The minute you step foot on the island, you’re immersed in the relaxed, casual, “easy living” vibe of the island reminiscent of a time when life was simpler and far less stressful.
But hidden within the majestic beauty of the island are adventures just waiting to be found. It’s the place to be…
When my daughters and I ventured out on an adventurous girls trip to a destination we’ve never been, we were captivated – it’s a place like no other on earth. Less like a traditional “beachy” destination and more like an escape to another world, Jekyll Island is truly one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets.
Located midway between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, Jekyll Island is a place where you can unwind, unplug and reconnect with your family all while soaking up the warmth of the sun amidst untouched sand dunes and the relaxing sound of ocean waves.
Although the island is known for its Landmark Historic District and a sweet reminder of simpler days, what makes it really special is how it also serves up a wonderful array of activities for families.
Whether you’re craving a little excitement, in the mood to explore or have a hankering for fresh cuisine, the island offers plenty of cool things for families to do including lively adventures, unique sightseeing spots, great restaurants, and quaint shops.
If you’re interested in exploring a cultural paradise that offers a world of activities for the entire family, here are a few highlights of our trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia.
Where We Stayed: The Heart of the Island
While there’s plenty of wonderful accommodations to choose from on the island ranging from affordable to luxury, we chose to stay at the Days Inn & Suites by Wyndham on Jekyll Island.
Located directly on the beach, our second-floor kitchenette suite was wonderfully comfortable and homey. The hotel room, which was very affordable for a beachfront hotel, offered plenty of space for us to sprawl out including a separate living room, a kitchenette, (which was great when we weren’t in the mood to eat out), and a private balcony overlooking the ocean. Plus, the hotel offered plenty of family-friendly perks including a free hot breakfast (which saved us a ton of money), free WiFi, two swimming pools, free parking, beach access and onsite bike rentals to explore the 25 miles of paved bike path on the island.
Our Favorite Island Fare
One of our favorite things about visiting Jekyll Island was checking out the island fare and the ambiance that comes with it. A few of our favorites were Tortuga Jacks, a casually cool Mexican restaurant with an outdoor covered patio right on the beach (we seriously could have eaten there every day), The Wharf Restaurant, a relaxed, fun restaurant on the Jekyll Island Historic District Pier that offers live music, and Zachry’s Riverhouse, a casual restaurant where you can dive into fresh seafood and American cuisine while taking in the views of the Jekyll River.
What We Loved – A Natural Retreat with Rich History
The southernmost island of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island is one of the more popular islands among Golden Isles visitors. As a Georgia State Park with a strict conversation clause to protect the beauty and wildlife on the island, the 5,500 acres and nearly 10 miles of unspoiled beaches offered the perfect backdrop for our adventure.
Considering we’re self-proclaimed history buffs, we fell in love with Jekyll Island’s gorgeous Historic District. The district, coined the “Millionaire’s Village,” is 240-acres with 33 beautifully preserved and maintained historic structures that were once home to some of America’s most wealthy and prominent families including the Rockefeller, Pulitzer, Vanderbilt, Crane, Goodyear, Macy, and J.P. Morgan families. In fact, at one time, one-sixth of the world’s wealthiest citizens vacationed on Jekyll Island.
For a glimpse into the historic beauty you can expect to see, here’s a video tour of the Jekyll Island Historic District.
Our Favorite “Must-See” Spots on Jekyll Island
Every day on Jekyll Island is a new adventure. Aside from the beauty of the island and the rich history that makes it truly unique and enchanting, you won’t want to miss all it has to offer by visiting the island’s most notable destinations. From charter fishing cruises and horseback riding on the beach to a world of culture and a charming shopping village – you’ll find it all on Jekyll Island. Here are our faves!
Driftwood Beach – Get Your Camera Ready
One of the highlights of our trip was our visit to Driftwood Beach. Located on the north end of the island, Driftwood Beach is as mesmerizing as it is ghostly.
