Come explore Georgia's Golden Isles! These scenic islands, which were once the playgrounds of the super-wealthy, now boast family-centered fun.
Sea Island is the home of The Cloister (800/732-4752), a gracious retreat, offering Southern hospitality to families. You can stay in the main (original) building where many rooms have spectacular ocean views, the River House adjacent to the Black Banks River, home of porpoises and otters, or in a variety of guest and beach houses. Resort activities include horseback riding, Sea Island marsh boat rides, swimming, bicycling, tennis, golf, and kayaking. In the spa, you can work out in the exercise facilities and then relax with a massage.
A Children’s programs exists for kids for 4-12. Activites availible to the younger demographic include swimming, fishing, crabbing, nature walks and arts n’crafts, whereas older kids and teens can participate in pool parties, shopping crabbing parties and dances. Babysitting is also available. Most activities and the plentiful meals are included on the American Plan. Choose from several restaurants ranging from the casual to the formal where women wear cocktail dresses and men dress in dinner jackets. The Cloister’s location on 5 miles of beautiful white sand beach offers you the opportunity to be as active or relaxed as you choose.
St. Simons, adjacent to Sea Island, and accessible by car, boasts many beautiful older homes and estates. One of the nation’s oldest continuing working lighthouses is open to visitors. Also of interest is Fort Frederica, a colonial British fort built by General Oglethorpe, a coastal history museum and fishing pier. Numerous biking trails encircle the island.
Jekyll Island, located south of Sea Island, is now a state park. The historic district is known, not surprisingly, as “Millionaires’ Village.” There are 10 miles of beach offering surf fishing and swimming, and a wildlife refuge. Nature walks, miniature golf, sightseeing cruises and bicycle trails are available. Contact the Jekyll Island Welcome Center (912/635-3636) for more information. The Jekyll Island Club Hotel (912/635-2600), a magnificent resort opened in 1888 as a hunting retreat, was exquisitely restored in 1986. Reservations are suggested for any of the elegant dining options and men must wear jackets to dinner.
Cumberland Island is furthest south in the chain. Cars are not permitted, and a ferry from the very picturesque, old Americana-style town of Saint Mary’s on the mainland in Georgia, transports you to the largest of the Golden Isles, where you will find 8,000 acres of wilderness for exploration. There are hiking trails, dunes and many opportunities for nature study. A maximum of 300 visitors are permitted each day. For more information on the Cumberland Island National Seashore, and reservations for the ferry, call 912/882-4335.
Adventurous families will want to look into joining a sea kayak expedition (including sea-turtle sightings), which are available through Wilderness Southeast. Call them at 912/236-8115 for information on these adventurous trips through the Golden Isles.
Amelia Island Adventures
Amelia Island, Florida, a barrier island off the northeastern tip of Florida, is about a 1½ to 2-hour drive from the Golden Isles of Georgia. The National Register of Historic Places lists many of the Victorian homes in its downtown area, and its magnificent sand beaches front the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway and Nassau Sound. Amelia Island Plantation (888/261-6161) and the Ritz-Carlton Amelia Island (904/277-1100) are two properties offering all the amenities of worldclass resorts.
Day visitors to the island can explore several beautiful beaches such as Fort Clinch State Park(904/277-7274), Main Beach (with a children’s playground) and Peter’s Point Beach Front Park. Sightseeing cruises, sailing and fishing expeditions can be arranged through the Amelia Island Charter Boat Association (904/321-5090).
More relaxing activities include horsedrawn carriage tours of the Ferandina Beach and Old Towne areas – call Old Towne Carriage Company (904/277-1555) for information; and browsing and shopping in numerous delightful shops, particularly on Centre Street. Find Eight Flags Antique Market, open daily, at number 602, (904/277-8550); a co-op art gallery at number 205 and The Unusual Shop located at number 308. Other fun activities in this town include horseback riding and scuba diving.
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