|Golden Isles, Georgia|
|Coordinates: 31°09′32″N 81°29′21″W / 31.158889°N 81.489167°WCoordinates: 31°09′32″N 81°29′21″W / 31.158889°N 81.489167°W|
|Elevation||1 ft (0 m)|
|Time zone||UTC−5 (EST)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC−4 (EDT)|
31520-31525, 31527, 31561
The Golden Isles of Georgia consist of barrier islands, and the mainland port cities of Brunswick and Darien, on the 100-mile-long coast of the U.S. state of Georgia on the Atlantic Ocean. They include St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, Historic Darien and Historic Brunswick.
Mild winters, together with natural beaches, vast stretches of marshland, maritime forests, historical sites, and abundant wildlife on both land and sea have made the Golden Isles a travel destination for families, nature-lovers, fishing and water sports enthusiasts, golfers, and history buffs.
All the islands are located within McIntosh County and Glynn County, and make up the lower middle section of Georgia's eleven barrier islands. Annual mild temperatures average 68 °F, with July highs of 90 °F. St. Simons is the largest, with a permanent population of 12,743 residents as of the 2010 census. Curled around its north end and accessible only by boat is Little St. Simons Island—privately owned and maintained in its natural state with a small capacity guest lodge and cottages. Jekyll Island is owned by the state of Georgia and operated as a state park, with limited residential areas. Sea Island is owned by Sea Island Acquisitions, LLC, and is home to the world-famous Cloister resort and residential homes valued in the millions of dollars. Sapelo Island
The City of Brunswick traces its history back to early Colonial times, and the founding of the Georgia colony by General James Oglethorpe. From its earliest days, the port of Brunswick was important to the growth and economy of the new nation. In 1789, George Washington named Brunswick one of the five original ports of entry for the thirteen colonies. During World War II, Brunswick hosted an important construction site for Liberty ships, and Naval Air Station Glynco, a major operational base for blimps.
The City of Darien traces its history back to the construction of Ft. King George in 1722, and later becoming of the second oldest city in Georgia, chartered in 1736. James Oglethorpe laid out the city plan for Darien, noted for its squares and grid pattern much like Savannah, which he also planned. Fort Federica on St. Simons Island was later constructed to protect the City of Darien and its important commerce.
Tourism is the most important economic driver in the Golden Isles, with an estimated 2.4 million visitors in 2014. Other key components of the local economy include the Port of Brunswick, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, aviation support services, and manufacturing. Travelers to the area arrive primarily via Brunswick Golden Isles Airport and Interstate 95. McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport serves general aviation.
Main article: St. Simons Island
St. Simons Island is the largest of the Golden Isles, with a permanent population of 12,743 as of the 2010 census. Reachable via the F. J. Torras Causeway, the Island is a tourist destination for its beaches, water sports, boating and fishing, golf, nature trails, historical landmarks, shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
The St. Simons Lighthouse, located on the south end of the Island, has been in operation since 1872 (an earlier lighthouse, completed in 1810, was destroyed during the Civil War). Today, the Lighthouse and Museum are open to the public on a daily basis. Adjacent to the Lighthouse is Neptune Park which has a public pool and playground. The nearby Pier is a draw for anglers, tourists, and sightseers. The Pier Village on Mallery Street is lined with boutiques and a variety of restaurants.
Not far from the village, beaches include Massengale Park and the Coast Guard Station Beach, which also features the Maritime Center Museum. Near the Coast Guard beach is the Bloody Marsh battle site where in 1742, a small garrison of British troops defeated a much larger Spanish force and in the process, put an end to Spain's influence north of Florida.
Farther to the north are the ruins of Fort Frederica, established by Gen. James Oglethorpe in 1736 as protection for the Georgia colony, and Cannon's Point, a 600-acre nature preserve that includes maritime forest, marshland, hiking trails and plantation ruins.
Housing on St. Simons Island consists primarily of single-family homes and condominiums, many of which are rented during peak visitation periods. Due to the mild climate, outdoor activities are common year-round, including hiking, bicycling, canoe and kayaking, paddle-boarding, offshore and inshore fishing and beachcombing. Golf is among the Island's most popular attractions, highlighted by the PGA's RSM Classic (formerlyMcGladrey Classic) in November.
Main article: Sea Island, Georgia
Sea Island is a privately owned resort and residential community, located to the east of St. Simons Island and reachable by causeway. The upscale resort operates properties on Sea Island: The Cloister, Beach Club, Cottages; and on St. Simons Island: The Lodge, and The Inn at Sea Island. With the exception of special events, access is restricted to guests of any Sea Island property, island home owners and their guests, and Sea Island Club members. The resort also includes three championship golf courses, one of which, the Seaside course on St. Simons Island, hosts the annual PGA tour event, The RSM Classic (formerly The McGladrey Classic).
In June, 2004, the 30th G8 Summit was hosted by President George W. Bush on Sea Island.
Main article: Little St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island lies to the north and east of St. Simons Island and is accessible only by boat. Privately owned, it is the only island in the group virtually untouched by development. Its 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) include maritime forests, marshland, and seven miles of unspoiled, natural beach.
The Lodge on Little St. Simons, a rustic retreat originally built as a hunting lodge offers the only available accommodations, with a limit of 32 guests per night. A staff of naturalists conduct guided tours along the beach and inland. Available activities include birding, kayaking, bicycling, hiking, fishing and nature photography. Guests depart on a private boat from the Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island. The Lodge is one of only two properties in the U.S. to be awarded a Benchmarked Certificate by Green Globe 21, a global certification organization dedicated to sustainable tourism.
Little St. Simons Island has been declared an "Important Bird Area" by the Audubon Society.
Main article: Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island is wholly owned by the state of Georgia and managed by the Jekyll Island Authority. Located south of St. Simons Island, it is reachable via the Downing Musgrove Causeway (GA 520) off US 17 in Glynn County. Purchase of a parking pass is required to drive onto the island (as of June, 2015, fees are $6.00 daily, $28.00 weekly, or $45.00 annually).
