Mesmerizing Trees, a Bit of History, and Wonderful Friends ~ Golden Isles, GA

It seemed strange to leave Florida after spending the entire winter here but we have so much more of this beautiful country to see so northward we head. Crossing the state line into Georgia we felt winter’s final vestiges as a blustery, rainy day greeted us at Coastal Georgia RV Resort in Brunswick.  Given the forecast it seems our time here is destined to include wind, overcast days and cold.  We have been spoiled by southern Florida’s dreamy winter weather so we can endure a bit of cold.

We are exploring the Golden Isles of Georgia for the next few days, in the southern part of Georgia’s scenic coastline.  The four barrier islands of St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and the mainland of historic Brunswick join together to form the Golden Isles.  Alluring marshland, sandy beaches, and maritime forests create a land of serene, natural beauty.  Historic landmarks, museums and art galleries provide the back story and legacy for the area.  And the southern charm and hospitality found around every turn cannot be beat.

Jekyll Island offers visitors a tranquil setting thanks to a strict conservation clause that limits development to only 35% of its land and with only 220 residents occupying the northern part of the island, much of Jekyll Island will always retain its natural wildness.  On a calm, chilly morning we biked the island before the winds gathered steam later in the day, passing under live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, crossing boardwalks spanning marshes, and through pine-scented forests.

One of our favorite stops on Jekyll Island was Driftwood Beach, a mesmerizing, haunting stretch of beach that looks like a tree graveyard due to slow erosion of the northern end of the beach being deposited on the south end of the island.

Jekyll Island has long been appreciated for its landmark historic district.  Built in 1886, the Victorian Inn known as the Jekyll Island Club Hotel is the focal point of the historic district and many of the surrounding “cottages”, which can be toured, add to the opulence.

Once a private club for some of America’s wealthiest, with member names such as Morgan, Rockefeller, Pulitzer, and Vanderbilt, Jekyll Island Club Hotel is now one of Georgia’s top resorts, open to the public.  On the day we visited there were three couples playing croquet on the lawn, dressed all in white.  It felt like stepping back into the 1900’s.

St. Simons Island, the largest of the barrier islands, lies across the salt marshes which were celebrated in the poem Marshes of Glynn written by renowned Georgia native and poet Sidney Lanier.  Majestic live oaks draped with Spanish moss line many of the streets on this beautiful island, framing the lovely properties beyond, some steeped in history.

We headed to the Visitor Center to get some information and I hoped to get a map of the mysterious Tree Spirits I had read so much about.  It seems that local artist Keith Jennings began carving soulful faces into St. Simons Island live oak trees in 1982 and to date has created 20 of these works of art.  Jennings says he works with the tree’s soul and as the wood speaks to him the face begins to develop and peers back at him.  They are so popular they even have their own Facebook page.

Surprisingly, there were no maps available for the location of these tree spirits, at least none that the Visitor Center employee was aware of, although she did have a vague idea of where we could find a few of these unique carvings.  So with cryptic notes in hand, I headed out with a skeptical husband in tow.  To say Terry was less than excited about this scavenger hunt was an understatement, given the traffic and cold, windy day, but he knew I was determined to find at least one.  We found four before I felt I was pushing hubby’s patience button, with directions like “go to Redfern Village and find Gnat’s Landing.  There is a tree nearby that has a tree spirit carving”.

Each we found were wonderful discoveries, the weathered faces working well with the drooping, moss-covered branches to create haunting, contemplative features.

The trees on these barrier islands never failed to enchant us and seemed to be a recurring theme during our visit.  The Avenue of the Oaks was our next stop, a must-see in our opinion.  Once the entrance to Retreat Plantation, known for its superior sea island cotton and sweeping flower gardens, this double row of 188 year-old live oaks now grace the entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club.

This short trip to the Golden Isles was made more special by a visit from our good friends Stan and Marilyn.  We enjoyed revisiting Jekyll Island with them and sharing a yummy meal at Southern Soul Barbeque on St. Simons Island. Visits with them are guaranteed to leave our sides aching from laughter and bring tearful goodbyes as we part.   We can’t thank them enough for taking the time to come our direction during their recent travels.

Good friends Stan & Marilyn on Driftwood Beach.
Good friends Stan & Marilyn on Driftwood Beach.

A few images on the grounds of Christ Church on St. Simons Island:

Our next stop is Savannah.

