian times, when they would meet and kiss their true love under its branches. It is thought to date from the 12th century.
Our base camp was at Coastal GA RV Resort in Brunswick (Steve’s review is here). It served as our mainland connection to the Golden Isles, which are separated by intracoastal waterways. It was here that we tasted some out of this world beef brisket and other BBQ goodies. Our one-week stay was filled with gastronomic feasts at Southern Soul Barbeque on St. Simons Island and Gary Lee’s Market right down the street from our park in Brunswick. Now you can see why we had to walk in the rain – there were so many calories that needed to be burned!
There is something for everyone at the Golden Isles, and we lucked out coming here during off-season to enjoy and explore the islands, minus the frenetic atmosphere. But of course weather can dampen a well-planned stay. As a winter storm approached, we hunkered down and listened to the howling cold winds and pouring rain. And since it was too nasty to drive to the islands for sunset pictures, I made do with a sunrise shot right from the campground.