- Mary Caldwell For the AJC
The Georgia coast isn't that far from Atlanta, but with its salt-water smells and huge oak trees draped with Spanish moss, it can make you feel like you're a world away.
Jekyll Island was once a private retreat for families with last names like Rockefeller, but it's now a charming state park. Jekyll is home to 10 miles of beaches and four award-winning golf courses. Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the state's only sea turtle education and rehab facility, is also located on the island.
Grand Dining Room, Jekyll Island Club Resort, 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island. 912-635-5155.
The aptly named Grand Dining Room features fine dining in a restored Victorian setting. Favorites include the Sunday brunch or daily Victorian tea.
Wee Pub Beach, 20 Main St., Unit 100, Jekyll Island. 912-574-2337.
Wee Pub Beach has the casual, social atmosphere of an Irish pub, with gourmet burgers, nachos, beer and similar fare.
Sometimes referred to as the "Gateway to Cumberland Island," St. Marys has a thriving historical district. There are also plenty of activities to enjoy, from kayaking on the St. Marys River to taking a themed train excursion.
The Green Room, 2400 St. Marys Road, St. Marys. 912-882-2721.
This authentic Sicilian café serves traditional Italian fare, including paninis, pizzas, lasagna and espresso and cappuccino.
Bottomz Up Saloon, 2710 Osborne Road, St. Marys. 912-729-3760.
Bottomz Up is a casual bar with karaoke, a Friday-night DJ, happy hour specials, pool tournaments, free pool during select hours, trivia shots and more.
You may not have heard of Midway, which is located on the coast between Savannah and Darien, but this charming small town is worth a visit. The Midway Museum offers tours about the town's history, and you can also walk and tour the Midway Church, which was rebuilt in 1792 after burning during the American Revolution and later being taken over by Sherman's cavalry.
Captain Joe's, 317 S. Coastal Highway, Midway. 912-884-5118.
Plenty of seafood dishes are served, along with a soup and salad bar and traditional Southern side dishes like collard greens and grits.
Molly MacPherson's Scottish Pub & Grill, 3742 S. Highway 17, Richmond Hill. 912-459-9600.
Play trivia in a social Scottish pub atmosphere that serves food as well as plenty of scotch and draft beer choices.
If you're looking for the closest beach to Atlanta, you'll find it about four hours away on Tybee Island. Look for historical cottages with the island's distinct form of architecture, and for a beautiful panoramic view, climb to the top of the Tybee Light Station.
North Beach Bar and Grill, 33 Meddin Drive, Tybee Island. 912-786-4442.
Jamaican-influenced pub fare like jerk chicken and pork is a menu highlight, or try the white truffle lobster hoagie, which is big enough to share.
Rock House, 1518 Butler Ave., Tybee Island. 912-786-7176.
Sip a cold beer and enjoy some food before you hit the dance floor, sing karaoke or play darts or pool.
With its marshlands, waterways and Atlantic Ocean backdrop, the setting alone is worth a visit to St. Simons. Although there's also plenty to do – from enjoying its beaches or shops to golfing, biking, kayaking, fishing or dolphin-spotting – it still remains under-developed.
Southern Soul, 2020 Demere Road, St. Simons Island. 912-638-7685.
The Rooftop at Ocean Lodge, 935 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island. 912-291-4300.
The Rooftop has gorgeous ocean views from an outdoor terrace or indoor seating. Full moon parties are held each month, with live music and an all-night happy hour.
Laid out in a grid-like pattern, Brunswick's streets are interspersed with plenty of green space. Explore Victorian homes in Old Town, or watch shrimp boats go by on the busy waterfront of this port city.
The Farmer & The Larder, 1523 Newcastle St., Brunswick. 912-342-7700.
Dishes have international and coastal inspirations, with an emphasis on fresh food. Matthew Raiford, the restaurant's executive chef and owner, is a sixth-generation farmer in Brunswick.
Tipsy McSway's, 1414 Newcastle Road, Brunswick. 912-267-9991.
A neighborhood bar and grill located in downtown Brunswick, Tipsy McSway's has excellent food, including fried goat cheese balls that are drizzled with honey. Live music is featured on many nights.View full experience