Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Visiting Jekyll and St. Simons Islands

We recently attended a meeting in Amelia Island, Florida which is located in the extreme northeastern section of the state, and almost a stones throw from the state of Georgia, as you can see in the map below. 

After the meeting, we began sightseeing around Amelia Island, and the adjoining historic town of Fernandina Beach.  We then took the hour drive on north to Jekyll Island and then another half hour drive on to St. Simons Island.

 Barrier Islands including Amelia,  Jekyll and St. Simons Islands
Map from the Internet

Close-up Map of Jekyll Island including St. Simons Island
Map from the Internet

It was interesting to drive along and see these low-country marshlands of the barrier islands all along this section of the east coast.

This area is also referred to as The Golden Isles, due to the fact that in the Winter time all of these tall grasses, seen in the below photos of the marshlands,  turn a beautiful golden color.

For years we had heard of Jekyll Island.  So with about a week of free time we decided to explore some of this beautiful territory along the east coast.  

We were not planning to stay on Jekyll Island ... We just wanted to drive all around and sightsee a little bit.  There is much to do on this Island if you are inclined to stay awhile.  There is a large Sea Turtle Center, biking trails, air-boat rides, kayak tours, nature walks, fishing, and dolphin sightseeing, horseback riding, horse-drawn carriage tours, golfing, public tennis courts, and of course taking in all the natural beauty of the island.

According to the map we picked up at the Visitor's Center, the driving loop around the island was about 25 miles.  The Island measures about 7 miles long and about 1.5 miles wide.

Fortunately sixty-five percent of this Island will always remain natural and wild,  thanks to Jekyll Island's strict conservation clause.

As you can see from the below photos there were some beautiful old Oak Trees on the island.

History tells us that as early as 2,500 BC the first visitors to these islands were small groups 
of hunter-gatherers seeking the island's abundant natural resources

And in the below photo we see many Sabal Palm Trees 
lining the entrance to one of the Golf Courses on the Island.
The Sabal Palm Tree is the State Tree of South Carolina and Florida.

There are about 8 miles of flat beaches on the east shore.

Our drive around Jekyll Island was scenic and full of natural beauty.

Leaving Jekyll Island we took the short half-hour drive on over to St. Simons Island.  Our GPS told us to take Highway 520 on over the big bridge into Brunswick, Georgia and follow Highway 520 on into St. Simons Island.

It was very interesting to drive over this big bridge. 
From this high up on the bridge we could see the beautiful marshlands stretching for miles and miles.

The driving distance from Jekyll Island on to St. Simons Island 
was about 18 miles.

St. Simons Island is the largest of the barrier islands in the Golden Isles.  This Island is both a seaside resort and a residential community

We so very much enjoyed sightseeing all around this beautiful island. 

This island offers something for everyone including:  Charter fishing trips, city-tour sightseeing, museums, out door activities, parks, boat tours, shopping, great restaurants, historic areas, kayaking and canoeing, nature and wildlife tours, golfing and gift shops and luxurious resorts.

We were again amazed at the huge stately Oak trees picturesquely 
draped with Spanish Moss in so many picture perfect settings.

As a teenager my husband remembered coming to Epworth-By-The-Sea with his church youth group and having fond memories of visiting this beautiful 100-acre conference and retreat center.

Also located in Epworth-By-The-See was this charming little church.
Lovely Lane Chapel

In the below photo we see the back of this little church.  
All of the stained glass windows were so pretty.

Lovely Lane Chapel was built in 1880, 
and is the oldest standing church building on St. Simons Island 

There were two Hibiscus plants located on each side of the front stairs at the entrance of the church.  Of course, I could not resist capturing a photo of this pretty flower.

As mentioned before,  the Island is covered with many amazingly beautiful Spanish Moss draped Oak trees.  And, I could not resist trying to capture their beauty with my camera.

Seen attached to the lower portion of this old Oak Tree in the below photo we see what is referred to as  a Resurrection Fern.  This is a species of creeping coarse-textured fern native to America.

This fern gets it name because it can survive long periods of drought by curling up and appearing dead ...        
With just a little rain-water the fern will uncurl and re-open appearing to "resurrect" and becoming a vivid green again.

