St Simons Island Kayaking Guide

The unique ecology of coastal Georgia creates breathtaking land and seascapes among marsh wetlands, inlets, and rivers. It’s a nature lover’s paradise, with abundant wildlife and numerous opportunities to explore the unspoiled barrier islands. The Golden Isles have fast become a favorite destination of those seeking fun on the water. The diverse waterways of the Georgia coast allow for watersports adventures from mild to wild. Regardless of your seafaring (or river-faring) vessel of choice, you’ll find the ideal waters for canoeing, kayaking, and paddleboarding in the Golden Isles.

Adults and children alike can enjoy exploring our waters, and you don’t need to be a seasoned pro to do it! Knowledgeable local outfitters and guides are ready to help get you on the water with everything from quick tips on tidal charts to equipment rentals and kayak tours in and around St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Brunswick, and Jekyll Island.

Popular Kayaking Spots

Frederica River – Mackay River

 

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Running parallel to the Frederica River as part of the Intracoastal Waterway, the Mackay River is just over 13 miles long. This tidal river flows between Brunswick and Saint Simons Islands, connecting to the Buttermilk and Saint Simons Sounds and the Brunswick River. The Mackay River boat launch provides access to the Mackay and Frederica Rivers.

The Frederica River connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway. Winding in from the inlet, the 11-mile river flows into an expansive bay, forming the western border of St. Simons Island. The river passes the Gascoigne Bluff and Fort Frederica historic sites, making for terrific sightseeing from the water, or great stops for land-based explorations.

Marshes of Glynn

 

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Centered in Brunswick, the Marshes of Glynn are the ideal spot for explorers with their sights set on dramatic ecosystems and abundant wildlife. The salt marsh wetlands of coastal Georgia provide native and migratory habitats for dolphins, sea turtles, and countless bird species. Kayak access is available at Sidney Lanier Bridge Park – an observation and fishing area named after a Confederate soldier and writer from Macon whose poetic works include a tribute to the “Marshes of Glynn”. From the park, the waterways lead a path to breathtaking scenes at the Marshes of Glynn Overlook Park.

Launching from the Mary Ross Waterfront Park across town provides an extended trail through the Oglethorpe Bay and East River before crossing under the Sidney Lanier Bridge. Don’t forget to check out Liberty Ship Memorial Plaza at the waterfront park, where you’ll also find play areas, community events, and brilliant sunsets accentuated by passing ships.

Jekyll Island Tidal Marsh

 

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The protected ecosystems of Jekyll Island make for an incredible natural adventure. The tidal creeks and salt marshes surrounding the island are home to herons, egrets, pelicans, storks, fiddler crabs, dolphins, and more. Marsh boat tours are very popular for sightseeing and education, but the calmer waters are ideal for families and paddlers of all skill levels to set off on their own missions as well.

Launch points are available at the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, allowing access to Jekyll Creek, which leads south to Jekyll Sound and Jekyll Point and north to the Brunswick River. Adjacent to the nature center, Rixen Pond is a popular spot for saltwater fishing by kayak or canoe and crabbing on the banks.

Brunswick River

 

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On the north side of Jekyll Island, Brunswick River is a six-mile long tidal river originating at the Sidney Lanier Bridge through the East River to Saint Simons Sound. The Port of Brunswick once served as a major export site for cotton and wood products due to its river connections, which also provide a path to the Intracoastal Waterway via Plantation Creek.

Kayak launch is available at the Blythe Island Regional Park – a 1,100-acre public park with a dock and marina. Lake Cindee offers an alternate waterway from the park for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking, which are available for rent at the park office. Lake Cindee and the South Brunswick River are said to offer some of the finest offshore fishing in the area.

Altamaha River – Satilla River

 

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The Atlamaha River leads the Oconee and Ocmulgee Rivers toward the Atlantic Ocean at Brunswick, where a thriving estuary basin creates a watershed habitat for an array of rare plant and animal life. The Altamaha River is the second-largest watershed on the East Coast, flowing 137 miles. The size and location of the river contribute to its history as a primary riverboat transportation route and defensive boundary.

The largest blackwater river in Georgia, the Satilla River carves a 235-mile course from the town of Fitzgerald through Waycross, Waynesville, and Woodbine into the Atlantic Ocean south of Brunswick. Complete treks across the Atlamaha and Satilla Rivers are best left to day trips, but both rivers allow for short jaunts along the way, with many public access points.

Named one of the “75 Last Great Places on Earth” by the Nature Conservancy, the full Atlamaha paddling trail transverses protected wildlife habitats, tidal swamps, and forests with no dams in sight. There are more than two dozen access points along the river, including the Altamaha Regional Park boat ramps in Brunswick. From the Brunswick access, paddle past the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation historic site, or stop in to visit the site’s trails, museum, and picnic areas.