The island includes 10 miles of beach, four golf courses, a Nature Center, boat tours, the Jekyll Island Convention Center, and a variety of lodging options. The Jekyll Island Museum operates tours of the Historic Landmark District which includes homes built during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by wealthy Northern businessmen, including J. P. Morgan, William Vanderbilt, Joseph Pulitzer, and Marshall Field.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll is a rehabilitation hospital, research center and education facility devoted to conservation and protection of sea turtles. Open to the public year-round, the Center offers exhibits, viewing of turtle patients, and a variety of educational programs and field trips.
The Jekyll Island Club opened in 1888, and quickly became one of the most exclusive private social clubs in the United States. Among its members was AT&T president Theodore Vail, who participated from there in the first transcontinental telephone call on January 25, 1915. After the Panic of 1907, Senator Nelson Aldrich convened secret meetings of prominent bankers at the Club, under the guise of a duck hunting trip, to formulate plans for a central banking structure, which ultimately became the basis for the Federal Reserve System.
By statute, commercial development on Jekyll Island is tightly restricted. Homeowners on the Island rent their land from the state on long-term leases.
Main article: Brunswick, Georgia
Brunswick's first English settler was Capt. Mark Carr, who established a plantation on the site in 1738, while serving under Gen. James Oglethorpe. Four years later, Capt. Carr would participate in the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island. In 1771, Carr's property was acquired by the Royal Province of Georgia, and the city was laid out in the "Oglethorpe grid" pattern, similar to Savannah. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Brunswick Old Town Historic District contains several landmarks and 19th century homes.
Mary Ross Park on the East River hosts a variety of events including concerts, weddings, a farmer's market, and the annual Brunswick Stewbilee. Passenger cruise ships dock at the park and nearby, local shrimp boats await their next trip to the area's prolific offshore shrimping grounds. Festivities at the park and the town's "overall historic vibe" were cited by Travel + Leisure readers who, in June, 2014 voted Brunswick one of America's Best Small Towns for July 4.
Located on the east side of the Brunswick peninsula, are the "Marshes of Glynn", immortalized by Georgia poet, Sidney Lanier. Just down US 17 is the Sidney Lanier Bridge, site of an annual 5K run that draws participants from throughout the Southeast.
Main article: Glynn County, Georgia
Glynn County, Georgia, where the Golden Isles are located is one of the state's original eight counties, established in 1777 from 423 square miles of land formerly held by Creek Indians. The county seat is Brunswick, the only incorporated entity in the county. Glynn County is named for John Glynn, a member of the British Parliament and a friend of the colonies who once held the position of Sergeant of London.
Notable features include the Sidney Lanier Bridge which spans the entrance to the Port of Brunswick, and is one of the gateways to the Golden Isles. It is currently the longest spanning bridge in Georgia. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) is headquartered in Glynn County, and provides training for several federal law enforcement agencies. The Brunswick Golden Isles Airport serves residents and tourists alike, and is home to a growing aviation services industry.
The 2010 Census reported Glynn County's population at 79,626.
Today's Golden Isles were first settled about 4,500 years ago by tribes of the Creek nation. When the Spaniards arrived in the early 1500s, they encountered the Guale and Mocame tribes of the Timucuan people. Relations between the Native Americans and the European newcomers alternated between friendly and hostile, as their allegiance was sought by competing Old World powers. By the late 1600s most of present-day Georgia became known as the "Debatable Land," while the French, Spanish and English all fought to establish dominance.
During this time, a Scottish nobleman, Sir Robert Montgomery, who envisioned a utopian colony between the Savannah and Altamaha rivers, published "A Description of the Golden Islands" in London (1720). The colony was never established, but the name persists to this day.
By the 1730s, the Native American population had declined, and Great Britain had prevailed to the extent of founding the colony of Georgia under the leadership of Gen. James Oglethorpe, who established the city of Savannah. (Some three decades later, the town of Brunswick would be laid out in a similar grid pattern, consisting of streets and squares.) In 1736, Oglethorpe built Fort Frederica on the western shore of St. Simons Island to defend the Georgia colony from the Spaniards to the south.
Title to the "Debatable Land" was finally established in 1742, after the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island. By way of strategic brilliance and trickery, Gen. Oglethorpe and his badly outnumbered force defeated the Spaniards, who then retreated to St. Augustine, never to return. When the General's force was disbanded in 1749, Fort Frederica fell into disuse, and was destroyed by fire in 1758. Today the fort's remains, along with the Bloody Marsh site, is a national monument operated by the National Park Service.
Military action on the south Georgia coast during the American Revolution was very limited compared to events in the north. In April, 1778 there was a brief naval skirmish off St. Simons Island in which the Americans prevailed. However the British capture of Savannah later that year effectively ended further hostilities.
As agriculture took hold after the Revolution, the Golden Isles region become known for rice and cotton. On St. Simons Island, a fine, long-fiber variety, known as Sea Island cotton became the preferred option in England, and came to be grown throughout the Georgia low country. Several plantations thrived on St. Simons, among them were Hamilton, Retreat, Hampton, and Cannon's Point. The only surviving ruins are at Cannon's Point and the tabby slave cabins at Hamilton. Both are open to the public. One former slave cabin from Retreat Plantation has been restored, and today houses a local gift shop.
Even before the Civil War, Island plantations had begun their decline due to a dramatic slackening of English demand, lack of crop rotation for soil management, and absentee ownership. Postwar, the area languished until the advent of the lumber mills in the latter third of the 19th century. During this period, a new lighthouse was constructed to replace the 1810 lighthouse that was destroyed during the Civil War. The current Lovely Lane Chapel was built, and Christ Church was rebuilt. One of the Island mills supplied timbers for New York's Brooklyn Bridge.
With the turn of the 20th century and the arrival of the automobile, a new industry began to arise—vacation travel. In 1924, the F. J. Torras Causeway opened St. Simons Island to everyone. Sea Island, Little St. Simons, and Jekyll Island all remained in private hands, with the latter becoming the site of winter homes for wealthy Northern industrialists and bankers.
