Photo Courtesy Golden Isles

Why do you go to the beach? Is it soak in the sun and feel the sand between your toes? Is it play in the surf and feel like a kid again? Or are you more of a naturalist beach goer, who feels happiest where the land meets the sea?

No matter your reason for loving the beach, you’ll find that the beaches of the Golden Isles are pretty close to perfect. To help you find the right beach to fit your mood, we’ve created this complete guide to public beaches, broken down by island:

Jekyll Island Beaches

From the air, it looks as though the entire eastern edge of Jekyll Island is caressed by one long, unbroken beach. It is. However, from north to south, the character of this sandy strip changes enough to warrant naming individual stretches on their own.

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Driftwood Beach

Location: Northern end of Jekyll Island

Ideal for: Nature lovers and photographers

In a nutshell: If Driftwood Beach isn’t the most famous of the Golden Isles’ beaches, it is easily the most photographed. Decorated with weathered, naturally sculpted driftwood, this serene stretch of sand is amazing at sunrise.

Great Dunes Park

Location: Middle of the island, where Ben Fortson Pkwy. meets N. Beachview Dr.

Ideal for: Pretty much everyone, including loggerhead sea turtles

In a nutshell: Great Dunes Park is the epicenter of Jekyll Island’s beach scene. With ample access to the beach and trails, it makes for an excellent hub. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center also uses the beach here to release rehabilitated loggerhead sea turtles.

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Glory Beach

Location: Off the Glory Beach Boardwalk, just south of South Dunes Picnic Area on the southern end of the island

Ideal for: Wildlife watchers and movie buffs

In a nutshell: Used as the location for the penultimate scene in the 1989 Civil War classic Glory, Glory Beach is home to several migratory birds and other wildlife. And the views seem to stretch on forever.

St. Andrews Beach

Location: St. Andrew’s Picnic areaon the southwest-facing side of the island

Ideal for: Romantics seeking a sunset picnic

In a nutshell: The only west-facing beach on Jekyll Island, St. Andrew’s Beachoverlooks Jekyll Sound and is a delightful place to end your day. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the moments after the sun dips below the horizon!

St. Simons Island Beaches

The largest of the Golden Isles, St. Simons Island’s beach activity revolves around East Beach, which wraps around the southeastern edge of the island. East Beach is perfect for long walks, bike rides, shelling and any other beach activity you can dream up. Access its golden sand from three different points:

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Gould’s Inlet

Location: Northern-most East Beach access point

Ideal for: Birdwatching and a little fishing

In a nutshell: With limited parking and less sand than other access points, Gould’s Inlet is a great place to watch for migratory birds and fish off the pier. You can also launch a sea kayak from here to explore the inlet.

Massengale Park

Location: 1350 Ocean Blvd

Ideal for: Families looking for sun plus a little shade for the kiddos to play in

In a nutshell: With its tall stands of trees and a super-fun playground, Massengale Park is a popular access point to East Beach for families.

Photo Courtesy Golden Isles

U.S. Coast Guard Station

Location: At the Maritime Museum on First Street.

Ideal for: The quickest and easiest access to sand and sun

In a nutshell: Taking its name from the adjacent historic building now occupied by the Maritime Museum, the U.S. Coast Guard Station offers the most parking on the island, and the best access to the entirety of East Beach.

Beaches on Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island

The beaches on Little St. Simons Island and Sea Island will have even the biggest landlubbers swooning. Draped with gilded sand and backed by elegant dunes, they are as photogenic as beaches come.

They are, however, mostly private, with their access restricted to resort guests or those joining a naturalist tour. Here’s the lowdown:

Photo Courtesy Golden Isles

Little St. Simons Island Beach

Access to Little St. Simons Island’s beach is limited to either guests of The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island or those who join the Lodge’s guided day trips. These tours include private boat transportation, a guided naturalist walk, catered lunch and a chilled-out afternoon strolling this pristine, 7-mile stretch of sand. If you choose to enjoy the beach on Little St. Simons Island, it’s likely that you will feel like you’re the only person around.

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Sea Island Beach

Access to Sea Island’s beach is limited to guests of The Cloister, The Lodge or The Inn at Sea Island, a trio of resorts that have consistently garnered awards and acclaim, such as Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” awards. If you choose to enjoy Sea Island’s beach as a guest, you can go horseback riding on the beach or simply stroll on the beach for a beautiful, quiet sunrise.