Top 8 Reasons to Vacation on Jekyll Island, Georgia

LBAC Travel Planner, Sarah Chapman shares her recent family trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia. Contact Sarah today to plan your next dream vacation!

Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, is one of the most enchanting places you’ll find along the Southeastern coast.  With a history going back more than 3500 years, the island has known many inhabitants and visitors in its storied past.  The most visible reminder of that history is the Jekyll Island Club; its members purchased the island in the 1880s as a retreat for some of the wealthiest families in the world including names like Rockefeller, Goodyear, Vanderbilt, Pulitzer and Morgan.  Today you don’t have to be a millionaire to experience all of the natural beauty and beach fun to be had on Jekyll Island.  Here are our top 8 reasons to visit Jekyll Island on your next vacation:

8.  The History

There is so much history on this little island.  From colonial ruins to the story of enslaved people and the Wanderer, to the restored Club House and Cottages where the Federal Reserve was created, there is so much to explore for history buffs young and old.  A visit to the Mosaic Museum provides a great background on the island, and the many hands-on exhibits makes it a favorite for children.  There are trolley tours offered of the historic district and some of the cottages, and a horse drawn carriage ride is a unique (and romantic) way to experience the area.

7.  Christmas!

While most people will want to visit the island during the warm months for all the beach activities, the holiday season at Jekyll Island is not to be missed.  Holly Jolly Jekyll offers family friendly experiences from Thanksgiving to New Years.  The most captivating are the lights that accentuate the gorgeous Live Oak trees draped in Spanish Moss.  Other light displays are placed around the island and trolley tours are offered (or you can do it self-guided).  The miniature golf course turns into Peppermint Land, a throwback to the islands early days as a state park.  There are Santa Chairs placed around the island for photo ops.  Depending on when you visit there are other special events like a parade, fireworks, and drive in movies.

6.  Sea Turtles

Jekyll Island is filled with all kinds of natural wonders and animals.  The Sea Turtles that make Jekyll Island their nesting place during the summer months are probably the most popular.  The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is located in the historic district and welcomes guests to their interactive museum and Sea Turtle Hospital.  In the hospital you can visit all types of rescued Sea Turtles who the staff are rehabilitating to release back into the ocean.  If you are lucky you will be there during a release so you can watch.  The Sea Turtle Center also offers behind the scenes tours, and beach walks that you can register in advance to take part in.

5.  The Food

Fresh Seafood is abundant on Jekyll Island and there are several restaurants that turn it into delectable dishes.  Many of these restaurants also offer an amazing view over the water, particularly at sunset.  Zachry’s Riverhouse by the marina and The Wharf in the historic district are particular favorites for the food and the views.  One of the signature dishes you need to try are the Shrimp and Grits—this dish is so popular on Jekyll Island that they host an entire festival centered around it in the Fall:  The Shrimp and Grits Festival.  In addition to the shrimp and grits competition and tasty food you can sample, other vendors attend making it a great weekend.  (2021 dates are tentative due to COVID).  At the Jekyll Island Clubhouse you will find fine dining, The Driftwood Bistro is a local favorite with excellent seafood dishes, and a quick trip off the island and over to the adjacent St. Simons gives you even more food options including the legendary Southern Soul Barbecue.

4.  Nature

Jekyll Island is a natural paradise.  The best way to experience the beauty of the island is by bicycle.  There are rental options available, or you can bring your own.  You can explore the entire island by the well-maintained bike paths that offer a good way for even the youngest riders to discover the island’s beauty.  There are paths that run along the beach dunes, paths through the maritime forest, paths to historic ruins and trails, a fishing pier, boardwalks through the wetlands, and paths by the river.  You never know what you might see on your ride, maybe a bald eagle!  Another great way to explore is by boat.  There are guided kayak tours offered by outfitters like the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, and dolphin tours by boat. 

3.  Island Treasures

Another fun off-season activity on Jekyll Island is the hunt for Island Treasures that takes place in January and February.  Each day a number of clear plastic globes are hidden (in plain view) on the island in one of the public areas.  If you are lucky enough to find one you can exchange it for a beautiful artisan glass globes.  These globes represent the floats that fishermen used on their nets in the early 1900s.  Collecting those that broke loose and washed ashore was popular in the mid-20th century.  It is a great thrill to find one of your own.

2.  Day Trips

Jekyll Island is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles, and it is conveniently located near several other islands including St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Sea Island, and Cumberland Island.  St. Simon’s makes for a great day trip where you can explore the lighthouse, explore the Fort Frederica National Monument, visit the World War II Homefront Museum, or look for the “Tree Spirits.”  Keith Jennings, an artist, carved these tree spirit faces into the majestic oak trees in the 1980s, and some are still appearing on the island.  The visitor center can give more information on a fun scavenger hunt for these.  Cumberland Island National Seashore is a beautiful day trip where history and nature meet.  It is accessible by ferry in St. Mary’s, Georgia.  On the island you can visit the beach, the ruins of Dungeness Mansion, Plum Orchard Mansion, and The First African Baptist Church.

1.  Recreation

The number one reason to visit Jekyll Island are all the recreational opportunities no matter what time of year you visit.  We talked about the kayaking, and the biking and walking trails.  Obviously, the beach is a huge draw for Jekyll Island.  You will find endless stretches of sand along the Atlantic Coast side of the island.  Jekyll is also home to the beautiful and unique Driftwood Beach.  This area on the north side of the island is covered with oaks, palms and other trees that have been worn away by the wind, and surf.  It forms a natural jungle gym, and a gorgeous backdrop for a relaxing day on the beach (and photographs).  There is a Tennis Center, and a soccer complex.  Golf has been huge on the island since 1898 when the members of the Club created the first course. Today there are four courses:  Great Dunes (9 holes), Indian Mound, Oleander, and Pine Lakes.  On the north end of the island a huge fishing pier protrudes into the water where the East River flows into the Atlantic—a great spot for setting up for a day of fishing. There is an equestrian center where you can reserve a guided horseback ride on the beach.  You’ll even find a seasonal water park, Summer Waves. No matter how you like to play on vacation Jekyll Island has something for you.

When visiting Jekyll Island there are many types of places to stay from the accommodations in the Historic Clubhouse and Cottages, to more modern chain resorts.  There are also options for condominium type lodging.  Your LBAC Travel Dream Vacation Maker can help you find the right fit for your family. Also note that Jekyll Island is a State Park and is operated by the Jekyll Island Authority.  When you enter the island there is a fee, currently $8.  Note that during COVID-19 some activities are not being offered, or are altered. 

Contact Sarah today to plan your next dream vacation!

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