BRUNSWICK, Ga. — For the bargain price of $6 a night, young travelers can stay in a tree house in Georgia. Then, using it as a base, they can investigate an island park with 200 wild horses, a 600-square-mile swamp that is home to more than 10,000 alligators, and another island that was once the private resort of America's wealthiest families.
Located in a 90-acre section of forest, about 15 miles southwest of Brunswick, the Hostel in the Forest can accommodate about 40 people. Most stay in dormitory rooms in a geodesic dome, but there are also two tree houses, each with a large picture window and a double bed. All beds are $6 a night for Youth Hostel Assn. members, $7 for nonmembers.
Those needing transportation can arrange to be picked up at the airport or bus station for $2 by a member of the hostel staff. To make arrangements, call (912) 264-9738. The hostel entrance is on U.S. 82. From Interstate 95, take exit No. 6 for two miles.
Guests without their own transportation to surrounding sites can obtain assistance from the hostel staff. When time permits, the staff will use the hostel mini-van to provide transportation for the cost of gas.
About nine miles from the hostel is a causeway that stretches six miles across marshland to Jekyll Island. For 55 years the island was a private resort for families, including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers and Goodyears. Now it has 10 hotels and a campground. Rent a bike for $10 per day at the miniature golf course and use the 20 miles of paved paths to investigate the historic district and beaches or bird-watch by the marshes.
Jekyll Island Campground is off Beachview Drive on the north end of the island. It has 220 tent and trailer sites, which range from $10 to $14 per night. A deposit equal to one night's stay is required to hold a site. Visa and MasterCard are accepted. Call (912) 635-3021.
About 50 miles from the tree house hostel, on the border between Georgia and Florida, is the fishing village of St. Mary's. This is where to catch a ferry ($7.95 round trip) to cross several miles of marsh to reach Cumberland Island, the largest and most southern of Georgia's barrier islands.
This 16-mile-long island has a white-sand beach, sand dunes up to 40 feet high, a nesting ground for loggerhead turtles and is home to about 200 wild horses that are descendants of polo ponies, plough horses and wild mustangs.
Park staff offer some interpretive walks that include ruins of a Carnegie mansion and a museum in the Carnegie estate's original ice house. Free camping, for up to seven days, is possible in developed and back-country sites. There are no shops on the island, only water and washrooms.
Whether you plan to go for the day or camp, you need reservations. Call weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: (912) 822-4335.
The Okefenokee Swamp is about 55 miles from the tree house hostel. Now a National Wildlife Refuge, the swamp is home to 225 species of birds and 58 species of reptiles. From the hostel, enter at Folkston, where there is a 4,000-foot scenic boardwalk and a 50-foot observation tower. A guided boat tour is $5 an hour. Canoe rentals are $10.77 per day, motorboats $27.80.
For more information on travel to Georgia, contact Tour Georgia, Georgia Department of Industry Trade, P.O. Box 1776, Atlanta, Ga. 30301, (404) 656-3590.