St. Simons is close to so many places and things worth seeing that you could spend months exploring the region and still find plenty more to do. Many of these locations are just minutes away, while others only a couple of hours driving time. All of them should definitely be on your bucket list, as the Golden Isles and coastal regions of Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina are home to some of the world's best spots for living history, wildlife and natural ecosystems, and the scenic beauty you won't find anywhere else.
Make plans during your stay to visit any of these wonderful nearby attractions, each of which is within a short drive and offers a variety of attractions, outdoor adventure and shopping and dining experiences that make it worth the trip.
Amelia Island is home to Fernandina Beach, a colorful downtown district with boutique shops, ice cream parlors, and restaurants. Amelia is the annual host of the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, Amelia Island Film Festival, the Southern Lardo Festival, the Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, and the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival. For the outdoor lovers, Amelia offers kayaking and canoeing adventure, sunset cruises, fishing charters and tours, nature trails to explore, and abundant natural wildlife to see. Known for its pristine beaches and clean water, natural wildlife as well as world-class resorts, spas, golf and fine dining, Amelia Island was voted #6 among Top 10 North America Islands by Conde Nast Traveler's 2008 Reader's Choice Awards.
Once an exclusive winter retreat for some of America's wealthiest families. Their exclusive Jekyll Island Club, a collection of "cottages" and a variety of support structures are now a National Historic Landmark, the Historic District is open to the public. Today, owned by the State of Georgia, the island retains much of its natural beauty and offers a wealth of amenities and activities including 63 holes of golf, beaches, 20 miles of bike paths, mini-golf, nature tours and Summer Waves Water Park.
Golfers will find plenty to captivate their interest on Jekyll and the mainland, with 234 holes of golf on 16 different courses. Or, try your luck aboard the Emerald Princess casino/cruise ship, which offers afternoon and evening cruises from downtown Brunswick.
Old Town, Brunswick, Georgia
A National Register District, historic Old Town in nearby Brunswick is filled with majestic homes noted for their turn-of-the-century elegance and eclectic mix of styles. The burgeoning downtown is filled with interesting antique shops and a growing number of specialty shops and art galleries. At Mary Ross Waterfront Park, you'll see fleets of shrimp boats that work the local waters and contribute to the area's rich seafood industry.
Hofwyl Broadfield Plantation
Located just north of Brunswick, offers a glimpse into the lives of planters and slaves that grew rice along the Altamaha River nearly 200 years ago. You can tour the antebellum home built by the Troup family and examine the nineteenth century farm equipment still stored in the barn. Call 912.264.7333.
Little St. Simons Island
A private island accessible by boat. St. Simons Island's north end, offering accommodations for up to 30 guests - a wonderful destination for family reunions and small group gatherings.
Home to The Cloister, a world-class resort renowned for its luxury and gracious service, now offers new Ocean Houses, with beautiful oceanfront accommodations and flexibility for accommodating groups of most any size. Top-notch amenities include elegant dining, a full-service spa, golf, tennis, Shooting School, horseback riding, kids programs, a private beach, fishing, waterway excursions and more. Special theme weekends throughout the year are devoted to ballroom dancing, bridge and fine wines.
Cumberland Island National Seashore
You'll know your destination is someplace special when you board the Cumberland Queen for a short ferry ride across the bay to Georgia's secluded paradise of Cumberland Island. This unspoiled National Seashore are forever preserved in time, with pristine white beaches and windswept dunes that are home to a variety of wildlife and native species, such as wild horses, turkeys, alligators, deer, armadillos, live oak and palmetto forests, and a plethora of coastal birds. Popular destinations on Cumberland Island include the 1898 Georgian Revival Plum Orchard mansion and the dramatic ruins of the once splendid Carnegie Estate "Dungeness." Cumberland Island was voted "Best Wilderness Beach" by the Travel Channel and ranked #4 in Trip Advisor's "Top 10 Beaches in the U.S." Pristine and secluded, Cumberland Island National Seashore, is located south of Brunswick, via I-95, Exit 3. A favorite destination for coastal visitors who love history, wildlife, and a vast sweep of unspoiled beaches. John F. Kennedy, Jr. was married on Cumberland Island. For ferry boat schedules call 912.882.4335.