With hundreds of spectacular trees and driftwood washed ashore, the beach is an incredible landscape for photographers aiming to capture its beauty and families looking to explore. The beach is so captivating it’s been ranked as one of America’s “Ten Most Romantic Beaches” and has become a popular destination for weddings.
Bottlenose Dolphin Watching at its Best
Although the dolphin cruise we took on Jekyll Island wasn’t the first dolphin cruise we’ve ever taken, it was by far the best. The 90-minute sightseeing excursion that departed from Jekyll Wharf took us along the Intra Coastal Waterway, salt marshes and up to Cumberland Island where 160 wild horses roam the beaches. With the waters of Jekyll Island home to one of the world’s largest populations of Bottlenose Dolphins, we were fortunate enough to observe upwards of 10-15 dolphins frolicking and feeding in the waters off the shore – many of which were curious enough to venture right alongside the boat.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is the absolute best go-to spot to learn about the most iconic animal in the Golden Isles – the sea turtle. It’s the only functioning hospital for ill and injured sea turtles and the only hospital of its kind in the state of Georgia. At the center, you’ll learn about the journey turtles take when they lay their eggs and nest, view gallery exhibits and peek in on sick or injured turtles that are at the center for rehabilitation. It’s a remarkable place that’s both educational and intriguing for adults and kids alike.
Jekyll Island Beach Village
If you visit Jekyll Island, be sure to stop in the Jekyll Island Beach Village – an adorably quaint shopping village with a variety of resort apparel and gifts shops. My favorite shop was Jekyll Market, a gourmet grocery store with an awesome variety of staples along with a full salad bar and deli that offers scrumptious made-to-order sandwiches. They also have a large array of gifts and specialty items all showcased in an island-style cabana setting that, honestly, could have kept me browsing for hours if my daughters didn’t drag me out of there.
Cruise the Bike Path
With more than 25 miles of paved biking paths to explore, you can bike for miles on Jekyll Island and still not see it all. The paths take you on a leisurely journey to beaches and forests and even through the Historic Landmark District offering a scenic way to see all the island’s hallmark points of interest. Our hotel, The Days Inn & Suites Wyndham, offered bike rentals, but there are also plenty of other places throughout the island that offered bike rentals as well.
Summer Waves Water Park
While Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island doesn’t rival some of the bigger water parks you might see, the park packs in all the exciting rides and attractions any family would love. From lazy rivers to high-speed thrills down spiraling slides, it has something for the whole family including a wave pool, splash zone and plenty of cabanas to beat the heat and grab lunch.
Great Dunes Park
Our favorite beach on the island, Great Dunes Park is a gorgeous, pristine beach with beautiful sand dunes, sea oats, and soft sand. Be sure to plan your trip around the tides since the beaches can get mucky at the shoreline when the tide is out. Overall, this beach wins our vote for convenience with plenty of free parking, gas grills, a picnic pavilion and clean showers and bathrooms.
Just a Skip Away – St. Simon’s Island and Savannah, Georgia
Just a 15-minute skip away from Jekyll Island is its neighboring island, St. Simon’s Island. With the same timeless, unforgettable charm as Jekyll Island, be sure to check out St. Simon’s Lighthouse Museum and Pier Village, the social hub of the island for shopping, dining, and gathering.
Only an hour and a half drive from Jekyll Island is one of the South’s most gorgeous cities – Savannah. Known for its horse-drawn carriages, antebellum architecture, cobblestone squares and oak trees covered in Spanish moss, if you have the time, this is one day trip worth taking.
Because the city is sprawled out, we took the trolley tour and found it to be one of the best little deals in town to see all the notable points of interest without having to walk the entire city.
When you visit Jekyll Island remember the beach rules…
Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty fresh air. Go barefooted. Feel the balmy breeze. Build sandcastles (no matter how old you are). Collect seashells. Take in the timeless charm. But mostly… rest, relax, reflect and reconnect. Farewell, Jekyll Island… until we meet again.
This post is sponsored by Days Inn Wyndham Jekyll Island. All opinions are completely my own.