During World War II, blimps from Glynco Naval Air Station in Brunswick patrolled the Atlantic, protecting convoys and looking for German U-boats that frequented the area. The Brunswick harbor served as one of the nation's most important production centers for Liberty Ships.
The City of Brunswick and its four barrier islands are located on the south Georgia coast, about midway between Savannah and Jacksonville. The islands lie between the Altamaha River delta to the north and the Satilla River to the south. This location is the center point of the Georgia Bight, the inward curve of the east coast that stretches from Cape Fear, North Carolina to Cape Canaveral, Florida. The resulting funnel effect on incoming tides in this region creates a more extreme tidal swing than elsewhere on the U.S. coast, ranging from six to ten feet.
According to the Köppen Climate Classification System, the Golden Isles climate is humid subtropical, with hot summers and mild winters. The average low temperature in January is 42.6 °F. The average high in July is 90.4 °F. Rainfall is greatest in August and September. Accumulation of snow/ice is extremely rare.
|Climate data for St. Simons Island, GA|
|Record high °F (°C)||83
|Average high °F (°C)||60.5
|Daily mean °F (°C)||51.5
|Average low °F (°C)||42.6
|Record low °F (°C)||6
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.2
|Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||8||9||8||6||7||11||10||13||11||7||6||7||103|
|Source: NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data |
In 1968 when famed Chicago TV weatherman P. J. Hoff was about to retire, he conducted an extensive analysis, based on his personal preferences, to find the best climate in the U.S. Based on several factors, he chose the Golden Isles, and moved to St. Simons Island, where he lived until his death in 1981.
One of the primary attractions that brings visitors to the Golden Isles is its vast and diverse array of wildlife and marine vegetation. The area's most distinctive characteristic, its extensive marshes and estuaries, provide an abundance of food plus breeding grounds for a multitude of land, sea, and air creatures.
Most of the area between the islands and the mainland consists of marshland, dominated by smooth cordgrass (Spartina), which is the key provider of life-sustaining nutrients for the wildlife. Every fall, the marsh grass turns a rich amber, giving evidence for the name, Golden Isles.
The results of this rich source of nutrients are visible everywhere. Commonly seen along the beaches and the adjacent maritime forests are several species of shorebirds, including egrets, herons, white ibis, gulls, terns, plovers, sandpipers, pelicans, and ospreys. Local birds of prey include vultures, hawks, and the southern bald eagle. Five of the eighteen sites along Georgia's Colonial Coast Birding Trail are located within the Golden Isles/Glynn County.
Among the sights along the beaches, inshore waterways and piers are horseshoe crabs, ghost crabs slipping in and out of their holes in the sand, dolphin, manatees (in summer), jumping mullet, jellyfish, sand dollars, stingrays, and conch shells inhabited by hermit crabs. Sand dunes along the rear of the beach protect the inland vegetation and serve as an essential buffer during storm tides. The picturesque sea oats along the dunes, with their complex root systems help keep the sand in place; and Georgia law prohibits picking them. Beach morning glories and their vines serve a similar purpose. During certain times of year, dead cordgrass (known as wrack) washes up on the beach and gathers at the high tide line. Insects and microorganisms in the wrack offer nutrients and the wrack itself traps sand to help nourish the dunes. Behind the dunes sits a variety of vegetation, culminating in the maritime forests that provide the tree canopy so characteristic to Georgia's barrier islands. Live oaks, southern pines, cabbage palms, magnolias, and others create the canopy. Below is a vast complex of shrubs including palmettos, yaupon, yucca, prickly-pear cactus, resurrection fern, and many others including the iconic Spanish Moss. The forest is also home to different species of amphibians and land animals, including deer, snakes, raccoons, alligators, wild turkey, frogs, and many others.
One of the area's most beloved, and endangered, creatures is the loggerhead sea turtle. From late May through mid-August, female turtles clamber up the beach after dark to dig nests in the dunes above the high water line and lay their eggs. Turtle eggs face many threats of both the natural and man-made variety; and all species of sea turtles are currently protected by the Federal Endangered Species Act. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources coordinates the efforts of several local agencies and volunteers under the Georgia Sea Turtle Cooperative. These groups monitor, protect and manage nests found on Golden Isles beaches, in addition to conducting research and public awareness and education programs. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, a member of the Cooperative, provides rehabilitation services for injured turtles as well as research and education through a variety of programs and field trips.
Another endangered species found just offshore is the North Atlantic Right Whale. These migratory animals got their name from whalers because they were easy to hunt and yielded large amounts of oil and baleen. As a result, they were hunted almost to extinction. Right whales are currently protected by both Federal and State law. Because the waters off South Georgia and Florida are their only known calving grounds, the NOAA has designated a critical habitat area extending from the Altamaha River delta to Melbourne, Florida. Federal law prohibits vessels from approaching or remaining within 500 yards of a right whale. In December, 2014, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources estimated that there were fewer than 100 breeding females in existence.
Because of its long and varied history and mixture of disparate peoples, the Golden Isles enjoys a rich cultural heritage that locals work to preserve in a variety of ways. There is also a vibrant contemporary culture that manifests itself in a broad mixture of creative arts. Local theater productions, art exhibits, music festivals, culinary events, environmental expositions, art and photography shows are scheduled throughout the year. Venues include the Historic Ritz Theatre, Brunswick Actors Theatre, Mary Ross Park, Neptune Park, and the St. Simons Island Casino, home of the Island Players.
The Golden Isles are home to a growing number of art galleries, and other venues where creative artists share their works. Golden Isles Arts & Humanities in Brunswick and Glynn Visual Arts on St. Simons Island have each been instrumental in promoting and supporting both established and beginning artists.
Among the more unusual local art forms are the Tree Spirits of St. Simons Island. Created by a local sculptor, they memorialize sailors lost at sea on ships made of island lumber, along with some Native Americans. Their mournful expressions create an emotional and unforgettable experience for viewers.
