Sitting outside with a warm cup of green tea, I took pleasure in the cool morning air. A peaceful calm lingered over the campground. Beams of golden light pierced the tree’s canopy splashing highlights onto the monochromatic early morn. Only the awakening songbirds were heard. I cherish the quiet serenity that comes with dawn. It is when my mind is most clear—my thoughts more lucid.
The tranquil morning was short lived however, as the sound of humans began to resonate. Slam! I heard someone shut their camper door and make the trek to the bathhouse. A dog started barking giving rise for another to respond. A small child wailed. Then the sound of an axe chopping wood echoed through the trees. The growing cacophony drowned the bird’s song.
“Well…I suppose it’s time to get going”, I said to Grammi as I took the last sips of my tea, “We have a four hour drive in front of us”. It is a moving day and we need to pack up and hitch up. We have had a lot of practice getting packed and hitched. Our routine is slow paced and methodical. It usually takes us anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to get ready to pull away depending on how much stuff we have unpacked in the first place.
Once we were hitched and ready to go, we checked on our friends Brent and Karen. They were having some troubles hitching their camper. The unleveled site made the task more difficult, but after a few persuasive kicks in the tongue things came together. A review of their check-list and a final walk-around and they were ready too.
Next was a stop at the dump station. I dumped first and pulled ahead. Then Grammi and I watch our novice friend’s first dumping experience. We wanted to give our support and offer some tips we have learned. We were hoping not to see a comedy of errors—no poopsy that would discourage future camping trips. Happily, it went smoothly and we were soon on the road.
Those that have been following our adventures will know that we made a u-turn in South Carolina. Yep, we are in Georgia again. This time to explore the Golden Isles.
Midway between Jacksonville and Savannah lies the mainland city of Brunswick, Georgia and its four barrier islands—St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. Surrounded by small hammocks and pristine marshland, these four main islands offer breathtaking views. With miles of sand beaches, mild temperatures and friendly southern hospitality, vacationers have been lured to this luxury destination for more than a century.
We checked-in at Blythe Island Regional Park Campground located five minutes from Interstate 95. It is part of an 1100-acre county park offering a variety of recreational activities including a boat ramp to the South Brunswick River, a fresh water lake with swim beach, trails for hiking and biking, picnic pavilions, playground, boat and kayak rentals, volleyball, fishing, and much more. The campground has 97 full hook-up sites with a concrete pad, table, fire ring, and a cable TV connection at the pedestal. There is a camp store that sells propane and fire wood. Next to the camp store is a coin operated laundry facility.
This was our first visit to the Golden Isles and we only had a couple of days. There is a plethora of activities in the area. With so much to see and do, it was difficult deciding where to start. We passed on the fishing charters, boat tours and other water sport activities. We skipped the horseback ride on the beach, the stew in Brunswick, and the miles of bicycle paths on Jekyll Island. We did not go golfing at one of the many championship courses nor did we catch a show at the historic Ritz Theater. Our activities were mainly centered around finding our way around the area and doing some site-seeing. It was enough, however, to spark an interest in the area and it left us wanting more.
The highlights of our two day visit started with a stop at Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island. Fort Frederica was established in 1736 by the British to protect the southern boundary of the newly formed Georgia colony. At the visitor center are some artifacts displayed that were found on site. There is also a theater showing a short film detailing how the British soldiers of Fort Frederica defeated the larger Spanish forces at the battles of Bloody Marsh and Gully Hole Creek. These skirmishes essentially ended the long conflict over the “Debatable Land” claimed by both countries. Afterward, Spain would not venture north of Florida ensuring Georgia would remain a British colony.
From the visitor center, a 1/4-mile walk down Broad Street passes archeological remnants of a once thriving early eightieth century British settlement that sprung up outside the fort. Old building foundations are marked with story boards describing who lived there. Now covered with grass, Broad Street leads to what remains of the old fort with its cannons still aimed toward the river. This is a must see for early American history buffs.
We went to the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum. You may recall, earlier in this trip we went to Tybee Island Lighthouse, but it was closed. I did not get to show Grammi the view from the top. We had better luck this time. After catching our breath from climbing the 129 spiral steps, we enjoyed a spectacular panoramic view.
We had lunch at Iguanas Seaford Restaurant located in the historic Pier Village. It is known for its locally caught shrimp, which was quite good, but my favorite part of the meal was the complimentary ice cream bar. I admit I over did it with the ice cream and paid dearly for it later with a stomach ache. I just can’t help myself.
We browsed the many shops in Pier Village. It is a popular spot as tour bus loads of people were dropped off to spend some time there. Eventually, we ended up at the pier. Of course there were the fishermen standing along the rail with their rod and reels. But also, there were many folks like us who just wandered to the end to looked back at the island.
The next day we went to Jekyll Island. Though I had never been to Jekyll Island, I had read about it. It is the site of the exclusive Jekyll Island Club—a hunting club and playground for the rich and famous. I am sure Robin Leach would be in all his glory had he been on Jekyll Island during the Gilded Age. Opened in 1888, its members included influential names like Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Morgan, Aster, and Pulitzer. It was said that the members of the Jekyll Island Club represented one-sixth of the world’s total wealth.
The club saw a decline during the Great Depression and it came to an end when the U.S Government ordered the island’s evacuation during World War II. In 1947 the island was acquired by the State of Georgia for back taxes and condemnation proceedings—paying only $675,000 for the entire island. Today, Jekyll Island is a state park open to the public for the enjoyment of all.
We paid an $8.00 state park fee to get on the island and found free parking at the Wharf. There we started to explore the National Historic Landmark District—a 240-acre site consisting of 34 historic structures centered around the Jekyll Island Club Resort.
After wardering around the grounds for a while, we decided to jump on the guided trolly tour. The cost was $18.00 for seniors. The tour lasted about an hour and went pass most the historic buildings. The tour guide described the buildings and told stories as we slowly rode by the different “cottages”. The tour guide said that even though most people would consider these buildings mansions, the wealthy families called them cottages because they were smaller than their mansions in the north. Our tram stopped at the Dubignon Cottage and we were lead inside to see the nicely restore decor.
When the tram tour concluded, we went to see the Jekyll Island Club Resort. It is open to the public. Lavishness and opulence describe how I felt when I stepped inside. It definitely had the WOW factor. While walking through its corridors, I tried to imagine what it was like to step back in time and live during the Gilded Age. It still might be possible to experience a bit of indulgent luxury. Rooms can be rented and guest are free to enjoy its many amenities and dining options.
Before leaving the island we went to Driftwood Beach. Years of erosion turned a forest into a sandy beach scattered with old weathered trees and downed branches creating a stunningly unique place. Photo opportunities abound. Weaving around and climbing over the dead trees was a fascinating adventure.
A little further north of Driftwood Beach is Jekyll Island Campground. It is close to the fishing pier and beach. We drove through it and concluded it to be a good place to camp the next time we visit.
As I said, the Golden Isles left us wanting to come back. It has history, culture, entertainment, fine dining, great accommodations and beautiful beaches. We were not here long enough to scratch the surface. It is a destination—a place to spend an entire vacation. I am sure we will be back.
Until next time…Happy Days and Safe Travels.