The beaches on St. Simons and Jekyll islands just barely missed out on one of them being named the best beach in the Southeast.

They were both among the Final Four beaches remaining in a contest in Garden & Gun magazine that mirrors the NCAA basketball tournament brackets.

Jekyll Island beat Vero Beach, Fla., Ooracoke, N.C., and Kiawah Island, S.C., to make the Final Four, before being edged out by Pawleys Island, S.C., which earned 51.2 percent of the vote.

The beach on St. Simons Island won over three Florida beaches — Seaside, St. George Island and Siesta Key — before losing to Mexico Beach, Fla., which received 55.9 percent of the vote in the semifinals.

Scott McQuade, president and CEO of the Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau, said he was hoping for the St. Simons and Jekyll Island beaches to advance in their brackets, which would have guaranteed a championship for the Golden Isles.

“I was pleased to see two of our beach destinations reach the Final Four,” he said. “We have been advertising with Garden and Gun for many years, and winning awards with the readership not only shows that are advertising is working but that the audience appreciates our area.”

The recognition given to the Golden Isles in regional and national contests is helpful to tourism and the local economy.

“Receiving these national awards and accolades are one of the most important parts of our success as a destination” he said. “Third-party endorsements serve as a validation for other travelers that the Golden Isles is indeed a special place. We have seen a significant amount of people that have come this year specifically because we were rated Travel and Leisure‘s worlds best island destination.”

McQuade said the accolades for our beaches is another reason the Golden Isles is a travel designation.

“It is part of our overall marketing strategy to gain a following with these top-tier markets and then make their audience advocates for our destination,” he said. “Once we win one of these major awards we use it as leverage to create new visitors. It has been a strategy that has worked well and over the last decade we have accomplished some of the best travel accolades in the nation.”

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