The Golden Isles offer more than the typical beach vacation. Sure, you can lay out an over sized towel, eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from a cooler, and watch the kids make sandcastles and play in the waves, just don’t stop there! The islands of St. Simons, Jekyll and Sea, and mainland city of Brunswick offer a myriad of fun and adventurous opportunities for kids of all ages. Below, we’ve highlighted 15 exciting things to do with the kids in the Golden Isles.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse (St. Simons Island)
Climb 129 cast iron steps to the top of the (still operational) lighthouse. Once at the top you can see the coastline for miles, and nearby Neptune Park and Village Pier. The kids will get a kick out of the large compass and replica cannons on the grounds below. Your ticket also includes a tour of the Maritime Museum, with a climb to the watchtower.
Driftwood Beach (Jekyll Island)
Driftwood Beach is a natural playground for children. Large, majestic oak trees have died in repose on this beach making them awesome climbing structures for kids. Go at low tide to find shells and sea debris hidden among the trunks. Definitely don’t forget your camera; this is the best place on the island for getting shots of the kids playing.
Fort King George (Darien)
As adults take in the history of this British outpost, kids are free to run and roam over the fort. The park offers wooden guns at the door, helping to bring the flavor of this site to life for children. Children can run around the grounds playing ‘Army’, climb ladders in the fort and hide in the bunkers. This unique experience allows them to use most of their senses to experience Georgia history.
Navigate the island (Jekyll Island)
Jekyll offers a number of exciting ways to see it’s landmarks including bikes, electric cars and Segways. The terrain alone at Jekyll makes bicycling with your kids a memorable experience, but you can kick it up a notch by renting specialty bikes on the island including Surrey’s and tandem bikes. Electric cars can be rented for 2, 4 or 6 people and for reasonable daily rates. This transportation method is less strenuous than biking and the open structure allows your family to soak in the sun’s rays. Families can also take a guided Segway tour, which is a fun way to learn about plant and animal life on the island.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center (Jekyll Island)
Visitors tour the museum, learning about sea turtle life such as how they lay their eggs and how ocean pollution affects them. Turtle stamp stations guide kids through the exhibits and keep younger ones interested in the educational aspect of the center. After touring the exhibits, head to the second building to see the turtle rehabilitation tanks. The story of each turtle and their journey from illness and rehabilitation are mounted next to their tank.
Be sure to also see:
Weekend Escape from Atlanta: St. Simons Island & the Golden Isles
Shrimpin’ Excursion on Lady Jane (Brunswick)
This refurbished shrimp boat takes visitors to the St. Simons Sound where they can help biologists catch shrimp and sort them from other sea animals such as sand sharks and puffer fish. While on board the Lady Jane, your freshly caught shrimp is boiled and served for a shrimp feast like no other. Enjoy the sunshine on the open decks or view the water from an air-conditioned cabin window.
4-H Tidelands Nature Center (Jekyll Island)
This nature center offers a modest exhibit area with a touch tank and live animal viewing stations. The baby turtles housed here are used for educational purposes; some even make their way to Atlanta’s Georgia Aquarium. Kids and adults will enjoy riding canoes on the lake, or touring the marsh in a kayak. Don’t miss the guided nature walks and other special programs offered here.
‘Passport to the century’ Tram Tour (Jekyll Island)
The tram tour takes you into several homes of the millionaires that made Jekyll Island famous. Kids will enjoy riding the tram pulled by a Jeep and feeling the wind in their hair. Take in the grounds of the Jekyll Island Clubhouse including a stop at Rockefeller’s vacation home where kids can climb aboard an electric car he kept on the grounds for his grandchildren.
Fly a kite on East Beach (St. Simons Island)
East Beach extends along the ocean side of St Simons Island and is the best beach to enjoy typical beach activities. The beach is free and there are several places in which to access the sand. Gould’s Inlet, one of the public access points, is on the northern part of the island. There is an observation area, a small fishing pier, and a distant sandbar that makes bird watching a busy activity. The shower and water hose are convenient for cleaning off feet before packing into the car. Purchase a kite at Fredrica Station Gifts at Village Pier.
Tree Sprits (St. Simons Island)
Make a scavenger hunt of finding the various Tree Spirits on the St. Simons Island. There are five locations on public property (and several more on private property) where visitors can see hauntingly beautiful faces carved into the bark of grand oak trees. These works of art by Keith Jennings commemorate the lives of many souls lost aboard ships from St. Simons Oak. Kids will love seeking them out and adults will appreciate the intricacy of this art.
Village Pier (St. Simons Island)
Park free at Village Pier and explore the unique shops that line both sides of the street. Brogen’s serves a shrimp salad that is heavy on shrimp and easy on the mayo, with a small arcade area for the kids to play while you eat. There are two playgrounds at the adjoining, including one surrounded by a fence with a single entrance so adults can relax a bit, too. Dolphins feasting and frolicking in the water’s edge frequent the pier; visiting as the tide rolls out will increase your chances of seeing them. Be sure to get an ice cream at St. Simons Sweets before you leave.
St. Simons Island Trolley Tours (St. Simons Island)
Take a tour of St. Simons Island via a vintage trolley. The driver is a wealth of information about the history of the island, and he delivers it with a clever humor that keeps you wanting. See the Bloody Marsh, Fort Frederica, Retreat Plantation and more. Near the end of the tour the trolley stops at Christ Church where riders are encouraged to walk the grounds of the church as the history lesson continues. The kids will appreciate riding in the seats that line the sides of the trolley, enabling them to sit on their knees and peer out the windows while driving by each landmark.
Jekyll Island Miniature Golf (Jekyll Island)
This putt putt location provides two courses, one more challenging than the other so that children of multiple ages will enjoy playing. Younger kids will enjoy the 3D statues at each hole including a dinosaur, a lighthouse, and more. There is no shade on this course; if you get hot then head across the street to Great Dunes Park. This sprawling beach with large pavilion is great for water play or having a picnic.
Geocaching (various locations)
Children will love the novelty of using a GPS to explore the islands, and adults will appreciate the landmarks covered by this high tech scavenger hunt. The Golden Isles is home to thousands of caches. They can be found in such locations as Hofwyl-Broadfield, Driftwood Beach, Bloody Marsh, and many more.
Cap Fendig Dolphin Tour (Brunswick)
Take a 60-minute tour exploring the marshlands where dolphins are abundant. Because the waters of the inlet are calm, young children can also participate in this adventure. The boat tour takes passengers along the bird sanctuary and the lighthouse. Cap Fendig is known to be charming and full of life. If you have an opportunity, consider the sunset tour to top off the expedition.
Need more information?
Read our favorite local foodie blog, Marie Let’s Eat, about more places to eat while in the Golden Isles.
Is this article missing your favorite thing to do with kids in St. Simons, Brunswick or Jekyll Island? Leave us a comment below.
Disclosure: Thanks to Jekyll Island Authority and the Golden Isles CVB for our complimentary tickets. While our visit was complimentary, our opinions cannot be bought and are honest and completely our own.