The Most Unspoiled Beaches on the Georgia Coast

Stafford Beach on Cumberland Island

Stafford Beach on Cumberland Island

Travelers weary of overdeveloped beaches will find the perfect remedy on Georgia’s Atlantic coast. Whether your destination is one of Georgia’s famous Golden Isles, a windswept national seashore or the diverse experience that is Tybee Island, there’s a place where the shore is calm and uncrowded. Come along as we discover the charms of Georgia’s quiet beaches.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

The most southern of Georgia’s barrier islands, Cumberland Island is a wonderful place to discover our country’s eastern shore as the early inhabitants knew it. Accessible only by a twice-daily ferry from St. Marys, Georgia, Cumberland Island National Seashore’s unspoiled beaches are known for excellent shell collecting, as well as wild horses, manatees, dolphins and nesting sea turtles. You’ll also want to spend time hiking the trails through the forests, marshes and historic ruins that make this quietly beautiful place so attractive to nature lovers.

biking on Little St. Simons Island

Photo courtesy the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island

Does being one of less than three dozen people on a private island appeal to your need for solitude? Little St. Simons Island, another barrier island just off Georgia’s coast, is a privately owned sanctuary with seven miles of undeveloped beach. An ecological gem, this island also offers unspoiled maritime forests and marshland easily accessible to its vintage vacation cottages. River and surf fishing, kayaking, nature hikes through the forests and, of course, swimming and shelling at the beach are favorite activities for visitors to Little St. Simons Island.

Tip: Consider sharing the island’s unmarred beauty with your extended family for the ultimate in private family reunions at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island.

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. Photo by John Bilous.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island

Just north of Cumberland Island and directly across St. Simons Sound from St. Simons Lighthouse, the lonely spot known as Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island will give you a whole new perspective on beach vistas. The erosion of the island’s northern point has resulted in dozens of downed trees left to bleach and dry along the sand. It’s a stunning sight and a favorite of photographers. Enjoy the whole Jekyll Island experience by visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and touring the historic district, where fabulous island “cottages” were once part of the Jekyll Island Club, a private retreat for the wealthy.

Tip: Bring the kids along to Driftwood Beach and allow them to experience the power of nature on a constantly changing landscape.

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse. Photo by Darryl Brooks.

Mid Beach, Tybee Island

The most northern of Georgia’s barrier islands, Tybee Island is the quintessential Georgia coastal vacation experience. With its legendary fort, lighthouse, beach resorts and almost endless outdoor recreation, this island is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. Amid all that island activity, however, it’s still possible to enjoy uncrowded beach time, thanks to family-friendly Mid Beach. Walk the wide stretch of shoreline in search of shells and sharks’ teeth, and keep an eye out for dolphins in the waves.

Tip: Bring the shovels and buckets, as the sand here is perfect for castle building!

The unblemished beauty of these four beaches will make you wonder why you ever settled for the crowds. Make your way to Georgia’s Atlantic Coast for a taste of wide open, come-and-explore beaches at their best.

laing-webJoe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. He has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years, and greatly enjoys the outdoors. Joe has been camping across the United States, exploring its vast countryside, and finding the best travel deals along the way.

Georgia Lighthouses

Traditionally lighthouses have served as beacons for ships sailing in the night – today these popular structures serve as beacons for beach-goers and sight-seers. And Georgia’s historic lighthouses are no exception: these gorgeous structures all have unique stories and make for fantastic photo ops!

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse

Tybee Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Meredith112 via Flickr

Standing tall at the entrance to the Savannah River, the Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of only seven surviving colonial era lighthouses. James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s founding father, ordered the construction of the light station that would survive hurricanes, earthquakes and being burned by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Today the tower continues to serve as a guide for ships, in addition to housing a museum of Tybee Island’s history. Visitors can also climb to the top for a gorgeous view.

St. Simons Island Lighthouse

St Simons Island Lighthouse

St. Simons Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesdy of Joe Szalay via Flickr

Commissioned by the federal government, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse still serves as a warning for ships entering the St. Simons Sound. Though the tower no longer requires a keeper to greet guests, the panoramic view of the Golden Isles from the top provides visitors an unforgettable experience. The Keeper’s Dwelling and Museum illustrate the life of a lighthouse keeper and the history of the Golden Isles.

