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    St. Simons Island,

    Georgia

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    Featured in Budget Travel's Cool Small Towns 2022

    St. Simons Island, GA is home to fabulous beaches, golfing, charter fishing, spas and salons, and a variety of restaurants, fun events and entertainment for everyone. The unspoiled beauty of St. Simons and its distinctively charming beach lifestyle that is unhurried and under-developed are what make it so special. Come see what the rest of the country is so excited about, and welcome to the best of the Island lifestyle!

    Full of history and Southern charm, St. Simons Island boasts beautiful live Southern Oaks draped with Spanish moss that give the island a unique sense of time and place, unlike any other. It's no wonder St. Simons Island was recently voted among the most romantic destinations in the U.S., and one visit is all you'll need to fall in love with Georgia's Golden Isles.

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    St. Simons Island, Georgia - Coolest Small Towns 2022

    Sure, not everybody remembers that Georgia — renowned for its inland forests and mountains and urban centers like Atlanta and Savannah — has drop-dead gorgeous beaches. St. Simons Island, on the state’s southern coast, is a good place to get acquainted with the watery side of the Peachtree State. (St. Simons is one of Georgia’s four “Golden Isles,” barrier islands that also include Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons island). Here, you’ll find a number of quaint villages that boast one-of-a-kind shops and museums. Explore historic sites such as St. Simons Island Lighthouse (dating back to 1872), Fort Frederick National Monument, and Christ Church. Then hit the waterways in a kayak, take a sunset bottlenose dolphin cruise, ride in unique open-air trolleys (which also offer an after-dinner Ghost Tour!), go on a cycling tour, or spend the day fishing with the help of an experienced local guide. Tuck into a plate of shrimp and grits at one of the island’s eateries,like Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill, or stop by the Public House for exceptional pork chops. More about St. Simons Island St. Simons Island, GA St. Simons Island, GA is home to fabulous beaches, golfing, charter fishing, spas and salons, and a variety of restaurants, fun events and entertainment for everyone. Keep Reading... Meet Budget Travel’s Coolest Small Towns for 2022: Content presented by Have Fun Do Good Have Fun Do Good (HFDG) is on a mission to provide adventure seekers with a unique experience that allows them to travel while giving back to the community through volunteering. Learn more at https://havefundogood.co/

