Exploring Georgia: What to do in St. Simons and Jekyll Island

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These two islands were our first stops on the road trip! They were also somewhat brief since we were trying to make it to Savannah by night. We enjoyed each island nonetheless! You can definitely spend more than a couple of hours on each island and have enough to occupy yourself, but here are some suggestions for must-stop places if you’re just enjoying a day on St. Simons and Jekyll Island.

A day on St. Simons Island

We stopped at St. Simons Island first even though it is a little bit past Jekyll Island because there were more daytime activities we wanted to do there, whereas on Jekyll Island, the activities I had on my to-do list didn’t really matter what time we did them!

St. Simons was a 4 ½ hour drive from St. Pete, making it a great way to break up our drive to Savannah. We hit the road at around 8:30AM and arrived a little after 1PM, just in time for coffee and lunch!

Wake Up Coffee Company

Definitely start here for a cup of coffee before heading right next door for lunch! The setup and aesthetic here was SO cute! Coffee was only available to go at the time we went because of COVID, but when dine-in (or drink-in) is available here again, it seems like the perfect workspace! So if you have a little bit of extra time in this area, I definitely recommend chilling here for a little while you enjoy your bomb coffee! We had a vanilla cappuccino that was so delish! ALSO, check out how freaking cute their merch is at their shop! I’m truly obsessed with everything about this place. 

Southern Soul Barbeque

You won’t have to go far at all for your next stop! If you’re a fan of southern BBQ, this is your place! The restaurant itself is actually an old converted gas station. We enjoyed outdoor picnic table seating right next to their awesome mural. Coming from St.Pete, I really appreciate fun murals. We had the pulled pork, brisket, and potato salad, and it was all heaven to my taste buds. I honestly haven’t had BBQ since, because I don’t know if anything can compare.

Golden Isles Olive Oil

If you love unique olive oils and balsamics, don’t skip this stop! SO MANY options— your mind will be blown! They had such amazing combinations that you would probably never even imagine. A few intriguing olive oils I saw were infused bacon, white truffle, and blood orange! Don’t even get me started on the balsamics, which included flavors like lavender, dark chocolate, and blueberry!

I went with the Sicilian lemon white balsamic vinegar and Tuscan herb-infused olive oil! It was SO hard to choose! Luckily, they allow you to sample to help you narrow down your options. If you have any room after lunch (we unfortunately didn’t), they also have a wine bar and offer charcuterie boards.

St. Simons Lighthouse

I just think lighthouses are so beautiful! I hadn’t actually been inside one since an elementary school field trip, so I was especially excited to visit St. Simons Lighthouse! St. Simons Lighthouse is actually one of five surviving lighthouse towers in Georgia and still serves as an active aid in navigating ships. 

When you first enter the lighthouse, you’re in its museum. It contains artifacts and history of the island as well as insight into the life of a lighthouse keeper. Once you’re done perusing the museum, you can take the 129 steps up to the top to see stunning panoramic views of St. Simons and Jekyll Island.

This is one of the things that must be done during the day, and part of the reason we started at this island. The last ticket for the museum is sold at 4:30PM each day. Admission for adults is $12 per person.

Tree Spirits

I just love when places have quirky little features or findings! Something super unique to St. Simons Island is its tree spirits. In the 1980s, Keith Jennings, a skilled craftsman, set out to leave his mark on the island. He began carving faces into some of the island’s oak trees. Jennings attributes the product to the tree’s spirit— he carved what he felt was being exuded from the tree. While Jennings himself created 20 tree spirits, more seem to be popping up on the island. Some seem to be on private property, and we only had time to discover a few (there was one not far from the lighthouse!), but the ones we found were very neat! If you’re curious on where you can find the tree spirits, I’ve got you covered with this Tree Spirits Treasure Hunt!

One of the tree spirits carved into a tree on St Simons Island in Georgia

Echo Restaurant

This stop just so happens to be St. Simons’s only oceanfront restaurant and bar, and after taking a peek at their drink menu, we knew we had to stop here! Their food menu looked really yummy if you want to grab a bite, however we were still so stuffed from lunch we didn’t even have room to share an appetizer.

The drinks did not disappoint! I did the White Peach Sangria and Peach & Blackberry Muddle. Both spoke to me on a spiritual level. Seriously SO good! I am a sucker for drinks that have fresh fruit muddled in them. They just always seem to be light and refreshing. And that’s exactly what these two drinks were! Along with their classics, they also do seasonal drinks. It was summer when we went, but they currently have their fall cocktails— and oh. My. GOSH. I think I’m going to start playing around in the kitchen and attempt to make their Pumpkin Spice Martini!

White peach sangria held up to the ocean in the background

The Half Shell SSI

This was our last stop before heading onto Jekyll Island, and it was definitely a necessary one. If you have read my other guides, you know I love a good oyster shooter. Well, this place had them on the menu, so of course we couldn’t resist! 

If you are going during the week, note that they don’t open until 5PM. This may be them having limited hours during COVID, so double check to be sure. We got there right at five because we were ready to head to the next island, but couldn’t leave without trying the shot. 