This natural habitat of pine and hardwood forests, salt marsh, and over two miles of wide, sandy beaches is managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Guided tours are offered which provide a glimpse of Sapelo Island's earlier inhabitants, including the R.J. Reynolds mansion, the Gullah Community of Hog Hammock, and tabby ruins of a sugar plantation. Home of the University of Georgia Marine Institute, features a guided tour of the pristine barrier island beaches and Hog Hammock Community, where many of the descendants of the Plantation era still reside.
Advance reservations for the ferry ride to Sapelo Island are required and can be made by calling 912.437.3224.
An hour North of Brunswick and just minutes away from Tybee Island is Savannah, Georgia, known for its historic downtown squares and the shops and restaurants along its waterfront district. This charming city is steeped in history and its picturesque downtown is surrounded by shady Southern Oaks draped in Spanish Moss, with period architecture, horse-drawn carriage rides, and many guided tours and historical charters available.
Waycross, Georgia and the Okefenokee Swamp
Waycross is a nationally-recognized Main Street City filled with Southern hospitality and charm. From the historic downtown district to the swamp lands of the Okefenokee, there is something for everyone. Art and history meet at three local museums - Okefenokee Heritage Center, Southern Forest World, and Obediah's Okefenok - a mid-1800s homestead featuring special events with living history demonstrations. Visitors can enjoy boating, skiing, golf and nature trails at Laura S. Walker State Park, a coastal birding site. Waycross is a about an hour drive from St. Simons Island.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
Kingsland is one of the gateways to this sprawling, 430,000 acre Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the "Land of the Trembling Earth" and home to hundreds of species of birds and wildlife. Amenities include a welcome center, observation tower, and restored swamp homestead. Visitors can also rent bicycles, picnic, fish, canoe, or take a guided boat tour.
An African American living history museum located near Midway, Georgia. Founders of Seabrook Village were freed slaves who took advantage of post-Civil War land grants to begin a new life of freedom on their own property. Join in a widely varied schedule of interactive exhibits and programs from toy-making to cane-grinding. Call 912.884.7008 for more information.
Located in the southeast corner of Georgia, Kingsland is just three miles north of the Georgia/Florida border at Exits 3 and 6 on Interstate 95. Kingsland is a small town with undeniable charm and intrigue. Less than an hour's drive from St. Simons Island, Kingsland, GA is where wandering rivers wind through dense marshlands, dotted with abundant wildlife that make their homes among the river shores and lakes throughout the area. Golfers enjoy the natural beauty of manicured greens set among tidal creeks and marsh grass. For outdoor pursuits, take a leisurely walk on the expansive beaches with the wild horses that live on Cumberland Island. Native birds and alligators can best be seen on a guided boat tour through the Okefenokee Swamp.
Darien and McIntosh County
Settled in 1736 by Scottish Highlanders under James Oglethorpe, Darien, Georgia is the second oldest planned city in Georgia. Visitors can take a tour beginning at the riverfront boardwalk, past the tabby ruins, and through Vernon Square, originally designed in 1806. Shrimping is a major industry in McIntosh County and each year there is an annual "Blessing of the Fleet" festival held each spring. History buffs will want to visit Fort King George State Historic Site which from 1721 to 1736 was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America and has been reconstructed using old records and drawings. Contact the Darien Welcome Center at 912.437.6684.
St. Simons Land Trust
Home to more than 12,000 full-time residents, St. Simons is known for its stately live oaks, abundant salt and fresh water marshes, meandering creeks and rivers, and rich history. Spotted seatrout, redfish, flounder and tarpon are bountiful in the creeks and near shore waters. And, just offshore is the calving ground for the North Atlantic right whale - one of the world's most endangered large whale species. Not surprisingly, St. Simons is also a favorite destination for vacationers.
Like so many coastal areas, St. Simons experienced a population boom in the 1990s. Recognizing that the uniqueness of this barrier island would continue to attract new residents and thus be heavily impacted by development, the St. Simons Land Trust was born. Recognition is given to the vision of local leaders such as Ben Slade III, Frances McCrary, and Jim and Jeannie Manning who were the Land Trust's founding members, and the organization's first Executive Director, Catherine Main, who operated the Land Trust out of her home until 2001 when an office was opened on Frederica Road.
The St. Simons Land Trust has become a community institution entrusted with an extraordinary responsibility: to protect our scenic and historic treasures and to preserve the beauty and charm of our island for generations to come.
Since those early days, the Land Trust has preserved more than 1,000 acres (and another 200 acres in a nearby county). We also hold over 300 acres in conservation easements. We are guided in our work by our most recent strategic plan for land conservation on the island that has established target areas for our work and priorities for transactions.
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