The Golden Isles of Georgia are definitely at the top of my family’s most cherished getaways. Located at the Southernmost tip of Georgia’s coastline, the Golden Isles are situated just off Brunswick in the most romantic Southern low country you’ll ever have the pleasure to behold. The Isles are comprised of Jekyll Island, St Simons Island, Sea Island and Little St Simons Island. As is typical of most Islands, time seems to move a little slower here where sunrises and sunsets are epic, the food is tasty, and the history is rich. When it comes to quality family time, there are ample things to keep kids of all ages entertained. You may have read my story about visiting the Isles on a girls trip before, now I’m revealing my Family Top 10.
I partnered with the Golden Isles CVB and Jekyll Ocean Club to bring you this Family Top 10 City Guide. Although many parts of our visit were included in our partnership free of charge, all opinions in this blog are 100% my own.
If you have heard of Jekyll Island, chances are you know all abut the Jekyll Island Club Resort. You might not know however, about it’s newest offspring, the Jekyll Ocean Club. Situated right on the shore with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Jekyll Ocean Club is a contemporary addition to the resort’s more historic portfolio. This boutique hotel offers 40 oversized suites with ocean views, and houses Corsair Kitchen & Bar. Corsair offers generous portions of regionally inspired Southern fare with a sophisticated flare and elegant presentation. Our girls couldn’t wait to make a splash in the hotel’s pool, and cozy up to the fire pit located right on the pool deck. Food and drink service was available to make our afternoon complete and after we cleaned up we headed down to Corsair for more tasty nibbles on their screened in patio and casual lounge area with a giant porch swing. The hotel’s inspiring decor was fresh and nautical with neutral tones and tons of light. Our room featured a double queen, a kitchenette, and it’s own living area with pull out. As is our tradition, when the girls finally crashed, my husband and I enjoyed a serene evening sipping on wine and looking out at the Southern stars from our deck. It was divine.
Tip: The screened in porch and giant swing were not traditional dining areas, but we camped out here as a family for breakfast and dinner and found it added a much more relaxed quality to our meals since our toddler does not sit well at dining room tables.
St Simons Pier Village
One of our first stops when getting away to the Golden Isles is the St Simons Pier Village. There are so many adorable little shops to browse through offering everything from hand poured candles, to surf boards. You can find the perfect souvenir at one of the shops, grab a snack at one of the surrounding restaurants, play on the nearby playground, or treat the whole family to something sweet. It’s the perfect way to spend and afternoon on the Island, and a great way to get acquainted with the essence of the Isles. I always have to stop at the St Simons Sweet Shop for one of their uniquely Southern ice cream flavors such as Pecan Pie, or Georgia Peaches and Cream!
Tip: The Pier Village is a large area making up the shops, restaurants, pier, and lighthouse area. Park in one spot and walk to everywhere you want to be.
If you love to fish, the St Simons Island Pier is the place to be. Our family always makes a point of walking the pier to enjoy stunning views of St Simon’s coastline and the St Simons Sound. If you look closely you may even spot a dolphin or two, or run into a super friendly pelican showing off for the crowd.
Tip: If you collect local art, the Pier is a great place to find artists painting and selling their St Simons works.
Climb 129 steps to the top of the fully operational St Simons Lighthouse and enjoy sweeping 360 degree views of the entire island. The lighthouse is located within the Pier Village in St Simons Island and I consider it a must-visit. It’s perfect for families because it’s situated right next to a sprawling playground that you can visit with your children afterwards as a reward for making the climb. Tour the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters and explore it’s history before you conquer the lighthouse steps. Our girls enjoyed seeing the inside of this iconic structure and were thrilled to be up so high over the entire Island and it’s canopy of oaks.
Tip: Don’t worry there are places to stop along the spiral climb to make it easier on the little ones going up and down.
