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A Day on Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Living in Savannah, Georgia, we can easily go to Tybee Island for a quick beach trip, but Georgia’s coastline has many different beach towns and barrier islands that are well worth the trip.  One of our favorites, only an hour and a half from Savannah, is Jekyll Island.  Jekyll Island is part of the Golden Isles near Brunswick, Georgia.  The Golden Isles include St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons Island, Sapelo Island, Blackbeard Island, and parts of Darien and Brunswick, Georgia.  There’s tons of history throughout all of these areas and many ruins and historical landmarks showing glimpses back in time from the earlier days.  In addition to these historical treasures, there are also many unique beaches to choose from for every comfort level and timeline.

Although we have been taking day trips to the Golden Isles, there are many opportunities and a plethora of activities to enjoy during extended stays.  Whether it’s a weekend or more there’s plenty for all to enjoy.  In this case, Jekyll Island is a little more secluded and has its own vibe all together.  You can drive all the way around Jekyll Island in about 30 minutes and there are so many sights to see.

Fallen Trees at Driftwood Beach

Getting There

First of all, it’s really not super complicated to get there.  It sounds scary, that you need a parking pass to get on the island and go through a toll gate (the parking pass is the toll), but it makes it easier once you are there, not having to worry about paying for parking, etc.  It seems the parking pass has gone up recently from $8 to $10 but it is still a fair price when comparing it to the rest of coastal Georgia.  Where I grew up you had to pay for parking and for a beach badge/pass so $10 for 24 hours sounds great to me even if we wish it could be free.  The parking passes can be purchased online beforehand or at the toll gate the day you arrive.  There are also annual passes that are available as well.  There are a few golf clubs and resorts on the island which I’m sure that comes in handy for.  People also live on the island.  There are many houses and condos throughout, among the hotels, campground, clubs, and tourist spots. It's super easy to get around and has one main loop around with a few other cross streets here and there. But all in all it is super easy to navigate.

Rocky Shore at Driftwood Beach

Historically Jekyll used to be private and the Jekyll Island Club, which opened in 1888, was an extremely exclusive club, inaccessible to anyone "unwanted or uninvited" all the way until 1942. Many secret and historical meetings and events took place on the island because of it's level of privacy and the high ranking and famous club members present. Many famous names were on the register and some of their residences are still on the grounds today. Only 35% of the island is developed and it definitely sets the vibe. In 1947 Georgia purchased Jekyll Island and now anyone is able to freely visit today.

My first time on Jekyll Island, we went with some friends and they recommended using the restroom at the Welcome Center on the left side right before the toll booth to enter the island.  The Welcome Center has a gift shop and is a great place to stop and get your bearings if needed.  There’s lots of literature on local activities and friendly staff who I’m sure would answer any questions you might have.  If you know me, I’m all for knowing where the best and closest restrooms are, so if you’re heading straight to Driftwood Beach, you’re gonna want to make a pit stop as there are no facilities at that location. 

Path to Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach is what most people picture when they think of Jekyll Island.  These beautifully weathered, ancient driftwood trees line the beach as erosion and time have created these majestic monuments that seem to go on forever.  Every single inch of the beach is unique and completely breath-taking.  The amazing swirls and detail in each and every tree is just beyond anything I’ve ever seen and I can not believe we are allowed to be so close.  It feels like these beautiful, many dead, trees should be in glass cases, not to be touched, but I’m so glad they are not.  It is a great place for reflection.  I personally would love to hear what the trees might say, the things they must’ve seen…wild. 

Driftwood Beach is not your typical beach with showers and ramps and ample parking.  There are a few parking spots along the main road and then you follow the partially paved, partially sand path that takes you down to the beach.  It’s not very far but could be slightly difficult for some.  Once you get to the sand it is quite a sight to see.  It’s almost like something out of a dinosaur Jurassic before time type movie.  I had seen photos before my first trip but I was not expecting the size or amount of trees spread across this beach.  It feels as if the trees go on forever and you could walk among them for a good long while.  There’s even a nice view of St. Simons Island and the lighthouse across the water.  There is so much to explore on these beaches and it is truly a gem.  Ultimately, Driftwood Beach is a must on any length trip to Jekyll Island.  It’s certainly my favorite part but there are many other things to see and do.