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse

Sapelo Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Evangelio Gonzalez via Flickr

Sitting on the island that serves as a modern epicenter of Gullah culture, the Sapelo Island Lighthouse is the nation’s second-oldest brick lighthouse. Originally built in 1820, the tower was replaced in 1905 and later reconstructed to its original structure in the 1930s. The lighthouse is no longer active, but visitors can visit the lighthouse on a tour of Sapelo Island led by Georgia State Parks.

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Cockspur Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of paulbr1 via Flickr

Located at the South Channel of the Savannah River, the Cockspur Island Lighthouse is considered part of Fort Pulaski. Situated in the direct line of fire of Union and Confederate troops during the defeat of Fort Pulaski, the lighthouse miraculously suffered minimal damage. Instead the structure would fall victim to flooding and today is only accessible via kayak or small boat. Along with the rest of the Fort, the lighthouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse

Little Cumberland Island Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

The only one of Georgia’s five surviving historic lighthouses not open to the public, the light station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Two towers were built on Little Cumberland Island: the one to the south with a revolving light and the one to the north, which remains, with a fixed light to mark the Satilla River and St. Andrew Sound. The lighthouse is no longer active, but has been well preserved by the Little Cumberland Island Association.

In addition to the five surviving historic lighthouses, Georgia boasts several other nautical lighting fixtures:

Sapelo Island Range Front

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon

Sapelo Island Front Range Beacon | Photo courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology via Flickr

While on a tour of Sapelo Island, visitors can also view the front beacon situated at the southern tip of the island. Though inactive now, the beacon historically helped guide mariners within the range of the island’s lighthouse.

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light

Savannah Old Harbor Light | Photo courtesy of Phil Houck via Flickr

This cast iron light was erected as the rear range light to guide vessels from Fig Island Lighthouse into Savannah. Six ships had been sunk during the Revolutionary War to provide a naval buffer, and the Old Harbor Light was utilized to avoid these wrecks. After renovations in the early 21st century, the light was re-erected in Emmet Park on Bay Street.

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse

West Point Lake Lighthouse | Photo courtesy of Sussman Imaging via Flickr

Situated right on the Georgia-Alabama line on West Point Lake, this ornamental tower provides beautiful ‘Kodak moments’ from the middle of the lake or for visitors to Maple Creek Park in LaGrange.

Cumberland Island National Seashore Trails Project

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore | Photo courtesy of Andre Turner, Georgia Conservancy

Cumberland Island is one of Georgia’s most iconic precious places and its protection as a National Seashore in 1972 is a shining achievement of the Georgia Conservancy, which was then a five-year old conservation organization. As historic and current advocates for Cumberland Island, we are excited to share that REI, is supporting the stewardship of Cumberland Island National Seashore by allowing YOU the chance to vote on the funding of a Georgia Conservancy-led backcountry trail restoration project.

Here’s the catch, each Every Trail Connects dollar is allocated though a public voting contest! REI will give away $500,000 total, $5 per vote, up to $75,000 per trail. One vote per person per day per device, no purchase necessary, no email required.

By voting every day for Cumberland Island on all of your connected devices, you are telling REI and the world that our state’s only National Seashore is worthy of a world-class trail system.

Vote today and every day at www.rei.com/trails!

Every Trail Connects is a funding campaign hosted by REI in support of 10 iconic trail systems across the county. We’re honored that the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project was the only southeast trail project selected by our friends at REI.

The Georgia Conservancy and REI chose the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project due to its critical ecological importance as both designated wilderness and a biosphere to a plethora of species which are also in dire need of attention. Many visitors have found it difficult to navigate the backcountry trails and report getting lost, thus necessitating a large scale restoration projects to improve access for the general public.

Through the Cumberland Island Trail Restoration Project 100% of Cumberland Island National Seashore’s trail system will be open, clear and easily navigable by October 2016. This will be done by improving trail access and creating maps, signage and kiosks for Georgia’s pristine barrier island.

