Personally, winter is my favorite time to visit the beach, so we made sure that happened in January. Hubby and I have stayed at Jekyll Island Club Hotel before, but we were alone and part of a large wedding experience. This time, during the off-season and with kiddos, would be different. So, we packed the family and headed for Jekyll Island Club Hotel, anxious to introduce the kids to one of our favorite destinations.
About Jekyll Island Club Hotel
Jekyll Island, once home to America’s privileged politicians, businessmen, socialites and such, was the perfect place to create an exclusive social club for wealthy Americans. Construction of the private club began in 1886, and the private and elite playground lasted well into WWII before dissolving. Today, you can experience a taste of that family –friendly luxury at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Whether you are after architectural highlights, history or fun, you will love a visit to this Georgia treasure. We even have a few discounts for your next stay.
The Sans Souci Cottage
The original social club included several cottages of grand Victorian architecture, originally designed to accommodate families and their staff. Today, many of those cottages, once owned by the Rockefellers, the Goodyears and others, are not part of the hotel; they are public buildings that can be toured. San Souci, Crane and Cherokee Cottages are still owned by the hotel, offering rooms to lucky guests as part of their accommodation offerings.
We were so excited to stay in the Sans Souci Cottage, built in 1896 and owned (in part) by JP Morgan. It was built as a six-unit building for multiple families, so some call it America’s first condo. The Morgan’s occupied the third floor, and it’s been said that guests who rise at 5am as Morgan did, and admire the view from the patio on the third floor north side of San Souci can smell the faint odor of is beloved cigars. Could there be a JP Morgan ghost?
We stayed on the first floor of San Souci, which means “without care,” and without care was indeed our state of mind! It was heavenly. The leaded art glass, handsome stairway, skylight and hardwood floors are all original. Our room included a giant king bed, a dining table tucked comfortably into the round set of windows, a gorgeous seating area in front of the original fireplace and stately dressers.
The bathroom was large, with a shower tub and beautiful marble-top sink. I loved the photos throughout the room as well, depicting life around the resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s. No worries- there are plenty of modern amenities as well. We enjoyed a coffee maker, mini fridge, TV with cable channels, WiFi and more.
I think one of my favorite times in our room was Saturday evening. Dan went to the bar for a bottle of wine and snacks for the kiddos, and the JICH staff came to our room to light the fireplace (for a nominal charge.) The boys made a nest of pillows in front of the fire, while hubby and I enjoyed a nice Pinot Noir…san souci…not one care was given! Lovely!
Other accommodation options include Clubhouse and Annex rooms, located central to the resort. They range from single or double beds to deluxe suites with multiple rooms. When available, you can even reserve the Presidential Suite featuring its famed turret (a dear family friend stayed here on her wedding night…it was amazing!)
Crane Cottage offers 13 guest rooms and a suite featuring a beautiful sunken garden. Lastly, Cherokee is a great choice if you’re planning a romantic getaway, as some of the rooms feature Jacuzzi tubs and private porches.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel boasts two full-service restaurants, a café, and a pub and lobby bar. The Grand Dining Room is GORGEOUS, with more Victorian décor including brilliant Ionic columns and warm fireplaces. This restaurant consistently gets impeccable ratings from every source imaginable.
While every family is different (and children are always welcome) I would probably hesitate to bring my boys for dinner. Breakfast and lunch, on the other hand, you cannot miss. The prices are also exceptionally affordable, with the grand breakfast buffet at only $14. Sides, fruits and specialty items (think Eggs Benedict, French Toast or Frittata) are available for considerably less.
Lunch includes southern favorites like Fried Green Tomatoes, Jekyll Shrimp and Grits, Duck Barbecue and more, including a Children’s Menu. Again, easy with the kids, delicious food and (surprisingly) affordable dishes. One other note, if you have time, make reservations for the Victorian Tea. You’ll select from an array of homemade finger sandwiches, scones with crème fraiche, and assorted jams, mini pastries and petit fours. $15 for adults, less for kiddos…and so much fun!
Courtyard at Crane is delightful for lunch or dinner. The beautiful Italianate architecture works for families or romantic time together.
