Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, lie the mainland city Brunswick and four barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. Spanish explorers came to the area more than 400 years ago, seeking gold. Instead they found astonishing beauty, mild weather and a natural radiance that inspires the name, The Golden Isles.
One of the first things you notice is the marsh. Huge expanses of marshland, punctuated by small islands, known as hammocks, define the landscape and create the appearance of continuous land between the mainland the barrier islands. The marshes and the rivers that flow through them on their way to the sea teem with all sorts of fish, birds and animals.
George’s Barrier Islands
Barrier islands are found along nearly the entire eastern seaboard of United States. From Florida northward to Maine, they change dramatically in character. Many of Georgia’s barrier islands are among the most pristine anywhere. Geologically these remarkable islands are considerably younger than the mainland. Some came into existence approximately 30,000 years ago; others emerged only within the last 5,000 years.
Barrier islands are not merely pieces of the mainland surrounded by water. These landmasses are continually changing as the powerful forces of winds, ocean currents, waves, storms and tides, shape them, Tides have the greatest impact on the evolution of the barrier islands In fact, the eastern coastline of Georgia is, in effect, the western end of a massive ocean funnel. Thus tides here rise higher (6′-8′) and faster than anywhere else on the seaboard.
Georgia’s barrier islands, separated from the mainland by salt marshes, tidal rivers and sounds, are both dynamic ecosystems and the mainland’s natural shields against hurricanes and ocean storms. St. Simons island, little St. Simons Island, Sea island, Jekyll island are found amid the clusters of barrier islands that hug Georgia’s historic Atlantic coastline. These four islands, along with mainland Brunswick, are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.
During World War II, Brunswick shipyards bustled with activity critical to America’s war efforts.
Between 1943 and 1945, the shipyard built 99 of these 447-foot cargo vessels. With no name painted on their bows so as to give the enemy no hint as to their mission or cargo, these ships sailed the Atlantic and Pacific loaded with equipment and supplies.
The dedication of the men and women of the shipyards was best exemplified during December, 1944. Receiving word that the Navy would require six ships during that month, the shipyard workers, instead, guaranteed seven and requested that they not be paid for the extra work required including work done on Christmas Day!
A 23-foot, scale replica of a Liberty is displayed on the grounds of the Mary Ross Waterfront Park in downtown Brunswick. The park is located at the western end of Gloucester Street.
For more information about the Liberty Ships, please visit www.galileo.usg.edu/express?link-vsbg
How Brunswick Named Its Streets
Brunswick itself it’s named for the German ancestral home of King George II, grantor of Georgia’s original land charter. The City was laid out in 1771, and sought to honor the King and House of Hanover when it named its streets and squares. Surprisingly, and unlike most other cities in colonial America, the streets’ names weren’t changed after the Revolution.
- Albany Street- for the Duke of Albany, brother of King George III.
- Amherst Street-for Jeffrey Amherst, commander of all British troops during the Revolutionary War.
- Dartmouth Street- for William, second Earl of Dartmouth, Secretary of State under George III.
- Egmont Street-for Philip Percival, Lord Egmont, first President of the Board of Trustees of the Georgia colony.
- George Street-for King George III.
- Gloucester Street-for the Duke of Gloucester, brother of George III.
- Halifax Square-for the second Earl of Halifax. Halifax, Nova Scotia was named for him as well.
- Hanover Square-for the ruling house of Britain.
- Hillsborough Square-for the Earl of Hillsborough, who was Secretary of State for the colonies at the time of Brunswick’s founding.
- London Street-for homesick Englishmen.
- Newcastle Street-for the Duke of Newcastle, later Prime Minister of England.
- Prince Street-for the Prince of Wales, eldest son of George III.
- Reynolds Street-for John Reynolds, first Royal Governor of Georgia.
- Union Street-not in homage to the north, but rather to commemorate the union of Scotland and England.
Wildlife: Here, There, Everywhere
There is no better proof of the unspoiled natural beauty of the area than the abundance and variety of wildlife which inhabit this coastal low country. Yet, enjoying them rarely requires ardent searching. In fact, a drive along St. Simons or Jekyll causeways, or most any road that bends near marshlands and tidal creeks, can reveal feeding Marsh Rabbits in the spring or fall, Great Blue Herons, and Majestic White Egrets. When wading along the oceans edge or when near area rivers, one can often see a school of sleek porpoises and formations of pelicans diving for food in the waterways that teem with fish. Though usually seen at night and protected by federal law, Giant Loggerhead turtles have, for centuries found the beaches of the Golden Isles a preferred spot for laying their eggs. While not seen as often, but no less abundant are the deer, possums and armadillos which in habit the dense woods of the area. Ventures afoot into the marsh may discover fiddler crabs, raccoons, and numerous species of coastal birds.