The Best Day Trips from St. Simons Islands You Can’t Miss

St. Simons Island in itself is a fantastic getaway destination. If you’re not lucky enough to call this island home, it can be tough to find reason enough to take a day or two away during your vacation to explore other areas. Luckily, with so many small islands, big cities, and natural gems littered just a short drive away, taking advantage of these great day trips from St. Simons Islands is easier and quicker than you might think.

With a modern and comfortable vacation rental home as your home base on the island, you’re sure to be well-rested and ready to see as much of the Georgia and Florida coast as possible.

Now the only decision left for you to make is which of these places you will decide to visit on your day trip from St. Simons.

1. The Golden Isles

Photo Credit: Margaret.Wiktor
  • Sea Island
  • Jekyll Island
  • Little St. Simons Island
  • Cumberland Island
  • Sapelo Island

The Golden Isles are a chain of barrier islands off the Georgia coast. St. Simons is a Golden Isle itself but certainly not the only island worth visiting. All of these islands offer vast sandy beaches, picturesque marshland, and rich histories. Some of these islands, like Sapelo, Little SSI, and Cumberland Island, are mainly inhabited but others, like Jekyll and SSI have quaint towns to enjoy as well.

Sea Island is a unique case because this small island isn’t open to the public. You must be a member or have a reservation at one of the high-end resorts to stay there, making it impossible to visit for only a day trip. This is also applicable to Sapelo Island, you’ll need to pre-register to be able to take the ferry over to this historic island. Of all of the lesser inhabited Golden Isles, it’s easiest to visit Cumberland Island on a day trip. Here you can see the wild horses that still mystify historians as to how they arrived here.

By visiting these islands, you’ll get an up close look at the unique salt marshes of the Atlantic and the fragile ecosystem that thrives in them.

All of these islands are located less than 1 hour away from St. Simons Island.

2. Savannah

Photo Credit: Jon Bilous

If this is your first time visiting coastal Georgia, you can’t head back home without first paying a visit to Savannah, GA. Located on the border between Georgia and South Carolina, Savannah is certainly one of the south’s best cities.

The best area of Savannah for you to spend your time is the historic district. Here, you stroll down large brick sidewalks under large live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, bouncing from shop to shop. Savannah also boasts no open container law, giving you the unique chance to stroll with a cocktail or beer in hand.

If you’re craving more beach action, cross over the marshland to Tybee Island, another one of Georgia’s best islands.

The drive from St. Simons to Savannah is less than 1.5 hours. Add 30 minutes to your drive if you decide to visit Tybee, too.

3. Jacksonville

Photo Credit: Ruth Peterkin

Drive south to Jacksonville, FL if you’re in the mood for a bigger city with modern amenities. In Jacksonville, you’ll have an endless amount of things to do. From professional sports to great restaurants, shopping to beaches, you and your family won’t struggle to find things to fill your day with.

Although only a little more than an hour away, Jacksonville couldn’t feel more different than St. Simons Island. By visiting Savannah, you’re getting a larger St. Simons, somewhere that feels quintessentially southern. Whereas Jacksonville has the modernity of any large city but one that just so happens to land on the coast.

For less city and more coast, you’ll find a vast array of beaches speckling the Florida Atlantic coast. The best beaches in the Jacksonville area are:

  • Fernandina Beach
  • Ponte Vedra Beach
  • St. Augustine Beach

4. Hilton Head Island

Photo Credit: PETER LAKOMY

Just north of Savannah is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Another barrier island, by simply looking at a map, you’d think Hilton Head and St. Simons offered the same things. On paper, I can understand that but in practice, these islands offer completely different activities.

Sure, they both offer large sandy beaches that change drastically with the tides but other than their natural landscapes, the similarities really draw the line there. While St. Simons Island is known as a refuge from day to day life, offering its visitors peace, tranquility, and a much deserved break, Hilton Head Island packs as much as it can into a small space.

For an island with endless restaurants, bars, and entertainment options but where you can still stretch out on the sand and build a great drip castle, Hilton Head Island will be a great day trip for you and your family.

The drive from St. Simons Island to Hilton Head Island is just under 2 hours. We recommend stopping in Savannah on your road trip since you’ll need to pass through it anyways.

5. Charleston

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone

Last but certainly not least is the southern gem, Charleston. Charleston offers its guests plenty of historic sites, barrier islands, and a small town feel, although really not so small. What Charleston does so well is mix southern charm with a luxurious touch.

The history here has been well-preserved, so you’ll be able to stroll down cobblestone stones among brightly painted storefronts, shopping for one-of-a-kind brands, and grabbing a bite to eat at some of the south’s best restaurants. Actually, in Charleston, you don’t even have to walk the streets, you can enjoy them from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage or pedicab.

For history buffs, you won’t want to miss a visit to Ft. Sumter. This was the site of the first battle of the Civil War all those years ago.

While Charleston hasn’t been able to call itself a hidden gem for quite some time, it still alludes that you’re in on a secret while here. Although nearly 3 hours away from St. Simons, it’s worth the drive if you have the time and energy.

Enjoy the Best Day Trips from St. Simons

With this, you’re more than prepared to pick your ideal day trip from St. Simons Island. By staying put on the Golden Islands you’ll have plenty to see and do during your vacation, from world-renown golf courses to immersing yourself in nature by canoeing through the maritime forests. But, for an exciting addition to your trip, travel a bit farther up the Georgia coast, into South Carolina, or head south to Florida.