The Georgia coastline is fertile ground for the world’s number one selling seafood, shrimp. Don’t leave the South without tasting genuine wild caught shrimp brought in fresh and served in style. The perfect place to do so is family friendly Iguana’s Seafood Restaurant. My kids enjoyed the festive atmosphere full of murals, and wild displays including a giant shark. The grown ups loved the large selection of margaritas and creative selection of tasty shrimp dishes! A full menu of sandwiches and burgers were also on the menu for those with a pickier palate.
Tip: Don’t leave without some complimentary soft serve ice cream!
When I was a teenager, Summer Waves Water Park was where we spent our summer camp “free day”. Located in Jekyll Island, Summer Waves’ action packed water slides stand in contrast to the serenity of Jekyll Island. It’s a perfect little surprise in the middle of the island, full of twists and turns and plenty of classic family fun. Cool down in the midst of Georgia’s sultry summer on one of Summer Waves many water slides, in the giant wave pool, splashing around in the kids zone, or relaxing on the lazy river.
Tip: Summer Waves is open seasonally.
If you’re looking for open air dining, live music, and the most epic view of the sunset on the island then head straight to The Wharf at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. The Wharf enjoys sweeping panoramic views of Jekyll Creek where wild life is often seen. During our dinner we wandered down to the pier and thought we saw a few dolphins, after careful inspection we were surprised to find they were actually manatees! The live music really set the scene and the Southern cuisine was perfection! It was an idyllic setting for a picturesque family dinner and we can’t wait to return.
Tip: Order the fried green tomatoes and thank me later.
The Jekyll Island Club Resort is an historic icon on Jekyll Island. Originally established as a getaway for the rich and famous, the stories this place can tell are seemingly without limit. What better way to explore it’s riches than by bicycle! Jekyll Wheels enjoys status as the official outfitter at the resort. I was pleased to find they had bikes for all sizes including trailers, and toddler seats for little ones unable to ride on their own. We had so much fun winding our way along the 20 miles of trails on the island which wove their way throughout the historic district, and along the coastline. We were all invigorated by the activity and even spotted an alligator!
Tip: I would encourage families with younger riders to map out their ride in advance so you don’t get too far out for them to get back without help.
Tucked away on the North end of Jekyll Island lies Driftwood Beach. Possibly one of the most otherworldly places we’ve ever had the pleasure of exploring, Driftwood Beach is a product of the North end of the Island slowly eroding and being deposited at the South end of the Island. As a result the massive Oak trees native to the region have fallen prey to the ravages of time and sea water. Our family loved exploring this natural jungle gym. We climbed, jumped, and (of course) took tons of photos. We passed a group setting up for a wedding, watched a model pose for a magazine, and enjoyed the colorful scene of a kite high above the beach. This is by far the most unique free attraction in the Isles.
Tip: Pack a picnic and make some memories!
The Georgia Coastline is a well known nesting ground and sanctuary for many species of sea turtle. As such, it’s no surprise these gentle creatures have attained celebrity status in the region. There is no place they are honored more than at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. Here visitors can learn about the life cycle of sea turtles, where they nest, and what dangers threaten them. In the rear of the building you’ll find the Sea Turtle Hospital where you’ll discover turtles being treated for a variety of ailments such as viruses, wounds from predators, and bubble butt (yes, it’s actually a thing). Witness the caretakers and vets treating the sea turtles, and depending on the season you might even spot a few baby turtles in incubators (major aww factor).
Tip: Check the schedule for daily educational programs.
Our recent visit to the Golden Isles was simply magical! We visited in October and it was the absolute perfect weather. There is so much to do for families of all sizes and we have rarely had an issue with it being over crowded with visitors. Having said that, you’ll probably find the best deals on the shoulder season which goes from fall to spring.
Have you ever traveled to the Golden Isles? What are your favorite spots to visit in the South? I’d love to hear more of your travel tips and feedback in the comments below.
Enjoy the Journey!
xo- Amy West
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