Did you know that the Peach State has more than a dozen barrier islands, replete with pristine beaches, next-level sunrises, luxurious accommodations and adventurous activities? Four of the islands can be found in the Golden Isles, including St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island—but trust us when we say that’s just the tip of the island iceberg when it comes to this state’s hidden gems out at sea. Behold, the 15 best Georgia islands up and down the coast.
15 Drop-Dead Gorgeous Georgia Islands Right Off the Coast You Have to Visit ASAP
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1. Tybee Island
Just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is one of the most popular vacation spots in the state—and it has been since the 1800s. This beautiful isle is known for quiet, white sandy beaches, great outdoor dining, and a plethora of family-friendly experiences like scenic parks and playgrounds, tennis and basketball courts and fishing areas. For history buffs, Fort Pulaski National Monument (a Civil War-era harbor defense structure) is a must see, too. You can easily enjoy an action-packed day here, jumping from the beach to a nature hike to a waterfront meal in the evening, or consider spending the weekend to get the most out of this charming beachside retreat.
Known for attracting some of America’s wealthiest families (think the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts), Jekyll Island offers a mix of gorgeous, natural landscapes, historic mansions and contemporary cottages, incredible wildlife and luxurious accommodations. Less than an hour and a half from the Florida-Georgia border, this is the place where you can wake at sunrise to the sound of endangered birds chirping, visit impossibly picturesque Driftwood Beach, scarf down fried oysters at a seaside eatery, sip a nightcap overlooking the waves and snooze on sumptuous 1,000-thread-count sheets. Sold? Sold.
Not to be confused with Hutchinson Island in Florida, the Georgia version is located in the historic Savannah River District. For years, the island served as support for cargo shipments entering the Port of Savannah, but nowadays a free passenger ferry brings visitors straight to Hutchinson to enjoy everything from golfing to spa treatments. Thanks to the island’s close ties to Savannah, this is another popular destination for a quick weekend getaway, with accommodations including The Savannah International Trade and Convention Center and the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa. Pro tip: If you happen to be in town on the first Friday of the month from March through November, don’t miss the Westin’s iconic oyster roast.
Known for its gorgeous coastline, calm waters and car-free roads, this untouched gem off Georgia’s southeast coast is a nature lover’s paradise. As the state’s largest barrier island, visitors here can spend the day bird watching, swimming, fishing or strolling around the island’s incredible network of trails and green spaces where you’ll likely spot wild horses and loggerhead turtles.
About 60 miles north of Atlanta, this 1,500-acre resort complex was built on a small group of islands on Lake Lanier, the largest lake in Georgia. Here, you’ll find an 18-hole golf course, the Margaritaville family water park, an RV park, hotel and cabin rentals and other family-friendly activities.
With seven miles of shimmering coastline, Saint Simons Island was untouched for centuries before it became what it’s known today as: a coastal resort paradise. Home to The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, moss-draped oaks and golden marshes surround luxurious cottage accommodations for no more than 32 lucky guests. Around the perimeter, 11,000 acres of untamed wilderness await exploring, making it one of the largest and most protected conservation areas in Georgia. And get this: If you have a large enough group, you can reserve the entire island for a private getaway.
The third-largest barrier island in Georgia, Ossabaw Island encompasses 26,000 acres of nature and wildlife, from loggerhead sea turtles to endangered wood storks. Only accessible by boat, the State of Georgia designated the area as a heritage preserve for natural, scientific, and cultural study. Good news is you can still enjoy the 13 miles of beach that are open to the public on the island.
If you’re looking for some of the quietest, most pristine and undeveloped beaches in Georgia, Sapelo Island is where they’re at—specifically Nanny Goat Beach, which is known for having the most extensive undisturbed natural beach dunes along the state’s coast. Only accessible by boat or aircraft, hop on the ferry and spend the day here, exploring the beach, marine sanctuary and the 200-year-old Reynolds Mansion, which was developed during the peak of the tycoon era.
9. Sea Island
Among Georgia’s Golden Isles, Sea Island features five miles of private beach, tennis courts, a yacht club and three championship golf courses, including the home of the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic. You’ll also find four Forbes Five-Star experiences: two hotels, the Cloister at Sea Island and the Lodge at Sea Island, plus a wellness retreat (the Spa at Sea Island) and the Georgian Room restaurant. Cool fact: It’s the only U.S. resort to host a G-8 Summit of world leaders.
10. Skidaway Island
Nearby to Savannah, Skidaway Island is replete with windy nature trails through Spanish moss, maritime forest and salt marsh. Journey to the observation tower and watch for deer, fiddler crabs, egrets and other wildlife, or spend the night within the island’s scenic campground.
If you’re looking to get away from it all with a side of glamping, head to Little Raccoon Key in Georgia’s Golden Isles. This private island campground makes the affair luxurious all around, and the best part is when you book a stay here, you and your guests will be the only ones on the island. But don’t worry—Little Raccoon Key is only about 10 minutes from neighboring Jekyll Island, which means you’ll have cell service to reach out to staff at any time. If you’re hungry and don’t feel like grilling, chef-prepared meals are available upon request. You can also skip the glamping and schedule a full day tour to the reef instead.
12. Grover Island
For the outdoorsy adventurer, Grover Island is an exciting day trip from the Georgia coast. This marshy island offers numerous outdoor activities, including guided kayak tours to spot local wildlife including the endangered wood stork and ospreys.
Established as a nature and forest preserve, Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge is a great spot to visit to soak up the great outdoors. This nature-filled barrier island—only accessible by boat—is open daily from sunrise to sunset, offering miles of trails for hiking and biking, fishing, wildlife watching and nature photography.
No more than 20 minutes off the coast of Georgia, this 10-mile-long island is one of the best-kept secrets in the state. St. Catherines Island is mostly closed to the public, reserved for preservation, education, and scientific research. However, the beach is open to the public up to the high tide line, where you can engage go shelling, hiking, and picnicking during daylight hours.
15. Amelia Island
Another island on the Florida-Georgia border, Amelia Island is a timeless city with rich history. Established in 1562, it’s home to more than 13 miles of quiet beaches, next-level golf courses, shore excursions and a historic district with ghost tours, art museums and waterfront restaurants. Looking for a slice of heaven? Head to Fernandina Beach for date night and explore the sparkling shoreline.