Day tripping by boat is possibly the most quintessentially coastal pastime, and is growing in popularity. And Jekyll Island and Darien, with their pedestrian-friendly layouts, make great spots for a day full of nature, history and some great food and drink.

On Jekyll Island, the marina business is busy, and the Jekyll Island Wharf Marina, is in the thick of it. The marina at the wharf is one of two public marinas on Jekyll Island, and the closest to the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District.

Alexa Orndoff, director of marketing and communications for the Jekyll Island Authority, said there is a steady stream of visitors who arrive by boat.

“They dock for the day,” Orndoff said, “and there’s a restaurant (The Wharf) right there.”

At Hampton Point Marina, on the north end of St. Simons Island, marina manager David Bullard touted the increase in both family boaters and fishermen as the weather begins to trend warmer. Hampton Point is open to both members and guests.

“This past year was the busiest we have had in the seven years that I have been here, due to boating being one of the activities that could be enjoyed during the COVID restrictions,” he said.

Darien is also easily within reach and makes for a perfect excursion for a day. The Oaks on the River development, once completed, will feature a 53-room luxury boutique resort currently under construction, as well as the now-open Oaks on the River condominiums and Spartina Grill. The development will also have access to a dock on the Altamaha River.

In addition to providing access to visitors who come to spend the day in Darien, owner and developer Art Lucas said there are other benefits to docking along McIntosh County’s “ecology coast.”

“Guests will have access to bicycle tours, deep-sea fishing, Altamaha River trips and excursions to Sapelo Island,” he said.

The past year was also a great one for Freedom Boat Club, at Morningstar Marina, on St. Simons Island. People who join Freedom Boat Club have access to the boats in the fleet.

Lucy Bowie, president of Freedom Boat Club and a yacht broker at Dunbar Yacht Sales, said recreational boating is the perfect activity for right now.

“It’s one of the most COVID-friendly activities,” she said, adding that the positive effects of being outside in the fresh air and sunshine are measurable benefits. “You’re outdoors, and gaining an appreciation and understanding of the place you live.”

Business is thriving, she added, with more couples and families joining the activity every day.

“There are real, positive benefits for families,” Bowie said. “And everyone from toddlers to grandparents can be involved.”

Coastal Illustrated recommends Darien

6 spots to enjoy within walking distance of the dock

1. Oaks on the River Preview Center:

After disembarking, take a tour of the Oaks on the River Preview Center and learn about this new riverfront development, still in progress.

2. Spartina Grill: A new fine casual eatery that serves from breakfast to dinner, and has a great happy hour. Try the Oscar burger, topped with crab dip, asparagus and parmesan cheese, or just unwind with a signature cocktail and enjoy the scenery.

3. Waterfront Wine & Gourmet: A Darien classic, within easy walking distance of the docks and known for its vast selection of gourmet cheeses and both imported and U.S. wines. Visit the wine bar and tasting room, and don’t forget the artisan cheese plate, which is a perfect snack to share.

4. Zio Carlo Coffee Shop: If you want a taste of the Old Country, or need some tasty caffeinated beverages, visit Zio Carlo. This Italian coffee shop serves house-made pastries (including biscotti and Tiramisu), imported Italian cold cuts and homemade Italian hoagie sandwiches, in addition to specialty coffee drinks.

5. Vernon Square/Old Jail Art Center: On your way to the Old Jail Art Center, home of the McIntosh Art Association and its exhibits by local artists, check out Vernon Square, a peaceful respite surrounded by historic churches, including St. Andrews Episcopal, and a bubbling fountain at its center.

6. Skipper’s Fish Camp: Overlooking Darien River, and with an expansive outside deck, Skipper’s Fish Camp is focused on seafood, including Georgia shrimp and McIntosh County crab cakes, among a variety of appetizers and entrees – even gator tail. Kick back, take in the view, order a refreshing beverage before continuing on to your next destination.

Coastal Illustrated also recommends Jekyll Island 6 spots to enjoy within walking distance of Jekyll Island Wharf Marina

1. The Wharf: The Wharf is the restaurant at the Jekyll Wharf Marina, and a great place to stop and have a bite of fresh seafood or drinks, whether you’re arriving or departing.

2. Jekyll Sweet Shoppe: A favorite stop for visitors touring the historic district, this is the place to satisfy your sweet tooth, with hand-dipped ice cream, an assortment of candies, including pralines, and several types of fudge.

3. Georgia Sea Turtle Center: If you want to know about sea turtles, this is a must-see. Tons of interactive exhibits and experiences, and a chance to watch turtles being rehabilitated and treated add up for a fun, educational day for the whole family.

4. MOSAIC Jekyll Island Museum MOSAIC replaces the old Jekyll Island Museum, but within the footprint of the old stables building. The exhibits highlight the cultural and natural history of the island, and there are tons of interactive exhibits, along with visuals and audio to help tell the story.

5. The Pantry at the Jekyll Island Club: The Pantry at the Jekyll Island Club: The Pantry is a wonderful breakfast or lunch stop, especially with plenty of outside seating on the veranda and in the courtyard, which makes it easy to pretend you’re a Rockefeller or a Crane. Indoor seating is available as well. And, if you want to take lunch with you, the staff will pack a “Pantry Picnic” basket for you.

-6. Rent a Red Bug: You arrived by boat, but you’d like to go further afield – perhaps to Driftwood Beach at the north end of Jekyll Island, or to the Beach Village with all of its shopping and dining options, or countless other places. Fear not. Red Bug Motors will pick you up from The Wharf and take you to their office and get you on the road.