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    Budget Travel Lists

    50 Best BBQ Restaurants in the U.S.

    When our friends at Foursquare published their 50 top-ranked barbecue restaurants in the U.S. earlier this year, it got us thinking: Is there a better reason to explore America’s interstates, main streets, and backroads than authentic, smoky barbecue? Whether your appetite runs toward traditional brisket, ribs, and pulled pork, or toward cool new cultural fusions such as Asian-spiced chicken wings and BBQ-stuffed tacos, these 50 joints are enough to keep any gourmand busy for months or even years. Why We Love BBQ "One of the most exciting things about barbecue is that the best stuff is found in what might appear to be the unlikeliest of places," says Budget Travel’s senior editor Liza Weisstuch. When Liza ate at the original outpost of the famous Joe's Kansas City Barbecue, which is No. 1 on Foursquare’s ranked list and located in a gas station rest stop, she was surprised how many locals advised her to get there no later than 10AM, an hour before opening. She was even more surprised to find that when she got there—at 10AM, sharp—there were already more than 40 hungry people queued up outside. "The line of excited 'cue-lovers aside, the place had all the trappings of a roadside pit stop. Well, 'pit stop' indeed. The pit masters here crank out some of the most tender, swoon-worthy meats, worthy not only of the time spent on line, but a pilgrimage any carnivore should consider." Multicultural Riffs on BBQ Tradition As much as we love the BBQ traditions exemplified by joints such as Joe’s, we also love how the cuisine has evolved to include a variety of cultural influences, and one tasty example is right here in Budget Travel’s New York City backyard. “Hometown Bar-B-Que [No. 12 on Foursquare’s list] is, hands down, my favorite barbecue in New York City,” says Budget Travel associate editor Maya Stanton. “The brisket's fat-to-lean ratio is on point, so the meat basically melts in your mouth, and the smoky flavor is just out of this world. They also have these Vietnamese wings that seem overpriced until you get them—they’re the whole wing, not separated into individual flats/drumsticks, and pretty much perfect. The menu has a bunch of other fusiony options too, like jerk ribs, pulled-pork tacos, and lamb belly banh mi, so it’s a great place to try something outside of the usual regional styles.” Talk to Us: How Many of These 50 BBQ Joints Have You Tried? We’d love to hear how many of Foursquare’s top 50 BBQ joints you’ve tried so far—or tell us about your favorite BBQ that didn't make the (admittedly subjective) list: Post a comment below or share your best most alluring BBQ photos on Instagram, tagged #mybudgettravel. From down-home BBQ hot spots like Texas and Missouri to some surprises (one of the top 50 is all the way up in Vermont), these restaurants boast fantastic food and a more than a few wacky names (e.g., No. 11 is John Mull’s Meats & Road Kill, in Las Vegas; No. 46 is Meat U Anywhere, in Grapevine, TX). Where Will You Eat Next? Here, Foursquare's top 50 BBQ joints across the U.S.: Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Cue (Kansas City, MO) Stanley’s Famous Pit Barbecue (Tyler, TX) Eli’s BBQ (Cincinnati, OH) Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q (Atlanta, GA) Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Rochester, NY) The Salt Lick (Driftwood, TX) Bogart’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) Smoque BBQ (Chicago, IL) Q39 (Kansas City, MO) The Joint (New Orleans, LA) John Mull’s Meats & Road Kill Grill (Las Vegas, NV) Hometown Bar-B-Que (Brooklyn, NY) Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q (Austin, TX) Pappy’s Smokehouse (St. Louis, MO) Mighty Quinn’s BBQ (New York, NY) Central BBQ (Memphis, TN) Burn Co. BBQ (Tulsa, OK) Community Q BBQ (Decatur, GA) Smokin Pig BBQ (Pendleton, SC) Fette Sau (Brooklyn, NY) RayRay’s Hog Pit (Columbus, (OH) Green Street Smoked Meats (Chicago, IL) Little Miss BBQ (Phoenix, AZ) Heirloom Market BBQ (Atlanta, GA) Fat Matt’s Rib Shack (Atlanta, GA) Prohibition Pig (Waterbury, VT) Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX) Chaps Pit Beef (Baltimore, MD) Saw’s BBQ (Homewood, AL) Slows Bar-B-Q (Detroit, MI) Andy Nelson’s Southern Pit Barbecue (Cockeysville, MD) Sweet P’s Barbeque & Soul House (Knoxbille, TN) Lockhart Smokehouse (Dallas, TX) La Barbecue Cuisine Texicana JR’s Barbeque (Culver City, CA) Pecan Lodge (Dallas, TX) Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse (Philadelphia) Freedmen’s (Austin, TX) Jethro’s BBQ (Des Moines, IA) Hard Eight BBQ (Coppell, TX) Southern Soul Barbeque (St. Simons Island, GA) Ace Biscuit & Barbecue (Charlottesville, VA) Alamo BBQ (Richmond, VA) 12 Bones Smokehouse (Asheville, NC) Aptos St. BBQ (Aptos, CA) Meat U Anywhere BBQ (Grapevine, TX) Midwood Smokehouse (Charlotte, NC) Phil’s BBQ (San Diego, CA) Hutchins BBQ & Brill (McKinney, TX) Blue Ribbon BBQ (Arlington, MA)

