The 5 Best Places for Island Hoppin' in the Coastal South

We can all sleep better at night knowing we're protected by a string of barrier islands.

While they share that same function, each one is unique. One has wild horses, another has feral cows (feral cows?!) Every one is worth exploring, even if you have to paddle your way there. 


1. Cumberland Island

 Georgia’s largest barrier island, Cumberland is also its most southerly one with Amelia Island, Florida, just across the water to the southwest. There are few places better to unplug. 


2. Sapelo Island

The fourth largest of Georgia’s barrier islands, 11-mile-long Sapelo Island is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. It’s home to diverse wildlife like sea birds of various types, raccoons, white-tailed deer and feral cows. Cumberland Island has its wild horses but Sapelo has its feral cows. Talkin’ Moooo with ’tude, dude.


3. Daufuskie Island

South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island is the state’s southernmost sea island, some 5,000 acres across from Hilton Head. Hurricane Matthew howled the death knell for Melrose Resort, pushing it into bankruptcy, as well as for the Bloody Point Golf Club & Resort’s driving range, but otherwise Bloody Point golf course and lodgings are open, as are Haig Point Club’s golf course, equestrian center and other recreations.


4. Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge

Located off the Georgia coast in McIntosh County, Blackbeard Island is a National Wildlife Refuge of which 3,000 acres are designated National Wilderness. Loggerhead sea turtles use its 5,600 acres for nesting and the endangered piping plover winters here. It’s open to visitors daily from sunrise to sunset. 


5. Little Tybee

We all know about Tybee Island, “Savannah’s Beach,” but Little Tybee Island? Not so much. And Little ought to be in quotation marks, too, because, at nearly 7,000 acres, it’s more than twice the size of its better-known, more “civilized” neighbor. Little is a gloriously uninhabited and undeveloped island with pristine beaches, forests and salt marshes. In fact, there are technically three islands ever so slightly separated from each other at Little Tybee. The other two are Cabbage Island and a sandbar that has asserted itself into official island-hood known as Williamson Island – unless the waters have risen lately.


To read about how to get to and what to do at each island, subscribe now or pick up the April/May issue of South magazine.