Looking for something more casual? Try The Pub, with drinks and pub fare like handcrafted burgers or specialty pizzas
The Club Café is where we opted for snacks and treats. It’s a bakery-delicatessen, offering homemade pastries, muffins and sticky buns each morning. We opted for breakfast here one morning and were pleasantly surprised with gluten-free creations, as well, like bacon and eggs. Don’t miss the famous café cookies…the boys loved the banana cookies with banana icing!
There is also a lobby bar, which we used to grab drinks and head to the wrap-around porch (complete with comfy rocking chairs.) It was a great way to unwind while the boys nibbled on cookies from The Café.
There is plenty to do on the island, but sometimes it is fun to indulge at the resort, as well. I think the most fun is enjoying croquet on the front lawn! Yes, croquet!! Also, next to the croquet greensward is a beautiful putting green, where you can enjoy a little golf practice. Just ask the bellman for equipment.
Bike riding is one of the most popular activities on Jekyll Island! There are 20 miles of flat paths that circle the entire island. It is a great way to see the sites. Rentals are available through the front desk. Half Day: $10.00 and Full Day: $18.00.
Guests of the JICH can take advantage of their private beach pavilion on the Atlantic side of the island. It is seasonal, so we didn’t experience it, but we drove by to take a look and it was super impressive. Families can enjoy burgers, hot dogs, beverages and ice cream. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available; towels and rest rooms are provided. The Hotel even offers a complimentary shuttle for guests.
Of course, you can also splash in the hotel pool near the edge of the river. There are lounge chairs and towels, and during the warm months you can enjoy the Pool Bar and Grill.
If you want the ultimate in pampering, try the Salon and Spa. They offer haircuts, manicures, facials and more. You can also opt for a romantic in-room massage, or garden-level fitness room.
Finally, don’t miss one of the hotel’s history tours. Learn about the history of JICH, including stories passed down over time and walks throughout the Hotel structures, cottages and grounds. Tours are offered Monday-Thursday at 2pm, year round.
You’re not too far from St. Simon’s Island, as well, which could make a wonderful daytrip.
History of Note
One of my favorite things to do when visiting a place, especially one with such a rich history, is to learn wacky facts and figures about that location. With that said, here are eight fun facts I learned about Jekyll Island Club Hotel and its environs that I think you will love!
- WWII was the biggest threat to the original, posh island club. With a report of enemy submarines right off the coast, the island was evacuated. The club’s president hoped to re-open after the war, but the state stepped in around 1947, purchasing the land and taking it from private to public in one stroke of the pen.
- Jekyll Island was original operated as a State Park, but now it is managed as a business entity by the Jekyll Island Authority. The directors of this group are all appointed by the Governor.
- While Jekyll Island is owned by the state of Georgia… your GSP annual pass will not work here. Entry fees are used to beautify the island. Public areas, such as the playground, bike paths, beach crossovers and bathrooms have all benefited from these funds.
- The hotel is currently owned by Jekyll Landmark Associates, the same corporation responsible for bringing Westin to Jekyll Island. They are also in the midst of constructing 39 beachfront suites on the Atlantic, which will be part of the JICH accommodation offerings.
- The original Jekyll Island Club was the scene of the first transcontinental telephone call placed by AT&T president Theodore Vail on January 25, 1915.
- The Federal Reserve Act, which created the Federal Reserve System, was draw up by Woodrow Wilson. He based the act on the previously drafted Aldrich Plan, named after Club guest Senator Nelson Aldrich. Aldrich and his traveling companions headed to Jekyll under assumed names to meet there in secret to draw this plan. One of my favorite books about this is a tome, but worth every moment of reading: The Creature from Jekyll Island.
- The Club was the idea of Newton Finney. He developed it with his brother-in-law, John Eugene DuBignon. Fun fact about Finney: He served briefly on Robert E. Lee’s staff as captain of engineers during the Civil War.
- JP Morgan is not the only spirit said to roam the hotel. Haunted Houses reports that General Lloyd Aspinwall, one of the original investors/members and Southern Railroad Company President, Samuel Spencer, who loved to stay at The Jekyll Island Club, both have manifested here, as well as a number of previous employees.
Disclosure: Special thanks to JICH for hosting my family and me on this incredible adventure. Opinion here are all my own. As always, we only share when it’s a destination worthy of visiting!
After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.