    Inspiration

    Affordable American Winter Beach Escapes

    When the mercury drops a little too much and the snow piles up a little too high, it’s time for a winter escape. We’ve rounded up some of America’s finest winter beaches, each with its own distinct flavor at a price that’s right. THE GEORGIA COAST When it comes to warm beaches, great price, and convenience, Georgia should spring to mind this time of year. The barrier islands of the state’s southern coast offer some of the best stretches of sand, great weather, and the welcoming vibe every vacationer craves. We love St. Simons Island for its incredible white-sand beaches, history, and ample golf courses, but we also love that the best way to get around the island may be on a rented beach cruiser bike, giving you the opportunity to leave your car behind and truly disconnect from all the stuff you went on vacation to escape. Points of interest on the island include a charming lighthouse, a 19th-century church, and ancient oak trees with their distinctive moss drapery. Grab a plate of shrimp and grits at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill and grab an affordable room (well under $150/night) at the Village Inn & Pub and other hotels on the island. To learn more about St. Simons Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. An easy day trip from St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is relatively wild (more than 60 percent of its land is protected from development) and home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Georgia. Just drive back to the mainland from St. Simons and over the bridge to Jekyll, where you’ll find 10 miles of beach (including favorites Driftwood and Glory), the 250-acre Historic Landmark District, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a water park, and four golf courses. To learn more about Jekyll Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. Tybee Island is a 20-minute drive from Savannah, making it one of the most convenient winter escapes in the U.S., not to mention one of the most affordable. Here, you’ll find classic beach activities like a boardwalk, pier, and souvenir shops, low-key restaurants like the Crab Shack (yu must try the steamed oysters and Low Country boil with shrimp, sausage, and potatoes), and comfy motels, the beachfront Hotel Tybee (well under $150/night) and others. What’s not to love? Don’t miss the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, a 270-year-old site with historic buildings that visitors can tour and the Civil War-era Fort Pulaski National Monument on nearby Cockspur Island. To learn more about Tybee Island, visit exploregeorgia.org. MOLOKAI, HAWAII No traffic lights. No resorts. The world’s highest sea cliffs. Volcanoes (don’t worry they’re extinct). If you can’t relax on Molokai, the least-visited of the major Hawaiian islands, it’s possible you’re just not trying hard enough. Seek out the gold sand of Papohaku beach, visit the island’s biggest town (a whopping 7,000 people live there), and head to downtown Kaunakakai for local Hawaiian favorites such as mahi-mahi. CATALINA ISLAND, CALIFORNIA For anyone who has visited Los Angeles and complained about the traffic (aka, everyone): We love the fact that cars aren’t allowed on Catalina, just 22 miles off the Southern California coast, unless you count golf carts, which you can rent if you really need to. Yes, this is a place to really get away from it all. After the 90-minute ferry ride, you’ll enter another world, where bicycles are the best way to get around, and exploring the island’s interior in search of birds (you may even see a bald eagle), is one of the prime activities. The town of Avalon is where you’ll find charming shops, restaurants, and affordable lodging. PUERTO RICO Besides being a quick flight from many U.S. cities, no passport required, Puerto Rico can also use your help: Tourism dollars help fund the island’s recovery from hurricane damage sustained in 2017. You’ll love the beaches, great food, and natural beauty, typified by El Yunque National Forest, a rainforest (bring a poncho!), perfect for a half- or full-day guided tour of sites such as La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Lookout Tower. Feast on traditional local fare such as arepas and plantains, washed down with a pina colada (the drink was invented in Puerto Rico in the 1950s), and tour charming Old San Juan, one of the oldest and most historic city centers in the U.S. For great views, visit El Morro National Monument, a 16th-century Spanish colonial fort that offers some of the most Instagrammable moments in the Caribbean. ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS The easternmost point in the United States is in the Caribbean, in the U.S. Virgin Islands: St. Croix may be small as far as islands go, but when it comes to winter getaways, it sure reminds you that good things come in small packages, with great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, eating Caribbean favorites such as conch and snapper, and acres of golf for those who define “vacation” as time on the links. We love historic Christiansted, where you’ll find reliable hotels and restaurants at good prices.

