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.
A few images on the grounds of Christ Church on St. Simons Island:
Our next stop is Savannah.