The barrier islands off the coast of the state of Georgia were originally formed by geologic activity and sea level shift approximately 5,000 years ago, following the end of the last Ice Age. Whether you’re looking to explore historic sites from the Gilded Age, entertain families with summer resort activities, or enjoy outdoor recreational activities in unspoiled nature preserves, Georgia’s barrier islands are the perfect site for day trips and overnight excursions.

1. Little Tybee Island

Little Tybee Island
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Little Tybee Island's name is misleading, as it is more than twice the size of the more developed nearby Tybee Island. The 6,780-acre island serves as an unspoiled nature preserve housing a large variety of endangered native bird species such as the woodstork, white ibis, egret, and heron. It is best known as the site of the yachting events for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. The island is open to the public seven days a week and offers opportunities for recreational bird watching, fishing, hiking, beachcombing, and camping. Kayaking, dolphin tour boat, and charter boat tour opportunities are offered, along with guided jet skiing and stand-up paddleboarding opportunities.

2. Blackbeard Island

Blackbeard Island
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Blackbeard Island derives its name from famed 18th-century pirate Edward Teach, best known as Blackbeard, whose treasures have been rumored to have been buried on the island. The island was auctioned as an oak timber facility in 1800 by the Navy Department before being designated as a wildlife preserve in 1924 by the Bureau of Biological Survey. In 1940, the preserve was renamed as the Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge, intended to serve as a breeding ground for indigenous species and migratory birds. As one of seven similar refuges overseen by the Savannah Coastal Refuges Complex, the island is only accessible via boat and offers large areas of freshwater and saltwater marsh, maritime forest, and sandy beach. Protected species include the loggerhead sea turtle, the American bald eagle, and the piping plover.

3. Cockspur Island

Cockspur Island
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Cockspur Island is located in Chatham County within the Savannah River’s mouth and has also been referred to as Long Island and Peeper Island. Throughout the history of European settlement in North America, the island has served as the site for several military fortifications, including Fort George, Fort Greene, and Fort Pulaski, the latter of which served an important role in the American Civil War. In 1924, Fort Pulaski National Monument was established on nine miles within the island and its neighboring McQueens Islands. Today, it is home to a number of native flora and fauna species and offers opportunities to tour historic fortification remains.

4. Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland Island, Georgia
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Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest barrier island and has been inhabited by humans since as early as 2000 B.C., when it was used as a hunting and fishing site by indigenous North American tribes. Spanish missions were established on the island throughout the 16th century, and two forts were constructed in the 1730s under James Oglethorpe’s master plan for the colony of Georgia. Today, the 18-mile island is maintained as part of the Cumberland Island National Seashore and is accessible via National Park Service ferries. A variety of native flora and fauna is protected on the island, including loggerhead sea turtles, feral horses and hogs, and a number of waterfowl and sea bird species. More than three dozen residences are maintained on the island, including the Greyfield Inn and a number of NPS campsites. Ranger-led activities are organized periodically, including hiking, stargazing, and birdwatch excursions.

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5. Hutchinson Island

Hutchinson Island
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Hutchinson Island is located within the Savannah River immediately north of Savannah’s downtown district and is approximately seven miles long by one mile wide. The island is noted for its historic role in the American Civil War when Savannah was captured by Union forces led by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman in 1864. Today, the island is home to several hotels and convention centers, including the 2,000-acres Westin Savannah, which includes the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center. Other attractions include the Grand Prize of America Road Course, which has hosted major motorsport racing events such as the Dixie Crystals Grand Prix. The island is accessible via ferry boat from the mainland or by car via the Talmadge Memorial Bridge.

6. Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Jekyll Island was named in honor of Sir Joseph Jekyll, a British financier who was a close friend of Colony of Georgia planner James Oglethorpe. Throughout the late 19th century, the island became an exclusive resort hunting area, attracting luminaries such as the Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, and Morgan families. In 1947, the island was designated as a state park, and in 1972, the island’s historic buildings were designated as the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District, which is one of the largest historic restoration projects in the American Southeast today. Tourist attractions on the island include the Jekyll Island Museum, the historic Horton House, and the Wanderer Memorial, which honors the last documented cargo slave ship of the transatlantic slave trade. Family attractions include Summer Waves Water Park and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the state’s only sea turtle rehabilitation facility.

