Georgia's Best Coastal Towns

Tybee Island, Georgia
Photo: Taylor Glenn/Redux

Home to mountains and lakes, rivers and lush forests, Georgia is a dream destination for anyone who enjoys spending time in the great outdoors. One of the state's best natural features is its impressive coastline. With 110 miles of Atlantic shoreline, plus 15 barrier islands (four of which can be reached by car), the Peach State boasts an abundance of quaint coastal towns perfect for your next weekend getaway. From the majestic marshes of Jekyll Island to the wild dunes of Sapelo Island to the historic lighthouses of Tybee Island, there's something special to see no matter where your travels take you. Here are nine of Georgia's best coastal towns. Looking for a way to extend your stay? How about a road trip encompassing a few of your favorites from this list?

01 of 09

Tybee Island

Tybee Island, GA
Photo: Imke Lass

Just 20 minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown Savannah, Tybee Island's five miles of pristine sand beaches have beckoned vacationers since the late 1800s. First-time visitors should make stops at Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse and the North Beach Birding Trail. For a bit of local flavor, order the Seafood Sampler Platter at Crab Shack or a hand-dipped ice cream cone at longtime favorite The Sugar Shack.

02 of 09

St. Simons Island

Christ Church, Frederica on St. Simons Island
Peter Frank Edwards

One of Georgia's largest barrier islands, St. Simons Island is known for its huge variety of things to do. In addition to typical water activities like fishing, swimming, and kayaking, there's also plenty to explore in town, including art and antique shops, farmer's markets, wine tastings, live music, and great restaurants. The Pier Village downtown is a great place to spend an afternoon shopping, strolling, and sipping. Learn more about the island's history at Fort Frederica National Monument, the WWII museum, and the historic St. Simons Island Lighthouse.

03 of 09

Sea Island

The Cloister (Sea Island, GA)
Peter Frank Edwards

For a luxurious coastal getaway, Sea Island and its crowned jewel The Cloister is your spot. The resort offers four Forbes Five-Star experiences, including a spa, the Georgian Room restaurant, and two options on where to stay: a classic hotel experience at The Cloister or a boutique resort experience at The Lodge. The giant compound has everything you need for a relaxing vacation, including three pools, a private beach, and seven dining venues.

04 of 09

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island
Thierry Hennet/Getty Images

In a former life, Jekyll Island was the preferred winter retreat for some of America's wealthiest families, including the Rockefellers, Pulitzers, and Vanderbilts. Today, it's an everyman's beachside destination with a big focus on environmental education. Head to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to see the endangered species up close. At Tidelands Nature Center, explore marshes, beaches, and maritime forests. Kayak tours of the island's many tidal creeks are also available. Round out your trip with a visit to iconic Driftwood Beach to see giant weathered trees preserved by the salty air.

05 of 09

Cumberland Island

Greyfield Inn
Wynn Myers

Accessible only via ferry from St. Marys, this largely undeveloped island is a welcome retreat for anyone looking for peace and quiet. If you prefer to be pampered, consider the Greyfield Inn, a bed and breakfast that once was the home of Thomas and Lucy Carnegie's daughter. If you've got an adventurous spirit, become one with nature by camping at Cumberland Island National Seashore. The campgrounds offer restroom facilities, showers, and several boardwalks to the beach. No matter where you choose to stay, all should visit Dungeness ruins, a massive estate built by the Carnegies in 1884 that burned down in the 1950s. Today, wild horses and other island wildlife roam the grounds right on the beach.

06 of 09


brunswick house
@kelliboydphotography @lavinlabel

Mainland sister city to the Golden Isles, Brunswick is your quintessential port town. Laid out in a grid system similar to Savannah, it's easy to explore this historic hamlet. Start at Historic Downtown Brunswick, also known as Old Town Brunswick, where an ongoing project to restore historic buildings is well underway. Be sure to check out the distinctive clock tower at Old City Hall and the Ritz Theatre. The town is also known for its fishing and shrimping industry. You can try your hand at the later on the Lady Jane, the only shrimp vessel on the east coast certified to carry 49 passengers offshore. After a 2-hour cruise, you'll get to indulge in your catch at a giant shrimp boil. And of course, you can't go to Brunswick without trying a bowl of its signature stew.

07 of 09

St. Marys

St. Marys
Courtesy of Explore Georgia

Often referred to as the Gateway to Cumberland Island, St. Marys is a destination in its own right. Spend some time exploring the shops, restaurants, and attractions in this historic coastal town. Then head to Crook River State Park to take full advantage of the Intracoastal Waterway and lush maritime forests. Visitors can choose their own adventure with an afternoon spent hiking, biking, fishing, or kayaking. Be sure to look out for all shapes and sizes of coastal wildlife, from fiddler crabs and herons to gopher tortoises. Rent one of 11 cottages or reserve a campsite if you'd like to stay the night.

08 of 09


Day 2: Explore Darien
Photo: Chris M. Rogers

This tiny coastal town wedged between Savannah and Brunswick was once a thriving port. Today Darien sparkles for its beautiful scenery, expansive waterfront park, and charming historic district. As the second oldest planned city in Georgia and the first to hold a fort, there's plenty of history in Darien. Don't miss the Fort King George State Historic Site and the Old Jail Arts Center and Museum. Part of the Coastal Birding Trail, Darien is a great place to see almost 75% of the total bird species in Georgia. And with an abundance of rivers and access to the ocean, Darien is also an angler's paradise.

09 of 09

Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island
lauradyoung/Getty Images

Accessible only by ferry, this barrier island holds one of the most pristine, unspoiled stretches of beach of any of Georgia's coastal towns. Walk among the natural sea dunes at Nanny Goat Beach while you comb the shore for shells and other sea life like starfish and sand dollars. Don't leave the island without learning more about its Gullah Geechee community at Hog Hammock and paying a visit to the picturesque Sapelo Island Lighthouse with its iconic red-and-white stripes.

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