Written by Allison Entrekin, Special for USA TODAY
Published January 14, 2014

Pack your pastels and head for St. Simons Island, where crowds of preppy Southerners congregate during the warm-weather months. This is the heart of the Georgia coast: Roads are lined with 100-year-old live oaks dripping with Spanish moss; the shops in the charming town village include one owned by a Carnegie heir (Gogo Ferguson, who sells sea-inspired jewelry at her eponymous boutique); and local restaurants serve crab fresh from the Atlantic.

The beaches on St. Simons Island have mostly hard-packed sand due to the tides, and the calm ocean is usually dotted with shrimp boats. During loggerhead sea turtle nesting season in spring and summer, many of the dunes are roped off to protect the eggs of this endangered species. All beaches are free to the public, and the shoreline may be accessed by more than 20 entryways stemming from the beach paths and side roads. (In high season, it's common to see dozens of bicycles parked by the dunes — biking is a major form of transportation here.)

The beaches are only moderately developed and have a peaceful feel. East Beach is one of the most popular areas, with public parking, bathrooms and a seasonal concessions stand. A historic coastguard station looms at the First Street entrance to East Beach; it's now a museum with exhibits that share Georgia's maritime and military history. After browsing around, wander down to the beach — First Street leads to the widest stretch of sand on the island.

Other St. Simons Island attractions include the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum — a working lighthouse built in 1872 — and Christ Church Frederica, which dates back to 1820 and once lent its pulpit to Methodist Church Founders John and Charles Wesley. While you're in town, be sure to check out nearby Jekyll Island — its famous Driftwood Beach, dotted with magnificent tree limbs that have washed ashore, is a hotspot for photographs.

-- Allison Entrekin is an award-winning travel writer and editor living in Atlanta. View her work on allisonweissentrekin.com and follow her @aweissentrekin.