7. Lake Lanier Islands

Lake Lanier Islands
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Lake Lanier Islands is one of Georgia’s premiere resort districts, located on 1,500 acres along the shore of Lake Sidney Lanier. The man-made islands were created after the construction of Buford Dam, when partial flooding of the Chattahoochee River Valley created a chain of islands that had once been hills near the city of Gainesville. In the mid-20th century, the Georgia Department of State Parks and the Lake Lanier Islands Development Authority developed the region into a recreational venue featuring boat docks, campgrounds, beaches, riding stables, a golf course, and the Pine Island Hotel resort. A water park was later added to the region, known today as the Margaritaville at Lanier Islands.

8. Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island
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Little St. Simons Island is an 11,000-acre barrier island that is maintained as a privately-owned resort. The resort was originally constructed in the early 20th century by Philip Berolzheimer, the president of the Engle Pencil Company, and served as a popular retreat for a group of top New York City policymakers known as the Eight Bandits. Today, seven miles of undeveloped beach are offered at the island, along with the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island, which offers six guest cottages sleeping up to 32 guests. The island is accessible via organized reservation day boating trips for guests ages 12 and older, which depart from the Hampton River Marina.

9. Ossabaw Island, Georgia

Ossabaw Island, Georgia
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Ossabaw Island is Georgia’s third-largest barrier island, spanning more than 26,000 acres, including 9,000 acres of wooded upland area and 16,000 acres of marshlands. The island has been inhabited for at least 4,000 years, including settlements by the Guale indigenous tribe and 16th-century Spanish explorers. Following periods of private ownership as a plantation site and hunting area, the island was converted into an artistic retreat in the mid-2oth century, hosting luminaries such as composer Aaron Copland and writer Margaret Atwood. In 1978, the retreat was converted into a heritage preserve for scientific and cultural study, which is managed today by the Ossabaw Island Foundation nonprofit organization. As the state’s first heritage preserve, the island conducts educational research in correlation with local universities and hosts a variety of public special events throughout the year.

10. Sapelo Island

Sapelo Island
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Sapelo Island is a protected barrier island within Georgia’s McIntosh County that serves as the site of Hog Hammock, the last known Gullah-Geechee African-American community in the United States. In 1927, the community was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The island is only accessible via aircraft or boat, including a 20-minute ferry ride that embarks from the Sapelo Island Visitors Center. The island is home to the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is operated as part of the NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System, and the University of Georgia Marine Institute. Other major attractions include the historic Reynolds Mansion, which is operated as a Georgia state park.

11. Sea Island

Sea Island
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Sea Island is a chain of barrier islands located within Glynn County and is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles, along with Jekyll, Little St. Simons, and St. Simons Islands and the mainland community of Brunswick. The island serves as a popular resort area and is accessible via causeway from St. Simons Island. A gated community for 500 residents is located on the island, along with two public resorts, the Cloister and the Sea Island Beach Club. The Cloister, located on the southwest end of the island, offers 200 guest rooms and suites and The Georgian Room, the only Forbes Five Star restaurant in the state, while the Beach Club offers amenities such as three pools, a bar, an ice cream shop, and a game room. Other island attractions include three championship golf courses, including the Plantation, which hosts the PGA Tour’s RSM Classic tournament.

12. Skidaway Island, Georgia

Skidaway Island, Georgia
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Skidaway Island is a census-designated place within Chatham County that is home to more than 8,300 people and is incorporated as part of the Savannah Metropolitan Statistical Area. The island is one of the United States’ most affluent residential communities, best known for The Landings, one of the country’s largest gated communities. It is also home to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, which is operated by the University of Georgia, and Skidaway Island State Park, which offers a public interpretive center and outdoor recreational activities such as bird watching, nature trails, and a public boardwalk and observation tower. A variety of campsites are offered on the island, including tent, trailer, and RV sites, camper cabins, and pioneer campgrounds.

13. Wassaw Island, Georgia

Wassaw Island, Georgia
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Wassaw Island is a barrier island located near Tybee Island and is one of Georgia’s few remaining unspoiled natural areas, featuring more than 10,000 miles of coastal forest, salt marsh areas, and sand dunes. The island is operated by the Fish and Wildlife Service as Wassaw National Wildlife Refuge, which is open to the public for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, kayaking, and wildlife watching. Seven miles of beachfront area and nature trails are available to the public, but the interior of the island is closed to public exploration. Nearby Little Wassaw and Pine Islands are also incorporated as part of the refuge, featuring oak and palm tree forests, salt marsh areas, and interconnecting creeks.

