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Coast & Ocean

Coast Slideshow

Ocean Slideshow

Geographic Features

Georgia's coast meets the Atlantic Ocean along the sandy beaches of the barrier islands, known as the Sea Islands or the Golden Isles. Scientists refer to them as barrier islands because they form a barrier between the sea and the land. The current configuration of Georgia's shoreline is only the most recent in a long series of changing shorelines. The islands are composed basically of dune and beach-ridge sands. They were shaped—and are still being altered—by wind, waves, currents, tides, and a slowly rising or stable sea level. From north to south along Georgia's 100-mile-long coast, the barrier islands are Tybee, Little Tybee ,Ossabaw, Wassaw, St. Catherines, Wolf, Blackbeard Sea, St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, Little Cumberland, and Cumberland. (Skidaway Island, near Savannah, is said to be an inshore barrier island. It lacks the wide, sandy beach typical of Georgia's outer barrier islands.) Separated from the mainland by a four- to six-mile-wide band of salt marsh, tidal creeks, and estuaries, Georgia's barrier islands are under various types of ownership and management.Jekyll, Sea Island, St. Simons, and Tybee islands are developed and connected to the mainland by bridges and causeways. Much of Jekyll is a state park. The other barrier islands are accessible only by boat. Of these, Blackbeard, Wassaw, and Wolf islands are national wildlife refuges. Little Tybee, Ossabaw, and Sapelo are owned by the state of Georgia.

The Cumberland Island National Seashore (pictured) is managed by the National Park Service. Little Cumberland, Little St. Simons, and St. Catherines are privately owned. The barrier islands today typically have four ecosystems: sweeping salt marshes, maritime forests, freshwater sloughs, and hard-packed sandy beaches. On the islands' western sides are the vast tidal salt marshes, composed mostly of the salt-tolerant plant: smooth cordgrass. The coastal marshes, tidal creeks, and connecting estuaries are important nursery areas for fish, crab, shrimp, and other marine species. 

Barrier-island beaches are characterized by wide, intertidal, gently sloping expanses of hard-packed, fine white quartz sand.


Morning glories, pennyworts, sea oats, and other plants grow on the dunes and help to stabilize them. Between the primary and rear dunes are meadows of grasses, sedges, and such shrubs as wax myrtle, which attract seed-eating birds, rabbits, and other small mammals.



On the coast you can find crabs crawling through the sand and you will seagulls and pelicans flying around the coast. 
Animals that live in the ocean include dolphins, fish, shrimp, and even sharks! 

Freshwater sloughs in the forest interior usually are seasonal or year-round ponds filled with rainwater. The wetlands provide important habitat for alligators, water birds, otters, and other island wildlife. Georgia’s state bird, the Brown Thrasher, likes the Saw Palmetto tree!