1. Turtle Patrols
It’s no secret that, in the Golden Isles, we love our sea turtles. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island offers dozens of ways to get up close and personal with the lovable reptiles. One way is by taking part in one of the nonprofit’s Turtle Walks or Nest Walks. During nighttime or morning trips, naturalists walk participants down beaches in search of nesting mother turtles. The evening turtle walks, held throughout July, are open to those 18 and over.
2. Movie Nights
There’s magic in movies, but have you ever seen a movie while floating in an inner tube? You might just get the chance this summer when Summer Waves, the waterpark on Jekyll Island, stays open late for swim-in movie showings of family fun films relating to water. “The Little Mermaid” is set for July 1 at 8:30 p.m. If dry land is more your thing, that’s ok, too. Movies on the Green, hosted by the Jekyll Island Authority, plays free movies on the grassy space in the center of the Beach Village, with a showing of “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” slated for 8:30 p.m. on July 28 and “Frozen” at 8 p.m. on August 25.
And while the Glynn Place Mall in Brunswick boasts a fancy new GTX theater, there are other unique ways to take in some old school flicks, too. For instance, the historic Ritz Theatre, operated by Golden Isles Arts and Humanities, offers Cinema Gourmet showing classics paired with a discussion and dinner from local favorite Indigo Coastal Shanty. It runs from the fall to spring. But the Ritz is not the only spot to find oldies but goodies — the Georgia Theater Co. offers Flashback Cinema, featuring the likes of “Gone with the Wind” for a modern-day crowd. The program runs from spring to summer.
3. Cruising By
Living on the coast means finding fun ways to get on the water. While there are plenty of options, few can beat a good ol’ wine cruise. Waterfront Wine and Gourmet in Darien offers both onshore tastings as well as trips around the picturesque rivers and tributaries around the area. Ticket prices include different wines and hors d’oeuvres.
Other vendors offer cruises to other locations. Undoubtedly, the most recognizable boat in the area is a biggie — the Emerald Princess II. The multi-story casino ship shoves off daily from Gisco Point, under the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick. It takes passengers out to international waters, where players have a chance to try their luck at a variety of games. For those who just want to enjoy the ride, a bar and a sun-drenched top deck can offer an uber-relaxing option.
4. Time Travelers
The Golden Isles are rich in history — from Jekyll to Brunswick and St. Simons Island — and every acre is sprinkled with fingerprints of the past. Three of the area’s most iconic landmarks stand as silent witnesses of days gone by, and all have been touched by conflicts that have defined our country.
Fort King George in Darien, for instance, was first established in 1721, serving as the southern outpost of the British Empire in the New World. Soldiers there weathered harsh conditions, fending off threats from the Spanish and Native Americans. Today, a reconstruction of the barracks can be found on the historic site, which showcases what life was like for these early settlers.
On St. Simons Island, one finds a similar site. Fort Frederica, located on the north end of the island, once served as a home for British soldiers also serving General James Oglethorpe in the 1700s. Some ruins of that 1736 encampment can still be seen today with archaeological digs still underway.
Over on the south end of the island, another local icon — the St. Simons lighthouse — stands tall next to the Keeper’s Dwelling, both maintained by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society. First erected in 1810, the lighthouse has guided countless sailors safely to shore. Of course, it also withstood tribulations, such as being burned by the fleeing Confederate Army as Union soldiers approached in 1861. Today, visitors can scale all 172 stairs of the rebuilt structure to get a breathtaking panoramic view of the Isles.
5. Shark Tooth Hunts
Go on the search for fossilized sharks teeth, which can be found in a few low-key places around the Golden Isles. Cumberland Island is known for being a spot to find sharks teeth along its shores. Teeth can also be found near the Sidney Lanier Bridge and on some Jekyll Island beaches.
6. Holiday Celebrations
Whether you are ready to celebrate July Fourth or it’s time to plan your Labor Day weekend, there will be plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays here along the coast.
A special treat for vacationers and residents each year is the over-the-top firework displays during Independence Day celebrations. If you are in downtown Brunswick, head over to Mary Ross Waterfront Park for the festivities that include a display that lights up the night sky. On St. Simons, the place to be is on the south end of the island, where the Pier Village will be taken over by gazers for the evening spectacle that shoots off from the pier. If you find a spot on the beach, you can turn around to catch Sea Island’s display, too. And new this year, Jekyll Island will be lighting off their firework display a day early on July 3.
