May/Jun 2000

Before You Go
For additional information, contact the Brunswick-Golden Isles Visitors Bureau at 1-800-933-2627 or visit on the Web.
Contact The Cloister at Sea Island by calling 1-800-SEA-ISLAND, or visit on the Web.

Travel Assistance
Visit your nearest AAA service office for maps, TripTiks and TourBook guides.
Order travel materials online or use our online travel research tools.

Go for the gold
The Golden Isles along Georgia’s southeast coast entice with great golf, spectacular scenery, Colonial history and an array of activities

By Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein

Miles of ribbon-smooth beaches can be found on the Golden Isles. /Golden Isles Visitors Bureau photo
More than 400 years ago, Spanish explorers sailed to the coast of Georgia in search of elusive gold. What they discovered instead was glorious weather and astonishingly exquisite natural splendors drenched by the gold of a radiant sun. Today, we know that southeastern coastal area of Georgia as Brunswick and the Golden Isles.

St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island complement the quaint port city of Brunswick, creating a destination that captivates vacationers with its Colonial history, stunning scenery, mild temperatures and recreational opportunities. Look for golfers on the 216 holes of golf that stretch over miles of fairways. Tennis players scamper after their balls on acres of tennis courts. Water enthusiasts can sail, fish, swim or simply stroll along pristine beaches.

A vast array of accommodations, from value-priced family lodgings to one of the world’s most prestigious resorts, makes the area an irresistible destination.


Brunswick, gateway to the Golden Isles, was named for the ancestral home of King George II. This mainland city invokes a British flavor, yet visitors get a taste of the South, too, in this home of the original, world-famous, thick and savory Brunswick Stew.

Visit the Old Town National Register District, where you’ll be charmed by historic Victorian homes, many of which have been converted into welcoming bed-and-breakfast establishments. Stop to admire the Carpenter Gothic architecture of the Mahoney-McGarvey house, the campus of the Glynn Academy and the towering moss-draped trees that surround the courthouse.

An armada of shrimp boats clump along the waterfront. Late afternoons in shrimping season (early June–February) provide great photo opportunities as the shrimpers unload their catches.

Glimpse some scenery and maybe even get lucky aboard the Emerald Princess, which sails on day and evening casino cruises.

Slip out of town (14.7 miles north) to Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation along the banks of the Altamaha River to see a model of a working rice plantation that thrived in the 1800s.

Marshes of Glynn

Most of the Golden Isles can be reached by causeways that stretch across the Marshes of Glynn, one of the most visually exquisite and productive marshlands in the world. The marsh grasses dramatically change color with the seasons from an emerald green in the spring to golden in the winter. The marsh grasses capture the sun’s energy and the river nutrients to sustain an ecosystem that supports Georgia’s multi-million dollar seafood industry.

St. Simons Island

Take the five-mile causeway into St. Simons Island, where you’ll be struck by a profound sense of history. Georgia’s first military outpost, Fort Frederica, was established here in 1736 by Gen. James Oglethorpe. His victory over invading Spanish forces in the Battle of Bloody Marsh shaped the course of Colonial history. Today, visitors can tour Fort Frederica National Monument to see the ruins of the fortifications, barracks and houses, and The Bloody Marsh Memorial site, located six miles south.

Built in 1872, the St. Simons Island Lighthouse continues to guide ships today. /Golden Isles Visitors Bureau photo
The U.S. Coast Guard maintains St. Simons Island Lighthouse as an operational light. Constructed in 1872, the historic landmark continues to guide ships with its blazing beacon. The lightkeeper’s cottage houses the Museum of Coastal History, filled with intriguing artifacts and displays.

The island is dotted with ruins of antebellum cotton and indigo plantations. Colorful tales of happenings are legend. Aaron Burr hid out at the Hampton Plantation after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel. The plantation, originally owned by Capt. James Gasgione, now functions as the site of Epworth by the Sea United Methodist Conference Center. A museum and slave cabins are open to the public. The majestic Avenue of Oaks entrance to the old Retreat Plantation remains as the entry to the exclusive Sea Island Golf Club.

