This sea island is perhaps best know for Penn Center the first school for freed slaves in the South, which now serves as an educational center and museum. Gullah culture still thrives on the Island, as several hundred descendants of freed slaves still make their home on St. Helena Island.
Georgia’s southernmost coastal island is 16 miles long and extends almost to the Florida border. Accessible by ferry from St. Marys, the Cumberland Island National Seashore features one of the nation’s most unspoiled beaches. Salt marshes, 20 miles of beaches and a variety of wildlife – including wild horses, alligators, sea turtles and even donkeys originally imported fro Sicily – can be glimpsed at this national park. The ruins of the Dungeness Mansion, once owned by the Carnegie family, remain a popular stop on the Island.
Situated just south of St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island was once an aristocratic winter playground, hosting such families as the Morgans, Pulitzers, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers, all of whom were members of the famed Jekyll Island Club. An estimated one-sixth of the world’s wealth was controlled from the Island during the millionaires’ reign, leading to concern during World War II that too much wealth was concentrated in one place. The “Millionaires’ Village” has been restored to offer a glimpse of the opulent lifestyle that once characterized the Island and is open for daily tours.
At 43 square miles, Ossabaw Island is one of the largest barrier Islands and is accessible only by water. Ancient Indian shell mounds offer evidence that the Island was once a favorite Indian hunting and fishing ground. Early Georgia colonists planted indigo on the Island and, some years later, cotton. Loggerhead sea turtles nest on the Island’s moonlight beaches each summer. Part of the Island is a wildlife refuge, devoted to the sea turtles, and is closed to the public.
Just off the coast from Meridian, GA, Sapelo Island has been home to the Gullah, sea island descendants of freed slaves, for generations and hosts some of the most intact Gullah communities in the Lowcountry. The Island also has an elegant French provincial home that was once part of the estate of tobacco millionaire R.J. Reynolds and now serves as a marsh and estuary research laboratory.
St. Simons Island is connected to the mainland by a causeway at Brunswick and is approximately the size of Manhattan. Once the site of Spanish missions and English fortifications, St. Simons hosted may Sea Island cotton plantations after the Revolution and became one of the most prosperous of the sea islands. Built in 1736 by General James Oglethorpe, the founder of Savannah, Fort Frederica is one of the largest British forts in North America. A number of resorts and hotels make the Island a popular vacation destination.
Located 18 miles east of Savannah, Tybee Island is one of Georgia’s oldest and most historic seaside communities. Connected to the mainland by US 80, the Island hosts thousands of sun-worshipping visitors annually. The Tybee Island Lighthouse – completed in 1736 by General James Oglethorpe, destroyed by a storm and rebuilt in 1773 – offers spectacular views of the Lowcountry.
Once a popular site for dueling South Carolina gentlemen in the nineteenth century, this Island just across the Savannah River from Savannah’s River Street is home to The Westin Savannah Harbor Resort, the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center and a 27-hole golf course.
Located midway between Charleston and Beaufort, Kiawah Island’s 10,000 acres are named for the Indians who once hunted and fished on the Island. From 1772 to 1953, the Island was owned by Arnoldus Vanderhorst, South Carolina’s seventh governor, and his descendants. In the 1950’s, the Island was purchased and then resold to the Kuwait Investment Corporation in 1974. The oil-rich investors researched the Island and decided to take steps to protect wildlife and to set aside areas from development. Today the Island features several gated communities and superb golf and tennis facilities, as well as over 150 native species including the brown pelican and the Atlantic loggerhead sea turtle.