    Inspiration

    Take an Eating (and Drinking!) Tour of Georgia

    It’s no secret that Georgia’s cities boast some of America’s tastiest plates, with cool multicultural riffs on traditional favorites and fresh, locally sourced ingredients. But we’re here to tell you that you’ll also find good eats in the mountains, along the coast, and in small towns you’ll love discovering along the way. Here, your road map to discovering the best foodie finds in Georgia. SAVANNAH There may be no city in Georgia more “foodie” than Savannah, with soul food, seafood, Asian, Italian, and more - including the distinctive local “red rice.” - cooking in kitchens across the city, especially the revitalized River Street warehouse district. Start your day at B. Mathews for their great breakfast sandwich, and basically keep eating all day long. We love Old Pink House for shrimp and grits, especially the “Southern sushi,” which is smoked shrimp and grits rolled in coconut-crusted nori seaweed. Head to Pacci for contemporary riffs on Italian recipes and its gorgeous interior design. Bernie’s is the place when you just want fresh oysters and shrimp in a laid-back environment; and Collins Quarter serves up some of the city’s finest hamburgers. When evening rolls around, wet your whistle at Savannah Taphouse and tuck into their sweet tea fried chicken (yes, marinated in the iconic summer beverage - it doesn’t get any more Southern than that), or raise a glass and take in some live blues at Bayou Cafe. If you have room for dessert, you won’t regret a stop at Savannah’s candy Kitchen for a candy-dipped apple boasting indulgent ribbons of chocolate. THE COAST Remember, as good as the food in Savannah is, a visit to the nearby coast will deliver a dose of unforgettable dishes you shouldn’t miss. On St. Simons Island, Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill has been family-owned for 30 years, delivering a welcoming ambience and fantastic food like shrimp and grits, the day’s catch, or great steak. Also on St. Simons Island, ECHO is renowned for its shrimp and grits, and the Public House offers succulent pork chops. On Tybee Island, the Crab Shack is a consistent favorite among Budget Travelers for its great prices and for its super-fresh seafood - try the steamed oysters or the extremely filling “Low Country boil,” which includes shrimp, sausage, and potatoes. ATLANTA It comes as no surprise that Georgia’s capital city is a must-eat destination for traveling foodies. Chef Wendy Chang’s Herban Fix serves Asian-inspired vegan dishes such as soy beef and soy chicken that even carnivores love. Atlanta is home to so many top-notch eateries, it deserves an eating tour all its own. Some highlights include seafood-centric Italian meals such as shrimp and lemon linguine at Saltyard and “black spaghetti at Boccalupo (psst, the color comes, of course, from squid ink). You’ll also want to head outside the city to some of the Atlanta metro area’s most delicious communities, including pimento cheese fritters at Chicken and the Egg in Marietta, and perfect buttermilk fried chicken at Food 101 in Sandy Springs. And we especially love the Iberian Pig in Decatur, where an array of, you guessed it, pork takes center stage, including incredible tacos with grilled corn salsa and avocado crema. ATHENS Ready to get beyond the big cities and beaches? Try something different: A cool college town. Granted, Athens is no ordinary college town, with a major university and incredibly diverse population that craves, in addition to great indie music and intellectual pursuits, the finest local food. Start with classic Southern fare at Weaver D’s, including fried chicken, mac and cheese, and apple cobbler, and grab a local cocktail like the bourbon and ginger ale at the Manhattan Cafe, then move on to some unique (and uniquely delicious) joints like Big City Bread Cafe for a spicy lamb burger or Mama Jewel’s Kitchen where the fried chicken and biscuits are given an imaginative upgrade thanks to jalapeno peach jelly and melted brie. THE MOUNTAINS A trip to Georgia’s mountains yields an entirely new world of good eating, with smaller towns grabbing the spotlight with delightful, imaginative culinary offerings. Those who know the state’s mountains know that two major fresh local ingredients are pecans and trout. Lake Rabun Hotel & Restaurant in Lakemont makes it easy to enjoy both with its pecan-encrusted mountain trout. Because no trip to the Georgia countryside would be complete without savoring some BBQ, drop by Jim’s Smokin’ Que in Blairsville for baby back ribs and smoked chicken smothered in the restaurant’s house-made sauce. And if you haven’t tried fried green tomatoes yet, there’s not better place to give them a try than Tam’s Tupelo in Cumming, where the BLT sliders are topped with the tasty Southern favorite, not to mention upscale fixins’ that include pepper-crusted bacon, arugula, and tomato jam. Learn more about everything there is to eat and drink in Georgia at exploregeorgia.org.

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    The Sea Islands of Georgia

