Hitting up Georgia's 'Golden Isles'

If there is a more peaceful place in Georgia than the one-two-three punch of St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island, then, I am not aware of such a place. The three islands, part of the chain of isles off Georgia's coast that are collectively known as the "Golden Isles," provide an ideal escape from the hectic life of a bustling city.

Cumberland Island probably takes the title of the most peaceful place to visit in the "Golden Isles," but then again, it's a national park that's only accessible by ferry. It is one of the southernmost islands in the "Golden Isles." It is located near the town of Saint Mary's.

Being that it is a park, the island has a lot of outdoors activities, including hiking, camping, star-gazing, bird-watching, swimming, biking and combing the beach for sharks' teeth and unoccupied sea shells, according to the Cumberland Island web site, www.nps.gov/cuis/. You can also see the ruins of Dungeness, a mansion built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie in the late 1800s.

The ferry rides between Saint Mary's and the island cost $17 for adults, $12 for children under the age of 12, and $15 for senior citizens. There is also a $4 fee to enter the park, for anyone over the age of 16. Anyone who wants to camp on the island only has to pay nominal fees of $2 a day to camp in the back country, or $4 per day to camp on the beach.

Moving up just a little north of Cumberland Island, is Jekyll Island. The long-story-short in describing Jekyll Island is that it is what Cumberland Island would probably look like, if it was open to development and commercialization. There is plenty of nature to enjoy, because it's not too developed, but then again, you are always aware that other people are on the island. This is up by the town of Brunswick.

There are hotels on the beach, and restaurants located around the island. There is a water park, and a mini-golf course, but at the same time, you can also enjoy horseback riding tours, or take a nature walk. You can even rent huge kites to fly on the beach. Jekyll Island is accessible by car, so you don't have to take a ferry to get there. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants on the island, too, so a person could spend a few days on the isle without having to return to the mainland.

If you're looking for an event to enjoy while you are on the beach, there is the Beach Music Festival and BBQ Bash, Aug. 20-21. Part of the event is on the beach, and part of it is at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. The main deal is Aug. 21, from noon to 4:30 p.m., as that is when the party is on the beach, complete with musical acts. For more information, log onto http://jekyllisland.com/.

More up just a little farther north, and you come to St. Simons Island. It is also accessible from Brunswick. Now, St. Simons continues the trend of things getting a little more developed as you go north among the three islands. When I was young, I went on a trip to St. Simons with my family. What I remember is that it seemed like a harbor town, somewhat like Key West, Fla., or Annapolis, Md.

Of course, you can't talk about St. Simons without talking about one of its more notable features — the St. Simons Lighthouse. Personally, I like lighthouses. I collect miniature, ceramic lighthouses. You can climb a lighthouse, and see out for miles, and you're totally removed from the world below.

Admission for the lighthouse, which is located at 4201 First Street, East Beach, St. Simons Island, is $6 for anyone over the age of 12, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for the younger kids.

Hopefully, this gives you some more ideas for a relatively cheap, in-state vacation this summer. Enjoy the beach!

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. .