The Golden Isles, Georgia: Off the Beaten Path
By Idoia Gkikas
Big name attractions are fun – but ones that are off the beaten path are the best! I went looking for the lesser-known landmarks of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Sea Island. These four destinations, along with the mainland city of Brunswick, make up the area known as the Golden Isles off the southeastern coast of Georgia.
St. Simons Island
The largest of the Golden Isles islands, St. Simons Island has several popular attractions including the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum and Fort Frederica National Monument. After visiting these historic sites, leave some time to look at something a little different – tree spirits!
The so-called tree spirits are carvings of faces hidden on the island’s majestic live oaks. These eerie faces represent sailors who lost their lives at sea. There is a map online that will show you where each spirit is located, but I urge you to resist cheating and enjoy the scavenger hunt!
Little Simons Island
The unusual thing about Little Simons Island is that it is only accessible by boat via the north end of St. Simons Island. The Lodge at Little Simons Island can accommodate a mere 32 guests at once, so if you’re looking for a private escape for a group, this is it!
Even if you’re not staying at the Lodge, you can take a day trip and tour the island with a guide to learn about this pristine landscape. Or unplug completely and just take in the tranquillity of the undeveloped beaches and the beauty of the island’s wildlife.
Jekyll Island welcomes visitors with its history and charm. You can’t go wrong with touring the grounds of the Jekyll Island Historic District, including the Jekyll Island Museum and the luxurious Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Also on Jekyll Island is the wonderful Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where you can view and learn about sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation. And of course there’s Driftwood Beach, with its picture-perfect shore and sculpture-like driftwood.
While exploring all that Jekyll Island has to offer, you might come across the Horton House ruins. Originally built in 1743 by Major William Horton, a trusted officer of James Oglethorpe, the Horton House’s remaining walls are built of tabby, a material commonly used in building at the time. The home was the residence of the du Bignon family, who owned Jekyll Island and resided there until the late 1800s. Their family cemetery is just across the street. Fun fact: Horton also brewed Georgia’s first beer!
Home to the five-star Cloister on Sea Island and the Sea Island Golf Club, Sea Island is one of the most exclusive and luxurious places you’ll ever visit. If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind dining experience, you’ll find it at the Georgian Room, Georgia’s only Forbes Five-star restaurant.
You’ll find so much to do in this beautiful corner of the Georgia coast. But if you ask me, you should blaze your own trail by visiting the Golden Isles’ lesser-known attractions.