The centuries-old art of stained glass is on display at several locations throughout the Golden Isles. At Christ Church Frederica, "The Confession of St. Peter" dates to 1899. Faith Chapel on Jekyll Island includes a window signed by Louis Tiffany. Lovely Lane Chapel at Epworth by the Sea features Old English Art Glass windows. Another Tiffany window is located at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Brunswick. Other notable examples can be seen at the King & Prince Resort, the Cloister Hotel, and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, as well as many other churches throughout the area.
In late spring and summer, music lovers enjoy outdoor concerts at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in Brunswick and Neptune Park on St. Simons Island. Jekyll Island hosts annual festivals that feature both local and out-of-town performers.
The Golden Isles are located near the southern end of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a coastal area that stretches from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL, extending 30 miles inland along its length. Gullah Geechee refers to a people, a language and a culture. The Gullah Geechee people are descendants of slaves primarily from west and central Africa who were brought to work on cotton and rice plantations along the coast of North and South Carolina, Georgia, and north Florida. The Gullah language is a creole tongue that combines English with a number of African dialects.
Coastal, primarily rice-growing plantations came to be isolated from their mainland counterparts due to the prevalence of tropical diseases such as malaria, which tended to keep the plantation owners inland. Consequently, the West African slaves were able to form tight-knit communities that retained more of their homeland culture and languages. This Gullah Geechee way of life continued more or less intact until the advent of 20th-century coastal development. The Heritage Corridor is one result of efforts to protect and preserve this unique and little-known culture.
The St. Simons African American Heritage Coalition works to preserve and educate people about Gullah Geechee culture through the annual Sea Island Festival each June on St. Simons Island. Performers at the Festival have included the Georgia Sea Island Singers, a world-renowned folk group that specializes in Gullah music and dance. The Coalition also conducts tours of Gullah Geechee sites on the island. Recently they played a leading role in fundraising for restoration of the historic Harrington School House, which dates to the 1920s and served the island's African-American communities.
Given its long history, it is not surprising that ghost stories are plentiful in the Golden Isles. Some of the tales often heard from locals and tour guides alike include:
Southeast Georgia Health System Bridge Run
February – Brunswick. A challenging 5K race over the Sidney Lanier Bridge, and allied events. Scheduled on Saturday of Presidents Day weekend.
Blessing of the Fleet
May – Brunswick. A two-day celebration of the Golden Isles shrimp fishing industry in Brunswick, scheduled on Mother's Day weekend.
Turtle Crawl Triathlon & Nest Fest
May – Jekyll Island. A USA Triathlon-sanctioned event that includes an International Distance Triathlon, a Sprint Distance Triathlon, and a traditional 5K Run.
Georgia Sea Island Festival
June – St. Simons Island. A celebration of the African-American Gullah Geechee culture, musical traditions, crafts and food, featuring the Georgia Sea Island Singers.
Southern Grown Festival
June – St. Simons Island. All about food and music of the South: chef demonstrations, fish fry, classes & lectures, dinner and a concert, local Southern food market, and Sunday brunch.
Shrimp & Grits: The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival
September – Jekyll Island. Shrimp boat tours, vendors, live music, kids' fun zone, chefs' demonstrations, plus a variety of shrimp and grits dishes.
Brunswick Rockin' Stewbilee
October – Brunswick. A Brunswick Stew cooking contest coupled with a 5K run, live entertainment, kids fun zone, antique car show plus arts and crafts.
October – Brunswick. A day of environmental fun and education. Interactive exhibits and displays offer the latest information about coastal weather, native plants, recycling, sea turtles, water conservation, archeology, herpetology, and geology.
Golden Isles SUP Classic
October – St. Simons Island. Stand-up paddleboarding races with cash prizes and trophies for the winners.
Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival
October – St. Simons Island. A weekend to celebrate food and spirits of the Golden Isles. Food tastings at the Pier Village, several concurrent events at area restaurants, artisan market, cooking classes and demonstrations, children's activities, Sunday brunch.
The RSM Classic (formerly McGladrey Classic)
November – St. Simons Island. An official PGA Tour event, hosted by Island resident, Davis Love, III, held on the Seaside Course at the Sea Island Golf Club on St. Simons Island. The event, which began in 2010, has added a second course for 2015 and expanded its field to 156.
Jekyll Tree Lighting Festival & Holidays in History
November and December – Jekyll Island. Beginning with a Tree Lighting Festival on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the celebration features lights and Christmas decorations in the Historic District, themed tours, storytelling, caroling and crafts.
As a result of the Golden Isles' moderate climate, a variety of outdoor activities are popular year-round. Golf in the area dates back to the early 1900s, when courses were built on Jekyll Island for the wealthy industrialists who owned vacation homes there. Today there are sixteen public and private courses in Glynn County, including the historic Great Dunes Course on Jekyll Island that was designed by Walter Travis and opened in 1928, and the Seaside Course on St. Simons Island, host of the annual PGA tour event, The RSM Classic (formerly McGladrey Classic).
The nutrient-rich waters of the Golden Isles marshes, tidal creeks, rivers, sounds and the Atlantic Ocean are home to an extensive variety of fish and sea creatures, which in turn draws anglers from near and far. In-shore and river fishing can yield trout, redfish, flounder, sheepshead, whiting and more. Offshore anglers can land king mackerel, Spanish mackerel, cobia, grouper, snapper, amberjack, tarpon, and several shark species. Surf casting is also popular on the islands, as is fishing from the many piers and bridges throughout the area. Fishing licenses are required for anyone over 16 years of age. Size and catch limits are also enforced.
The area's natural scenery and nature preserves attract photographers, birders and kayakers. Popular water sports include sailing and offshore scuba diving. The tidal creeks, sandbars and relatively gentle surf have made paddle boarding an increasingly popular sport locally. Onshore activities include biking, hiking, tennis, and horseback riding. Fans of the relatively new sport of disc golf will find a course on St. Simons Island. Parks and playgrounds cater to families. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, Golden Isles beaches are visited throughout the year for walking, bird-watching, and shell-hunting.
