Nature abounds in the Golden Isles. As one of the South’s most well-preserved coastal destinations, this part of the Georgia coast is a paradise for the eco-conscious, outdoor-loving traveler. The idyllic seaside landscape encompasses four barrier islands, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island, and the historic port city of Brunswick which make up a charming area of unspoiled beaches, glistening marshes, and distinct seaside villages along Georgia’s pristine southern shoreline.
Efforts to preserve the critical island ecosystem through conservation initiatives, sustainability, and eco-tourism include a focus on local wildlife, along with iconic landmarks and landscapes. From miles of sandy beaches and well-preserved historic sites to enchanting marshes and a wealth of animals, you’ll see nature in its purest form on a visit to the Golden Isles.
Learn about sea turtle conservation
Each year, the Golden Isles hosts hundreds of sea turtles who swim to its shores for nesting season. With most turtle species endangered, the Golden Isles is part of a collective mission to protect them. Travelers can enrich themselves with educational resources and see the turtles in their natural habitat.
One of the best places for viewing these magnificent reptiles is on Jekyll Island at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. The Center offers visitors the chance to learn more about the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles, in particular the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Those interested in checking out the turtles in the wild will need to book a guided tour on Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island, both private islands. The best times to observe the sea turtles are typically at night or early dawn in May through August.
Explore the many birding trails
The Golden Isles is a pristine natural habitat for more than 300 species of birds with five of the 18 sites on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail located in the Golden Isles. Of the designated birding spots along the trail, Jekyll Island is the prime location including its causeway, plus the south and north end beaches, followed closely by East Beach on St. Simons Island and Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick. Off the trail, Little St. Simons Island is also a hub for more than 300 species of birds including the piping plover, painted bunting, and wood stork.
Take to the waters
Salt marshes cover much of the landscapes to explore in the Golden Isles. As some of the most important and productive ecosystems on the planet, salt marshes provide a sanctuary for diverse wildlife of the barrier islands.
Experience the fauna and flora up close with kayaking or paddleboarding through these delicate environments. Take a guided kayak tour through the Marshes of Glynn along winding waterways, tidal creeks, and marsh grasses. Or paddle parts of the 135-mile-long Altamaha River. Known as Georgia’s Amazon, the Altamaha River is home to the country’s only known old-growth longleaf pine and black oak forest, centuries-old cypress and tupelo trees, as well as an abundance of animals and birds.
Enjoy treasured historic sites and horseback riding
The eco-minded efforts of the Golden Isles are about more than just wildlife conservation. They also aim to protect historic sites of its colonial and maritime past. Notable places include Cannon’s Point Preserve and Fort Frederica National Monument—a British colonial fort dating back to the early 1700s.
Accessible by a causeway from St. Simons Island, Sea Island is a private, intimate island at just five miles long and 1.5 miles wide at its widest point where you can go on a picturesque horseback ride guided by a local expert. You’ll gallop along the south end of tranquil Sea Island beach through maritime forests and trot along the ocean habitat of the Georgia Coast.
Where to stay
Resting on its own stretch of Jekyll Island’s coastline, the Jekyll Island Club Resort helps you time travel to the Gilded Age when the likes of J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer retreated here to revel in the island’s beauty. Today, the property continues to enchant guests with its history and Southern style.
With the famed Clubhouse dating back to 1888 as its hub, complemented by the historic Island Cottages and the Ocean Club, the resort boasts a reputation for creating remarkable vacations. Guests are welcomed with late-19th-century charm paired with a wealth of dining venues and activities, and a sun-soaked swimming pool with a fire pit surrounded by lounge chairs and umbrellas.
It’s the perfect excuse to stay a while and relish the incredible scenic setting of the Golden Isles and unique experiences on Georgia’s sublime coastline.