Many people know Brunswick, Georgia, as the jumping-off point for Saint Simons and Jekyll Islands. Others know it as the mid-point between Jacksonville and Savannah on I-95, complete with hotels, gas, and food. And for almost five decades, 70,000 federal law enforcement officers have known Brunswick as the home of FLETC, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. And to those, I salute you.
But what many don't know is that Brunswick, Georgia, has much to offer itself. This historic city by the sea has a coastal charm with enough to do and see to make it a destination itself.
I have been a frequent visitor to both Saint Simons Island and Jekyll Island most of my life. As a matter of fact, the first time I ever drove a car by myself was on the 15-mile loop around Jekyll. And for almost 20 years, we have been homeowners on Saint Simons. But it wasn't until the last five years or so that we began treating Brunswick, Georgia, with its proper respect.
When we have stayed in Brunswick, Georgia, it's been at I-95 and Georgia 25 or the Golden Isles Parkway as it is better known. Of course, you could always opt to stay on the beach on one of the islands, but that's a hefty drive; we'll get back to those in a bit. Instead, a better and more central location to book your stay would be the next exit down at Hwy 341. Either of these exits provides plenty of places to eat, although most of them are chains.
The best place to stay would be in one of the Bed & Breakfast Inns close to the waterfront. McKinnon House, Brunswick Manor, and Watershill being the best. The waterfront, in this case, refers to Oglethorpe Bay which runs off of the East River, which, in turn, flows into the Atlantic Ocean through Saint Simons Sound. The Sound is currently marred by the Korean freighter Golden Ray, which capsized there a year and a half ago.
The waterfront of Brunswick, Georgia, gives you the best places just to wander around and enjoy the historic architecture of this coastal city. There is a lovely walk along the Sound from the Brunswick Landing Marina on the north end, through the beautiful Mary Ross Waterfront Park, and down along Oglethorpe and Bay Streets. Then, if you still have energy, cut inland a couple of blocks and take in the old buildings and antique shops that line Newcastle. This is also where you can find some of the best local food.
As a photographer, I love walking around Newcastle and Gloucester Streets shooting the old buildings. One of my favorite buildings in this part of the state is the Old City Hall, built in 1888. It's a beautiful red brick building with a traditional clock tower. You will also want to take in the Historic Ritz Theater, which was built ten years later.
There are many festivals in and around Brunswick, so you would do well to check out their calendar and time your visit around one of those. But of course, as much as I enjoy the old part of Brunswick, if you are coming here for any length of time, you will want to get out to the beach or at least explore the islands.
Jekyll Island is the smaller of the two off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia, and you could easily finish it up in half a day. The first treat is just getting to the island as you get to drive over the beautiful Sydney Lanier Bridge.
Jekyll Island is also rich in history and was once the playground of the rich and famous, including the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts. Some of their old mansions can still be seen or visited. The famous Jekyll Island Club they started in 1942 still enjoys popularity. The shell of the first brewery in the state stands on the side of the road just up from the club. This is the Horton House and was built in 1748.
But my favorite place on Jekyll is driftwood beach. It lies on the northeast corner, just across the Sound from Saint Simons. I highly recommend visiting there at sunrise or sunset for the best views and photography.
Only about a mile across the Sound, but over 20 miles by road is Saint Simons Island. The actual beach is only about two miles and runs from the lighthouse on the southern tip up to East Beach. But there are many hotel, condos, and rental homes which will rent you a place to stay overnight.
If you only have a few hours to spend there, head down to the lighthouse and spend it in the Village. Dozens of shops and restaurants line Mallery Street and Neptune Park is a great place to let the kids run wild.
If you have more time, head up Frederica Road to mid-island and visit the old church and Fort Frederica. The Christ Church goes back to the time of Oglethorpe, and Fort Frederica was erected to keep out those pesky British soldiers during the revolution.
But, whatever you choose to do, make Brunswick, Georgia, your go-to place on the coast of Georgia. You won't be disappointed.
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