From the romantic streets of Savannah to the nightlife in Atlanta, Georgia is full of urban attractions. Yet there is a whole other side of Georgia to explore: its excellent beaches. Many of the best Georgia beaches are located on barrier islands. About 100 miles of Georgia shoreline faces the Atlantic Ocean between South Carolina and Florida. The state extends west and north to the Appalachian Mountains. Small barrier islands lie just off the coast and feature some of the region’s best beaches. State parks and mountain resorts also boast fine beaches at inland lakes. The best beaches often depend on individual tastes, but Georgia’s best include family-friendly ocean beaches to quieter areas popular with beachcombers. Beach travel destinations can be very relaxing and here are some of the best Georgia beaches:
Tybee Island Beach
Located a short drive away from Savannah, Tybee Island is known for its wide beaches, a scenic lighthouse, and family-friendly atmosphere. The tides here sweep in and out dramatically, creating even more beautiful scenery. Savannah lies just south of the South Carolina border, and Tybee Island serves as the city’s beach. Recognized as one of Georgia’s finest beaches, its history goes back to when Savannah residents went to Tybee’s South Beach in their finest clothes for social activities. Today, traditional beach activities like swimming and water sports attract beach goers. South Beach also attracts visitors for its hotels, restaurants and entertainment. Although quieter, North Beach is great for beachcombers. Beach walkers often see dolphins glide through the water.
North of Cumberland, a causeway allows access to the smaller Jekyll Island and features 10 miles of beaches. Here travelers will find gorgeous beaches and plenty of wildlife too. Jekyll Island is famous for its sea-turtle nests, as well as its variety of water sports from snorkeling to fishing. At the north end of the island, both swimmers and walkers explore Driftwood Beach, a beach that illustrates nature’s ultimate power. Over the years, erosion consumed trees and vegetation, leaving eerie stumps, root systems and driftwood. Stunning scenes make this a photographer’s paradise. Farther south, Central Dunes Beach attracts many swimmers and sun-worshipers to its wide, sandy beach. The more crowded beach is adjacent to many island resorts and hotels, and is popular with families. The Civil War movie “Glory” was filmed nearby.
St. Simon’s Island and Little St. Simon’s Island
St. Simon’s Island sits just off the coast from Brunswick, a large commercial center in southern Georgia. A causeway connects the city to the island. The most popular beach is at Massengale Park. The family-friendly beach offers swimming and water sports. The hard-packed sand allows bike-riding. East Beach attracts beachcombers and bird watchers. An adjacent Coast Guard facility includes the Coastal Encounters Nature Center. The center offers barrier island ecology walks and kayak excursions. Both beaches have restrooms and showers. In addition to spacious beaches, this island is known for its many marinas offering fishing tours and other fun boating excursions. For a quieter St. Simon’s experience, the private Little St. Simon’s Island Beach provides tranquility. Only 32 people stay on the island at any one time. Besides swimming and sunbathing, visitors can take naturalist guided turtle beach walks and other excursions.
Cumberland Island National Seashore
A few miles north of the Florida state line, Cumberland Island National Seashore has 17 miles of beaches, and two of the state’s finest. The Cumberland National Seashore – near Amelia Island – is home to one of the most beautiful sights in Georgia: wild horses running freely on the beaches. For this reason alone it is often considered to be one of the top 10 Georgia beaches. Visitors travel by ferry to reach the island, enabling the park service to limit the number of people in the park. Sea Camp Beach sits near the southern part of the island and offers restrooms, swimming areas and camping. Campers also have access to showers. Stafford Beach is near a wilderness area and attracts beachcombers. High surf from storms produces treasures such as coquinas, disc clams, moon snails and shark’s teeth.