Because it was one of the few barrier islands not privately owned, St. Simons Island was the first of the Golden Isles to develop facilities for tourism, primarily on and around the south end where visitors arrived at the pier beginning in the 1870s. Also during this time, the luxurious Oglethorpe Hotel opened in Brunswick. With the advent of the automobile and the opening of the F. J. Torras Causeway in 1924, more facilities were built (most notably by auto magnate turned developer, Howard Coffin) and it was not long before St. Simons Island became a preferred vacation destination. In 1928, Mr. Coffin, who had earlier purchased Sea Island, opened the Cloister to great critical acclaim.
While St. Simons Island was entering its tourism phase, Jekyll Island remained a private retreat for the rich and famous. After the Great Depression and World War II, however, the Jekyll Island Club and the winter "cottages" fell into disuse. In 1947, the State of Georgia purchased the island for the purpose of creating a state park. Shortly thereafter, the Jekyll Island Authority was created by the state legislature to manage the island and develop a tourism business.
Today's tourism in the Golden Isles takes a variety of forms: day trippers from nearby counties, weekend getaways, family vacations, business travelers, active sports participants, eco-tourists, winter residents, history and culture enthusiasts, weddings & family gatherings. Accommodations include hotels and resorts in all price ranges, rental houses and condominiums, and bed & breakfast inns. The newly refurbished and enlarged oceanfront convention center on Jekyll Island reopened in May, 2012, followed by new hotels, restaurants, and retail space.
Within the Golden Isles, tourism is the key driver of economic activity, with an estimated impact of $1.1 billion in 2014. The resort operator, Sea Island Company is the area's largest employer. Of less economic significance, but still important to the area's appeal, is the shrimping industry. Once known as the "shrimp capital of the world", local shrimpers continue to supply fresh catch to restaurants and retailers throughout the Golden Isles and beyond.
The Port of Brunswick is the centerpiece of the area's thriving logistics industry, while Brunswick Airport is home to a growing aerospace presence. Healthcare and manufacturing are the other primary economic drivers, along with the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
The Brunswick-Golden Isles Chamber of Commerce is a private, non-profit, membership-driven organization of business enterprises, professional firms, educational institutions and individuals who are committed to the continued economic growth and prosperity of Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
The Chamber does not operate as a department of the city, county or state, as it is a membership organization. Membership investments and expenses are tax deductible as a business expense rather than a charitable contribution, and businesses of every size and description are part of the Chamber. It is more than 1,300 businesses, 80 percent of which are small businesses with 10 employees or less, working together to enhance the economic climate and reduce the impediments to the flow of commerce in our community. The Chamber of Commerce is a unified voice for Glynn County businesses.
Ongoing economic development of the community is managed by the Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority. The purpose of the Development Authority is to promote new industry and existing industry expansion. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the Development Authority engages in various economic development activities that include but are not limited to:
The Brunswick and Glynn County Development Authority works to package appropriate incentives to recruit new industry including the following:
The Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is the official destination marketing organization dedicated to promoting tourism in Glynn County, Georgia. The Golden Isles CVB oversees the operation and maintenance of two Welcome Centers in Glynn County.
The Welcome Centers can be found in Brunswick, on I-95 southbound, between exits 42 and 38, and on St. Simons Island in the Pier Village area at 529 Beachview Drive.
The mission of the CVB is twofold: To promote the Golden Isles to become a nationally recognized resort destination. To advocate for the best quality visitor experience to protect the economic sustainability of the community.
The Old Glynn County Courthouse is situated in a grove of live oaks within Magnolia Square—one of the historic parks and squares used to house livestock as a community pasture. The parcel was purchased in 1905 from the City for $1.00. Today it is still surrounded by moss-hung live oaks in addition to trees of foreign origin including Tung and Chinese pistachio.
The courthouse was designed by New Jersey architect Charles Alling Gifford of the New York firm Gifford & Bates. Gifford's work is notable within the National Historic Landmark District on Jekyll Island, principally Sans Souci Apartments (1896), Mistletoe Cottage (1900), and Jekyll Island Clubhouse Annex (1901). The cornerstone was laid on December 27, 1906 and construction was completed on December 18, 1907 at a total cost of $97,613. Restoration work began in the early 1990s.
It is noted as an example of Neoclassical Revival style or Beaux Arts (fine arts) architecture that flourished between 1885 and 1920. Beaux Arts combines ancient Greek and Roman forms with Renaissance ideas and is an eclectic Neoclassical style. Design suggests interlinking philosophy of justice: four identical entrances complement interior columns leading to justice; an intricate iron stair rail suggests delicate balance and the frailties of man.
The new Glynn County Courthouse is located immediately north of the structure. Opposite the Courthouse at 1709 Reynolds Street, the Mahoney-McGarvey House is known as one of the finest examples of Carpenter Gothic architecture in Georgia.
Originally, the Grand Opera House, a three-story Victorian building featuring ornate brick and stone work, was built for the legitimate stage. Later, it served as a theatre for vaudeville. In the 1920s, as motion pictures became the rage, the Opera House was converted into a movie palace. To give the building a more modern art deco look, the first-story brickwork was covered with carrara glass and an elaborate marquee and cascading sign were added. Thus, the Grand Opera House became the Ritz Theatre. In 1956, the world premiere of "A View From Pompey's Head," filmed primarily at the Oglethorpe Hotel (the grand hotel that used to sit across from the Ritz), was introduced by the film's star, Richard Egan, at the Ritz Theatre.
The Ritz Theatre (and single movie houses in general) fell into decline in the 60's and 70's. In 1981, the City of Brunswick purchased the Ritz, and again, the theatre was modernized and substantially altered; however, the Ritz sign was left intact. The extensive reconstruction was due in part to the collapse of the roof over the auditorium. This phase was completed in 1983.
