Weekend in the Georgia Isles one of three ways: on a budget, spending a bit more, or when the getaway calls for a splurge.
Trip tips: Jekyll Island: Surrounded by miles of sandy shores, the island was once the winter retreat for the nation’s wealthiest families (Pulitzers, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts). Today, their cottages and homes have been preserved and restored, making up the 240-acre Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District. The Wild Georgia Shrimp Festival, Sept. 19-21, will feature a cook-off, shrimp boat tours, cooking demonstrations, book signings, arts and crafts vendors, live entertainment and a kid‐friendly fun zone; www.jekyllisland.com.
St. Simons Island near Brunswick is nearly 18 square miles and a recreation wonderland of championship golf (home to the 18-hole King and Prince Golf Course and 27-hole Sea Palms Golf & Tennis Resort), miles of bicycle paths, fishing (cast off the St. Simons Island Pier) and historic sites such as the Lighthouse and Fort Frederica National Monument (remnants of the 1700s British fort). Find a treasure under the shady oaks in Postell Park at the St. Simons Island Antique Show, held Saturdays, Sundays; www.stsimonsantiques.com. Upcoming events include the Old Fashioned 4th of July at the waterfront Mary Ross Park, and Stewbilee, a celebratory cook-off of the trademark Brunswick Stew, Oct. 18; http://brunswickgeorgia.net.
Sea Island: Located on 5 miles of pristine Georgia coastline, Sea Island is a private destination resort offering Forbes Five-Star experiences combined with an array of nature adventures, recreational activities and culinary options.
Getting there: The islands are located 280 miles southeast of Atlanta and 65 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida. One-way rates to JAX from $120; nonstop, AirTran or Delta.
BUDGET, Jekyll Island
Stay: The beachfront Hampton Inn & Suites Jekyll Island features a boardwalk from the zero-entry heated, outdoor pool area to the beach, a fire pit for relaxing evenings and a fitness room. Grab an On the Run Breakfast Bag (Monday-Friday) or enjoy a hot breakfast in the dining room. Rates from $118. 200 S. Beachview Drive. 912-635-3733, www.hamptoninn.com.
Eat: Find Lowcountry cuisine at the Driftwood Bistro. Georgia shrimp, an array of veggie sides, sandwiches, salads, signature entrees and more — served in petite or regular portions. Closed Sundays. $5-$15. 1175 N. Beachview Drive. 912-635-2521, www.driftwoodbistro.com.
Experience: The 11-acre Summer Waves water park on Jekyll Island offers nine wild rides with options for all ages. Highlights include the Frantic Atlantic Wave Pool with more than 500,000 gallons of churning water; a 300-foot dropping slide from the five-story Pirate’s Passage tower; two 40-foot twisting slides at Nature’s Revenge; a lazy river loop and Kiddie Zone; $19.95 adults; $15.95 under 48 inches tall (ages 3 and under free). 210 S. Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island. 912-635-2074, www.summerwaves.com. Join a two-hour guided walk on the beach, maritime forests or salt marshes at the Tidelands Nature Center. $5 adults, $3 ages 8-18 ($25 max per family). 100 S. Riverview Drive. 912-635-5032, www.tidelands4h.org.
MODERATE, Brunswick-St. Simons Island
Stay: Get the guys together for a mancation. An Embassy Suites Brunswick package includes accommodations in a two-room suite, two rounds of golf at Coastal Pines Golf Course; admission for two to the Emerald Princess Casino Cruise, breakfast buffet and evening beer/wine reception. Rates from $203, double occupancy, valid through June 30. 500 Mall Blvd., Brunswick. 912-264-6100, www.embassysuites.com.
Eat: Every menu item — from seafood, beef, poultry and game entrees, to the sauces, soups and sweets —is prepared from scratch at Halyards. This relaxed spot has a warm ambiance and a noteworthy wine and cocktail menu. Starters $6-$15; entrees $22-$35. 55 Cinema Lane, St. Simons. 912-638-9100, www.halyardsrestaurant.com.
Experience: Find wildlife, deserted beaches, forests and marshes on the 10,000 unbothered, unhurried acres of Little St. Simons Island. Reached only by boat, day trips depart from St. Simons Island (depart 10:30 a.m., return by 4:30 p.m.) and include round-trip private transportation, an island tour and interpretive program led by an experienced naturalist, a Lowcountry lunch and an afternoon tea on a 7-mile private beach; $95 (reservations mandatory). 1-888-733-5774, www.littlestsimonsisland.com.
SPLURGE, Sea Island
Stay: Since 1928, Sea Island has been renowned for its gracious hospitality and service. The family resort features world-class tennis and squash centers, a Beach Club, Yacht Club, a Shooting School, and three championship golf courses. A “Bed & Breakfast” package at the Lodge averages $465 per night. The brand-new the Inn at Sea Island is a select service hotel with guest access to many Sea Island amenities. Nightly rates with buffet breakfast start from $190. 100 Cloister Drive. 1-855-714-9201, www.seaisland.com.
Eat: Get lunch to go at the Market at Sea Island. This new take-away shop features a coffee bar and a Sea Island Logo Shop and sells locally produced products from Sea Island’s Broadfield Plantation as well as fresh-baked breads, pastries, sandwiches, salads and daily entrees ($10-$14). Try the Bologna Panini with Pimento Cheese, Bread and Butter Pickles on a Challah Bun, $7. 351 Sea Island Road. 912-634-3994, www.seaisland.com/dining/the-market.
Experience: Browse the extensive menu of activities on Sea Island at the online Planning Guide. Sample experiences include an Introduction to Stand Up Paddleboarding, $75; a one-hour sailing class, $125; a two-hour kayak trip with lunch, $125; and a two-hour Sea Turtle Encounter for four, $350. www.seaisland.com.
Clara Bosonetto is a retired travel consultant.