4 Best Beach Destinations in Georgia
Compared to the rest of Georgia, the largest of the Southern states, the bright lights of its capital Atlanta are a wild aberration.
Apart from some beaches and towns on the highly indented coastline, this overwhelmingly rural state is composed of slow, easygoing settlements where the best, and sometimes the only, way to enjoy your time is to sip iced tea and have a chat on the porch.
Atlanta’s main rival as a tourist destination is the Georgia coast, stretching south from beautiful old Savannah via the sea islands to the semitropical Okefenokee Swamp, inland near Florida.
The southern islands are the most developed, largely due to Jekyll Island, originally bought in 1887 for use as an exclusive “club” by a group of millionaires, among them the Rockefellers, Pulitzers, Macys and Vanderbilts, whose opulent residences are still standing, though in a perpetual state of refurbishment.
Today it’s no longer the exclusive enclave it once was, and is open to all those attracted by its miles of beautiful, white-sand Atlantic beaches and holes of championship golf.
There are three public beaches on the island, all open daily around the clock and free to the public. Those choosing to swim on Jekyll Island do so at their own risk, as there are no lifeguards on duty.
The St. Andrew Picnic Area, reached beyond Summer Waves, the water park along South Riverview Drive, is one of the best beaches at the southeastern tip of the island. It has an adjacent picnic area, but no bathhouse or showers available.
South Dunes Beach, with a picnic area and showers, is north of St. Andrew and is reached along South Beach Drive.
Farther along, Central Dunes has showers but no picnic area.
Saltwater fishing is allowed on the public beaches, and no license is required.
The appealing Historic District, ranged around Spanish-moss-swathed squares, formed the core of the original city, and today boasts examples of just about every architectural style of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, while the atmospheric cobbled waterfront on the Savannah River, key to the postwar economy, is edged by towering old cotton warehouses.
Tybee Island, eighteen miles east of the city on US-80, is served by three daily C&H; buses from the Civic Center in Savannah.
Here you’ll find Savannah’s best – and not too overdeveloped – beach, as well as a 154ft lighthouse, at 30 Meddin Drive, dating from 1736, and a small museum housed in a nearby gun battery.
Abundant accommodation options include the DeSoto Beach Hotel, 212 Butler Ave, yet another sight from “The Book.”
For great Low Country food, head for The Crab Shack, at 40 Estill Hammock Rd, Chimney Creek, where you can dine on delicious crabs and shrimp in an old shack by the creek – worth a visit if you can find it.
St. Simons Island
Most of St. Simons Island, reached across a green marsh inhabited by wading birds, is still an evocative landscape of marshes, palms and live oaks covered with Spanish moss.
The tiny village is pleasantly quiet, little more than a handful of T-shirt shops and cafes, with a small coastal museum, St Simon’s Island Museum, concentrating on local events.
The beach by the village is not safe for swimming due to fierce currents, but the sand is nice and firm for strolling. The best swimming is on the east side of the island, where the flat, fine sand stretches out for miles.
You’ll find two white-sand public beaches here, foremost of which is the Massingale Park Beach, Ocean Boulevard. It has a county-maintained beach with a picnic area and a bathhouse.
Another public beach is the Coast Guard Station Beach, East Beach Causeway, again family-oriented, with a bathhouse and showers.
Located 18 miles east of Savannah, this small barrier island boasts a wide, 3-mile long beach that’s backed by sea oat-covered sand dunes and is perfect for sunbathing, people-watching and frolicking in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean.
The island’s south-end pier and pavilion is a splendid venue for strolling above the ocean and listening to the music of the live bands.
Although vacationers are lured to Tybee mainly because of what it provides in the way of recreation and relaxation, those with a love of history won’t be disappointed.
Tybee offers: Fort Screven, The Tybee Island Lighthouse (dated 1773), an intriguing museum, and Fort Pulaski which is just west of the island on Hwy 80.
While Tybee is a resort complete with a full range of restaurants, modern hotels, motels, luxurious condominiums, and quaint inns and cottages, it’s also a residential area stocked with its share of colorful characters.