Beautiful Brunswick, Visiting Coastal Georgia

If you read the title of this post, and thought, ‘Brunswick? Where is that in Georgia?‘, we are one in the same.

When my sister announced she was moving to Brunswick for a job opportunity in September 2020, the first thing I did was look up where Brunswick was. Having been to Georgia on several jaunts to Atlanta and a dreamy weekend in Savannah, I wouldn’t have able to distinguish Brunswick’s location from north, south, east, west, central or along the coast.

In early December, in need of a place to isolate for a few weeks before heading north to visit my parents in Pittsburgh, I took my sister up on her offer to stay in the second bedroom of her new apartment. Mostly, during the week, we both worked- me from the comfort of her cozy apartment, and her at a healthcare clinic. In the evenings, I cooked dinner, using some of my favourite Trader Joe’s staples, and we watched holiday films.

During the two weekends we had together in Georgia, she showed me around her new town. With COVID on the mind, all of our activities were outdoors and we opted for takeaway from any restaurant we visited. I may not have gotten the full Brunswick experience, but I saw and did enough to appreciate the kind of place it is.

I wouldn’t call Brunswick a ‘destination’ per se, but rather, if you’re driving along Georgia’s coast (perhaps from Savannah to Florida), and want the break up your trip, there are some beautiful reasons to do so in Brunswick.

3 Things I Loved About Brunswick Georgia

A mainland port city, Brunswick is laid out in a formal grid, similar to Savannah, with city streets still bearing their colonial names. Known today for shrimp trawling, visitors can watch the shrimpers unload at the docks along Bay Street. On New Years, there’s even a ‘shrimp drop’ (think giant shrimp instead of a giant disco ball), and in May, city festivities include a shrimp boat parade.

I enjoyed wandering historic downtown Brunswick, also known as Old Town Brunswick, and would recommend checking out the Old City Hall (built in 1888), along with the historic Ritz Theatre (built in 1898), and the modern brewery, Silver Bluff Brewing Co. While a stroll downtown should be on the agenda, my favorite things in Brunswick were in the surrounding area, not the historic downtown.

The Local Cafe Culture

Y’all know I love a good, local owned and run cafe- great brews, well designed space, community vibes. Discovering cafes is one of my favorite parts of visiting a new place. Even if I’m not in the mood for coffee, there are usually other drinks on the menu, not to mention great snacks, and often, cozy seating. One too many times (pre-COVID), I’ve been guilty of losing track of time whilst in a lovely cafe.

Looking up coffee shops to visit in Brunswick, I was surprised to discover more than the American chains I know all too well (Dunkin’ and Starbucks).

St. Simons Island is jam packed with tiny, cozy cafes, and while I would have loved to properly visit each one, I’m not comfortable dining indoors as long as COVID is around. Instead, we visited a few for takeaway drinks, which let us check out the scene without lingering.

My top 3 cafes in Brunswick:

  • Wake Up Coffee Company: With locations on St Simons, as well as on the mainland, we made multiple visits to Wake Up during my time in Brunswick. I loved their roasts and speciality coffee drinks so much (drooling, reminiscing of the island mocha- a classic mocha with coconut flavour), I bought one of their iced coffee glasses to take home.
  • Cafe Frederic: Huge cinnamon rolls and delicious omelets, need more be said?
  • Savannah Bee Company: Okay, yes, this is a honey store. But at the back of their St. Simons location, there’s a bar where you can taste mead (10/10 recommend), and they have a few coffee drinks on offer, including honey cold brew, made from their own roast. The honey cold brew was fantastic- a bit sweet without being saccharine. And, in non-COVID times, I’d imagine their back bar is a cool place to linger, and you know, sample honey, of course.

