Are you always up for a new road trip? For me, it’s the Georgia coast. Starting in Savannah and heading to Cumberland Island, you’ll experience colonial cities and pristine wilderness. Centuries of history and careful conservation of the natural world are the main attractions of this area. Here are the highlights.
9 Top Stops On a Georgia Coast Road Trip
If you’ve never thought of taking a Georgia coast road trip, here are nine reasons why you should plan one.
1. Tybee Island
Only a 20-minute drive from Savannah, laid-back Tybee Island seems worlds away. The site of a military base from 1925-1945, Tybee now encourages relaxation. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything fun to do.
For the history lover, Fort Pulaski National Monument is a must. This Civil War-era fort is perfect for kids to explore and has ranger-led activities for all ages. In addition, Tybee Light Station & Museum and Fort Screven offer a peek into Tybee’s past. The lighthouse is the oldest and tallest in Georgia.
The outdoor enthusiast will love the beaches and water sports opportunities. The Tybee Island Marine Science Center offers several naturalist-led programs, including beach walks, marsh treks, and turtle talks.
2. Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge
Named for the notorious pirate rumored to stash his loot here, the Federal government has owned Blackbeard Island since 1800. A former yellow fever quarantine station from 1880 to 1910, a bird refuge was established there and led to the island eventually being named a National Wildlife Refuge.
Today visitors can hike, bike, and fish on the island in addition to looking out for wildlife. You’ll need to use your watercraft or charter service to get there. The island includes fresh and saltwater wetlands and maritime forests. In addition to migratory birds, Blackbeard Island is home to nesting loggerhead sea turtles.
3. Sapelo Island
This barrier island is the site of the historically significant Hog Hammock Community. The majority of residents are Gullah-Geechees, descendants of enslaved West Africans. These enslaved people worked at the Spalding plantation, which later became the home of tobacco heir R.J. Reynolds. Groups of at least 16 members can stay at the Reynolds Mansion. The Cabretta Campground is also available for group pioneer camping.
Guided tours are on Wednesday and Saturday. The only other way to access the island is through a connection with a Sapelo Island resident. Ferry tickets are available at the visitor’s center in Darien.
4. Fort King George Historic Site
While in Darien, tour Fort King George State Historic Site. It’s the oldest English fort still in existence on Georgia’s coast. Many 18th-century buildings have been reconstructed from records and drawings. The kids and I happened to be visiting during a “Viking Takeover” weekend, and they had a blast! There were displays featuring weapons, cooking, archery, and more.
The museum is interactive, and there’s a great picnic spot.
5. Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site
Head next to the coastal town of Brunswick to tour Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation State Historic Site. What began as a rice plantation from the early 19th century to the early 20th century was converted to a dairy when rice farming was no longer profitable. Ophelia Dent was the last remaining heir, and she willed the property to Georgia in 1973.
The home remains much as Dent left it, including authentic family furnishings and heirlooms. The grounds are gorgeous and fabulous for kids to get wiggles out before the next stop.
6. Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island is a private island of 11,000 acres of wilderness in the Altamaha River delta. The Lodge offers both guided day trips and longer, all-inclusive stays. In addition to lodging and food, you’ll access outdoor activities such as kayaking and educational experiences with trained naturalists.
A visit here is the ideal getaway for outdoor and nature enthusiasts. If you want to vacation more eco-friendly, here are ways to be a more sustainable traveler.
7. Simons Island
Colonial history abounds on St. Simons Island. Fort Frederica National Monument is the 1736 fort and village site founded by James Oglethorpe. While only a few buildings are left to see, their Junior Ranger booklet is award-winning and well worth the visit.
Commune with nature on a search for the Tree Spirits. Artist Keith Jennings and his son Devon have carved faces into trees all over the island. Use this map for a fun scavenger hunt! When you’ve found them all, cool off at Neptune Park. In addition to the oak-covered picnic area and playground, there is a mini-golf course, pool, and splash pad. Then, of course, there are beaches, but the beach experience is better at neighboring Jekyll Island.
8. Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island’s most famous inhabitants were the members of the Jekyll Island Club. A primitive hunting lodge became an exclusive and opulent resort for America’s wealthiest. Georgia purchased the island in 1947, and it’s been welcoming everyone ever since.
The Jekyll Island Club has returned to a resort, and restoration efforts have ensured a thriving historic district. Touring the district on foot costs nothing, but the guided trolley tour is well worth the money. In addition, Mosaic, the Jekyll Island museum, is full of interactive exhibits. Finally, don’t miss the walk-through installation on St. Andrews Beach about The Wanderer, the last known slave ship to dock in Georgia.
If you love the outdoors, you’ll find no shortage of activities, from the Summer Waves water park to mini-golf fun. In addition to water sports and fishing, there are tennis and golf facilities. Each of the seven beaches has a distinct vibe. Driftwood Beach is a personal favorite. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a must for animal lovers. Injured sea turtles are rehabbed here in hopes of returning them to the ocean.
9. Cumberland Island National Seashore
The town of St. Mary’s gives you access to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest barrier island. Cumberland Island takes planning and preparation, including reserving one of the limited spots on the ferry that only runs a few times daily. There are no concessions on the island, so bring all the essentials.
Visitors can bring bikes on the ferry. However, the Lands and Legacies van tour makes it easy to cover more ground. Significant sites are the Settlement, which includes the tiny First African Baptist Church, Dungeness ruins, and Plum Orchard Mansion. The Settlement was home to a community of formerly enslaved people, while Dungeness and Plum Orchard Mansion were the lavish homes of members of the Carnegie family. Plum Orchard Mansion is available to tour for a view of high society life at the turn of the 20th century.
The main draw of Cumberland is its pristine beaches and wilderness areas. Home to 17 miles of beaches with no docks, homes, or other structures, the view is stunning. Teeming with wildlife, Cumberland is most well-known for being home to a herd of feral horses, alligators, armadillos, and nesting sea turtles. You’ll encounter these animals while hiking and touring; be respectful and keep your distance for your safety and theirs.
Take Time for a Georgia Coast Road Trip
As you can see, the Georgia Coast offers so many worthwhile experiences. So whether you like to spend your vacation on the go or would prefer to take it easy, the barrier islands of the Georgia coast have precisely what you’re looking for!
This article was produced by Wealth of Geeks and syndicated by Wealthy Living.
Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jon Bilous