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Evening picture of a pier

1/4  Jackonville to St. Simons Island

This quick hop of a journey is short on tyre-wear and back-seat fractiousness, but big on sea breezes and uninterrupted views. So much is apparent at Cumberland Island National Seashore, which sits immediately over the state line, just 40 miles north of Jacksonville (via Interstate 95) – a wonderland of dunes and wetland so unaffected by the modern world that you have to take a boat to reach it.

Ferries sail from the tiny outpost of St Marys (adults £12, kids 12 and under £8) and deliver you to an enclave where sea turtles swim and wild horses canter. Some 335 bird species have been recorded here, including bright, easily spotted feathered friends such as ducks and pelicans – while Stafford Beach and Sea Camp Beach are dotted with shells.

Explore the shore

Closer encounters with sea turtles are possible a little further to the north – where one of the smaller Golden IslesJekyll Island (accessible by road), plays host to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. This is a marine hospital (adults £4, children 4-12 £3), where junior visitors can see these graceful creatures being rehabilitated. Elsewhere, Jekyll Island also has attractions that do not revolve around nature – notably the Summer Waves Waterpark (adults £12; kids less than 48 inches £9), where splash-happy adventures await in pools and on slides.

The waterside theme is extended – again, directly to the north – at St Simons Island. The largest of the Golden Isles is reached via a four-mile causeway that flits across tidal rivers to another lovely nugget of oceanside charm. Massengale Park Beach is a superb strip of sand for family days. Alternatively, you can head out on the Lady Jane shrimp boat – a working (fully refurbished) fishing vessel. Children can help haul in a catch on the gentle waves of St Simons Sound (full fare £24, kids under six £18).

Drive Happy

Hertz recommends: Ford SWB Crew Van
6 Passengers, 2 large suitcases, 2 small suitcases, 35mpg

Ideal for large families – there’ll be plenty of room for everyone, including luggage and more, in this spacious air-conditioned people carrier. 

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