    Day 1: Savannah to Tybee Island My husband, Michael, and I land in Savannah around lunchtime. Georgia's First City, as Savannah declares itself, is architecturally awesome--and maddening for drivers. Tour buses slowly crawl around historic squares. Tourists cluster in the middle of the street to peer at the impeccably restored 18th- and 19th-century houses. We have to go through town to get to our evening's destination, Tybee Island, so our plan is to park, fortify with some food, and get on our way. Our first attempt at finding barbecue is unsuccessful. We make do with a black-eyed-pea sandwich at B. Matthews Bakery; it's a delicious approximation of a spicy falafel. I pocket a chocolate-chip cookie for the 18-mile drive to Tybee. Georgia's most developed island feels kind of like Atlantic City meets Coney Island--a little shabby, but that shabbiness often translates to a retro charm. The Basta family runs the Georgianne Inn, three houses in from the beach, and the adult son Nick is our enthusiastic host. We borrow two cruiser bikes, and Nick gives us 10 minutes of pointers. Tybee's tides are remarkably low, so from mid-afternoon until sunset there's at least 50 feet of packed sand to play on. The southern side of the beach, beyond a long pier, has high winds, which attract kitesurfers, kiteboarders, and old-fashioned kite fliers. For dinner, we head over to The Crab Shack, a Tybee institution whose motto is "Where the Elite Eat in Their Bare Feet"--but which we'll always remember as the kind of establishment where patrons bring their own beer cozies. Calling it a shack is either false humility or wishful nostalgia--it's more like a Crab Complex, with cutesy signs (DRINKING TO FORGET? PLEASE PAY IN ADVANCE), Jimmy Buffett on rotation, and a Gift Shack. We put our names on the waiting list and visit the man-made Gator Lagoon, where antsy kids are poking at baby alligators with sticks. We order salty snow crab; a low-country boil of shrimp, potatoes, and sausage; and steamed oysters, which arrive unshucked. The food is good, but I'm otherwise engaged. There's a garbage can embedded in the center of each of the tables, and for some reason this excites me. No sooner has Michael shucked an oyster than I've tossed the shell into the pail. When our waitress comes to clear, I proudly declare that I've taken care of it for her. Day one  Lodging Georgianne Inn1312 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 800/596-5301, georgianneinn.com, from $65 Food B Matthews Eatery325 E. Bay St., Savannah, 912/233-1319, black-eyed-pea sandwich $6 The Crab Shack40 Estill Hammock Rd., Tybee Island, 912/786-9857, low-country boil $13 Day 2: Tybee Island to St. Simons Island By 8:30 a.m., there are 20 people waiting for a table at The Breakfast Club, a squat stucco house two blocks from the Georgianne. Joseph Sadowsky, an alum of the Culinary Institute of America, was recruited by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette to cater their wedding. He's pretty great on less fancy fare, too. I have a spicy homemade sausage patty with poached eggs and buttery grits. The low-ceilinged room, with sticky brown plastic tablecloths, isn't built for lingering--just as well, considering the line outside. Highway 17, the main scenic road tracing the coast, doesn't offer much to look at until we put some distance between us and Savannah. But by the time we reach Riceboro, we're breezing under a canopy of live oaks. At South Newport, we pull off the two-lane highway to see what's billed as the smallest church in America, the Memory Park Christ Chapel. The 56-year-old nondenominational church--open 24/7 and rentable for weddings--is just 10 feet by 15 feet, with seating for only 12. A sign asks visitors to shut the door tight when leaving, which turns off the lights. I follow the instructions, perhaps too much so--the church is still rattling as we walk back to the car. Most of the islands connect to the mainland by causeways. Getting to Sapelo Island, however, requires a 30-minute ferry from Meridian across the Intracoastal Waterway. It could just as well be a time machine. When the Civil War came, the heirs of a big plantation owner, Thomas Spalding, abandoned the island, their cotton and sugarcane plantations, and many slaves. The isolation allowed the former slaves, originally from West Africa, to sustain their own self-governing community and their own language, called Geechee. To this day, 57 descendants live on Hog Hammock, a 434-acre spread. Tobacco magnate R.J. Reynolds bought the island in 1934 but didn't mess around with Hog Hammock; he breathed new life into an existing mansion and established a wildlife area that's now run by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The island also has a marine institute operated by the University of Georgia. To get access to Sapelo you have to have a reservation, either for a tour or at one of the island's two inns. (Before you board, you'll be asked who'll be greeting you on the other end; no name, no go.) I'd booked a tour with Yvonne Grovner, who runs trips five days a week for the Georgia D.N.R. Yvonne grew up on the mainland; she met her husband, a Geechee, in high school and moved to Hog Hammock once they got married. During a three-hour drive, Yvonne introduces us to other residents and points out the pastel, one-story shacks, most of which are abandoned. We see ruins of an old sugar mill, miles of deserted dunes on Nannygoat Beach, and the exquisitely faded Reynolds mansion. It looks like a double for the one in the 1998 movie of Great Expectations. When Yvonne moved to Hog Hammock in 1980, there were more than 100 people; today, there are about half that. Fifteen school-age kids take the ferry each