Living on Georgia's southeastern coast would be a dream come true for most: The mild, year-round weather, the incredible foodie scene, the gorgeous scenery, the small-town Southern hospitality... it'd be like a vacation that never has to end. Of course, dropping everything to move to the beach isn't as easy as it sounds, so in the meantime, you can spend your trips exploring these local hidden gems, spread across the area. You're sure to leave with a new appreciation for the Golden Isles once you experience its lesser-known hot spots!
Alright, so it's hard to visit the Golden Isles and *not* cross the Sidney Lanier Bridge, since it's right at the tip of Brunswick near Jekyll Island, but take a moment to appreciate this beautiful piece of architecture that plays such a huge role in the lives of Golden Isles locals. It got its name from poet Sidney Lanier, who wrote about the lovely marshes that surround the area... and it should come as no surprise that the bridge is best viewed from the marshes!
When it comes to outdoor fun, locals head to a beach like Great Dunes Park. The reason it's so popular? It's got loads of amenities. Lots of parking, grills, public bathrooms, and a convenient location near other activities and restaurants make this park a great option for a day of beach fun. It's also a location for local events and festivals, so don't be surprised to arrive and find something fun going on. Oh, and pro tip: This is the best beach for sea turtle spotting, as the Georgia Sea Turtle Center likes to release rehabilitated turtles here.
For a casual dinner out, head to Tortuga Jack's, where you'll find some of the best Mexican grub in town. They offer classic dishes like tacos, enchiladas, guac and ceviche, as well as spicy twists on other meals like chicken wings, burgers and salads. The location right on the beach adds to the experience, and if you can grab a seat on the patio, do it... nothing goes better with a margarita than ocean views and breezes off the water.
A super popular activity for Golden Isles locals is fishing, and one of the best spots to cast out a line is the Jekyll Island Pier. It's also a prime spot for crabbing, so rent some gear, or bring your own, and spend a bit of time relaxing and seeing what you can catch. It's right off of the Clam Creek Picnic Area, which has a bait and tackle shop, and also provides access to nearby Driftwood Beach. There are also grills if you're up for cooking your catch!
It's also fun to get out on the water yourself. Southeast Adventure Outfitters on St. Simons rents out kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, which are always a blast. If you're a beginner, they offer kayak and paddleboard tours and lessons, so you can take your time getting to know the many water trails around the region.
If you want to feel right at home on St. Simons, then book a room at the Village Inn. This cozy little hotel was once a 1930s beach cottage and additions to the original building were done in the same style, without touching any of the gorgeous old live oaks on the property. The rooms are comfy, and the courtyard, pool, and onsite pub are all excellent amenities that make a stay here feel special. The pub is especially worth visiting: mahogany detailing and killer martinis set the mood for a vintage, homey experience.
If you're looking to avoid the crowds, or if you just want to see a different side of the Golden Isles, there are local gems aplenty across the area. As you explore these little spots and experiences, you'll start to feel like the Golden Isles are your home away from home, and nothing can beat the warm feeling of being in a place that makes you feel so welcome and comfortable!
Nestled on the Georgia coast lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beautiful barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands, define the Golden Isles' breathtaking landscape.