What to Pack for … Coastal Georgia

Pack like a pro with these insider tips.

1. Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Georgia Coast and Okefenokee, by Richard J. Lenz. Used copies of this out-of-print 1999 guidebook are available, and the entire text is available online: sherpaguides.com/georgia/coast. The book uses history (told concisely and with a lively touch) to convey a vivid feel for Georgia's varied coastal destinations, from the posh "cottages" and civilized beaches of Jekyll Island to the hardscrabble marshfront towns strung along the mainland.

2. An electronic navigation device or a good map. Once you get off I-95 or U.S. 17, you can easily get lost on the winding, intermittently marked secondary roads.

3. Tide tables. Because of the shape of the coastline and the seafloor, Georgia has some of the country's highest tides―up to 9 feet. Be wary of strong currents as the tides ebb and flow.

4. Beach gear. But only if you're visiting the islands. Georgia possesses no mainland beaches to speak of. Bridges link four of Georgia's islands to the mainland: Tybee and St. Simons, which are developed and mostly residential; Sea Island, a private resort community; and Jekyll, a state park that's both residential and tourist-oriented. Little St. Simons is a nature-oriented resort island, and Cumberland is largely a national seashore with controlled access.

5. An appetite for seafood. Trawlers harvest tons of fresh shrimp just off the coast. For suggestions about where to sample it, see the list of our favorite Georgia "seafood dive" restaurants.

6. Poems of Sidney Lanier. Generations of Georgia schoolchildren grew up reciting Lanier's "The Marshes of Glynn," an ode to the grassy shallows that fringe most of Georgia's coast. The 19th-century poet's romantic style may seem over-the-top today, but his love for the landscape of his native state still shines through. Buy the book, or download it free here: worldwideschool.org/library/books/lit/poetry/PoemsofSidneyLanier/legalese.html.

7. A kayak or canoe. Paddling through the shallow marshes remains the best way to experience their beauty and abundant wildlife. Rent a craft if you don't have your own; you'll find marinas and outfitters up and down the coast.

8. Insect repellent (spring through fall). Those marshes, though lovely (especially in evening light), do harbor lots of hungry bugs.

9. Gullah music. The rhythmic sounds of the Gullahs, descendants of African slaves who still inhabit many of Georgia's islands, can really lift your spirits. Recordings by The Georgia Sea Island Singers or The Hallelujah Singers may not be easy to find, but they're worth the hunt.

10. An extra suitcase for antiques. Most of the little towns and rural byways lack significant tourist attractions. Still, you can usually find a little antiques store or two. Don't expect high-dollar treasures, but the bargain prices do make for fun browsing.

(published October 2006)

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