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island | Photo courtesy of Phuc Dao, Georgia Conservancy

Over the last 8 years, the Georgia Conservancy has worked with the NPS to host multiple service weekends, and more recently, the Cumberland Island Alternative Spring Break program.

In 2014, Georgia Conservancy led more than 250 volunteers on the island for its Alternative Spring Break Program. The Georgia Conservancy also hosts service trips to Cumberland Island of approximately 75 people during the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Participants clear debris from forest trails, pick up trash that washed onto the island’s beaches and help maintain the historic structures that are managed by the National Park Service.

The Georgia Conservancy has long been at the forefront of the effort to protect Cumberland Island and these projects are just a continuation of our historic support of the island. In the early 1970s, we lobbied in support of the creation of Cumberland Island National Seashore – the largest National Seashore in the United States, and in the early 1980s advocated for a majority of the island to be designated as Federal Wilderness.

Today marks a huge day in that long and storied history of Georgia’s only National Seashore. And today, you can help write the next chapter in its history. By becoming an active internet advocate for Cumberland’s stewardship, you can ensure that generations of adventure seekers (you included) can experience the harrowing and hallowed trails that crisscross this island.

How can you support Cumberland Island?

Vote!
Bookmark the link to our Every Trail Connects HQ: www.gaconservancy.org/etc and on August 14 vote to support a restored backcountry trail system on

Cumberland Island! We’re counting on our supporters to vote as soon as the campaign begins. Vote daily. Vote on every device.

Share!
Please share “Every Trail Connects” with your friends, family and coworkers through social media, email or more! Our Every Trail Connects HQ has great photos, sample text and stories about people’s experiences on Cumberland Island.

We’re aiming to take advantage of all platforms available to encourage everyone to #VoteCumberland.

Connect!
We are launching a storytelling project called “Cumberland Connects” and inviting the public to share a personal story with us about Cumberland Island. We know that “every trail connects” so how has Cumberland connected with to you? Please share with us your most vivid and inspiring Cumberland stories. To complement your story, we’re also asking if you’d share your favorite picture of Cumberland and also a picture of yourself on Cumberland. If we all vote and advocate for Cumberland Island, we can ensure restoration projects that will make one of Georgia’s most beautiful trail systems accessible to all!

Brian Foster

Brian Foster is the Communications Director for the Georgia Conservancy, a citizen of Atlanta and a proud native of Rome, Georgia. (Bio photo courtesy of Sarah Dodge.)

Exploring Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island TreesGeorgia is home to many unique historic locations. One of my favorites is Cumberland Island. Located just off the coast of St. Marys, it’s one of the most secluded and remote spots that you can visit. A while ago, while camping at Crooked River State Park, we decided to take a day trip over to the island. Our adventure started with a ferry ride over to Cumberland. It’s a quick trip across the water, and before we knew it, we were there. We planned ahead for our trip, bringing sunscreen, water, a picnic lunch and cameras. (There is no place on the island to purchase things like snacks and sunscreen, so you have to bring your own!)

Cumberland Island HorsesOnce we arrived, we found different trails to explore throughout the island with lots of sights to see, including the ruins of one of the homes that used to belong to the Carnegie family. We also spotted a few of the wild horses that call the island home. There were also troops of armadillos that darted through the woods and onto the trails.

Cumberland Island Beach ShellsBeing able to “unplug” for the day was fantastic. I didn’t have cell phone service; there was no background noise or traffic, just nature. If you want to escape all the commotion of your everyday life, even for just a little bit, this is the place! We eventually made our way to the other side of the island where we enjoyed the beach, which was full of seashells and a few seagulls. I’ve only visited a few times but have never been lucky enough to catch a group of horses trotting through the surf. Guess I’ll have to go back again!

After a day spent trekking through several of the trails and relaxing on the sand, we made our way back to the dock. Most everyone who had ridden the ferry with us earlier in the day returned as well. You can camp on the island, but I haven’t had a chance to do that yet either, so I will have to start planning my next visit soon!

Warm Springs Batmobile

Anna Lee Mikell is a Southern girl raised in Georgia and South Carolina. She loves Southern food, photography and SEC football. You can often find her searching for old records at the flea market or sipping sweet iced tea.