The Golden Isles include St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Brunswick and are some of the closest beaches to Atlanta. Certainly, the white sands of the beach are enough to warrant a visit, but there are plenty of additional things to do with the family. Here are eight suggestions for playing, dining and staying the weekend at one of Georgia's most popular beaches.
Pier Village. Pier Village, on the south end of St. Simons Island, serves as an island social hub. You'll find Neptune Park, with a playground by the sea, an Oceanside pool, mini golf course and fishing pier. Sit for a spell and you are bound to see dolphins frolicking near the wharf. Don't miss a climb to the top of the lighthouse, ice cream goodness at Dairy Queen or browsing at Frederica Station.
Driftwood beach. Relax on this secluded Jekyll Island beach, watch the cargo ships come and go, see the lighthouse in the distance and play on huge driftwood trees that bowed to Mother Earth long ago. It's a popular spot for weddings and photographers, with a backdrop that promises gorgeous shots to even the most amateur shutterbugs. The picture-perfect beach extends from Clam Creek Picnic Area to Jekyll Island Campground.
Jekyll Island Museum Tram Tour. The Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District is home to the Jekyll Island Club, whose members once represented one-sixth of the world's wealth. You don't have to be born with a silver spoon to take in the sites, though. The "Passport to the Century" tram tour whisks you through time with a rich exploration of the island's history. Even young children will enjoy the tour – especially the opportunity to sit in one of the electric cars that Rockefeller kept on the island.
St. Simons Island Trolley Tours. The history of St. Simons is often upstaged by stories of the "new rich" of Jekyll Island, but St. Simons possesses a colorful past in its own right. St. Simons Trolley Tours unravel this history in a fun manner with a ride on a vintage trolley and a humorous driver. Stops include plenty of places to stretch your legs. Be on the lookout for the Tree Spirits of St. Simons; you'll see a few along the way.
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Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Sea turtles have migrated up to 12,000 miles across ocean and land. Luckily, visitors to the Golden Isles don't have to travel that far to get up close with these reptiles. Families learn about sea turtles through several interactive exhibits and view sea turtle patients as they recover from various ailments.
4-H Tidelands Nature Center. Nature-lovers can explore this off-the-beaten-path center. Take a canoe ride on the small lake or walk the nature trail. During summer there are several programs like astronomy hikes, animal feedings and more. Kids will enjoy the animals and touch-tank inside the main building. It's affordable fun, with something for all ages.
Southern Soul Barbeque. Their barbecue has been served up on both TLC and Food Network. Try the fried green beans for a memorable appetizer, but don't skimp on the greens. The secret ingredient for heavenly collards? Pork rub! Inside seating is available, but feasting outside is ideal with kids. Picnic tables are situated to watch airplanes come and go from the airport across the street.
Holiday Inn Resort at Jekyll Island Families looking to visit Jekyll Island for a beach getaway will be happy to learn about the new Holiday Inn Resort at Jekyll Island, which just opened March 2015. Guests to the new resort will find plenty of ocean view rooms and white sand beaches conveniently outside their doors. Oversized rooms and baths, refreshing décor, refrigerators, a guest laundry and kitchenettes in oceanfront suites add to the comfort and relaxation of a stay at the beach.
For families traveling with kids, the hotel offers a Kid's Club with daily activities, and in the winter months, guests can enjoy the Snowbird Activities Program. Additionally, travelers can dine at various on-site restaurants including the poolside Anchor, NorthShore Coffee & Cocktails and, currently scheduled for opening July 1, 2016, Beach House, the hotel's signature restaurant will serve locally sourced seafood and coastal fare.
Still looking for beach ideas? Here are a dozen beaches within driving distance of Atlanta.