8 ways to explore the wild Georgia coast
Georgia's 100-mile coastline boasts a third of the salt marshes found on the eastern seaboard and a string of undeveloped barrier islands. Here are some tips on how to explore these wild and rich landscapes.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 - 21:53
Wedged in between Florida and South Carolina, Georgia only gets a share of about a hundred miles of the Atlantic coastline, but these hundred miles are rich in diversity, natural landscapes, and undeveloped beaches. Of Georgia's 14 major barrier islands, only four can be reached by car, leaving most of the coastline protected and enjoyed by only a small group. So, leave your wheels behind and become one of those few.
What better way to explore islands only reachable by boat, than on a boat? This retired and renovated wooden shrimper holds a piece of coastal Georgia's history, but plays toward her side of adventure. With a full galley and overnight accommodations for up to six guests onboard, the Captain Gabby is the ideal way to explore the coast. Launch kayaks from the swim platform on the back, paddle the tidal creeks, stroll deserted beaches, catch your dinner, gaze at the night sky from the rooftop deck, and let the gentle waves rock you to sleep. Docked in the historic city of Darien, the Capt. Gabby can easily explore the surrounding marshes, the Altamaha River, and nearby barrier islands.
Little Tybee Island
Contrary to its name, Little Tybee is actually larger than its neighbor Tybee Island (which is easily accessible by car, just outside of Savannah). Little Tybee Island is managed by the Department of Natural Resources as a wilderness preserve, and can only be reached by boat. The island is open to the public and allows overnight camping. Charter a boat from a local marina, or time the tides right to paddle over to the island.
Wassaw Island is part of the Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1969. Again, this island is only accessible by boat, but is open to the public during daylight hours. With a network of 20 miles of dirt roads and trails, there is plenty to explore. In places, Wassaw's beach is moving backwards, resulting in a beautiful "boneyard" of salt- and sun-bleached trees.
Savannah Canoe and Kayak
Not sure you are ready to take off to explore the wild islands on your own? Join an adventure with Savannah Canoe and Kayak. They offer instruction, half-day trips, full day trips, and overnight camping trips. Owners Nigel and Kristin Law have paddled many parts of the world, and ended up on the Georgia Coast for one reason: the paddling!
Little St. Simons Island
If you want to be a little less rugged than sleeping on the ground, Little St. Simons Island offers all-inclusive rustic luxury accommodations for up to 32 guests. This 10,000 acre private island is home to one of the few virgin maritime forests on the Georgia coast, and with its seven miles of undeveloped beaches, it is a vital part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network, and also designated an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International. A 15-minute private ferry ride from the north end of St. Simons Island to the lodge commences the adventures.
Based out of Brunswick and St. Simons Island, this skilled and fun-loving group of guides can get you onto the water on anything from a paddle board to a pontoon boat. With the belief that "Coastal Georgia has a huge trail system ... it's just all wet," SouthEast Adventure has been trailblazing trips through the Golden Isles' marshes, tidal creeks, rivers, and among its barrier islands since 1994. Their passion for exploration and getting folks out on the water is hard to hide.
Cumberland Island National Seashore
The largest of most southerly of the Georgia barrier islands, Cumberland Island is a unique blend of history, culture, and wild spaces. Feral horses roam free. Dunes tower into the sky. Live oaks stretch their branches in all directions. The island is shared by the National Park Service and handful of private properties, but visitors can gain access via the Park's ferry service which departs from St. Marys, Ga. Explore for a day, or camp overnight in one of four primitive backcountry sites or the more popular Sea Camp campground conveniently located near the beach and restroom facilities.
Greyfield Inn, Cumberland Island
Experience Cumberland Island in a more luxurious way and take part in the legacy of the Carnegie family in a mansion built at the turn of the 20th century. From Greyfield Inn, explore the island on bikes, enjoy the beach, or take a tour with Greyfield's naturalist.
Whatever your speed or your style, Georgia's coast is loaded with hidden gems. Step into a boat and travel back in time, into the wild.
Capt. Gabby, Savannah, SouthEast: Cindy Dennard
Little Tybee: Bill and Sylvia/Flickr
Little St. Simons: Britt Brown
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