They have four different types of oyster shooters. Do you prefer tequila, vodka, or beer? They’ve gotchu. Personally, I went with the Bloody Mary Shooter, which is pretty much the same kind I get everywhere. It contains vodka, bloody Mary mix, an Old Bay rim, and is of course topped with an oyster. It hit the spot. Remi lived a little more on the wildside and did the South of the Border shot which was tequila and Tabasco with the oyster. He said it was awesome, so if you like tequila, that one may be a winner for you.

An oyster shooter from The Half Shell SSI in Georgia

An evening on Jekyll Island

After spending about four hours on SSI, it was time for us to make our 30-minute drive over to Jekyll Island. Here’s the best way to spend an evening on Jekyll Island!

Driftwood Beach

For a second, we almost thought we’d skip Jekyll Island and just head to Savannah, but after looking up pictures of Driftwood Beach, I knew that we absolutely couldn’t skip Jekyll Island. We went around sunset, and while it was overcast, I think that fit the vibe of Driftwood Beach way more than a sunny day would have. It was like no place I’ve ever been before— a graveyard for trees. It felt like a very surreal experience. This stop alone was worth making the drive.

Horton Pond

Okay, we didn’t have time for this spot, but it was on our list. It looked like rain was going to potentially happen, and we wanted to make sure we got to our dinner spot by sunset. But if the weather is in your favor and you have the time, you should make the stop! Horton Pond is a wildlife viewing area where you can find scenic views, wildlife in their natural habitat, and even a cute little .7-mile trail (Tupelo Trail)!

The Wharf

We LOVED this dinner spot so much! They had live music and delicious food at the perfect location! It was a Thursday evening around sunset when we arrived (I highly recommend going around sunset!), so it was a little busy and we had to wait. They encourage reservations, so if possible, definitely call and make them.

The Wharf is located on the Jekyll Island Historic District Pier and has beautiful waterfront views. They had live Southern country music playing as the sun set, and we really enjoyed our food— it was such a treat. It was the first moment on the road trip I felt like, “Wow, this is vacation.” I have been on a total crab cake kick, so that’s what I got here, and it was soo yummy and packed full of lump crab meat!

Both islands offer some really unique experiences, and it really was the perfect way to break up a road trip! I hope you enjoy your time on the islands!

And if you want to read about some other stops on our two week road trip check out how to spend a weekend in Chattanooga and some must do activities in Helen, Georgia!

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17 Comments

  1. October 8, 2020 / 11:18 am

    I first saw Driftwood Beach a few weeks ago and knew I wanted to visit the island – but I haven’t seen the Tree Spirits or the scavenger hunt! That looks like so much fun!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:03 pm

      Yes! It was such a cute little quirk! Also, I just found out Jekyll Island has little glass globes hidden on it! So you can hunt for those when you’re there too!

  2. October 8, 2020 / 1:52 pm

    We moved to North Carolina this past February and I have this spot on my list as someplace I really want to get to. It is a great road trip destination and I love the wild beaches!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:04 pm

      Yes! Driftwood Beach was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was SO beautiful! Hope you visit 🙂

  3. October 8, 2020 / 3:03 pm

    This place looks great. I had never heard of it before. The coffee shop and olive oil shops are calling my name… Good to know there are cool spots like this on Georgia’s coast.

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:05 pm

      Right?! The olive oil shop was so up my alley! Glad you agree 🙂 Hope you get to visit for yourself someday! 🙂

  4. October 8, 2020 / 3:25 pm

    I really like the idea of those tree spirits – that would be fab if you travelled with children (or big children like me) so you can always be on the look out for them! <3

    I LOVE the look of the driftwood beach as well as the The Wharf for the food!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:07 pm

      Haha definitely! I wish we would’ve had more time to check them all out, but totally a fun family activity! I wish more places had cool little quirky features like that!

  5. Christy
    October 8, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    The tree spirits sound pretty cool! Looks like a great place

  6. October 9, 2020 / 12:44 pm

    I would go to Jekyll Island just for Driftwood Beach too. It looks freaking amazing!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:06 pm

      It was unreal! It was a gloomy day and still amazing. I’d love to go back and see it on a clear day for sunset still!

  7. Jaclyn
    October 9, 2020 / 3:58 pm

    I want to be there like right now! These places is gorgeous and seems like it has a lot of character!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:08 pm

      Yes, a lot of character and charm for sure! 🙂

  8. October 10, 2020 / 1:03 pm

    We live in Georgia about about 1.5 hours from the islands. We absolutely love visiting. Driftwood Beach and the Wharf are two of our favorites!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:09 pm

      Aw yay! I’m glad to hear that! I totally fell in love with Driftwood Beach, I hope to visit the islands again sometime!

  9. Vanessa Shields
    October 10, 2020 / 2:16 pm

    Both islands look so beautiful and relaxing! I’ve always wanted to visit Jekyll Island but had never heard of St. Simmons. Would very much enjoy the food as the bbq and crab looked amazing! I love lighthouses and the beach so these islands would be right up my alley!

    • destinysnyder
      Author
      October 11, 2020 / 12:11 pm

      Yes! And they’re only like a half an hour from each other so totally worth it to knock em both out! Both had such unique offerings!

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