Celebrate the end of summer during Labor Day weekend with a variety of activities. Sea Island’s Southern Grown festival returns for the fourth year with concert headliner NEEDTOBREATHE ready to sway the night away at Rainbow Island for the Saturday evening concert during the multi-day festival. The Little Light Music Series will also conclude that weekend with a performance by the Sensational Sounds of Motown on Sunday. And for those on the hunt for a good find, swing by the Pier Village for the St. Simons Island Antique Show that will feature vendors and sellers with their wares on Saturday and Sunday.
7. Paddle & Stretch
There are lots of ways to get in your exercise outdoors this summer. With each lunar cycle, Omcore Yoga and Body hosts a full moon beach yoga session at Coast Guard Station. All levels are invited and donations to local causes are accepted rather than payment for these dusky excursions.
Wanting a more full-body experience while taking in the sites? Try your hand at paddleboarding or kayaking. Kingfisher Paddleventures’ owner Norm Leonard often includes ecological and historical tidbits in his tours. Turtle Tides Paddleboard and Kayaks, in the Pier Village, also offers tours and rentals, as does South-East Adventure Outfitters, in its Pier Village spot.
8. Beach Bliss
Tourists and residents can find solace in the simplicity of a summer beach day. Pack a bag, grab a chair, and drive out to one of the area’s many beautiful beaches.
On St. Simons, beach accesses are located at Massengale Park, the Coast Guard Station, and Gould’s Inlet. Just remember that the tides can affect how much beach there is, especially if you prefer the south end beaches near Myrtle Street.
On Jekyll Island, beach goers can head out to Great Dunes Park, located in the middle of the island and Jekyll’s biggest beach, or they can sit among the famously picturesque gnarled branches on Driftwood Beach on the north end.
On the southern side of the island, St. Andrews Beach and Glory Beach both offer relaxing spots to park a chair and enjoy the sound of the waves.
9. Fresh Catch
There are quite a few places to turn to when you are ready to cook up some of the Isles’ freshest catches.
Frank Owens with City Market not only supplies local restaurants, but also the public with his downtown Brunswick store on Gloucester Street. Owens can be found hoisting in fish, shrimp, and oysters as he carries on the family business that was first started by his great-grandfather in 1948.
Poteet Seafood Company in Brunswick also has been packing Wild Georgia Shrimp for more than three decades. The operation, owned by shrimp boat captain John Wallace, includes a packing facility as well as a public market that carries various seafood including scallops, crab, clams, spices, and more.
10. Festival Time
Venture outdoors this summer to enjoy some sweet sounds of music by the sea. The Little Light Music Concerts series has returned this summer to St. Simons Island. The concerts take place once a month on Sunday evenings on the oceanfront lawn beneath the St. Simons Lighthouse. Participants are encouraged to bring picnics and lawn chairs.
There’s also Sounds by the Sea, run by Golden Isles Arts and Humanities. These summer concerts are held at Neptune Park from May to September, and attendees are invited to bring picnic blankets and chairs. The season includes Annie Akins on July 22, Maggie and Jackson on August 26, and Gwen Hughes and the Kats on September 23.
The annual Sunshine Festival will also take place on St. Simons from July 4 to July 7 at the St. Simons pier. The multi-day festival provides an Independence Day celebration that will include an arts & crafts show, a 5K race, and fireworks.
11. Sweet Stroll
Cater to that sweet tooth this summer when you take an afternoon stroll by the St. Simons pier or the Jekyll Beach Village.
Frozen yogurt flavors, Italian gelato, and sorbets are just a few scoops away at the pier location of Fuse, which also has locations mid-island and on Jekyll. Tasty pairings such as cherry pie, early grey tea, and more dazzle the taste buds at Moo Cow Ice Cream, just a hop and skip from the pier village, too.
If you are wanting something more than ice cream, the iconic St. Simons Sweets, also located in the Pier Village, sells a variety of delicacies, from cookies to chocolate and more. Across the street, Sunset Slush will be serving up Italian Ice all summer.
Just across the St. Simons Sound, Island Sweets Shoppe in Jekyll Island’s historic district offers old-fashioned candies along with ice cream, fudge, pralines, and more.
Source: Golden Isles: The Magazine for Brunswick, St Simons Island. Jekyll, & Sea Island.