Brunswick, Georgia’s Fun New Energy

Why it’s easy to spend a little more time in the Port City

An aerial view of a small town with red brick buildings and large grassy parks.

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Downtown Brunswick, Georgia.

Perhaps unfairly, Brunswick, Georgia, has mostly been identified as a necessary stop on the way to the chain of barrier islands called the Golden Isles. It’s also known for its namesake stew, a culinary contribution Virginia also claims. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the city where my grandmother was born, and not just because a trip through Brunswick meant I was nearly to the coast to see my cousins.

Bermuda shoreline
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Brunswick earned its Port City nickname for its deepwater port, which was one of the original landing sites for the thirteen colonies. The historic downtown unfolds as a formal grid, similar to nearby Savannah’s layout. I remember passing some of the city’s architectural gems, although I didn’t know their stories then. The circa 1899 Ritz Theatre was originally built as an opera house, and the Romanesque-style Old City Hall was completed in the same year. Poet Sidney Lanier found inspiration in the city, penning his famous work “The Marshes of Glynn” under an oak tree you can still visit. 

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First Friday attendees outside Silver Bluff Brewery.

On more recent trips, I’ve watched how Newcastle Street has taken on a new life thanks to store and restaurant openings. First Friday events bring in visitors and locals for live music and food trucks, and the twice-monthly farmers’ market welcomes purveyors from coastal Georgia’s agricultural communities. The St. Simons Island favorite Bubba Garcia’s restaurant opened its first mainland location in Brunswick last year, and Silver Bluff Brewery has drawn craft beer fans to its beer garden and tap room since 2020. Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, these other highlights make Brunswick much more than a stopover city:

The Kress Hotel

photo: Courtesy of The Kress Brunswick
The Downey suite at The Kress Brunswick.

Downtown Brunswick’s first boutique hotel opened last year in a former 1909 five-and-dime store. The Kress Hotel features twelve suites with high ceilings and salvaged-wood details. The hotel’s rooftop restaurant and cigar lounge, 1509 Brunswick, highlights local specialties, including wild Georgia shrimp and bread service from Schroeder’s Market.

Richland Rum

photo: Courtesy of Richland Rum
The Richland Rum distillery.

The original location of Richland Rum sits four hours away in Richland, Georgia, but the Brunswick tasting room is a popular coastal stop for fans of craft spirits. The award-winning single-estate rum distillery flies its Georgia flag proudly and even made a “Presidential Reserve” series for President Jimmy Carter as a fundraiser for the Carter Center. 

Indigo Coastal Shanty

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The Caribbean and Latin flavors and cozy vibe make Indigo Coastal Shanty an essential meal in Brunswick. The loyal crowd knows it’s all about local seafood here, but menu highlights also include the Thai peanut noodle bowl, jerk tostada, and Bahamian chicken curry, best enjoyed on the patio underneath the colorful umbrellas. 

Black Sheep Pickers

Downtown Brunswick offers several vintage shops for those looking for a piece of the past. The eclectic antiques at Black Sheep Pickers are all curated by owner and veteran Shayne Woodard, who sources treasures from estates and homes nearby.

Wake Up Coffee Company

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Before the arrival of Wake Up Coffee Company, the greater Golden Isles were mostly a wasteland of big-name coffee chains. But the once-small operation has expanded to two locations in Brunswick—including one drive-thru only—and to St. Simons Island. Single-origin coffee brews pair nicely with avocado toast, muffins, and waffles. 

Little Zooks

Calling itself a “psychedelic Victorian discotheque,” the bar and music venue Little Zooks is appropriately covered in antiques and disco lights. It just joined the downtown scene in early 2023, but the watering hole is full of energy, with nightly events like live music and video game tournaments, and tropical drinks topped with flowers and umbrellas.

Reid’s Apothecary

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Taking its retro visual cues from the pharmacies once found in every small town, Reid’s Apothecary is a “fine-casual” restaurant on the far end of Newcastle Street. In an elegant but understated brick storefront, Reid’s serves favorites like steak, shrimp and grits, and a build-your-own charcuterie board, plus lavish Sunday brunch and Sunday night dinners. By night, pop into the Study, the speakeasy that is only accessible by a password the restaurant shares daily.