What are the 15 Best Georgia Islands?

The 15 Best Georgia Islands according to local experts are:

More Ideas in GA: The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Although the Ritz-Carlton is a well-known chain, the hotel at Lake Oconee, Georgia maintains a lodge-like charm while still offering the same luxury amenities that guests have come to expect. Guests can choose from staying in the central hotel in either a guest room or a suite, or off-site in one of the cottages. There are six different dining options, a full-service spa, and a five attached golf courses for guests to enjoy during their stay as well. The hotel is located seventy-five miles outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

Cottages, Rooms, and Suites

The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds at Lake Oconee provides a wide variety of different places for guests to stay during their visit. These accommodations are available as cottages, suites, and guest rooms.

The largest of the available accommodations are the cottages, located right on Lake Oconee. There are only three cottages - the Lake House (which has four bedrooms), the two-bedroom cottage, and the three-bedroom cottage. The cabins vary in square footage from 1798 square feet to 5404 square feet. Each cottage is private and allows guests the ability to have a quiet stay on the lake with a home-like environment. There are fireplaces in all three cottages, as well as significant outside space including stone verandas and wrap around porches with seating. Each cottage has different bedroom options, including king size beds and double beds. There is also a butler’s kitchen in the two- and three-bedroom cottages, with a miniature refrigerator, sink, dishwasher, toaster oven, microwave, and coffeemaker. The Lake House cottage has a full modern chef’s kitchen and wet bar. The cabins accommodate up to eight adults but are not eligible to update to Club Level access as they are off-site.

For a less private but still luxurious experience at The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, the main hotel building offers three suites as accommodations - the Club Suite, the Executive Suite, and the Ritz-Carlton Suite. Each suite is large in size (the Club and Executive are 894 square feet while the Ritz-Carlton comes in at 2390 square feet). Both the Ritz-Carlton and the Club Suites also provide access to the private Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge. Every three suites have lake views through large, glass windows and offer separate sitting and living areas for guests. The Ritz-Carlton Suite also has a fully equipped kitchenette and dining area. The suites can accommodate up to four adults.

Guests seeking a more traditional hotel experience can choose from one of two different guest room types - the Resort View or the Lake View. Each guest room has panoramic views and private balconies. The rooms are both 463 square feet in size and allow hotel guests the option to upgrade to access the Club Level/Club Lounge. Guests can choose from either a king size or two queen size beds, and each guest room can accommodate up to four adults.


Each cottage, suite, and guest room offer amenities to guests. Guests are provided with complimentary coffee, tea, or bottled water. There are also in-room safes for security. Flat screen televisions are located in each room as well and offer cable/satellite channel options including movie channels, ESPN, HBO, and CNN. Pay per view movies can also be purchased. Televisions also have internet access, allowing guests to also access Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, and Crackle. Complimentary turndown and housekeeping services are provided as well.

Each spacious marble bathrooms offers both a shower (with a “rainforest” shower head) and a bathtub, and have luxury bathroom amenities provided by Asprey, as well as terry cloth bathrobes and slippers for guests to use during their stay. There are double sinks with lighted shaving/makeup mirrors in the bathroom as well.

Beds in each accommodation are fitted with top quality linens, featherbeds, and comfortable, plush duvet covers. Suite rooms and cottages also offer an additional sofa bed.

Suite level guests have an honor bar and refrigerator, as well as an additional flat screen television. Some suite rooms also have extra half bathrooms/powder rooms.

Cottages also provide additional amenities, including personalized check-in experiences, an honor bar with local snacks and beers, a basket containing blankets and coffee mugs to use fireside, and two to five additional flat screen televisions. There is also a selection of lake themed movies to watch, and board games like Checkers, Chess, and Jenga. The two-bedroom cottage also has a whirlpool tub, while the Lake House cottage has an outdoor pool. The Lake House cottage also offers guests grocery shopping services.

High-speed wireless internet access can be added at an additional fee (except Club Level access guests, who are provided complimentary wireless internet access).

