Dotting Georgia’s coastline, four barrier islands and their historic port city have inspired travelers, writers, and poets for centuries. Within a lush, unspoiled landscape rife with charming historic towns, alluring waterways, and miles of sandy beaches, the Golden Isles is your gateway to paradise.
Each of the isles boasts its own distinct character, from the pristine ecological beauty of Little St. Simons Island to the exclusive Sea Island with unmatched golf courses and five-star accommodations. Find your personal gateway to the Golden Isles—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island, plus the historic port city of Brunswick—with these recommendations for activities and places to eat and stay. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway, a week-long vacation, or more, there’s plenty to fill up your days or take at your own pace.
Hike or bike on miles of trails and sandy beaches
You’ll find some of Georgia’s best places for hiking, running, and biking in the Golden Isles. From nature preserves to coastal pathways, there’s an opportunity to see mother nature at its best. Each of the two main trail systems in the Golden Isles, on Jekyll Island and St. Simons Island, offers more than 20 paved miles that wind through the island’s beaches, forests, and historic sites.
For a leisurely walk or hike, explore the Earth Day Nature Trail. Located in Brunswick, it’s within the Earth Day Nature Preserve—a 72-acre natural area where you can see an abundance of wildlife as you weave through salt marshes and tidal ponds.
Of the more than 20 miles of beaches waiting to be explored in the Golden Isles, put the unique Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island first on your list. Weathered driftwood sculptures dot the shoreline of the peaceful, otherworldly beach.
East Beach on St. Simons Island is well-suited for a variety of activities, including shelling, biking, and kiteboarding. For private beaches, guests of Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island enjoy access to some of the most pristine beaches in the country.
Eat local dishes with a view
It’s no wonder with such beautiful landscapes, outdoor dining in the Golden Isles is as delightful as the outdoor activities themselves. Among the many alfresco options, most are concentrated on St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, and Brunswick.
With its St. Simons Island location, Barbara Jean’s is a longtime favorite known for their crab cakes and she-crab soup. Indigo Coastal Shanty located in Downtown Brunswick is another Golden Isles seafood go-to with outdoor seating, a casual atmosphere, American fare with Caribbean and Mexican touches, and fresh seafood dishes that include daily catches. Or, for farm-to-table freshness and a flair for southern coastal cuisine, stop in at ECHO at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort, the island’s only oceanfront restaurant.
Enjoy handcrafted margaritas, Mexican food, and stunning views at Tortuga Jack’s on Jekyll Island. As the sole restaurant on the island that looks out onto the ocean, it’s the best place to bask in the coastal beauty while enjoying Baja-inspired eats. (Pro tip: They have another location in Brunswick.)
Try some fresh seafood
With its location along the Atlantic Coast and abundance of marshes, estuaries, and tidal creeks, the Golden Isles’ centuries-old fishing and shrimp industry has brought shrimp boats dotting the coastline and bringing in the catch of the day. That legacy also means it’s a prime destination for enjoying fresh seafood.
Head to St. Simons Island for Georgia Sea Grill, a restaurant that’s earned a reputation for delicious seafood since opening in 1997. Halyards, also located on St. Simons Island, serves up some of the area’s freshest fish, caught and served daily. Found on Jekyll Island, The Wharf is another seafood favorite with a focus on southern dishes such as fried shrimp and flounder.
Explore its charming small towns
The seaside allure of the Golden Isles expands well beyond its gorgeous landscapes and beaches. It’s also home to charming villages and historic downtowns—delightful for shopping, dining, and taking in the area’s history. Pier Village on St. Simons Island offers shops and restaurants, plus plenty of postcard-perfect moments to share with family and friends.
See the Golden Isles come to life with a visit to Downtown Brunswick. Located on the mainland, the historic port city is bustling with its shrimp boats and ocean vessels — all evidence of the area’s rich seafood industry and coastal character. Take a historic tour, fish off the pier or on local charters, and attend one of the festivals to get a true taste of the town.
To travel even deeper in the region, book a stay at The Kress Brunswick, located in the former Samuel H. Kress & Co. building, a “five and dime” department store dating back to 1909. This boutique hotel in the heart of downtown is the epitome of contemporary Southern hospitality. In addition to 12 luxury suites, full concierge services, and a bouldering gym, the new property boasts 1509, an elegant rooftop restaurant and bar. Sip on handcrafted cocktails and savor southern dishes like molasses-brined pork chops and shrimp curry as you soak up the view over Downtown Brunswick.
Golf the Golden Isles
This Golden Isles holds 189 holes of golf, some of the most coveted in the country. Golf in the Golden Isles is a tradition that dates back more than 100 years and plays an important role in the area’s history. Starting in the 1800s, the country’s wealthiest would travel to the area for its mild climate with their golf clubs. The opening of the Jekyll Island Club’s golf course in 1898 soon made the Golden Isles a haven for golfers.
Discover the exclusive links at the Sea Island Golf Club, where you can also attend the popular RSM Classic, an official PGA TOUR event, in November. Held on the Club’s Seaside and Plantation courses, this sporting event is a favorite island tradition that makes for a special experience. You can also swing with the best of them at the Jekyll Island Golf Club, and keep score at the 18-hole Sea Palms Golf Course.
Ready to plan your own dream trip to the Golden Isles? Get started by requesting an official Visitor Guide with the latest information about accommodations, activities, events, dining, shopping, and much more.