Wildlife & Nature
Georgia only has about 90 miles of coastline, but holds approximately one-third of the entire Atlantic seaboard's marshland, meaning the Golden Isles has ample and diverse habitats for birds and marine life alike, and is a major migratory stop for wildlife. Large areas of old growth maritime forests on the islands create tree canopies for habitat and make for an absolutely unique and beautiful setting unlike any other on the east coast. These distinctive settings throughout St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Brunswick provide habitats for a wide variety of Georgia's wildlife that you won't want to miss on your next visit.
Marshes & Tidal Creeks
There is no better proof of the unspoiled natural beauty of the area than the abundance and variety of wildlife which inhabit this coastal low country, yet enjoying them rarely requires ardent searching. In fact, a drive along St. Simons or Jekyll causeways, or most any road that bends near marshlands and tidal creeks, can reveal feeding marsh rabbits in the spring or fall or even great blue herons and majestic bald eagles all year round. The marsh serves as a nursery for the growing fish and shellfish, and the tall marshland grasses provide refuge for many adult animals in estuaries where the area's salt and fresh waters mix. Go bird watching to spot as many of the 400+ species of birds that can be found in the area!
Take another scenic route by meeting the locals on the water. Tidelands Nature Center offers guided kayak tours of Jekyll Island’s tidal creeks, where you’ll have the chance to see pelicans and terns as they dive for their dinner, herons, and egrets feeding along the banks, and even the occasional manatee. When you’re back on dry land, head to the center’s hands-on exhibits to meet alligators, snakes, crabs, and more, or head off to your next kayaking spot.
Finding Golden Isles Wildlife
One of the easiest ways to guarantee interaction with some of our wild residents is by enjoying a hike. Start your search on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail at one of the five trail sites located in the Golden Isles. Head to The Earth Day Nature Trail for your next excursion. Don’t let the name fool you – this self-guided trail is open year-round and offers some of the best ways to see the Golden Isles’ wild residents up close. Features like boardwalks and observation decks allow you to look for wading birds, fiddler crabs, and other marine life from a better vantage point.
Take a dolphin tour, or simply relax on the beach to try to spot some of the incredible mammals (or shelled creatures!) that inhabit the southeastern Atlantic Ocean off the coast of the Golden Isles. Visit during the wintertime for your chance to see migrating North Atlantic Right Whales that pass through our waters each season. Keep your eyes out for mothers who are migrating to give birth to their calves in the warmer waters!
Though usually seen at night and protected by federal law, Loggerhead sea turtles have, for centuries, found the beaches of the Golden Isles a preferred spot for laying their eggs. Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures, and learn how you can help in sea turtle rehabilitation!
You can also visit Sea Island and take advantage of the excellent guided nature programs. Choose from the early morning Sea Turtle Dawn Patrol or Sea Turtle Education Night Walk. Learn about the animals from expert guides while searching for nesting females, newly laid nests, and hatchlings making their way to the ocean for the first time.
Preferring drier habitats to burrow into, gopher tortoises can often be found in the sand dunes on Golden Isles beaches. In addition, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center houses gopher tortoises if you want a closer look.
While not seen as often, but no less abundant, deer, opossums and armadillos inhabit the dense woods of the area. Try to spot some on your next visit!
Little St. Simons Island is another perfect place to meet local wildlife in their natural environments. Book a guided day trip with an expert naturalist to learn more about the deer, armadillos, dolphins, birds, and more that call this barrier island home.
We hope you enjoy your visit to the Golden Isles and explore the natural beauty that makes this destination unique. Please respect the environment by leaving each area you visit as you found it. Whether you spend time relaxing and playing on the beach or hiking a nature trail, please take only pictures and leave only footprints.
Thank you for helping us keep the Golden Isles beautiful!