Photo Credit: Christian Herb // Getty Images

Southeast Luxury: St. Augustine and the Golden Isles

It is rare that I travel somewhere new, so I was beyond excited to scout our sensational 2024 Golden Isles and St. Augustine tour. After a quick flight to Jacksonville, I arrived on Jekyll Island less than an hour later. Approaching the entrance to historic Jekyll Island Club Resort, I drove through a canopy of moss-covered trees before being greeted by staff members exuding old-world elegance with impeccable service.

Moss-covered trees line every street.

The first thing I noticed was the beautiful Victorian architecture, the perfectly manicured grounds with lush gardens, and a feeling that I was somewhere unique. Everything is elegant with a laid-back feeling--instantly relaxing! The resort is newly renovated and the rooms freshly decorated. Truly beautiful. And I am not lying when I say it was the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.

Credit: Jekyll Island Club Resort
Credit: Jekyll Island Club Resort

Dinner on our first night is at The Wharf on the water, just a very short walk from the resort. The view of the water and the natural beauty of the coast at sunset was beautiful. The staff was fun, the ambience lively, and the food was fantastic.

Credit: The Wharf
Credit: The Wharf

There is so much to do at Jekyll Island Club Resort. My second day started with a narrated trolley tour that took us on a journey through the island’s rich history, led by a knowledgeable guide. I loved the captivating stories about the club members during its Gilded Age era. After the tour, I spent some time exploring the Jekyll Island Museum (where the trolley tour starts and ends) with exhibits and artifacts highlighting the popular retreat.

Trolley Tour through Jekyll Island

A short walk away is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center which rehabilitates injured sea turtles and other marine life animals. Learn about the efforts being made to conserve and protect these endangered species through presentations by their staff and interactive displays. Walk through the rehab center and see these magnificent animals at different stages of rehabilitation up close. We watched a marine veterinarian stitch up a baby alligator. Cute gift shop, too!

Credit: Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Presentation at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Lunch was fantastic at The Pantry on the resort; they have everything from pimento cheese sandwiches to flatbreads, gourmet coffees, and ice cream.

Our next stop was one of the most unforgettable places I have ever been…I still think about it: Driftwood Beach. The sales manager said it was one of the top 10 beaches in the world. It was a beautiful drive around the island, and a short walk on a paved path to the beach. I just stood there staring at this strange, magical place; a jaw dropping moment, unlike any beach or place I have ever visited. The hauntingly beautiful, large, weathered driftwood everywhere created an artistic yet eerie landscape. Looking at the pictures, you can see this is not an ordinary beach. It was the perfect place to beachcomb, take pictures, or just sit and take in the view.

Driftwood Beach

We also embarked on the Lady Jane Shrimping boat cruise through the picturesque Marshes of Glynn County and tributaries. This was no ordinary cruise, as we spent most of our time at sea trawling for shrimp and other marine life. Our on board naturalist, Jeffrey, educated passengers and let us hold a shark and stingray!

Our on-board naturalist, Jeffrey

Our next day, we crossed the Sidney Lanier Bridge to charming St. Simons (be sure to look out the windows for a spectacular view of the Brunswick River). This beachy little town has everything: great boutique shopping, awesome restaurants, and an amazing location—just steps from the ocean.

Sidney Lanier Bridge, Credit: Golden Isles

Last but certainly not least, it was time for the trek to St. Augustine. After another short drive through Jacksonville, we arrived in St Augustine and checked into the Hampton Inn, Vilano Beach. This hotel is steps away from the ocean and across the street from great restaurants and shopping. Recognized as the “Nation’s Oldest City,” due to its founding in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain, it delivers both history and charm. St. George Street has quaint shops, many restaurants, ice cream parlors, art galleries, and so much more. Must-see stops are the Castillo de San Marcos--the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., the Tiffany windows at Flagler College, the Fountain of Youth, and trolley tour of St. Augustine historic district.

Shops along St. George Street

The beauty of the Southeast coast is something one must see to believe. This scouting adventure gave me the thrill to create an unforgettable itinerary that captures all of the essential sights and activities of this unique area of our country. Look out for this awesome new tour in 2024. Will we see you in the Southeast?


Bridget Siegfried is a Tour Planner for Sunrise Tours. For more about Sunrise Tours, click here.

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