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Club Level and Club Lounge

For hotel guests who are staying in any of the suites or have upgraded to allow access, visiting at The Ritz-Carlton Club Level provides a variety of high-end amenities. Club Level access provides for two garment pressings complimentary per day, complimentary wireless internet access, a dedicated concierge staff, and a computer station that gives guests the ability to copy and fax.

The Lounge area is often described as being a “hotel within a hotel.” The lounge is located on the hotel’s fifth floor. It provides guests with complimentary cocktails and beverages, breakfast, hors-d'oeuvres, light fare lunches, and dessert with local produce and products. There are also exclusive experiences offered only at the Club Lounge like a house made pickle and bloody Mary bar, a bourbon tasting workshop, and seasonal spa customizable classes. They also provide kid-friendly options like board games.


Guest rooms and suites at The Ritz-Carlton are given 24 hours in-room dining access.

Guests who want to venture into the hotel can enjoy one of the many in-house dining experiences, all managed by the in-house culinary staff.

Georgia’s provides a relaxed atmosphere with food created from local and regional products. They are open for breakfast and dinner and provide a vegetarian menu as well as handcrafted cocktails and desserts. The food is southern influenced but contemporary in flavor. The dress is resort casual.

Linger Longer Steakhouse is a traditional steakhouse that is open for lunch and dinner. Reservations are strongly encouraged, and the dress code is resort casual. The steakhouse also has a variety of signature dessert souffles and an open kitchen format.

Gaby’s By the Lake is poolside and provides a casual menu with a relaxed, casual dress code. The menu is also casual, with pizza, sandwiches, salads, and grilled items. They also offer a cigar menu.

Chiminea Dining is a private option for guests to enjoy. Dinner is created just for two and served in front of a bonfire lakeside. Each meal is three courses and includes a bottle of either white or red wine as well as dessert.

The Barrel Room is an evening only experience staffed by Bourbon Stewards that are certified and ready to help guests choose the right cocktail. There are also appetizers available, and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Coffee Shop is also available for a takeout cup of Starbucks coffee, a pastry, or a cup of Honeysuckle brand gelato (offering six flavors - bourbon pecan, vanilla bean, raspberry sorbet, s’mores, dark chocolate, and sea salt caramel).

For hotel guests staying in the cottages, The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds offers a BBQ Butler with a variety of menu options. The butler will come to the cottage and prepare a full menu on-site, including side dishes, desserts, and beverages.


The full-service spa in The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds focuses on using local, Georgia products in their many spa treatment options, which include facials, massage, wraps, manicures/pedicures, and haircuts. There are also multiple relaxation lounges, a 24-hour fitness center (offered complimentary to all hotel guests), and an indoor pool. The spa also features a “Gent’s Den,” with a variety of whiskey inspired spa treatments, flat screen televisions broadcasting sports games, and a traditional barbershop. The spa is over 27,000 square feet in size and regular offers spa specials and featured treatments. A spa reservation agent is available to help each guest choose their perfect treatment.


The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds has five attached golf courses for guest use. Four are 18 holes (The Landing, The Preserve, The Oconee, and Great Waters), while one is 27 holes (The National). The courses were all designed by some of the most well-known architects of golf courses out there - Bob Cupp, Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, and Tom Fazio - and all are par 72. Golf packages and caddie services are available, and hotel guests should contact the Guest Relations Team or the dedicated golf advisor to schedule a tee time.

1 Lake Oconee Trail, Greensboro, GA, 30642, Phone: 706-467-0600

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More Ideas in GA: Lake Winnepesaukah

Located in Rossville, Georgia within the greater Chattanooga, Tennessee region, Lake Winnepesaukah is an 80-acre amusement park offering a variety of high, mild, and family thrill rides, along with a full water park facility offering family water rides.


Lake Winnepesaukah, commonly referred to as Lake Winnie, was opened by Carl and Minette Dixon in the summer of 1925. The park was named in honor of its nine-acre lake, which was known by the indigenous Abenaki word “winnipesaukee,” which is believed to translate as “beautiful water in a high place” or “beautiful lake of the highlands.” More than 5,000 visitors attended the park during its opening season, which offered boating, fishing, and picnicking activities. A 22,000-square-foot swimming pool was opened at the facility for the 1926 season, which was the largest pool of its kind in the southeastern United States at the time of its debut. In 1927, the park’s first ride attraction, the Boat Chute, was designed by Carl Dixon and opened to the public. The ride is believed today to be the oldest operating mill chute log ride of its kind in the United States. More rides were added to the park in the 1940s and 1950s, with the park’s first roller coasters added in 1960. Modern midway attractions were added throughout the end of the 20th century, and in 2003, a five-acre water park was added to the facility. In 2005, several attractions were transferred to the park from Panama City Beach in honor of the park’s 80th anniversary celebration.