If you’re looking for a completely unspoiled destination, spend some time on Sapelo Island. In addition to soaking up the Georgia sun, you can engage in different activities here such as guided tours along the marsh paths to learn about local wildlife. On Sapelo the most readily accessible beach is Nannygoat with its white sand, cascading waves and shorebirds always searching for a meal. This undeveloped beach, except for a pavillion, is surrounded by pristine maritime forest showcasing various shades of green. A walk along the beach and you will gather sand dollars to fill your pail and memories to fill your heart. Take your lunch to the beach where you will be one of very few beach goers. Watch the shrimp boats in the distance and the waves wash ashore. The quiet, the peace and the ocean breeze will make you feel right at home. You can’t ask for a better spot for lunch.
On the northern end of the island is the enchanting Cabretta beach overlooking Blackbeard Island. Known for the unusual and unique driftwood, there is something very special about Cabretta beach. It calls you. It captures your heart and delights your eyes. If you are looking for solitude and peace, this is your beach. Walk along the shore and enjoy the beauty. Do not forget your camera. The driftwood offers many wonderful and artful opportunities for photographs. Dogs love chasing the waves and running along the beach. Dogs are allowed on the beaches of Sapelo Island with their owners.
Sea Island is one of the four islands that make up what is known as the Golden Isles of Georgia. Along with Jekyll Island, St. Simon’s Island, and Little St. Simon’s Island, Sea Island offers some of the most scenic and unspoiled beaches in all of Georgia. This island has become one of Georgia’s most upscale beach destinations. An exceptional destination appealing to those who appreciate gracious service and heartfelt hospitality. There is an extensive array of engaging nature adventures and recreational experiences. Sea Island entices families, outdoor and activity enthusiasts, and those simply wanting to refresh and recharge. Located on the southeastern coast of Georgia, Sea Island features five miles of private beach, a Beach Club, tennis and squash centers, Yacht Club, Shooting School, and Camp Cloister. It is well known as a family resort. Visit http://www.seaisland.com for more information.
Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, the second barrier island south of Tybee Island and fifteen miles southeast of Savannah, is one of the few nearly unspoiled natural areas in Georgia. It has over 10,000 acres of salt marsh, coastal forest and dunes, parts of which are open to the public for hiking and nature-watching, and as a destination for kayaking excursions.
Hiking and nature-watching are the main draws at Wassaw, either along the beach, or the 20 miles of trails crossing the sea-facing barrier ridge. Only the ocean-side portion of the refuge is open to the public; the interior is off-limits at all times. This map shows the areas open to the public, with hiking trails also marked. The public parts of Wassaw NWR are open year round, with the exception of two several-day periods in fall, when deer hunts are conducted. At these times the island is closed to the general public.
Wassaw is open for day use only, camping is not allowed. Permitted activities include biking on the trails, picnicking and swimming. Surf and saltwater fishing are allowed, but freshwater fishing in the several ponds is not.
Nanny Goat Beach
Aside from having a funny name, Nanny Goat Beach – on Sapelo Beach – is appealing for several other reasons too. Nature lovers will flock to this beach for the chance to see a variety of birds and wildlife, while kids will love the opportunity to spend their days engaging in water sports like boogie boarding. Nanny Goat Beach is a special place brimming with history, as is the rest of Sapelo Island. The charming and welcoming community is just one of the island’s many interesting points—and the only small percentage not owned by the state. If it’s Georgia beaches you’re keen on, Sapelo Island’s Nanny Goat Beach will wow you with its pristine state, with wide sand beaches, and much to see and do.
St. Andrews Beach
St. Andrews Beach, on Jekyll Island, is known as one of the most family-friendly beaches in Georgia. In addition to all of the traditional fun things to do at the beach, St. Andrews Beach is also close to the Summer Waves Water Park and trails for horseback riding. This beach is a short walk from Jekyll Point, the southern-most tip of the Island. It’s a popular spot for watching migratory birds as well as groups of dolphins. The picnic area features a two-story wildlife viewing platform and the Wanderer historical marker. This is a year-round pet-friendly beach, but they ask that you keep all pets under immediate control and on a leash no longer than 16′ at all times.