Visitors flock to see Christ Church Sanctuary constructed in 1884. Many of the island’s most notable early settlers are buried in the churchyard cemetery. Most of the major historic sites are included on 90-minute narrated trolley tours.

St. Simons provides a treasure trove of shopping and gallery opportunities. Vacationers relish miles of public beaches, 99 holes of golf, scads of tennis courts and water activities.

Sea Island

Much of the island is residential but most of the activities center around the internationally acclaimed resort, The Cloister at Sea Island. At this plush, subtropical resort, Spanish-Mediterranean buildings punctuate a landscape bursting with colorful flowers and moss-draped giant oaks. Recent additions bring total rooms to 286.

Choice was the key to The Cloister’s enchantment. Fifty-four holes of golf challenged avid players. Tennis buffs filled 18 courts. Energetic bicyclists pedaled around the hotel campus. Other guests availed themselves of beach activities, sailing, fishing, riding stables and the shooting school. Some partook of maximum pampering at the full-service spa. Addicted shoppers explored elegant boutiques and sport shops.

The Cloister is family friendly. Youngsters under 19 stay for free with parents and are charged just for meals. During Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, summer and spring break, supervised programs and activities for youngsters leave parents free to relax and do their own things.

All meals at The Cloister are included. The Beach Club serves casual buffets, including fresh seafood. Casual lunches and dinners could also be had at the Sea Island Golf Club or St. Simons Island Club. A more formal atmosphere prevails in the Main Dining Room, where jackets and ties are required of gentlemen at dinner.

Rates (per person/per day) range from $144 to $850 depending on the season, and packages are available.

Jekyll Island

A group of wealthy families purchased Jekyll Island as a private retreat in 1886. The Jekyll Island Club membership, at one time, represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth, not surprising when the members included William Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer and George Gould. But the club closed in 1942, and Georgia purchased the island in 1947.

Take the Jekyll Causeway to this southernmost of the Golden Isles. Head straight for their Welcome Center to view a video detailing the island’s history. Purchase tickets for tram tours of the historic district to see many of the renovated club structures and cottages. The original clubhouse has been painstakingly restored with all its turn-of-the-century grandeur into the Three-Diamond Jekyll Island Club Hotel.

Visitors head for the beautiful white-sand beaches. Golfers have 63 holes to tackle. Two tennis complexes offer indoor and outdoor courts. Water worshippers partake of their usual favorites, including a water fun park. Seasonal musical events take place in an outdoor amphitheater.

Little St. Simons Island

If you’ve ever wanted to step right off the edge of the earth onto a reclusive private retreat, this is the place. The privately owned Little St. Simons Island, originally bought by Philip Berolzheimer as a source for red cedar to use in manufacturing pencils, allows a limited number of guests (30) to enjoy the seclusion at The Lodge.

Walk out from the elegantly rustic lodgings onto a seven-mile stretch of secluded beach. Interpretive nature and wildlife tours enhance the exploration of the island’s natural wonders. Horseback riding, canoeing, bicycling, beach picnics and fishing allow visitors to experience Mother Nature at her finest.

The only way to get to this hideaway is by water. Scheduled boats depart from the Hampton River Club Marina on the northern tip of St. Simons Island. Per diem rates go up to $550 (based on double occupancy), but all meals, activities and accommodations are included.

Visit Brunswick and the Golden Isles for the near-perfect weather, an insight into Colonial history, the natural splendors and the infinite recreational diversions. You’ll feel like you discovered gold.

Cynthia Kagan Frohlichstein is a contributor from St. Louis, Mo.

^ to top | previous page

Contents may not be reproduced in whole or in part unless expressly authorized in writing by AAA Traveler Magazines.