A few other spots I enjoyed and would be up for returning to post-COVID for coffee or breakfast:

  • Palm Coast Coffee
  • Mallory Street Cafe
  • Sandcastle Cafe
  • Palmer’s Village Cafe

And if you’re curious what other places I enjoyed for good eats in Brunswick, I’d recommend: Surcheros (similar to Chipotle); Skinny Pete’s (yummy apps and wings); and Island Jerk (fantastic Jamaican inspired eats).

The Beautiful Islands

The Golden Isles, known to refer to St. Simons Island, Sea Island and Jekyll Island, may not be the tropical paradise you typically envision when you think of islands, but as barrier islands and protected reserves, there’s plenty of beautiful things to see and do.

The largest barrier island, St. Simons is salty marshland, coupled with moss-draped oaks and quaint island streets. Shops scattered around the island are eclectic and worth a wander, and there’s certainly no shortage of great places to eat.

In addition to the cafes we scoped out, we also enjoyed chewy, thick bagels at Sandy Bottom Bagels, refreshing ice pops at Moo Cow, plus creamy mac & cheese and jalapeño-infused hushpuppies at Southern Soul BBQ. With my sister working on St. Simons, we were able to visit the island a few times, including a trip to check out their holiday market for small businesses, stacked with stalls selling flavourful pecans, seashell art, and so many other wonderful coastal treasures.

What would an island be without its beaches though? Thankfully, St. Simons doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The main beach, adjacent to the pier, is perfect for a long walk during low tide. We walked along the beach for about a mile, and then took a public entrance point off the beach to walk back inland toward the lighthouse, along shady avenues with adorable cottages.

We drove around the island, but it’s home to more than 30 bike paths, and if you’re up for a climb, the view at the top of the island lighthouse (129 stairs to the top) is nice on a clear day.

If you have time, drive to the northern part of the island to see Old Christ Church, the second oldest Episcopal Church in Georgia and the third oldest in the nation. Nearby, there’s a serene garden path that’s the kind of hauntingly beautiful I’ve always associated with the deep south.

The southernmost of the Golden Isles, Jekyll is one of the most popular islands along coastal Georgia. With over 10 miles of shoreline, unique attractions (enter: one of the coolest beaches I’ve ever seen) and historic homes, there’s plenty to explore. I’d love to return to the island and see more of its trails, either on foot or by bike.

If you happen to be visiting Jekyll during the month of December, don’t miss the island’s holiday light show. It’s spectacular, absolutely breathtaking.

Grand, Spanish moss trees are draped in thousands of twinkling lights, and seasonally themed light exhibits are tucked into corners around the island.

Parts of the holiday light show are drive through, and others are walkable. It’s a gorgeous December evening activity, and worth the $8 USD island admission fee if you don’t have an annual pass.

The Most Unique Beach I’ve Ever Seen

Located on the north end of Jekyll Island, Driftwood Beach will leave you wide-eyed in wonder.

While not a beach in the sense you may be thinking, Driftwood is worthy of acclaim for what makes it unique- beautiful driftwood and trees scattered along the beach resemble a scene from another world.

Gnarled and weathered, the trees you see are left behind from years of erosion. Visit at low tide for the chance to stroll along the beach- I’ve heard sunrise is especially awe-inspiring.

When we visited, thick fog had rolled into the area- we later found out it was the worst fog locals had seen in years. At first, we were bummed, and worried we wouldn’t be able to see much on the beach. Once we got down to the shoreline, we were stunned- the way the fog swirled in and out of the trees was unbelievable.

There weren’t many people on the beach when we explored Driftwood, but whenever we did see someone, they seemed to emerge from the fog, as if entering from another dimension. With limited visibility and the sound of waves crashing in the distance, it was an otherworldly afternoon.

While I’d love to see Jekyll Beach on a sunny day, I’m glad we were able to experience the magic of it in unusual weather- an experience in every sense.

In a year that shook and took so much from the world, I’ll be forever grateful for the time I was able to spend with my sister in coastal Georgia. Have you ever heard of Brunswick, or spent time traveling around Georgia? 

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