Score: 74

Native Americans, British soldiers, African slaves, and wealthy late 19th-century vacationers have all left their marks on Georgia's sun-soaked barrier islands. Local residents have worked to safeguard relics of this multi-layered history. The islands' ecology is also in good shape. Though pressure to overbuild is mounting, most islands remain either "undeveloped or tastefully developed."

Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:

"Few places on the Atlantic coast are as well preserved as the barrier islands of Georgia. Cumberland Island is managed by the National Park Service, Jekyll Island is a Georgia state park, Sapelo and Ossabaw Islands are largely undeveloped, and even Sea Island and St. Simon's Island are tastefully developed at low scale and density."

"Very pretty and low-key. There is some development, but in general it seems to be under control. Beaches are wide and flat, and they slope gently into the water. This makes for relaxing, family-friendly beach activity. Towns can get crowded in high season, but they have retained a sense of cultural identity.”

"Beautiful setting and shaded by abundant live oaks. In addition to beautiful white beaches, the islands offer visitors access to many historic and archaeological sites. There has been pressure to overdevelop, but smart land-use planning has led to a nice mix of preservation and development."

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