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You’ve probably heard of Brunswick Georgia in your dreamy visions of visiting Coastal Georgia (I’m currently on a quest to visit the entire Georgia Coast). So why isn’t Brunswick showcased as a tourist destination as often as its neighboring sea islands? As tourists, is there something we need to know? To date, there have been rumors and secrets to every southern town. So I’m spilling the tea on my investigative travel writer findings from my trip to this historic harbor town. If it’s worth a stop, I’ll share the fun things to do in Brunswick GA.
Overview – What’s Brunswick like?
Before we get into the details that you need, watch this Brunswick overview travel film first!
I’m not particularly fond of heights.
Okay, I’m terrified of heights.
It’s foggy, and as I approach the massive height of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, it is a little concerning. But I am a fan of incredible architecture, so this morning’s first impression of Brunswick is a good start.
Along U.S. 17, Georgia’s longest and one of only two suspension bridges in the state. Similar to Jacksonville, Florida’s Dames Point Bridge, it is almost three times taller. This work of art was named after Sidney Lanier, a Georgian poet.
After descending the bridge, there’s a lovely Marshes of Glynn Overlook Park to view the marshlands and river networks.
There’s also a grassy island, pull-over/parking area to visit Lanier Oak. Under this southern tree is the spot where Lanier was inspired to write his well-known poem, The Marshes of Glynn.
BEACHES NEAR BRUNSWICK GA
Today isn’t a beach trip, but the nearby islands are easily accessible with the right transportation and very close. I suppose it’s not fair to compare Brunswick’s popularity to the four captivating barrier islands around it. St. Simons Island and Sea Island have grown especially notorious due to local golf pros/tournaments and award-winning restaurants.
I viewed Brunswick as a mainland to the islands, and I saw it only as a pass-through to other destinations. The west side near I-95 has most of the popular chain stores and restaurants.
But, there were seven rumors I’d heard:
*1 – It’s a unique, thriving historic district, unlike other southern main streets that are ghost towns.
*2 – There’s been extensively successful, ongoing revitalization of “Old Town.“
*3 – The unique architecture and interesting history are incredible.
*4 – There are lots of Thriving Mom and Pop stores and restaurants.
*5 – The locally-owned restaurants’ fare is fantastic.
*6 – It’s a small town full of harmless busybodies with lots of chitter chatter among the locals.
*7 – Travel articles have mentioned crime.
Could all of these rumors be true or just a few of them? Are there reasons that Brunswick is worth a stop for travelers? Today I’m going to get the truth from locals I meet and from my own experiences.
As I turn left onto Gloucester Street from Highway 17, the scenery doesn’t look like anything special. Convenience stores, law offices, a real estate building, and a State Farm Insurance office.
Then I made my way down to the corner of Gloucester and Union. I continue to drive and the architecture becomes more and more spectacular. Then I drive down Newcastle Street.
The history I’d recently learned about this area seems to unfold before my eyes (If you watched the intro video above, you saw some of that).
- In 1771, the town was laid out in a grid plan and the historic district is still known as “Old Town”
- George Washington claimed it as 1 of 5 original ports of entry for the American colonies
- The city boasts many 1800s buildings and homes.
- Newcastle Street holds many Victorian buildings, shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
- Unique patterns of historic sidewalks remain that are paved with original stone tiles.
- Several historic buildings are surrounded by 14 park-like squares.
Satisfied that rumors 1-4 are true, I drive toward Mary Ross Waterfront Park. A part of the historic district, it’s a lovely spot along the East River Marina. I’m fascinated by the scale model of a Liberty Ship at the Liberty Ship Memorial Plaza. The story of the Brunswick shipyards and the work they did during World War II is wonderful.
All is quiet down by the water this morning. But there is evidence that an outdoor musical playscape, pavilion, and farmers market are lively places during their prime times.
The shops aren’t open yet but I spot a cafe and would love a cup o’ joe.