Southern Georgia Coast Public Launch Points

  • Blythe Island Regional Park Boat Ramp
  • Jekyll Island Boat Ramp
  • MacKay River Boat Ramp
  • South Brunswick River Ramp at GA Hwy 303
  • Turtle River Ramp at GA Hwy 303
  • Village Creek Landing Boat Ramp
  • Harriet’s Bluff Boat Ramp
  • Little Satilla River Ramp at Spring Bluff
  • St. Marys City Boat Ramp
  • Satilla River Woodbine Waterfront
  • St. Marys River Boat Ramp at US Hwy 17
  • White Oak Creek Boat Ramp
  • Crooked River State Park Boat Ramp
  • North River Boat Ramp

*Local Tip: Enjoy a fun paddling trip over to Sea Island for beachcombing and some tranquil island time when you launch from the East Beach public access point at the Coast Guard Station!

Local Outfitters

4-H Tidelands Nature Center

 

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100 S Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527

http://www.tidelands4h.org/

Coastal ecology programs, guided tours, single and tandem canoe and kayak rentals.

Kayak tours are offered year-round, covering the salt marshes and tidal creeks of Jekyll Island. 2 and 3-hour trips for all ages. Trips include instruction and equipment.

Altahama Coastal Tours

85 Screven Street, Darien, GA 31305

http://www.altamaha.com/kayaking.htm

Guided kayak tours, bicycle tours, and equipment rentals.

Several trips available from three hour excursions to extended trips of 1-30 days, including Cathead Creek, Wolf Island, Lewis Island, Altamaha River, and Blackbeard Island – available year-round as conditions allow. Rentals include all necessary accessories.

Barry’s Beach Service

 

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420 Arnold Road, St Simons, GA 31522

http://www.stsimonskayaking.com/

Guided kayak tours, as well as kayak, bicycle, and stand-up paddleboard rentals.

Offering two-hour guided kayak tours of the salt marshes from Village Creek Landing since 1977. Wide array of rental equipment for fun on the water or in the sand, including beach chairs, single and tandem kayaks, sailboats, boogie boards, paddleboards, and more.

SouthEast Adventure Outfitters

 

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313 Mallery St, St Simons, GA 31522

http://www.southeastadventure.com/

Kayak and boat tours, fishing charters, kayak and SUP rentals.

With locations in Brunswick and St Simons Island at Pier Village, SouthEast Adventure offers daily kayak tours, eco-tours, kayak and powerboat fishing, and more. Choose from 2-4 tours, day trips, and multi-day trips.

Kingfisher Paddleventures

 

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https://kfpaddle.com

Guided tours, lessons, rental equipment.

Unique tour options include fossil hunting and birding excursions. Paddleboard and kayak tours and lessons offered throughout the Golden Isles, including Cumberland Island. Tailor-made tours, from 90 minutes and up, from the marsh to the ocean. Every tour begins with a lesson and includes all necessary equipment.

Turtle Tides Outfitters kayaks And Paddleboards

 

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130 Pier Village Market,, Mallory Cir, St Simons, GA 31522

https://www.turtle-tides.com/

Guided tours and equipment rentals.

All tours at include a choice between a stand-up paddleboard, single kayak, tandem kayak, or triple kayak. St. Simons Island tours last up to three hours, beginning with calm water instruction, and including a shelling stop on a private island. Jekyll Island marsh tours are two hours or longer, including a shark tooth hunt. All rentals come with a paddleboard (+ leash) or kayak, paddles, and a lifejacket.

Ocean Motion Surf Co.

 

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1300 Ocean Blvd, St Simons, GA 31522

http://www.stsimonskayaking.com/ocean-motion.html

Beach apparel and activewear, bicycle and kayak rentals.

Kayaking Safety And Tips

The tides have significant effects on our waterways and shores. You’ll notice that local guides tend to operate on hours that are dictated by changing tides, and you should keep this in mind when setting out on your own as well! Tide charts for the Golden Isles may be the most important item on your checklist before heading out for your excursion. There are four tides per 24-hour period – alternating low and high tides, roughly six hours apart. At any given point, the difference in water depth between low and high tides can be up to seven feet. Low tides mean wider beaches and shallower, narrower rivers. Seasons and moon phases will also cause tidal shifts.

Nearly all kayak rentals will include necessary safety equipment. If you are new to kayaking, it is advisable to take advantage of guided tours for your kayak trips and take kayak safety very seriously. Most tour companies provide basic lessons for beginners prior to hitting the open waters. If you are setting out on a self-led tour, never explore alone! Make sure to consult with an area guide or outfitter for a quick check on your equipment and plans, as well as some handy local tips!

Quick Tips

  • In cooler weather, wear quick drying clothes and layer up!
  • Georgia law requires that each person have an approved PFD (personal floatation device).
  • Always look ahead for potential obstacles. After a rain, river mud may obscure them!
  • Take clean drinking water with you. Ingesting river water is not advised!
  • Georgia is home to several species of venomous snakes. Be observant along the river shores!