2013  HIKING, CYCLING,

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   DAY TRIP TO THE GOLDEN ISLES:
  JEKYLL & ST. SIMONS ISLANDS

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 17

 
"A strand of unity runs through this magical place. Some say it's the golden marshes;
others say it's the warm sandy beaches and the painted skies at sunset. It's both of those
and more. It reaches beyond to a certain southern charm and hospitality that 
provides a gracious welcome to all of our visitors . . .
 
Welcome to the Golden Isles of Georgia, an enchanting place like no other."
 
~ Golden Isles.com 2013 Official Visitor Guide
 
 

The Georgia tourism industry refers to the scenic subtropical St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea islands as "The Golden Isles." The islands comprise a major resort area located on the Atlantic sea coast just north of Cumberland Island and east of the small city of Brunswick.

Evidence of habitation by American Indians dates back to at least 2500 B.C. Spain claimed the islands as the Golden Isles of Guale in the 1500s, then ceded them to Great Britain in 1763.

French cultural influences were also added to the mix before the land became part of the colony of Georgia and later the United States of America.


Dunes on Jekyll Island at high tide

Like Cumberland, these barrier islands help protect the mainland from ocean winds, tides, waves, and storms. Their beaches allow surfing, swimming, diving, shelling, fishing, clam digging, picnicking, birding and other wildlife, photography, kayaking/boating, and long walks along the shorelines.

Inland, visitors and residents enjoy sightseeing, camping, cycling, tennis, golf, nature walks, horseback riding, resort living, shopping, historical tours, and many other diversions.


High tide on the beach at Neptune Park, St. Simons Island

Accommodations on St. Simons and Jekyll islands range from basic to luxurious.

Sea Island and Little St. Simons islands are both privately owned. They are upscale resorts restricted to their guests and members.

ROAD TRIP!

In the twenty-five years I lived in the Atlanta area I visited Jekyll and St. Simons Islands several times but I haven't been there since the 1980s. Jim's never been to either island so we decided to see them on a day trip.


View to a pier at Neptune Park, St. Simons Island

Today was sunny but windy and chilly (upper 20s F. at Kings Bay overnight, 50s during the day). Since it was cool we took the dogs with us. We left our campground at Kings Bay Sub Base about 10:30 AM and had time to drive around both islands.  

You can find a wealth of free information about the Golden Isles on the internet and in tourist publications. I'll try to give just some basic facts and impressions of St. Simons and Jekyll islands in this entry.

ST. SIMONS ISLAND

We headed west to I-95 and got off at exit 29 near Brunswick.

We followed US 17 east and north to Brunswick across the handsome Sidney Lanier suspension bridge (no fee),

 

. . . then went east on the Torras Causeway to St. Simon's Island. We crossed the scenic Marshes of Glynn, made famous by poet Sidney Lanier.

St. Simons is the largest of the four Golden Isles but has fewer miles of beach than the others. 

We went to the visitors' center at St. Simons first. It's in a handsome building on Beachview Drive above Neptune Park and adjacent to the old lighthouse:


Looking out the visitor center to the ocean


Old St. Simons lighthouse


View of Neptune Park and the Atlantic Ocean from the visitor center

After picking up some information we walked to the paved path above the ocean; the tide was nearing its high point below the rocks used to protect the shoreline.

This is a beautiful park with lots of grass and huge live oak trees:


Picnic tables under a sprawling live oak tree at Neptune Park

Unfortunately, we weren't dressed warmly enough to be out in the wind more than about twenty minutes by the ocean so we didn't stay long.

We drove along Beachview Dr. and Ocean Blvd. to the Maritime Center but didn't go in:

This museum is housed in the historic Coast Guard station near St. Simon's east beach. It offers a historic view of coastal Georgia's maritime and military history.

On our way north on Frederica Road to Fort Fredericka National Monument we passed the Sea Palms golf course and noted a bike path along the road:

There is so much to see at Fort Frederica that I will do a separate entry on the national monument.

HISTORIC CHRIST CHURCH 

After we toured Fort Frederica we stopped for a few minutes nearby at Christ Church, one of the oldest church congregations in the U.S. It was established in 1736 as a mission of the Church of England.

The present building was erected in 1884. The Episcopal congregation welcomes visitors to its services

 

I spent about ten minutes walking through the cemetery. There are some folks buried there who were born in the 1700s:

 

We took the road to Sea Island but the whole thing is gated so we turned around and went back to St. Simons.  

BATTLE OF BLOODY MARSH

It took some effort but we finally located the site where the Battle of Bloody Marsh was fought.

It's a national monument about six miles from Ft. Frederica. It was the site of the last battle between Spain and Britain over the Georgia and Florida coastal territory. Britain won this battle.

There are interpretive panels and a stone monument:

We were the only ones there so we let the dogs run around a little bit. As we were leaving a busload of people arrived. Good timing.

JEKYLL ISLAND 

Since it was only about 2 PM we decided to go to Jekyll Island, too. There is a $6 daily fee to enter the island.

Jekyll is more natural than St. Simons. It used to be a state park but since 1950 the island has been run by the Jekyll Island Authority. At least 65% of the island must remain wild to preserve wildlife and protect natural habitats. Wiki explains how it works.     

We probably should have gone to the visitor center first but didn't. I already had some information and a map of the island so we just winged it.

We drove a figure-eight around Jekyll so we could see a variety of open spaces, beaches, houses, and businesses. There are bike paths all around the island. They'd be nicer to ride than the ones on St. Simons because so much of this island is natural.

I got out of the truck only a couple times -- at Great Dunes Park to overlook the dunes and ocean . . .


At high tide you can't see the sand bar that's covered by ten feet of water;
that's what the sign warns people about. The tide looks like it's just about at max.

. . . and at the ruins of the old Horton House, built in 1742-3:

 

This building, one of the oldest in Georgia, was constructed by Major William Horton. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

We drove through the Jekyll Island Campground. It's nice for folks with smaller RVs but the sites are too close together if you have a larger one.

We also drove through part of the historic landmark district AKA "Millionaires' Village." The Jekyll Island Club Hotel and surrounding summer "cottages" were once home to some of America's most wealthy and influential families, including the Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Cranes, and Morgans:


The Moss Cottage

This hunting and golf resort was the scene of some historic moments, including the first transcontinental telephone call. This large historic district (240 acres, 33 structures) has been fully restored and is a beautiful place to walk or drive through.

There are a lot of things for folks of all ages to do at both St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. The weather is good most days of the year for day visits or extended stays.

Next entry:  touring Fort Frederica National Monument

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody the ultra Lab, and Casey-pup

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2013 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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