In 2008, the Ritz became part of the Fox Theatre Institute (FTI), the only comprehensive theatre preservation organization in the U.S. and the premiere resource for historic theatre restoration and revitalization in Georgia, offering mentoring programs, preservation expertise, operational counseling, and educational opportunities. In 2010 Golden Isles Arts and Humanities applied for and received a restoration assistance grant, matched by the City of Brunswick, to restore the building's 58 original windows, which were loose and in danger of falling.
Under FTI's guidance, local craftsmen James Taylor and Taylor Davis, partnering with the Association for Preservation Technology and the Jekyll Island Restoration Team, restored the windows using the original glass and much of the original wood. FTI and the city then supported the repainting of the building. In 1899, the Grand Opera House was built of unpainted brick, then painted white by the movie company in the 1920s for a more modern feel. Because it would have been damaging to remove decades of paint from the surface, the theatre was painted a brick red when the city restored it in the 1980s. Local contractors Peninsula Painting were hired to refurbish the exterior using the same basic color scheme. When the work was completed in the summer of 2010, new curtains were made for the windows by Brunswick resident Jennifer George.
The original Ritz sign was the final exterior element needing restoration. The sign had not been fully operational for years, so FTI once again stepped in to provide assistance. In May 2011, local company Fendig Signs undertook extensive restoration work, including painting, rewiring, and the crafting of new neon letters by Ray Tanner. The restored sign was returned in the fall and on November 4, 2011, during Downtown Brunswick's First Friday event, Golden Isles Arts and Humanities held a grand re-lighting celebration.
The Ritz Theatre, located within the "Old Town Brunswick" National Register District was built in 1899 to house the Grand Opera House, retail establishments, and the general offices of the Brunswick & Birmingham Railroad. Today, downtown Brunswick's historic theatre and arts center features year-round live performances, films, exhibits, educational programs and more. Programming and management by Golden Isles Arts and Humanities Association, coordinating arts council for the City of Brunswick and Glynn County. 1530 Newcastle Street, Brunswick, GA 31520
In the early 1800s, William Brailsford of Charleston carved a rice plantation from marshes along the Altamaha River. The plantation and its inhabitants were part of the genteel low country society that developed during the antebellum period. While many factors made rice cultivation increasingly difficult in the years after the Civil War, the family continued to grow rice until 1913.
The enterprising siblings of the fifth generation at Hofwyl-Broadfield resolved to start a dairy rather than sell their family home. The efforts of Gratz, Miriam and Ophelia Dent led to the preservation of their family legacy. Ophelia was the last heir, and she left the plantation to the state of Georgia in 1973.
A museum features silver from the family collection and a model of Hofwyl-Broadfield during its heyday. A brief film on the plantation's history is shown before visitors walk a short trail to the antebellum home. A guided tour allows visitors to see the home as Ophelia kept it with family heirlooms, 18th and 19th century furniture and Cantonese china. A stop on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail, this is an excellent spot to look for herons, egrets, ibis and painted buntings. A nature trail leads back to the Visitors Center along the edge of the marsh where rice once flourished. 5556 U.S. Highway 17 North, Brunswick, GA 31525
This part-time city courthouse doubles as Brunswick's new venue of choice for everything from class reunions to wedding receptions.
Built at a cost of $33,000, Old City Hall was fully restored with special purpose local option sales tax dollars and reopened in 2004. Its gleaming heart-pine and marble floors, original vintage fireplaces and newly refitted gaslight fixtures lend an air of old fashioned elegance to any gathering.
Construction on Old Brunswick City Hall began in 1886 from an architectural design by Alfred Eichberg, and was completed in 1889, with the installation of the clock/bell tower in 1893. The architectural style is Richardsonian Romanesque, with Queen Anne parallels.
Massive in stature, with the unusual addition of Italianate brackets, Romanesque Revival architecture was the style of choice for the majority of public buildings built in the United States during this period. Elaborate terracotta friezes decorate our Old City Hall clock tower and side entries, while the corner columns are adorned with gargoyles. 1229 Newcastle Street, Brunswick, GA 31520
April 2008 marked the opening of the 10,000-square-foot A.W. Jones Heritage Center. The center includes an entrance gallery, a museum shop and a 1,400 square foot event hall which is available for rent. The second floor includes the Society's administrative offices, a research library and the Society's vast collection of objects, artifacts and archival materials from hundreds of years of coastal Georgia history. The Heritage Center offers a large selection of collectibles and keepsakes. Local artists and writers are featured in the gift shop. 610 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
When the property was purchased in 1949, it was Bishop Moore's vision that it would one day become a retreat center and a place of inspiration for people of all ages. Moore was Bishop of both North and South Georgia conferences of the Methodist church as well as a leader in worldwide missions for over 20 years. The Arthur J. Moore Methodist Museum was dedicated in June 1966 began as a small library containing many volumes from the Bishop's personal collection. The museum in the beginning had a distinctly southern Methodist focus, containing principally oriental porcelains and other artifacts gathered by Moore during his travels.
Dr. Charles Layman, noted theologian, writer, and professor of Bible at the University of Florida, graciously offered to the museum items from his extensive Wesleyan collection. The Wesleyan grew rapidly. Later, North Georgia clergyman, Rev. David Ogletree, began making generous gifts from his substantial collection of Wesley historical artifacts.
The research library consisting of over 6,000 volumes has also expanded greatly through the years. In the spring of each year, thousands of youth from churches across the Southeastern jurisdiction gather on weekends at Epworth by the Sea as part of their confirmation class training.
This modern building holds within it a wide array of treasures that range from the history of St. Simons Island to the Wesley family including the Wesley brothers landing here with General Oglethorpe in 1736. The museum also illustrates the start of the Methodist church and the changes it underwent to get where it is today.
The museum has a new interactive kiosk where people of all ages can learn more about the history of the circuit rider and early Methodism in Georgia. There is also a fun game where you can ride along with a circuit rider to share the experience of bringing faith to the frontier. The museum houses a wonderful collection of nativities. 100 Arthur J. Moore Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
From 1760 until the outbreak of the American Civil War, cotton and rice plantations flourished in this area. The Sea Island cotton grown here became famous the world over for its quality. Retreat Plantation was one of the most prosperous plantations and was located on the southern tip of St. Simons Island.
