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Golden Isles of Georgia

As a kid I went to summer camps. I think a bike tour is a lot like summer camp for adults. Fun and adventure in a new place with new experiences and new friends along the way.

I am not sure I knew that Georgia had islands. Not that I had really thought about Georgia and islands prior to this bike trip. I did know that Georgia has a coast line on the Atlantic. Now I know that Georgia has “barrier islands” on that coast line and some of them are called the Golden Isles. We discovered that the Golden Isles are almost due south of Buffalo, NY. I did not realize, before my visit, just how far inland the Georgia coast is located.

We took the Golden Isles of Georgia Charleston Bicycle tour this year. It is fun to let someone else do all the planning and just go along for the ride. This is our third tour with the Charleston Bicycle group and we really appreciate their first-rate rides, hospitality and dining selections.

Live Oaks entryway to the Lodge at Sea Island

Our travels started in Savanah; we drove south from there onto St. Simons Island where we stayed at a “base camp” (hotel) the rest of the week. We rode around all of the beautiful barrier islandsSt. Simons IslandSea Island, and Jekyll Island. We were enchanted seeing the stretches of marshland that create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land.

St. Simons Island, GA St. Simons is the largest island; we devoted two days to exploring this isle on our bicycles, including seeing the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, where, in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.

Ride to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site on Old Demere Rd.

We were struck with the beauty of the tree lined entryway into The Inn at Sea Island. We had a good time exploring the hotel and grounds as well as biking around and exploring St. Simons Island.

Since I had not heard of the islands prior to the trip, I did not remember a battle from 1742 or the National Park Service Fort Frederica National Monument, which preserves archeological remnants of a  British colony and its defense against Spain. The purpose of the fort reminds me of cold war deterrence by strategically placing (weapons, missiles…forts) military installations away from population areas and near the perceived threat to protect possible invasion by that potential enemy. We enjoyed the tour and were happy to be inside during a rainstorm. The bicycle tour was timed just right for an inside visit of the fort, and then the rain passed for an outside tour and ride back to our hotel.

On St. Simons Island, we played disc golf at Gascoigne Bluff. This was not part of the official tour. We played well on the course as liked learning the history of the area. The bluff was one of the first possible landing areas for a ship entering the harbor in Georgia. Gascoigne Bluff was the headquarters for a military invasion (if you were paying attention in July 1742), a Sea Island cotton plantation, the site of a lumber mill and a shipping point for timber. We played under a forest of live oak trees. It is interesting to think that live oak timbers from this area were used to build “Old Ironsides,” the U.S.S. Constitution

Jekyll Island, GA

Welcome to Jekyll Island State Park

Home to the formerly wealthy and famous group of 50 or so industrialists, this island is now owned by the state of Georgia.

View on the bike path around the Island

We had a good time circling the island on a paved path. One of the highlights for us was seeing Driftwood Beach on the north end of the island.

After the ride around the island, we stopped at the museum and enjoyed reading about the history of all that we had seen on the ride.

Sea Island, GA

We were delighted to ride our bikes from the hotel on St. Simons Island onto Sea Island. We rode across the causeway to the island. I always think that you have to go across a “big body” of water to have an island. However, that is not the case. I found out that many of the Golden Isles are close to each other and only separated by small inlets and rivers.

View from St. Simons Island Looking at The Cloister on Sea Island

As we were biking along on Sea Island, our tour stopped to gawk at the island’s biggest home, called Entelechy II, which was undergoing some renovation. The home is not opened to the public; we just stopped by to look and wonder at this interesting house on this exclusive island.

We rode to the end of the island and then onto the sand beach.

Beach on Sea Island

From the beach we went on a tour of the Cloister hotel. This hotel once hosted the G-8 summit, and the hotel and grounds were very impressive. 

View from inside the main lobby

After riding around the island, we took advantage of the Sea Island club and enjoyed swimming and walking along the beach. We made it down the beach far enough to see the back of the Entelechy II. This was the perfect spot to break up a day of bike riding. Lunch on the grounds was delicious.

Another island bike tour: We took a short boat ride as part of the tour to Sapalo Island, GA. This island was really different from the other islands.  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources manages the island and runs the ferry service. Imagine having to take all of your groceries to your home on a ferry. A small population lives on the island full time; the lighthouse, R.J. Reynolds mansion and the Georgia research facility are the main areas on the island. Georgia research facility are the main areas on this mostly undeveloped island.

We arrived on the island and found the bikes we would be using for the day. Our bike trip on this island was on asphalt, sand and gravel roads. It was a good ride for the bikes that were provided as a part of the tour, as our road bikes would not have worked too well.

We managed to see a small portion of the island on the tour and were taken by the beauty of the island, largely unspoiled by development.

We did manage to see a few alligators; fortunately, we left each other alone.

Sighting Alligators

We had lunch at the lighthouse grounds and enjoyed the view from the top of the lighthouse.

We finished our tour with a stroll through the R.J. Reynolds mansion. We really liked the circus room and all of the modern devices in the mansion. It was similar (although much smaller) to the Biltmore with the bowling ally in the basement.

Other Fun

Running on St. Simon’s Island and seeing some of the wildlife.

Walking near Columbia, SC. On our way to Savannah, we spent the night near Columbia, SC. On our evening walk we saw some turtles swimming. A Fun sight. We tried to go to the Harbison State Forest and ended up walking on the Harbison Place walking trail. Maybe next time we will go all the way to the State Forest.

Walking and running in historic downtown Savanah.

Dinning with the tour group. We ate at several fancy restaurants as a part of the tour. We dinned in our bike clothes as well as dressing up on the last night out with our group. We shared several meals together as well as a bottle of Kentucky bourbon. Some of our favorite restaurants were Halyards and Delaney’s Bistro and Bar where I had buffalo and others had elk and duck. We enjoyed spending days biking and dining out with our new group of friends.

Walking around St Simons Island (over 10 miles on our own) and finding fun places to shop and dine out.

On our own, we found places we enjoyed (we did not have a bad meal the whole time). The Golden Isles have several great restaurants and shopping areas.  We like to have ice cream when biking or after biking…well you get the picture. We indulged our need for ice cream at both the Moo Cow Ice Cream shop and Certified Burgers and Beverages on St. Simons Island. We liked the shakes at Certified and my wife raved about the “Dixie,” a grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwich, as well as the tots. Some in our group made fun of us for having dessert first on a few occasions. I am sure they were just jealous that they had missed the opportunity.

We biked about 100 miles in the five day biking adventure. We had a fun tour with each day being a good combination of riding, sightseeing and delicious meals.

See you on the road on our next adventure.