The Georgia coastline is one of the most unique in the United States. Stretching for more than 100 miles along the coast, visitors will find the best beaches on the state’s 14 barrier islands. Four of those islands are also known as the Golden Isles or the Sea Islands. These islands are a source of protection for the mainland from gusty ocean winds and water erosion.
A road trip to Georgia beaches will take you from Savannah and Tybee Island in the north to Brunswick and Cumberland Island in the south. Visitors will love these islands with maritime forests and white sandy beaches with far fewer crowds than nearby Florida beaches. Four of the islands can be reached by car and the rest only by boat. Many of these islands have areas protected from development so guests will find pristine, isolated, beaches in their natural state.
Here is my list of the top beaches in Georgia.
1. Cumberland Island National Seashore
This is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever been to. Cumberland Island National Seashore has 17 miles of pristine, undeveloped beach. As far as the eye can see, it is just white sand, the blue water of the Atlantic Ocean, and sand dunes with sea oats waving in the breeze. This is such a rare experience to visit an area untouched by man.
Planning is key to enjoying a day on this island. Catch a passenger ferry from historic St. Marys to the island where you will be walking or biking during your visit. It is about a half-mile hike across the island to the beach from the dock. Take a walk around the island and see the ruins of Dungeness (a Carnegie mansion), explore the maritime forest, and discover other historic buildings. You may even see some of the wild horses that inhabit the island.
Pro Tip: If you wish to linger on the island, book a stay at the Greyfield Inn. It was built in 1900 for the Carnegie’s daughter, Margaret, and is now an inn. It is still owned by the Carnegie family.
2. North Beach
This is the beach popular with locals from Savannah. When I lived in Savannah, you would often find me lounging in a chair on the quieter North Beach with calmer water. Park near the historic Tybee Island Lighthouse and — in addition to beach combing — you can explore the lighthouse and the Tybee Island Museum, which is housed in an 1899 Coastal Artillery Battery and highlights the history of the island and Fort Screven.
Pro Tip: Eat at the Crab Shack after a day at the beach. This Tybee Island institution is a rustic outdoor dining experience dishing up fresh, Georgia Seafood. Visitors can also feed the alligators in the Gator Lagoon.
3. Driftwood Beach
Taking the third spot on Tripadvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards 2023 for the best beaches in the United States, and snagging the twelfth spot for best beaches in the world, Driftwood Beach lives up to the hype. With its sun-bleached driftwood and gnarled 500-year-old trees, it is easy to see why it is the most photographed beach in Georgia. It is a fascinating place to wander and linger in the ever-changing scenery. Jekyll Island has 10 miles of beaches, each with a different vibe. State law prohibits the development of 65 percent of the island, so you’ll find much less traffic and congestion than on nearby St. Simons Island.
Unique to Jekyll Island is the 240-acre Jekyll Island Club National Historic District with 34 historic buildings. It was once the playground and exclusive winter retreat for the Gilded Age elite. A variety of luxurious accommodations are available at the Jekyll Island Club Resort.
Pro Tip: Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to learn more about these fascinating animals. They lay their eggs on Georgia’s barrier islands. At certain times of the year, visitors can watch them hatch and make their way to the ocean.
4. Coast Guard Station Beach
St. Simons Island
The most popular beach on St. Simons Island is Coast Guard Station Beach, which is also known as First Street Beach Access. This is the widest section of beach on St. Simons Island and it has the most parking. It’s perfect for day trips due to the Coast Guard Bathhouse facility on site with showers, restrooms, and covered picnic tables. It also has a wheelchair mat for getting closer to the water.
This beach is relatively undeveloped with undisturbed natural beauty. Plan to visit at low tide to see the sand bars and tidal pools. Kitesurfing is popular here and you may even see dolphins that frequent the area. Another historic site worth visiting is Fort Frederica National Monument. Enjoy exploring the ruins before heading out on a hike through a maritime forest.
Pro Tip: Make sure to visit the World War II Home Front Museum, which is part of Georgia’s World War II Heritage Trail. Learn about World War II along the Georgia Coast. The museum is in the historic Coast Guard station at the entrance to the beach.
5. Little St. Simons Island
Imagine enjoying 7 miles of secluded beach on a private island with a max of 32 guests. Well, it is possible at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island. Guests of the lodge have access to 11,000 acres of pristine wilderness and 26 miles of trails and roads. An all-inclusive stay includes accommodation, three meals a day prepared from fresh, local, ingredients, and excursions led by naturalists.
Plan to spend time experiencing the rare opportunity of access to a private beach. The beach is stunning and with its hard-packed sand, you can bike it. The resort has a stocked beach pavilion with everything you need for a day in the sand. With so few guests on the island, it is common to have sections of the beach all to yourself.
6. Sea Island Beach Club
The moment you cross the bridge onto Sea Island, you know you are somewhere special. The Cloister at Sea Island has welcomed guests with a renowned luxury experience for 95 years. This exclusive resort offers 5 miles of pristine beaches that generations of families have enjoyed. The upscale beach club offers a variety of experiences. Reserve a beach setup with a beach attendant that even has a wireless phone charger along with chairs, umbrellas, snacks, and water. This is your place if you ever wanted to go horseback riding on the beach. In addition to the endless beach, guests can enjoy a variety of watersports.
Pro Tip: These beaches are all within the area known as the Golden Isles and are not far from each other. Pick one destination to make your base and then venture out to explore the other islands. Visitors can also take a road trip and spend a night or two on each island. Southern hospitality abounds amid restaurants serving up a bounty of fresh, local seafood with farm-to-table ingredients. Historic Georgia squares make for lovely, walkable downtown areas where visitors linger before watching the sunset from the marina.