I pause in my car to watch the steady flow of customers entering an adorable cafe. People of all ages and walks of life seem happy to be here – together.
That’s so heartwarming.
I step inside the cozy coffee shop and the atmosphere instantly puts a smile on my face. I can tell the staff takes their organic, fair trade “coffee making” seriously. But everything else feels laid-back.
This place has true hometown vibes.
I give my coffee order to the lady behind the counter and inquire about food. There’s a huge menu on the wall, but I want her recommendation. She mentions scones and then shares a list of freshly-baked muffin flavors that will go nicely with my caramel macchiato. A gentleman waiting for his order pipes up and says, “You won’t be disappointed in any of the flavors.”
“I’ll take blueberry,” I say quietly.
I sit at a bistro table in a snug little corner and gaze at the wine-red cafe walls. Covering them are unconventional, funny sayings and framed photos of what appear to be customers and family members.
A young adult male walks in and starts bickering with the lady behind the counter. I was concerned at first, but I quickly realize it was harmless chitter chatter. The lady replies to his ribbing without hesitation and they banter back and forth without skipping any beats.
Have I fallen into a Hallmark movie?
By this time, I see she has my coffee and muffin, so I make my way to the counter. Their bantering continues. I stand and wait a few seconds for them to pause and am able to pay for my order. It’s obvious that the two have known each other a very long time and think nothing of it.
I smile as I walk out of the cafe with my goodies in hand.
Rumors #5 and #6…..
So is this Coastal Georgia city worth the stop?
Granted, my trip is a short one. But I’ve been here long enough to realize there’s more to Brunswick than just being a gateway to the islands. The entirety of Old Town and the waterfront is gorgeous, clean, and jam-packed with businesses.
I definitely want to return to peruse more restaurants and the antique shop and the multiple boutiques I spotted. When I come again soon, I’ll start at the peaceful waterfront and that darling little cafe, for sure.
But what about rumor #7, you ask? Is Brunswick GA safe? After quizzing locals and my own experience, this is the answer…..
Like many other towns, visiting during daylight hours in the hub of town (here, that’s Gloucester and Newcastle) is a wise choice. I felt completely safe in the commercial area. There are definitely other wonderful places other than these two streets – maybe I can share another article showcasing those places that are also wonderful and safe.
There are plenty of places to shop and eat in the Historic District but it will only take about a half day.
OTHER BRUNSWICK GEORGIA ATTRACTIONS & THINGS TO DO
Here are more important things to note about other attractions and things to do:
It’s a big deal around these parts. It’s a thick tomato or barbecue-based soup with pork, chicken, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, butter beans, corn, etc. There’s even a “Rockin’ Stewbilee” in January complete with lots of awards and prizes. My suggestion is to head to Marshside Grill.
Back in the day, this major port town was once known as “The Shrimp Capital of the World, it was the heart of Georgia’s shrimping industry. Wild Georgia shrimps are still bountiful in the rich marshes and estuaries.
For exceptional seafood, especially fried shrimp, check out Jay’s Fish & Chicken Restaurant at 1305 Gloucester St. There you will find outstanding food and service.
The intersection of Albany and Prince Streets is said to be the spot for Native American legend. This 900-year-old oak tree served as a meeting point for natives and maidens for hundreds of years. At thirteen feet in circumference and ten branches, it’s a sight to behold.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Oglethorpe Bay and East River hug the Mary Ross Waterfront & Marina
Brunswick and the surrounding barrier island are pet-friendly destinations. Pets are welcome in various attractions such as Fort Frederica, Jekyll Island Beach, St. Simons Beach, Brunswick Landing Marina, and the North Glynn Dog Park.
HOW TO GET TO BRUNSWICK
The nearest airport in Brunswick Georgia is the Brunswick-Golden Isles Airport. You can easily take taxis or arrange hotel transfers with your preferred accommodations.
If you are driving to town, it is easily reachable via Interstate 95 or Highway 341.