day to go to school; as they get older, there's not much to keep them on the island. One person she takes us to meet is Cornelia Bailey, who runs the bar (The Trough) and the gift shop (The Pig Pen), where she sells shells and Yvonne's handmade sweetgrass baskets. Michael asks Cornelia if she's always lived in Hog Hammock. "Is there anywhere else?" she says, with a wry smile. The ferry ride back is lulling, the horizon interrupted only by green reeds and salt marshes. We drive south toward Brunswick, and then over a causeway. St. Simons Island is a world away from Sapelo. Kids in fluorescent flip-flops march giddily along the main drag, while dads golf and moms go shopping. We hunt down one of the island's five tree spirits--droopy, somewhat spooky faces that were carved into live oaks to commemorate sailors who died on boats made from St. Simons trees. (The easiest one to find is on Mallery Street, next to Murphy's Tavern.) At Zuzu's, a '50s-style diner adjacent to the pier, we share a root beer float. It suitably ruins our appetites, so all we need for dinner is a bowl of thick Brunswick stew--shredded chicken, ground pork, corn, and okra--at the nautical-themed Blackwater Grill. Day two  Transportation Sapelo Island ferryLanding Road, off Hwy. 99, 912/437-3224, cr.nps.gov/goldcres/sites/sapelo.htm, $2 round trip Lodging Sea Palms5445 Frederica Rd., St. Simons Island, 800/841-6268, seapalms.com, from $129 Food The Breakfast Club1500 Butler Ave., Tybee Island, 912/786-5984, two eggs and sausage $5.50 The Troughno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Zuzu's119 Mallery St., St. Simons Island, 912/ 638-8655, root beer float $3.50 Blackwater Grill260 Redfern Village, St. Simons Island, 912/634-6333, Brunswick stew $5.50 Activities Memory Park Christ ChapelHwy. 17, South Newport, no phone Georgia Department of Natural Resources912/485-2300, half- or full-day tour $10 Shopping The Pig Penno address, Sapelo Island, 912/485-2206 Day 3: St. Simons Island to St. Marys Rice was the most common--and notoriously brutal--crop in coastal Georgia: Slaves who worked the soggy paddies often caught malaria. Following the Civil War, not many rice plantations survived. On a tour of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation in Brunswick, we learn it was one of the few that did, in part due to a pair of savvy sisters who turned it around by converting it into a dairy farm. A terrific thunderstorm erupts right as we arrive on Jekyll Island. The Georgia coast has a subtropical climate; humid summer stretches well into October, and afternoon thunderstorms are common. We take shelter on the wide porch of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, formerly the clubhouse commissioned by J.P. Morgan, William K. Vanderbilt, William Rockefeller, and Joseph Pulitzer, who were all part of the Jekyll Island Club, which owned the island in the late 1880s. Jekyll Island, including the hotel, was purchased by the state in 1947. I rock in a white wicker chair and admire the sailboats. For all its former wealth, Jekyll is much more casual than St. Simons. Beyond the historic district, the interior is family-friendly and modest, with mostly small ranch houses. It would be sacrilegious not to play some kind of golf, so during a break in the storm, we squeeze in a round of miniature golf, then head back to Highway 17. By the time we reach St. Marys, it's past 9 p.m. and the sleepy town is in full R.E.M. We check into the Spencer House Inn, a huge pink Victorian run by Mike and Mary Neff. Our huge top-floor room has a four-poster bed and a claw-foot tub. But the real draw is a DVD player; we borrow Friday Night Lights from Mike and Mary, who say it's one of the few DVDs in their collection that they were able to agree on, and settle in for the night. Day three  Lodging Spencer House Inn101 E. Bryant St., St. Marys, 888/840-1872, spencerhouseinn.com, from $100 Activities Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation5556 Hwy. 17, Brunswick, 912/264-7333, gastateparks.org, $5 Jekyll Island Miniature GolfCourse 2, Beachview Dr., 912/635-2648, $5.30 Resources Jekyll Island Visitors Center901 Downing Musgrove Cswy., 877/453-5955, jekyllisland.com Day 4: St. Marys to Savannah St. Marys is where you board a ferry to Cumberland Island, which is run by the National Park Service. Thomas Carnegie owned the island in the late 19th century, and now wild horses and turkeys run free amid the ruins of his mansion. The sole lodging, the posh Greyfield Inn, is a mansion built by his widow; it was the site of the Kennedy-Bessette reception. Only 300 people are allowed on Cumberland each day, and it's wise to reserve months ahead for the 45-minute ferry. Yesterday's rain messed up the ferry schedule, and there's no way to see the island and make our flight. So we look into renting a kayak from Up the Creek Xpeditions and walk around St. Marys. It's the prettiest town of our trip. Day four  Activities Cumberland Island912/882-4335, nps.gov/cuis, $4, round-trip ferry $15 Up the Creek Xpeditions111 Osborne St., St. Marys, 912/882-0911, upthecreektrips.com, kayaks $40-$60 per day Finding your way Causeways link most of the islands to the mainland, and in all but one case, they're free. The exception: There's a $3 daily car fee to visit state-owned Jekyll Island. The ferries to Cumberland and Sapelo islands depart only a couple of times a day, so plan your schedule in advance, and be sure to make the ferry back to the mainland. (There aren't any places to buy food on Cumberland, so bring your own lunch and water.) And when driving back up to Savannah, Highway 95 may seem like the speedy route, but it can take over three hours when the traffic is bad, which is often.

