When it comes to beach vacations, Atlanta residents have so many choices. From Destin to Hilton Head to Orange Beach, families can have toes in the sand in a matter of hours. Check out our post on beaches near Atlanta we love. But why not keep things in-state at one of the beaches in Georgia? Here are our favorite ways to explore Georgia’s coast.

1. Take an ecology tour on Tybee Island and learn from a marine biologist. Families can examine tide pools, comb the beach for animals and even pull in a 50 ft. net from the ocean to see cool marine life.

2. At the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, get hands-on with touch tanks (including spider crabs and lightning whelks), and take a guided beach walk to see marine life in its natural environment. Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, which is actually a hospital for sick and injured turtles. Check out exhibits about sea turtle conservation and rehabilitation and even adopt one and track its progress.

3. Catch the sunset at the Tybee Island Light Station, Georgia’s oldest and tallest light. Families can climb 128 steps of the lighthouse tower to see the breathtaking views. Over on St. Simons Island, climb about the same amount of steps in the St. Simons Lighthouse, and see as far Jekyll Island, Brunswick and the south end of St. Simons. Visitors can peruse museums at both lighthouses.

4. Take a stroll along one of three piers in Georgia. At the Tybee Pier and Pavilion, families can fish and often find an event or performance. Families can watch for whales off of St. Simons Island Pier (December through March) or dolphins during other months. Visitors enjoy the views and can go fishing and crabbing off the Jekyll Island Pier.

5. Cool off at Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island. From high speed thrills (like the five story tunnel slide Pirate’s Passage) to the Turtle Creek lazy river, it’s a blast for family members of all ages and sizes.

6. Ride the ferry to Cumberland Island and explore 18 miles of undeveloped beaches. Pack a lunch (since there are no concessions on the island) and enjoy the beach and abundant wildlife (think horses running free). Over at the Cumberland Island National Seashore, kids ages 5-12 can earn their Junior Ranger badge by doing activities and filling out a booklet about the island.

7. Explore Driftwood Beach on the north side of Jekyll Island, aptly named for its abundance of driftwood trees scattered around the beach. Kids climb and “ooh” and “ahh” at the magnificent sight while parents snap lots of pictures. After enjoying the driftwood, stay and play on the beach.

8. Tour Christ Church, Frederica, one of Georgia’s oldest parishes, dating back to 1736. Regulars to St. Simons say it is a must-see for families. Kids enjoy the tall live oaks and older kids even appreciate the history. Charles and John Wesley (founders of the Methodist church) actually preached there. Tours are temporarily unavailable.

9. Go on a family bike ride around St. Simons Island and look for tree spirits. Kids love to find faces carved into the beautiful oak trees all over the island. Use this map to turn it into a treasure hunt.

10. Play at Neptune Park, right across from St. Simons Pier Village. Kids can climb and slide on the playground (for free) or families can pay to enter the “fun zone” with a splash pool and a mini golf course. Pool opening May 29.

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