Rides and Attractions

Today, Lake Winnepesaukah encompasses more than 80 acres, including a five-acre water park facility, and offers 38 high, mild, and family thrill rides for visitors of all ages. The park is modeled as a classic American fair park, offering a ride midway section, fair food vendors, and classic amusement games. The park is the home of several nationally-recognized rides, including the National Amusement Park Historical Association-recognized Boat Chute, the oldest mill chute water ride in the country, and the only known operating Eyerly Fly-O-Plane ride in the United States.

Thrill rides offered at the park include the Cannonball wooden roller coaster, constructed by the historic Philadelphia Toboggan Company and installed in 1967. The 2,272-foot coaster offers a vertical drop of 70 feet at its first hill and reaches maximum speeds of up to 50 miles per hour. Other coasters at the park include a Wild Lightnin’ wild mouse coaster, which takes visitors through a track of twists, hairpin turns, and sudden drops, and a Fire Ball single loop roller coaster. An Oh-Zone! drop tower ride offers a 14-story freefall at a velocity of 4.6Gs and a speed of 50 miles per hour. Other high thrill rides include a Conestoga magic carpet ride, a Twister inverted barrel ride, a Pirate Ship, and a Genie gravity floor-drop ride.

A large variety of midway rides are offered at the park, offering classic amusement thrills for visitors of all ages. An Alpine Way sky lift ride provides bird’s eye views of the park, while a traditional Ferris Wheel offers panoramic views and a Tour Train circles the park on a classic railroad track. Classic midway rides include an Antique Carrousel constructed by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in 1916, along with Scrambler, Paratrooper, Tilt-A-Whirl, Wave Swinger, Matterhorn, and Balloon rides. A Wacky Factory indoor dark ride is offered, along with Antique and Bumper Cars, a Sea Warrior monster-style ride, and a Super Slide classic park slide. Paddle boats may also be rented for use on the park’s lake.

Children’s rides at the park include the Wacky Worm family roller coaster, which offers mild thrills for first-time coaster riders. A Frog Hopper bounce drop ride, Parachute drop rides, and a Free Whale ride also offer mild thrills for young visitors. Children’s midway rides include Bumble Bees and Jumbo Elephants circular flying rides, Motorcycle and Silly Saucer spinning rides, and miniature Kiddie Boats, Kiddie Swings, and Sports Cars. A Stay and Play Hideaway interactive play area is also offered within the park’s Jukebox Junction performance venue.

At the SOKAYa Water Park, opened in 2013, seven ride and attraction areas are offered, including a Crazy River lazy river ride attraction and a Water Works interactive water play area with bucket drops and climbing areas. Water slides include the Splish-N-Splash body slides, the Twist-N-Shout tube slides, the Winnie 500 racing slides, and a Zoom Flume. A Soak-N-Slide children’s play area and a Coke Float Cove water obstacle course are also offered.

Refreshment stands and restaurants throughout the park serve standard American and fair food and include the Ferris Wheel Cafe, the Carrousel Cafe, and Scooter’s Pizza. A variety of traditional skill games are located throughout the park’s midway, offering chances to win prizes. Guest amenities at the park include stroller, locker, and cabana rentals, and a gift shop sells park souvenirs.

Ongoing Programs and Events

Group admission rates are offered for small groups of 25 or more, with catering options available with advance notice. Young visitors wishing to celebrate their birthdays at the park may rent the park’s Cake House picnic venue for two-hour party blocks with advance reservations. Several educational days are offered throughout the park’s operating season, incorporating curriculum activities into park attractions for school groups. Discount days are offered throughout the season for military members, families, and visitors bringing food donations for local charities. Annual special events include Mother’s and Father’s Day Carload Special days and a fireworks display on the Fourth of July.

1730 Lakeview Dr, Rossville, GA 30741, Phone: 706-866-5681