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67 thoughts on “Mesmerizing Trees, a Bit of History, and Wonderful Friends ~ Golden Isles, GA

  • What a great post, LuAnn. Those trees are beautiful, and the carvings were so special. I like that you add links and information, to better inform and delight us. I’m glad you were able to see so much, regardless of the weather. Of course, I enjoy your usual NP type photos. I am anxious to see what you have to show us of Savannah. Happy trails!

  • Wonderful photos bringing me lots of good memories. I did not know about those tree spirits and you found them! And if you are still there the Brisket at Gary Lee’s Market is excellent. It’s just down the road from your park.
    We also have lots of rain here in AL and severe storms just passed by and could be heading your way.

    • Thanks MonaLiza. I thought you might not have known about them or you would probably have been on the hunt. 🙂 We went to Gary Lee’s but they were closed and then our friends came in and time ran out. We are now in Savannah and are expecting some severe weather today and it rained throughout the night. I’m ok with the rain. It’s the wind and the hail and the possibility of a tornado that makes me a bit jumpy. Hope the bad weather is beyond you.

  • We’ve never been to this area. Now I am thinking we need to visit. I would love to see Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island. There is something about driftwood. That photo with the lawn croquet and the white outfits is definitely a step in the past.

    St. Simons Island looks delightful. There is a Google map marking each of the Tree Spirits. I wished you had found that. The four you found are great! I can just imagine that I would get the very same reaction from John on this search!!

    The Avenue of the Oaks is gorgeous. The grass sure is green.

    How nice of your friends to come and spend some time with you:)

    Have fun in Savannah! We really enjoyed it.

    • If you like driftwood, you would love Driftwood Beach Pam. It is like nothing I have ever seen before.

      As for the tree spirits, I did see a Google map for them, but except for a couple, I did not even see any cryptic notes for where they were. Now that you mention it, I probably could have used my phone and perhaps the app could have guided me to them. Terry would have probably appreciated it. 😉

      Since the Avenue of the Oaks is now on a private golf course, the lawn is very well maintained and definitely very green.

      Having our friends here was wonderful. Are you two still in Cortez?

  • Such a wonderful post of some wonderful islands. We only saw Tybee Island in 2007 and I had hoped to get there this year, but after too much time in Florida, we had to short circuit our Georgia plans. sigh. Hopefully we can get back to explore more of Georgia. I have pinned your post so I don’t forget it!

    • We plan to visit Tybee Island during our stay in Savannah. I would definitely recommend St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island if you are through this way again. 🙂

  • You almost convince me that black and white conversion actually has a place with your driftwood shot. Perhaps you’ll make a convert of me yet. 😉

    • I know very little about black and white photography Gunta but I thought it might be interesting, even more so if I knew what I was doing. 😉

  • Each time you do a story, it amazes us that you can always come up with original comments, no matter the weather or the situation. Amazing sales ability that always intrigues us here at San Elijo. We are sure
    you could sell the proverbial icebox to an Eskimo, as the saying goes, LuAnn. Keep up the good stories, we really enjoy them.

    • I’m not sure of my sales abilities, although a good part of my career was spent there. I try to find something wonderful about each place we visit, as I did when I moved around when I worked. That is not too difficult to do around the Golden Isles. 🙂

  • What a gorgeous post, LuAnn! This is an area we know little about, but now really want to visit. The tree spirits are beautiful, I would be searching for them too. 😉 It makes everything richer to share these special moments with friends, doesn’t it?

    • Yes it does Laurel. The tree spirits were such fun and if I had had more time and the weather was better, I would have wanted to search for more. Terry was happy to stop at four. 😉 Jekyll and St Stimons are wonderful islands to visit.

  • How beautiful! So wonderful to hear that Jekyll Island will always retain its natural wildness. The Spanish moss is graceful 🙂 Love to read about the beautiful city of Savannah 🙂

  • We have heard a lot about Jekyll Island but sounds like there is even more to discover nearby. I love how I always feel like I have been there after reading your posts. Thanks Lu.