I read that this fern could survive 100 years without water and still survive.

Continuing on our drive around this scenic and picture perfect island we drove past another old and interesting looking church.  We noticed that there was an old cemetery in back of the church and of course I just had to get a closer look.  

We saw that the name of this church was called Christ Church.   Sure enough, this old church is a very historical structure.  The original church was built in the year 1820.  Of course, when the Civil War came along, invading Union troops took over the small church to stable their horses,  and the old building was destroyed.  By 1884 the church was restored and continues to this day as a home to a very active Episcopal congregation.

Christ Church
Originally built in 1820.

Out behind the old Christ Church we are told there are gravesite dating as far back as 1803.

The small black plaque  to the left must have been the original grave marker.  May he rest in peace.

   This gravestone in the below photo is engraved 1841 - 1914.  It looks like he must have been a Lieutenant in the Civil War ... Wow! May he too rest in peace along with all the other residents here.

Returning from the cemetery, and walking back around to the front of the old church, I spotted this very old Wisteria vine.  See how it wraps all around this tree for support.

And in the below photo we can see how the vine has traveled way on up into the old Oak tree.  I would love to see this amazing vine all in bloom in the Springtime ... I bet that is a sight to see!

One of the sights we wanted to be sure to see was this old Island Lighthouse.  The original St. Simons Lighthouse was built in 1811.  However it was destroyed by Confederate troops in 1861.  The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1872, and continues to operate today.

The Lighthouse and Museum is operated by the Coastal Georgia Historical Society.  Here you can view lighthouse history exhibits.  Visitors may climb the 129 steps to the observatory for panoramic views of the ocean and nearby islands.

If you look closely you can see someone standing up on the deck of the top of the lighthouse.

To the left of the lighthouse we see the gazebo which has been added to the lawn.
We were told that many weddings take place on the lawn at this gazebo.

A view from inside the gazebo.

Walking away from the Lighthouse we see the pretty shoreline of this area.

This cannon was located beside the gazebo pointing out toward the water.

We continued our drive on around the Island.  We noticed in the information brochure given to us at the Visitors Center a place called The Avenue of the Oaks ... We were told this was something not to be missed...

The Avenue of the Oaks

Can you believe this amazing line of huge beautiful old Oak trees.  Just looking at these amazing trees you can feel there must have been significant history associated with this area.

These magnificent Oaks were planted in the year 1826 by Anne Page King who was the daughter of the owner of the Retreat Plantation.  These Oaks provide an entrance to what was then a very prosperous cotton plantation.

From 1760 until the Civil War cotton and rice plantations flourished in this area.  The cotton grown here became famous all over the world for its outstanding quality.

Retreat Plantation was one of the most prosperous plantations and was located on the southern tip of St. Simons Island.

Of course time marches on and now these two rows of huge live oaks 
currently grace the entry to Sea Island Golf Club.

The Live Oak tree is the State Tree of Georgia.

As we drove on past those amazing trees we spotted these cute little Island cottages.

And even in the neighborhoods we see huge old Oak trees.

I loved all the windows in this yellow cottage seen in the photo below.  
Can you see the cute star-fish in the window sills!

And, I thought it was so nice that so many of the houses displayed Old Glory.

We spotted this colorful combination of Bougainvillae bushes as we passed by one of the houses.

We were surprised to see these lovely flowers growing so far north.  
I think of them as a tropical plant because we have often seen them in the South Florida area.

Such bright and pretty colors!

As we continued our drive around the island we drove through what looked like the downtown area.

These were tiny little stores in the downtown area.  They were so cute and colorful.

There was so much to see and do on St. Simons Island.  We thoroughly enjoyed driving around and feeling the history and seeing the natural beauty of the area.

We hope you enjoyed traveling along with us as we visited the lovely islands of Jekyll and St. Simons  Islands.

Next we will be paying a visit to the old Southern town of Savannah, Georgia and we hope you will come along with us for that visit as well.

I do hope you are having a nice Summertime and that you have many happy Summer blessings wherever you may be.

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