We don't blame you if your mind immediately thinks of beaches when visiting the Golden Isles. But did you know there's another big part of our islands and mainland that are perfect for a day of exploration? Grab your hiking boots, binoculars, and friends when you're ready to get off the beaten path and discover these six nature trails in the Golden Isles.
Earth Day Nature Trail | Brunswick
Located in Brunswick, right at the base of the famous Sidney Lanier Bridge, is the Georgia Department of Natural Resources' Earth Day Nature Trail. With five different trails, three wildlife viewing platforms, four picnic areas, and breathtaking views, the Earth Day Nature Trail should be at the top of your list for a morning or afternoon outdoors. As you meander through the salt marshes and maritime forests, keep an eye out for great egrets, fiddler crabs, sea oxeye, and other native plants and wildlife.
Before exploring, download the Earth Day Nature Trail map.
Where to Find It: Georgia DNR Coastal Resources Division Headquarters, 1 Conservation Way, Brunswick
Wanderer Memory Trail | Jekyll Island
If you venture over the Sidney Lanier Bridge and onto the Jekyll Island Causeway, you'll find two great trails on Jekyll Island. On the south side of the island, at St. Andrews Beach, is the new Wanderer Memory Trail. Although not a traditional hiking trail, the Wanderer Memory Trail is especially great for families and history buffs alike. Follow the trail as you learn about The Wanderer, the last known slave ship illegally brought to America. Pack a picnic lunch to take advantage of the shaded picnic areas, and be sure to pack your beach gear for an afternoon of fun on St. Andrews Beach, just on the other side of the trail.
Where to Find It: St. Andrews Beach Park (Where S. Riverview Drive meets S. Beachview Drive), Jekyll Island
South Loop Trail | Jekyll Island
Nearly right around the corner from St. Andrews Beach is the South Loop Trail. The best way to access this nature and wildlife trail on Jekyll Island is by parking at Camp Jekyll. The entrance to the self-guided South Loop Trail is just across the street. Be sure to bring your binoculars to search for native wildlife from the viewing platform inside the ancient maritime forests. If you're looking for a guided hike with an experienced park ranger, opt for one of Jekyll Island's Ranger Walks held at varying times throughout the year.
Where to Find It: Across the street from Camp Jekyll, 550 S. Beachview Drive, Jekyll Island
John Gilbert Nature Trail | St. Simons Island
Over on St. Simons Island, the beloved St. Simons Land Trust has been working for more than 25 years to protect and preserve greenspaces around the island, two of which have become nature trails enjoyed by many. The John Gilbert Nature Trail is conveniently located alongside Frederica Road. This 40-acre marsh-front property features a trail complete with boardwalks and scenic overlooks as visitors make their way through the maritime forest into the marsh. Keep an eye out for "John's Oak," a 200-year-old live oak tree worthy of a photo-op!
Where to Find It: Around 2468 Frederica Road, St. Simons Island
Cannon's Point Preserve | St. Simons Island
On the north end of St. Simons Island is Cannon's Point Preserve, a 600-acre tract of land with an entire system of primitive hiking trails to choose from. Park your car at Taylor's Fish Camp, where you'll also find picnic tables and public restrooms. Review the Cannon's Point Preserve map before heading off on your adventure. Whether you choose to bike or hike, you'll be treated to incredible views along any of the trails you choose from. For those up for an adventure, we highly recommend the Couper's Field Loop, the longest trail but also the most rewarding! At the end, you'll find centuries-old historical ruins, a new observation tower, and breathtaking views of the marshes looking out toward Little St. Simons Island.
*Please be aware Cannon's Point Preserve is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
Where to Find It: Cannon Point Road, off of Lawrence Road, St. Simons Island
Little St. Simons Island
For the ultimate undeveloped island experience, plan a day trip or an overnight excursion to Little St. Simons Island. Although the smallest of the Golden Isles, this 11,000-acre island may pack the biggest punch. A Little St. Simons Island day trip includes a scenic boat ride to the island, an incredible guided tour across the island's habitats, a freshly-prepared lunch sourced from the island's onsite garden, and an afternoon of free time relaxing and exploring the island's undeveloped, private beach. Those who choose to stay overnight as guests of The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island are treated to excellent accommodations, a plethora of naturalist-led activities (including incredible hikes all throughout the island!), and so much more. With over ten hiking trails to choose from, your boots will be well worn by the time you depart the island.
Where to Find It: Guests must make arrangements with Little St. Simons Island prior to visiting. Learn more about booking a trip in advance.