  • Gosh so much you’ve seen Lu Ann …
    I’d have job to leave that Driftwood Beach ! How the other half live @ Jekyll Park Hotel then Lol

  • Love the photo of the ‘Avenue of the Oaks’. The moss hanging from the trees reminds me of a Scooby Do cartoon. Looks like interesting country but I don’t miss the humidity or weather in the east. We’ll be experiencing enough volatile weather in Utah. Safe travels and can’t wait to hear all about Savannah. Say hi to Paula 🙂

  • Great photos, LuAnn. I’m so glad you persevered and found those tree spirits. They’re really awesome! Driftwood Beach looks really spooky, but so photogenic. What a great adventure you’re both having. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Beautiful!! I love the big trees dripping with spanish moss. Always makes me think of the entrance to the Boone Plantation outside of Charleston, SC. Thanks for this wonderful description of the Georgia isles…… adding this to my “after hub retires” list!!

  • Just put all this on my Pinterest of places to visit. Since Paul does carvings and once did awesome huge tree spirits, he definitely wants to visit this place.

    I wish I knew you were going to Savannah. Did you happen to read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” ? It is a true story that takes place in Savannah. Great book. Be sure to visit Ten Pence Pub. It is along the trolley route. It is famous from the movie “Something About Nothing” with Julia Roberts. Neat place. Also, Bonaventure Cemetery is awesome. We loved Savannah…can you tell?

    • I had forgotten that Paul does carvings. He would love this place. I wanted to see all of them and I guess some of them are on private properties but there are a whole lot more to see and I believe another artist has also started doing some tree carvings in the area.

      We are in Savannah for a few more days yet so thank you for the tips. We did read the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and enjoyed it. We will be sure to visit the Ten Pence Pub and we planned to visit Bonaventure Cemetery. So much to do, so little time! 🙂

  • Oh my….can you believe I was born and lived in Georgia until we hit the road in 2011 and I have never even been to Jekyll Island! Your photographs, as always, capture how beautiful that part of Georgia is. Thanks for sharing….I do think Joe and I need to plan a trip to the GA coast. We loved Savannah….enjoy! And I can’t wait for more photographs!

    • I believe many of us tend to not visit some of the areas right under our noses while growing up or still in the work force. Our mindset was different back then. Now we seem wide-eyed and anxious to see all the beauty in this country. We lived in Atlanta twice during our careers and I never saw very much of GA. We are glad to have this time to explore.

  • Great details about this visit. I am very intrigued with the tree spirits. I picked one up that an artist in Kalispell Montana had done in clay. It hangs on my office wall so I can speak to him daily.
    Now I just HAVE to go speak with the Granddaddys in Georgia! These destinations are now on my list when we get to that area.

    • I would have loved to see that artist’s work in Kalispell. We will most likely be in the area next year so I will keep it in mind. I would highly recommend checking out the tree spirits in GA. 🙂

  • As usual, great photos LuAnn. It’s always fun to see your home through someone else’s eyes. BTW, we wrote a few posts on the tree spirits, and not to name drop, but Keith Jennings put our posts on his Facebook page. I think that we found 13-15 of the spirits. It was a great excuse to explore the island. If you haven’t seen our posts, just search “tree spirits” on our blog. ~James

    • Thanks James and I did see your posts. I made certain to read them before we took off on our search. It was rather cold and windy that day so it was not high on Terry’s list but I love a scavenger hunt and would have liked to find more. I saw Keith Jenning’s FB page as well. They are so cool! 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this post. I love the Golden Isles of Georgia and you captured Jekyll and St. Simons beautifully with your pictures and words. Enjoy Savannah – the azaleas are beautiful right now. Bonaventure Cemetary is worth a trip.

  • There really something so mesmerizing with conspicuous and even barren trees. You captured them very well, Lu. And tree carves hunting and then a driftwood beach, I would be so up for it. Looks really really cool. The only ones I’ve seen are those craving He loves Her inside a heart. 😀 Loving the oaks as well esp. of the Golf Club. I’ve been dying to come across those in one of my destinations.

  • Did you hang around to see what Jekyll Island looked like when it changed to Hyde Island or is that a treat you are saving up for another blog post…I bet it is you tease!

    I love your capturing of (the always beautiful) nature and the different aspects of it from the sinister to the delightful. Your photos are some of my favourites on any blog and I read at least two others.

    • I think that occurs at Driftwood Beach. Should probably have gone there at night. Seriously, the sunsets are supposed to be quite lovely there but never made it back for any.

      Thank you for the compliment my friend! 🙂

  • They are awesome LuAnn. I love those god trees. They make me think of Game of Thrones. I love the way the trees are and the scenery is breathtaking

  • The tree spirits are fantastic!! I love the avenue of tees as well and the driftwood beach. What a grand time Terri and you are having LuAnn Look forward to more from Georgia.

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