Jekyll Island is part of the Golden Isles, located in charming coastal Georgia and surrounded by salt marshes and warm ocean currents. The island is about 7 miles long by 1.5 wide and offers all the amenities necessary for a great vacation for families or couples. Jekyll Island is a state park and an entry fee is required to drive onto the island.
The entry cost for vehicles is $6 per day and it’s good for 24-hours of driving on-and-off the island. If you’re staying for an entire week and don’t plan on leaving the island at all, don’t bother buying the week-long pass, opt for the day pass and you’re set. If you want to explore the other Golden Isles then consider purchasing the week-long pass.
So what makes Jekyll Island a great travel destination for you?
The natural beauty. The wide, expansive beaches have hard-packed sand and tidal pools that beg to have bare feet splash in them.
The water is comfortably warm and shallow, with gentle waves that allow even little travelers to feel confidence in the almighty sea. My 4-year old daughter, Lotus, paddled in and out of the water on her own while wearing an inner tube around her waist.
At one point the somewhat murky water smacked her in the face and she shouted, “I hate this water!” but after a few minutes of stewing on the shoreline and angrily digging toes into the sand, she came back out and spent hours giggling and playing.
Driftwood Beach is located on the northern end of Jekyll Island and is a dramatic area, a graveyard of trees.
Finely grained and sun-bleached limbs with roots thrusting into salty air in an unapologetic rigor mortis litter the sand and reach longingly for the ebbing ocean and horizon beyond. Little crabs and cockroach-looking creatures scurry and scatter among the rocks and trees, and sea birds gather for the obvious feast.
This seemed to be a popular local spot for photography sessions because there were at least a handful of fancy cameras capturing the magic hour while attempting to wrangle young clients into staged poses when they’d rather be running in the sand and surf.
As always, all images posted here were captured on an iPhone 5c.
Wildlife? Jekyll Island’s got it.
During our week stay, I saw wild dolphins just offshore, sand dollars galore, horseshoe crabs, an abundance of coastal whitetail deer, terrapins crossing the causeway, and our friends caught and released many sharks while fishing off a boat in the channel.
Many sea turtle nests are located on Jekyll Island and the surrounding islands. Sea turtles seek high ground for their nests and they face so many obstacles in reaching adulthood that the Georgia Sea Turtle Center was founded to give them a fighting chance at survival.
They rehabilitate, educate, and help to preserve the environment. The Sea Turtle Center has educational programs for all ages, a museum to learn more about the life of these quiet creatures, an observation window into an operating room where doctors remove fishing hooks and stitch up other injuries, and a hospice area where turtles are given the chance to gain strength and heal in peace.
Historical significance. The idea behind the Federal Reserve was discussed and mulled over on Jekyll Island by the big-wig bankers and major financial players of the day. It was once the private playground of the wealthy, with plantations and the Jekyll Island Club dominating what is now the historic district.
The Jekyll Island Club is still in operation and has a spa on-site and I’d love to spend a few nights there at some point in the future. You know, for research purposes … not because I’d enjoy the luxury and pampering or anything. The grounds are magnificent and ooze with deep Southern charm, thanks to the old and gnarled trees that positively drip with Spanish moss.
Jekyll Island embraced slavery at one point in her history. In fact, the last known ship to bring Africans to the United States for the dastardly purpose of slavery was The Wanderer, a pleasure-yacht-turned-vessel-of-horror. It landed in Jekyll Island in 1858. Today, visitors can learn more about this scar on our nation’s history by going to the Jekyll Island Museum for a full exhibit on The Wanderer and honor the lives of those brought over by visiting the memorial which is located in the southern part of the island at St. Andrews picnic area.
Head to St. Simons Island and visit Fort Frederica. About 30 minutes away from Jekyll Island is Fort Frederica, located on St. Simons Island. This was once a British military outpost and was built in 1736 to defend against the Spanish. It held soldiers and their families, as well as merchants and those with trades like bakers, shoemakers, and blacksmiths.
The grounds today are mostly cleared of buildings but much work has gone into preserving the history of the fort. Roads are mapped out with street signs, remains of foundations have plaques telling of who once lived there along with a display of artifacts that were found at each location. The ditch that contained the moat is still in evidence surrounding the entire fort and it’s easy to imagine palisades and fort walls surrounding it in the glorious yesteryear. It is built on Frederica River and was established by General Oglethorpe. It served its purpose for years before the Spanish threat waned with British victories and the fort declined and is now in the state you’ll find today.
Fort Frederica is a quiet place with a hush hanging in the air. The citadel and barracks are still somewhat intact and the graveyard still contains the remnants of tombs. Spanish moss grows thickly and rustles quietly in the breeze, not wanting to disturb the rest of the footsteps of those who once walked these streets.
It only costs $3 for visitors who are 16+ to visit and is an excellent day trip from Jekyll Island. Definitely check out the museum for an educational video on the history of the island, additional artifacts found at Fort Frederica, and a few fun activities for children.
Stop at the Pier Village in St. Simons Island for a range of dining options before heading back to Jekyll Island.
Jekyll Island is an attainable destination for most any budget. You can stay where our nation’s wealthiest used to flock, at the Jekyll Island Club with rooms starting around $189/night. There are various chain hotels like Quality Inn and Suites and Holiday Inn Resort, as well as other luxurious accommodations like Villas by the Sea and the Beachview Club.
Go camping! The Jekyll Island Campground offers primitive camping sites ($29/day) and full hook-up sites for RVs ($38/day for pull-through). It is located near Driftwood Beach and there is a general store located on the grounds for necessities you may have forgotten.
Jekyll Island offers quiet solitude with the option of luxury amenities, outdoor adventure, and historic interest. Charter a fishing boat. Go paddle boarding. Kayak along the coast. Bicycle along more than 20 miles of trails. Go to Summer Waves Waterpark. Hit some balls around the golf course. Relax. Breathe. Feel the stresses of life melt away.
These are the reasons why you should plan a trip to Jekyll Island this summer. I’ll be running a photo essay shortly with more of the natural beauty found on Jekyll Island.
Find out even more about Jekyll Island here.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. My only credit must be given to our wonderful friends who invited us to stay with them at their friends’ beach house.