Anna Page King, who inherited the land in 1826, planted the famous Avenue of the Oaks. It is said that Anna grew such an abundance of flowers at Retreat Plantation that sailors nearing St. Simons Island could smell the flowers' fragrance before they saw the Island shores. Once the entrance to Retreat Plantation, the Avenue of the Oaks is now the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club. There is a drive around the double row of live oak trees which create the Avenue of the Oaks, most dating to around 1830.
Main article: Battle of Bloody Marsh
At the Bloody Marsh Battle Site on July 7, 1742, an outnumbered force of British troops ambushed and defeated Spanish troops, halting a planned attack on Fort Frederica. Markers and information panels at this outdoor observation site explain the battle, which once and for all ended Spain's claims to the Georgia territory.
The Bloody Marsh Unit is located at 1810 Demere Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522. This site is managed by the National Park Service as part of Fort Frederica National Monument.
A 600-acre wilderness tract on the Northeast corner of St. Simons Island, Cannon's Point is the last remaining undisturbed maritime forest on the island. Owned by the St. Simons Land Trust, the Preserve includes salt marsh, tidal creek, and river shoreline, as well as 4,000-year-old shell middens and ruins of a 17th-century plantation home and slave quarters. The Nature Conservancy holds a conservation easement on the property to ensure its preservation for future generations.
The Preserve is open to the public during specified days and hours. Visitors are advised to wear clothing appropriate for a wilderness outing, and bring bug spray.
Main article: Gascoigne Bluff
Hamilton Plantation, owned by James Hamilton, a native of Scotland, was located on Gascoigne Bluff near Fort Frederica. The Bluff was named for Capt. James Gascoigne, commander of the British sloop Hawk. The Bluff became a storehouse for marine supplies, ship repair facilities and in effect, was Georgia's first naval base. Hamilton Plantation was a working plantation, producing long staple Sea Island cotton along with oak and pine timbers.
Of the several tabby slave cabins built on the plantation, two remain today. They were constructed of tabby, which is a concrete-like mixture of lime, sand, water and oyster shells. The mixture is poured into wooden frames to harden. The cabins were divided in the center by a fireplace, thus creating two rooms that housed two families. Glass windows and wooden outside doors indicate that these cabins were probably living quarters of slaves that were high in the privilege hierarchy.
Cassina Garden Club began meeting in these cabins in 1932 and was deeded the property in 1950. As owner of this historic site, the Cassina Garden Club has carefully restored and preserved the integrity of the cabins and displays many artifact and graphical histories.
The cabins are located adjacent to Epworth by the Sea, a Methodist Conference Center. General Oglethorpe's secretary, Charles Wesley and his Anglican clergyman brother, John, considered by many the founder of the Methodist Church, trod these grounds. All of this property was formerly part of Hamilton Plantation. Not surprisingly, this historic property was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior in 1988.
Christ Church, Frederica is located in a serene setting formed by native live oaks, holly and cedar trees. On the site of Christ Church, nestled among huge oak trees on the scenic north end of St. Simons Island, John and Charles Wesley preached before returning to England to help found the Methodist Church. In addition to being credited with founding the Methodist Church in England, the Wesley brothers also played a major role in the development of the Episcopal Church.
The first church structure was built in 1820 but was partially destroyed by Union troops during the Civil War. In 1884, the Reverend Anson Phelps Dodge Jr. built the present structure in memory of his wife, Ellen. Christ Church is constructed of wood in the cruciform design with a trussed Gothic roof and steeple. The grounds contain a cemetery with graves of early settlers and many famous Georgians. One Georgia author, Eugenia Price, who wrote many novels including a series on St. Simons is buried here along with Lucien Knight, the first state historian of Georgia. Another Georgian, a plantation owner who owned the point on St. Simons where the lighthouse was built, is buried at Christ Church cemetery. The cemetery's oldest tombstone is from 1803.
Today, the church and its stained glass windows are home to the Episcopal congregation on St. Simons. Christ Church is one of St. Simons Island's most treasured landmarks.
Main article: Epworth by the Sea
Epworth by the Sea is a world renown, comprehensive conference and retreat center owned by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church. Accommodating up to 900 persons, Epworth offers a range of motel rooms, family apartments and youth cabins. Auditoriums seat from 300 to 900. Meeting rooms and classrooms have audiovisual equipment. An in-season swimming pool, athletic field, covered basketball courts, tennis courts, bicycle rentals and fishing piers provide sports activities for all ages.
A hospitality ministry serving guests from around the world, Epworth is open to all denominations, state and local agencies, groups and individuals whose goals are consistent with Epworth's purpose, "To provide a Christian place for worship, study and fellowship."
The 100 acre campus is located on Gascoigne Bluff, the one-mile riverbank tract stretching from the causeway bridge to the bend in the Frederica River. More than 200 years after the Revs. John and Charles Wesley labored on St. Simons, South Georgia Methodists agreed that this was the perfect location for a conference and retreat center.
Assisted by influential businessman Alfred W. Jones Sr., president of the Sea Island Company, the Methodists purchased part of the Hamilton Plantation in 1949 and named it Epworth in honor of the Wesley's boyhood home in Epworth, England.