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    DESTINATION IN Georgia

    Golden Isles

    The Golden Isles of Georgia are a group of four barrier islands and the mainland port city of Brunswick on the 100-mile-long coast of the U.S. state of Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. They include St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Historic Brunswick. Mild winters, together with natural beaches, vast stretches of marshland, maritime forests, historical sites, and abundant wildlife on both land and sea have made the Golden Isles a travel destination for families, nature-lovers, fishing and water sports enthusiasts, golfers, and history buffs. All the islands are located within Glynn County and make up the lower middle section of Georgia's eleven barrier islands. Annual mild temperatures average 68 °F, with July highs of 90 °F. St. Simons is the largest of the four, with a permanent population of 12,743 residents as of the 2010 census. Curled around its north end and accessible only by boat is Little St. Simons Island—privately owned and maintained in its natural state with a small capacity guest lodge and cottages. Jekyll Island is owned by the state of Georgia and operated as a state park, with limited residential areas. Sea Island is owned by Sea Island Acquisitions, LLC, and is home to the world-famous Cloister resort and residential homes valued in the millions of dollars.The City of Brunswick traces its history back to early Colonial times, and the founding of the Georgia colony by General James Oglethorpe. From its earliest days, the port of Brunswick was important to the growth and economy of the new nation. In 1789, George Washington named Brunswick one of the five original ports of entry for the thirteen colonies. During World War II, Brunswick hosted an important construction site for Liberty ships, and Naval Air Station Glynco, a major operational base for blimps. Tourism is the most important economic driver in the Golden Isles, with an estimated 2.4 million visitors in 2014. Other key components of the local economy include the Port of Brunswick, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, aviation support services, and manufacturing. Travelers to the area arrive primarily via Brunswick Golden Isles Airport and Interstate 95. McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport serves general aviation.

    DESTINATION IN Georgia

    Jekyll Island

    Jekyll Island is located off the coast of the U.S. state of Georgia, in Glynn County. It is one of the Sea Islands and one of the Golden Isles of Georgia barrier islands. The island is owned by the State of Georgia and run by a self-sustaining, self-governing body.It was long used seasonally by indigenous peoples of the region. The Guale and the Mocama, the indigenous peoples of the area when Europeans first reached the area, were killed or forced to leave by the English of the Province of Carolina and their native allies, and by raids by French pirates. Plantations were developed on the island during the British colonial period. A few structures still standing are made of tabby, a coastal building material of crushed oyster shells. The island was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was evacuated during World War II by order of the US government. In 1947 the state of Georgia acquired all the property, for security and preservation. A popular tourist destination, the island has beaches frequented by vacationers. Guided tours of the Landmark Historic District are available. Bike trails, walks along the beaches and sandbars, and Summer Waves, a water park, are among the active attractions. The historic district features numerous impressive and ambitious buildings from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The island is also full of wildlife, consisting of many different mammals, reptiles, and birds living and breeding in the island's inland salt marshes. In 2018, Architectural Digest named Jekyll Island one of the 50 most beautiful small towns in America.The island was listed as a census-designated place prior to the 2020 census.