Sandy Beaches

One thing that I always find surprising is the type of sand and the way it gets compressed on these islands.  I’ve never seen so many people in sneakers at the beach before.  The compressed sand makes it very easy to walk in sneakers on the sand and in my opinion, it gives a less “beachy” and more “explore-y” vibe.  Driftwood Beach is probably the most famous beach on Jekyll, but there are a few others that will satisfy those looking for more of your typical experience.  There is Jekyll Island Oceanview Beach Park, which has ample parking and nice facilities. The ocean to road distance is not far at all, so those looking for an easy beach experience, this is a great option.  There’s a ramp down to the sand, showers, and although the restrooms have somewhat of a creepy vibe inside, they are nice and convenient.  There are many hotels to choose from throughout the island if you’re looking to stay overnight, and even a campground if you're feeling adventurous.  As you make your way around the island you’ll see hotels, restaurants, and the Convention Center.  All beautifully constructed and placed throughout the island, intertwined with nature.  On the south end of the island there is also a beach called St. Andrew Beach or “Glory Beach” where part of the movie Glory was filmed.  It is also situated next to soccer fields which have restrooms if needed.  The walk to the sand is similar to Driftwood and not so much like Oceanview Beach Park.  It is a great experience for those looking to explore and not go too far.  It feels like you are deep in the woods for a brief moment but you are just cutting through to the beach.

Jekyll Island

Picnic Areas Around Jekyll

There are also many picnic areas to enjoy.  My favorite is the Clam Creek Picnic Area on the north end.  It sits on the water, overlooking the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier and the Turtle River and Saint Simons Sound.  The pier is pretty large and there are trails nearby and a bridge to a beach where people like to fish.  There is ample parking, restrooms, picnic area and grills, in addition to the Jekyll Fishing Center selling anything you might need.  The Clam Creek Picnic Area was also what I’ve found to be the closest restrooms to Driftwood Beach.  So I’ve found knowing that hidden gem comes in handy.

Dining Options on Jekyll

When it comes to dining on the island, with many picnic areas available, it is definitely an option to bring your own food from home, or check out the deli in the Jekyll Market.  If you prefer a restaurant, we loved Tortuga Jack’s which is pretty close to Jekyll Island Oceanview Beach Park.  There is also beach access in the Tortuga Jack’s parking lot to Great Dunes Beach and a miniature golf place across the street.  If you’re tall enough to see over the railing or if you are on the high top chairs and you’re sitting outside on their patio, Tortuga Jack’s has a great view of the ocean.  The sea breeze helps keep the bugs away and the birds provide entertainment as they fight over dropped tortilla chips.  The food was great, the service was quick and friendly and it’s a great place to take a break from your adventures.

Tortuga Jack's Jekyll

Things To Do

The Jekyll Island clubs also have many restaurants and dining establishments to explore.  There are coffee shops, and outdoor eateries to enjoy this beautiful island even more.  There’s a whole shopping center near the convention center as well with a salon, a pub, frozen yogurt, public restrooms and more! The Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum provides exhibits of local history and various tours of the island.  Across the street is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where they educate visitors on the local sea turtles, their migration, how the center cares for and rehabilitates as needed and the local sea turtle environment.  You’ll see a lot of turtle crossing signs as you drive around Coastal Georgia and it is important you follow the rules set in place and pay attention to your surroundings to help create a safe environment for the turtles, especially at night.  Check out their website for more information! 

Jekyll Mosaic Museum

Historical Ruins

Tabby Horton House

Coastal Georgia is a beautiful place full of history.  The Horton House is a great example of Tabby, a cement made from lime, sand or gravel, and oyster shells used for building during the 17th and 18th century mainly in parts of South Carolina and Coastal Georgia.  To see the shell of this old house still standing takes you back in time and is a worthwhile stop on your trip around Jekyll Island. 

The Horton House

Across the street is a small cemetery along the water with views of the River.  There are many historically preserved ruins throughout the Georgia Coast and it is wonderful to see history preserved.  Although the gnats were swarming the ruins, it’s still worth the stop and investment in bug repellant, especially if you’ll be in the low country during the warmer months. 

There is so much to explore on this little 7 mile island and the surrounding area and we can’t wait to take another trip back and explore Jekyll Island some more!

Hope this inspires you to check it out for yourselves!  

Entrance to Driftwood Beach



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