Lovely Lane Chapel, the oldest standing church building on St. Simons hosts Sunday services and is available for weddings. Constructed in 1880, it is named after the site of the 1784 founding conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, Maryland. 100 Arthur J. Moore Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Main article: Fort Frederica National Monument
In the early 1700s, Georgia was the epicenter of a centuries-old conflict between Spain and Britain. In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica to protect his southern boundary. 44 men and 72 women and children arrived to build the fort and town, and by the 1740s Frederica was a thriving village of about 500 citizens. Colonists from England, Scotland, and the Germanic states came to Frederica to support the endeavor. Georgia's fate was decided in 1742 when Spanish and British forces clashed on St. Simons Island. Fort Frederica's troops defeated the Spanish in the Battle of Bloody Marsh, ensuring Georgia's future as a British colony. However, the declining military threat to the Georgia coast saw the Fort's regiment disbanded in 1749. Today, the archeological remnants of Frederica are protected by the National Park Service. 6515 Frederica Road, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Historically, Gascoigne Bluff was the first possible landing area for a ship entering the harbor. The site of an Indian settlement long before the Wesleys landed here with James Oglethorpe, Gascoigne Bluff has been headquarters for a military invasion, a Sea Island cotton plantation, the site of a lumber mill and a shipping point for timber. Live oak timbers milled here in 1794 were used in building "Old Ironsides," the U.S.S. Constitution. In 1874, timbers were cut here for the Brooklyn Bridge.
At Gascoigne Bluff, you can visit the Cassina Garden Club Slave Cabins from the Plantation Era, a Southern Red Cedar tree that is the second largest of its kind in Georgia, a fishing pier, and a stand of live oak trees. Across the Frederica River, you will see three "ballast hammocks", small islands formed from ballast dumped by European ships before taking on cotton or lumber.
The oldest standing Church building on St. Simons Island, Georgia is Lovely Lane Chapel. Formally named St. James Union Chapel, it was built by Norman W. Dodge in 1880. Repaired following a hurricane in 1897, the chapel was deconsecrated in 1911 to be used as a recreation center, and was re-consecrated in 1949 after the Methodist purchased the property. Lovely Lane is named after the site of the 1784 Founding Conference of American Methodism in Baltimore, Maryland.
The chapel is currently open to the public for Sunday Worship Service as well as wedding ceremonies. 100 Arthur J. Moore Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
The Maritime Center makes its home in the Historic Coast Guard Station. Filled with interactive exhibits and galleries, this interesting museum offers an exciting look at coastal Georgia's natural assets, maritime and military history. Explore seven galleries featuring a variety of hands-on exhibits and activities.
The historic U.S. Coast Guard Station at East Beach on St. Simons Island was one of 45 U.S. Coast Guard Stations built around the country by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Work on the East Beach Station began in Fall 1935. It is believed to be one of only three surviving stations from that era.
The station and boathouse had its "First Watch" on April 1, 1937. When the station first opened, the original beachfront was just a few feet from the front door. Today the station is separated from the beach by a large parking lot.
On April 8, 1942, German submarine U-123 sank two merchant ships, the SS Oklahoma and Esso Baton Rouge, off the coast of St. Simons Island. Joined by local residents, the coast guardsmen mounted the rescue.
In 1995, the East Beach Station was decommissioned and all local Coast Guard operations were moved to mainland Brunswick. A brand new Coast Guard Station was completed in 2005, just to the east of the Sidney Lanier Bridge.
4201 1st Street, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Main article: St. Simons Island Light
In 1965, a strong group of 10 citizens formed the Coastal Georgia Historical Society and began to successfully gather support from the community of Glynn County to preserve the early coastal heritage. When the Keeper's Dwelling was threatened with commercial development in 1975, the Society undertook the restoration of this 1872 building. As a result of this work, the dwelling was opened in 1975 as the St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum and has been administered by the Society since that time.
In 1984, the St. Simons Lighthouse was leased by the United States Coast Guard and became part of the museum complex. Today, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum is a recognized and viable part of the rich cultural history of the area. The lighthouse, which still lights the entrance to St. Simons Sound, adds the historical significance of the evolving pre- and post- Civil War navigation. In 2004, the deed to the St. Simons Island Lighthouse was transferred to the Coastal Georgia Historical Society under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. In April 2006, the Maritime Center at the Historic Coast Guard Station opened. 610 Beachview Drive, St. Simons Island, GA 31522
Through sea turtle rehabilitation, research and education programs, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center will increase awareness of habitat and wildlife conservation challenges, promote responsibility for ecosystem health and empower individuals to act locally, regionally, and globally to protect the environment.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a hospital for ill and injured sea turtles. It is the only hospital of its kind in the state of Georgia. The Center is open to the general public and offers an interactive Exhibit Gallery and Rehabilitation Pavilion with a number of viewable sea turtle patients. 214 Stable Road (Corner of Hopkins and Stable Road), Jekyll Island, GA 31527
Main article: Horton House
Major William Horton was granted Jekyll Island by the Trustees of the colony of Georgia in 1738, and he constructed this home in 1743. The Horton House is one of the oldest standing tabby concrete structure exteriors in the state.
Horton was one of General James Oglethorpe's top military aids and was in charge of troops garrisoned at Fort Frederica on nearby St. Simons Island. Horton farmed the island, producing crops to aid with supplying Ft. Frederica. This included hops and barley to produce Georgia's first beer. Eventually, Horton added a warehouse to the site, of which remains still exist. His brewery, whose remains lie just down the road, supplied ale to troops and settlers at Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island. Today, the tabby ruins of Georgia's first brewery have mostly fallen into DuBignon Creek.
The site also includes the cemetery of the DuBignon Family, which owned Jekyll from 1790 to 1886 and occupied the house as their home from 1790 until sometime in the mid-1800s. There you can see the grave of John Eugene DuBignon, who sold Jekyll Island to the Jekyll Island Club in the late 1800s.
The Horton House is one of the oldest buildings in Georgia, and the site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Preservation work on the site was made possible by a Save America's Treasures grant from the National Park Service, and received an Excellence in Preservation award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Horton House historic site is open to the public. North Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527
Main article: Jekyll Island Club
The Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District is one of the largest ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States. The work to preserve the site has resulted in numerous awards and recognitions including Jekyll Island named to the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 12 Distinctive Destinations and receiving the 2008 Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's Marguerite William Award for Preservation.
The Jekyll Island Museum is your port of entry to the extraordinary stories of the Jekyll Island National Historic District and the entirety of Jekyll Island's rich history. At the Jekyll Island Museum you can embark on a journey of discovery, through exhibits, tours and programs that are adventures into a bygone era.
* Southeast Georgia Health System