This modern marina on the Hampton River serves the north end of St. Simons Island.
Tag Archives: Recreation in Coastal Georgia
Driving north from the Village, Massengale is the first public beach you will encounter. In recent years its popularity seems to have waned in favor of East Beach (Coast Guard Beach) but it’s still a great spot. The dunes here are nearly gone but are still recognizable as you enter the beach (above).
Located on Jekyll Creek, Shark Tooth Beach is perhaps the least known beach on the island, likely because it’s not a beach in the traditional sense. It gets its name from the prehistoric shark’s teeth commonly found here.
There’s no sign pointing you to Shark Tooth Beach. The name doesn’t even officially exist on maps and charts, but judging by the number of people who had found their way here at the time I visited, it isn’t as unknown as it once was. Still, it requires a hike or bike ride of about a mile. No motor vehicles are allowed.
The beach is littered with oyster shells and the remains of other marine life. Wrack dominates the high end of the tide line.
If you’re looking for isolation on Jekyll Island, and don’t mind the short hike, this may become one of your favorite spots.
The entrance to Shark Tooth Beach is located slightly south of the entrance to Summer Waves water park . Look for a simple gate on the right side of the road. You can park near the gate. Follow the trail to its end and you will reach the site. Shoes are strongly suggested as cacti and other sticky plants dominate sections of the trail, not to mention the sharp shells and other detritus on the beach.
At the north end of Sapelo Island is Cabretta Beach, sometimes referred to as Cabretta Island for its isolation at high tide. If you can imagine a place more isolated than Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta might come to mind.
The only land-based point of access is the Cabretta Campground, which requires reservations. It’s a pristine natural area with a small comfort station and a canopy of Live Oaks.
A short walk through the dunes provides access to one of the most undisturbed beaches in Coastal Georgia.
Sea Oats are dominant here, as they are on all of Georgia’s Sea Islands.
Like Nanny Goat Beach, Cabretta is a prime example of a barrier island environment that has never been developed.
It remains a favored fishing and crabbing spot for the Gullah-Geechee people who call the island home.
Today, it’s nothing more than weed-choked concrete and asphalt, but these barren strips within Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge played a part in civilian and military aeronautical history. Before its association with the military, Harris Neck was the site of an emergency landing strip featuring two sod runways and an 81′ beacon. It was built in 1930 and leased by the Department of Commerce. Serving the Richmond-Jacksonville air route, it was officially known as Harris Neck Intermediate Field Site #8. On 7 December 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, guardsmen from Hunter Field in Savannah took over operations of the property. The site was already being used for aerial gunnery training. In 1943, Harris Neck became an auxiliary-base of Dale Mabry Field in Tallahassee and was assigned to the III Fighter Command.
Pilots at Harris Neck were trained on two types of fighter craft: the P-39 “Airacobra” and the P-40. The P-40 was known as the “Kitty Hawk” and was associated with Chenault’s “Flying Tigers” in China. In 1944, a hangar, warehouses, repair shops, barracks for 125 men, and a non-commisioned officers club were constructed from pre-fabricated material on site.
In September 1944, there were 575 enlisted personnel at Harris Neck, along with 129 officers, but by November, the number was greatly reduced, leading to its deactivation on 31 December 1944. The property was given to McIntosh County after the war for potential use as an airport, but this was never realized and mismanagement by the county led to its reversion to the federal government. It was acquired by the Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife (now the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service) in 1962 for use as a refuge. It’s now known as Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and the federal government has had a contentious presence ever since*.
*When the government expropriated the site in World War II, landowners were given two weeks to leave their properties. African-Americans owned 1102 acres of the original property while whites owned 1532. Families of both races felt their land was stolen, though token compensation was given. Many descendants believe the forced removal was mishandled and have mounted legal challenges for years.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Darien traces its origins to 1736, though throughout the 18th century, settlement was sporadic and the town was practically abandoned at times. Oglethorpe and later Lachlan McIntosh made plans for the layout of the city but due to its transient nature, these were never fully implemented or were lost to other uses. In 1805, the city was resurveyed by Thomas McCall and a system based on Oglethorpe’s “Savannah Plan” was adopted, incorporating twelve wards anchored by squares. Two of the original wards from that era, Vernon and Columbus, remain, and their squares now serve as green spaces in Darien’s historic residential area.
In 1895, Vernon Square became the terminus of the Tattnall County-based Darien & Western Railroad, who built a passenger depot near the location of the present-day gazebo. The line was purchased by the Georgia Coast & Piedmont Railroad in 1906, who extended service south to Brunswick in 1915, at which point the depot was moved to the waterfront. It burned in 1971.
Vernon Square-Columbus Square Historic District, National Register of Historic Places
The Central of Georgia Railroad built a line to Tybee Island in 1887 and to meet the demands of a growing number of tourists constructed the first public pier on the island in 1891. This was influential in transforming Tybee into the popular destination it is today. In the 1930s and 1940s the Tybrisa Pavilion, as it came to be known, was a popular spot on the Big Band circuit, hosting all the big names of the day.
The Tybrisa Pavilion burned in 1967 and was replaced by the present pier and pavilion in 1996. It has reclaimed its place as one of the most popular spots on Tybee.
It’s also a good spot for nearshore fishing, but shark fishing is prohibited.
If you walk the whole distance of Driftwood Beach, you’ll be at the northernmost point of Jekyll Island. A pine forest skirts the beach for some distance, though some may have been destroyed by the most recent hurricane. [These photos were made in 2014].
There’s still driftwood at this end of the beach, but it’s encountered less frequently.
Erosion is accelerated by St. Simons Sound and sand eventually replaces remnant forest.
Wrack and vegetation are dominant here, so it’s not as aesthetically pleasing as the boneyard further south, but it’s one of the most unique spots on the island and there are great views of neighboring St. Simons Island and its iconic lighthouse, as well as the Sidney Lanier Bridge.