A while back, an enterprising young teenager made a bevy of stickers and shirts with the refrain of “Georgia has a Coast!?” Later, that same question was posed in a poignant editorial by one of Coastal Georgia’s favorite photographers, Ben Galland, in The Bitter Southerner. For those who live in or frequent the area, the question seems strange, but it just seems like most folks don’t know that Georgia has a coast…
In actuality, Georgia’s Coast is the stuff of legend. From being, allegedly, the plundering grounds of the infamous pirate blackbeard, to containing an estimated ⅓ of all salt marshes on the East Coast, this little hundred mile stretch of shoreline is as rich in history as it is outdoor pursuits.
Visit Georgia’s Barrier Islands
From suburban to pristine national wilderness areas, Georgia has a slew of options for those wanting to get out into the maritime forests filled with centuries old live oak trees dressed in spanish moss.
Let’s explore a few of the islands briefly:
Cumberland Island – A national seashore that is accessible by ferry or private boat. Cumberland was once owned by the Carnegie family and boasts several large houses (and ruins) on an otherwise sparsely developed island. Worth a day trip or a whole week, you can find plenty of places to hike, bike or fish on even the shortest trip. The highlight has to be wild horses roaming the island and its adjacent marshes.
Jekyll Island – A state park that has endless trails for hiking and biking immersed in history. This island was developed by the “Millionaire’s Club” with the likes of the Vanderbilts, the Pulitzers and the Morgans as members. It was also the place of the first transcontinental phone call. In addition to numerous trails, Jekyll is also renowned for its beaches, fishing, and bird watching.
Sapelo Island – Owned mostly by the State of Georgia, Sapelo Island is a jewel of the Georgia Coast. This Barrier island can be separated into three parts, the State Park (linked), the Hog-Hammock Community, and the State Wildlife Management Area. The island is accessible only by private boat or ferry. Once you get to the island, prepare to immerse yourself in history, beaches, fishing, and hunting.
Coastal Georgia gets a solid four stars on its fishing. The salt and brackish marshes are teaming with redfish, trout, black drum, flounder and sheepshead. Some of the largest tides on the east coast (averaging 8 ft of change), mean you should carry a tide chart with you. Although live bait is the preferred method of catching in the often stained coastal waters, there are plenty of opportunities to use artificials or fly rods. One of our favorite things to do along the coast is to target tailing redfish on the fly during the King Tides of the fall and spring, you can get an in depth look in our blog post on Low Country Redfish. And if you are on the Georgia Coast, be sure to check out the stellar sight-fishing for Tripletail from March-August!
The Georgia Coast is also a great place for the avid kayak fisherman. With miles of creeks that are inaccessible to larger vessels, the Kayaker can get to those unmolested schools of redfish and navigate around narrow channels and large oyster beds.
Nearshore fishing tends to be good along the Georgia Coast as well. Plenty of Snapper and Black Sea Bass can be caught year round, with good runs of Cobia, Spanish and King Mackerel, and grouper. With deeper water being 30-40ish miles offshore and the Gulf Stream closer to 60-80 miles, it is possible to target pelagics, but we wouldn’t recommend coming to the Georgia Coast to target billfish, dolphin, and the likes, but they are certainly in the area if you find yourself there.
Species: Redfish, Seatrout, Flounder, Black Drum, Tarpon, Tripletail, Snapper, Grouper, Pelagics, Billfish, King Mackerel, Spanish Mackerel, Cobia.
Georgia is one of the most popular states for hunting, and for good reason! Although coastal Georgia ranks towards the bottom of Georgia’s hunting areas, there is plenty of game to hunt, with some being unique to the coast.
Big Game hunting consists of the typical Whitetail Deer and Wild Boar, but there’s an added bonus on the menu: Alligator. You can enter the state lottery for an alligator tag and set yourself up for a very exciting adventure. Small game hunting is also good on the Coast with copious amounts of squirrel, rabbit, and other typical quarry.
Feathered game is also good along the Coast. There are plenty of opportunities for the Eastern Wild Turkey in the swampy low-country. Doves are also a common target, and there are limited flocks of wild quail just inland.
Once you make your way into the marshlands, waterfowl opportunities abound. Although not known as a waterfowl mecca, coastal Georgia provides decent numbers of birds, particularly during early season (and especially early teal season). If you’re searching for a wood duck, bufflehead, or hooded merganser to scratch off the species list, there’s probably no better place.
For a special type of hunting, consider a trip down in the fall to shoot clapper rails, colloquially known as Marsh Hens. They are typically hunted by poling small boats across marsh flats on high tides–it’s a fun hunt that is unlike anything else and is a great way to get kids into shooting. And if you’re looking for the ultimate Cast & Blast, try catching tailing reds and shooting hens on the same trip!
Species: Whitetail Deer, Eastern Wild Turkey, Wild Boar, Alligator, Small Game, Dove, Quail, Marsh hens, Waterfowl, Wood Duck, Scoter, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Bluebill, Canvasback, Pintail, Gadwall
One of the coast’s premier adventure outfitters, Southeast Adventure Outfitters, tagline is “Coastal Georgia has a huge trail system–it’s just all wet.” And that is exactly right. With tons of locations to paddle in the expansive salt marshes, brackish estuaries, and freshwater rivers, the coast of Georgia is a kayaker’s dream. If you happen to have a low tide early in morning or late in the afternoon, we suggest taking advantage of a trip to see the myriad shorebirds and other wildlife that forages the banks at dawn and dusk. Check out the Southeast Coast Paddling Trail for some inspiration..
Hiking, Biking & Nature Trails ★★★★★
As noted above, most of the barrier islands are great for hiking and biking, with tons of trails. But that’s just the beginning of the opportunities. There are also plenty of public trails located on the mainland. From trail laden WMA’s to nature preserves like Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, the coast has plenty to do.
From tiny marsh wrens to massive bald eagles, the coast of Georgia is covered in birds, and with almost a half-million acres of marshlands to feed and hide in, the birding is incredible. We recommend searching the beach for the various shorebirds, gulls, and pelicans, but also don’t miss the opportunity to visit an area where the salt marsh turns brackish and see everything from herons and spoonbills to waterfowl and stilts. Our three favorites along the coast are Savannah National Wildlife Refuge, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge, and the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area.
Historical Places ★★★★
The Georgia Coast is steeped in history. From Native American culture to pre-colonial and colonial settlements, the Coast has it all. Starting in Savannah and moving down the coast to Darien, St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island, historical markers abound. If you want to curate an entire tour or just check out what’s around check out this exhaustive list of historical places.
Search for the perfect Coastal Georgia rental:
Tackle Shops & Outfitters:
- On the Fly Outfitters (Brunswick)
- Rivers and Glen (Savannah)
- Saint Simons Bait and Tackle
- First Georgia Hardware (Darien)
- Bucaneer’s Bait and Tackle (Saint Marys)
Hunting and Fishing License Information: