Clocking in at just 110 miles, Georgia’s stunning Atlantic Coast is a low-key destination with surprising discoveries hidden around every corner. From Gilded Age mansions to ghostly beaches to iconic gardens, the cultural and historical attractions here are sure to delight, but the untouched beauty of the coastline remains the real winner. Whether it’s adventure you’re after, or just the chance to lay with your feet in the sand, Southern living has never been more inviting or enticing.
1. Jekyll Island
Part of the Golden Isles chain, this small barrier island was the one-time retreat of America’s richest families, including the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. These days, you too can enjoy the highlife with a tour of those families’ impressive estates. Driftwood Beach, at the island’s northern tip, is an eerie must-see destination where salt air and saltier water has preserved gnarled trees up and down the coast. It’s not a swim spot, but you’ll be hard-pressed to take more magical pictures anywhere else. Horseback tours are also available. Finish off your stay with a guided kayak tour of the Tidelands Nature Center.
Drive 28 Miles • 38 Minutes
A quaint fishing village with a storied past, visitors here will be treated to peaceful surrounding and some of the freshest seafood available. The Altamaha Historic Scenic Byway is a great way to get the lay of the land as it meanders for miles past historic forts and serene marshlands. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of dockside dining to enjoy. If you need to work up an appetite, try a paddle on the uncrowded waterways of the lower Altamaha River. Guided tours, as well as short beginner excursions, are available including trips through old growth Cypress and abandoned rice canals.
Drive 62 Miles • 1 hour
Revered as one of the most beautiful cities in the South, it’s hard not to fall in love with the hospitality, architecture and landscape of this Georgian gem. First-time visitors should book a bicycle tour of the Historic District, including the 22 park-like squares that give the city its famed Gothic atmosphere. Lined with live oaks drenched in Spanish moss, the photo opportunities alone are worth the ride. Don’t skip on a visit to the eerily magical Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous by the bestselling book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
4. Tybee Island
Drive 90 Miles • 1 hour, 38 minutes
Families have been flocking to this small barrier island since the 1800’s and it’s easy to see why. Five miles of beautiful beaches, spectacular views and a rich maritime history combine to make this a near-perfect vacation spot. Try a swim or paddle at Back River Beach, the so-called “secret beach” of the island. Boasting some of the best views and seafood around, you’ll wonder why the secret isn’t out yet. No visit to the island would be complete without a tour of the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum, home of the state’s oldest and tallest lighthouse. If you’re up for it, the 178 steps to the top reward confident climbers with astounding views of the coast.