Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun

Jekyll Island, GA, is a coastal haven that is part of Georgia’s Golden Isles. Unlike nearby St. Simons Island or Sea Island, state law protects 65 percent of Jekyll Island’s beaches and maritime forest from development and it is considered a Georgia State Park.

As for the remaining 35 percent? You’ll find low and mid-rise buildings, local restaurants and shops, an amazing golf course, tennis courts, a water park, a beautiful historic district, and miles of bike paths and waterways to explore.

Jekyll Island, Georgia, is a wonderful place to explore. One visit here, and you’ll immediately be planning a return trip. There are pictures of me visiting here when I was a baby, and now I’ve brought my babies here every year since they were born! It is the perfect beach vacation for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life, and just…breathe.

Here are 40+ of the best reasons to visit Jekyll Island.

JEKYLL ISLAND GA: PROTECTED COASTAL BEAUTY WITH RESORT FUN

COOLEST PLACES TO STAY ON JEKYLL ISLAND

  • Best for a Modern Feel. The seaside Jekyll Ocean Club Resort is the sister to the Historic Jekyll Island Club but has a very different, much more modern feel. All the rooms are suites facing the ocean, and the hotel is two blocks from the Jekyll Island Beach Village with shops, restaurants and entertainment. My favorite part of this hotel? The cozy screened porch off the pool. Guests at Jekyll Island Club and Jekyll Ocean Club can enjoy the amenities at the other hotel. Read More: JEKYLL OCEAN CLUB: SOPHISTICATED ADDITION TO STUNNING GEORGIA COAST
  • Great for Families. The Holiday Inn Jekyll Island is a very family (and pet) friendly hotel located roughly at the center of the island, right along the beach and bike paths. It’s also convenient to pretty much anything you’d like to do, but we just stayed on property, swam in the pool, walked on the beach (at night was amazing), and enjoyed our awesome oceanfront deck. The guest rooms are great here.

JEKYLL ISLAND GA: PROTECTED COASTAL BEAUTY & RESORT FEEL

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
Courtesy of Jekyll Island Authority

I like to say, if it’s good enough for a Rockefeller and Vanderbilt summer home, it’s good enough for me. Well, I don’t really say that, but my family does enjoy many of the activities these wealthy barons did on Jekyll Island when it was an exclusive haven for America’s wealthiest families. We’ve even stayed in the hotel where millionaires put up their own guests (it’s lovely).

The State of Georgia bought Jekyll Island in the 1940’s and opened it up to the public. Now, there are several new modern hotels, in addition to the Historic Island Club, and so many things to do, you’ll need to plan more than one trip.

Once you’re done reading our guide, the Jekyll Island Tourism board has a great website. If you want to visit Jekyll Island for a special event, they can help you plan it.

Read More: Jekyll Island, Georgia: the Weekend Getaway You Need to Plan NOW

JEKYLL ISLAND BEACHES

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
Jumping for joy on Jekyll!

The Jekyll Island beaches are some of the prettiest in Coastal Georgia, maybe even on the Atlantic Coast.

One of the things I like so much about Jekyll is development has followed infrastructure. Buildings are off the beach, behind the sand dunes. From the beach you see sea oats waving in the breeze. Often you can’t see the homes for the large sand dunes.

Jekyll has 10 miles of shoreline, and some great beach park accesses — several that are wheelchair accessible and some are dog-friendly.

DRIFTWOOD BEACH

Driftwood Beach is one of the most photographed and recognizable beaches — and for good reason. Many people visit the island just to see this amazing spot.

The grey white trees, felled by wind and weathered by the elements, is a gorgeous backdrop for family photos. The beach is a little hidden. Just past the Villas By The Sea condo complex, there is a place you can pull off the road and follow the unmarked path down to the beach.

This beach gets really popular at dusk (when the light is perfect!), so be prepared to get there a bit early to get a good parking spot. Make sure to check the tide calendar before heading out too — high tide means there isn’t any walkable beach here.

During the day, you’ll find this beach isn’t as busy as other beaches — but there will still be a fair amount. If you’re staying at Villas by the Sea condos, there is a path directly to Driftwood Beach from there.

My family loves to come here and search the rocks for sea glass. From this beach, you can also see the lighthouse on St. Simon’s Island, just across the way.

Read More: CLOSEST BEACH TO ME: 27+ EXCITING BEACHES CLOSE TO ATLANTA

GREAT DUNES BEACH PARK

Great Dunes Beach Park is what we consider the “main” public beach access point. This 20-acre beach park features picnic pavilions, an activities deck, a nice greenspace for playing games, and bocce and volleyball courts. You’ll find plenty of parking here, as well as restrooms, changing areas, and outdoor showers.

This is a popular beach area for families, and is the perfect place to set up for the day. ADA accessible beach access is located at crossover #32 at the Great Dunes Beach Deck. Leashed pets are allowed on the beach here.

GLORY BEACH

Glory Beach is located on the south end of Jekyll Island, and gets its name because scenes from the 1989 film, Glory, were filmed here. The natural erosion on the island is creating more and more beach here, which is why the beach is so wide. There is plenty of room to enjoy beach games, build sandcastles, and more.

This area is also a great place for bird watching, as it’s a sanctuary for resting and nesting birds. For this reason, pets aren’t allowed on this beach.

SOUTH DUNES BEACH PARK

South Dunes Beach Park is the place to go if you’d like to see the beach, as well as the freshwater pond wildlife. My favorite part of South Dunes Beach Park is the boardwalk that leads to the beach, actually. It’s so pretty, and takes you over the 20-foot sand dunes found here. The beach here is very wide, and you’ll still find beach here, even during high tide.

In addition to a pond, you’ll also find lots of picnic tables and grills, too. Note that this is also a bird sanctuary, so no pets.

ST. ANDREWS BEACH

St. Andrews Beach Park is a perfect diversion from the traditional beach day. Here you can climb a two-story wildlife viewing platform and look for birds, as well as dolphins. This beach is also great for shelling.

You can enjoy the Wanderer Memory Trail here, which is really moving and definitely worth a visit. The trail tells the story of one of America’s last known slave ships, the Wanderer, which can ashore illegally 160 years ago with more than 400 slaves. You’ll find interactive exhibits along the way, which is a great way for even young children to learn more about this terrible time. (You can also find more information about the Wanderer at Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum. More info about that below.)

Read More: 15 THINGS TO DO ON JEKYLL ISLAND WITH KIDS

ACTIVE THINGS TO DO ON JEKYLL ISLAND, GEORGIA

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My niece having a blast in the Frantic Atlantic wave pool at Summer Waves Water Park.

SUMMER WAVES WATER PARK

My kids love the Jekyll Island water park, Summer Waves. This water park is the perfect size, and has something for everyone in your crew to enjoy.

Toddlers and young kiddos will love the Shark Tooth Cove area. This area was revamped in 2017, and it is truly so much fun. There are multiple water slides for little ones, shallow water to play in, dump buckets, water features, and seating all around for parents, so you can easily keep an eye on your kids. My 10-year-old daughter still had fun in this area last year, so it really serves a wide range in ages.

Younger kids also love the Splash Zone, which is a splash pad area that features dump buckets, water features, and kid-friendly water guns.

The lazy river here is called Turtle Creek, and has plenty of entry and exit points. The Frantic Atlantic wave pool is always a huge hit with my crew.

If you’re looking for water slides — they’ve got plenty of those too! Force 3 has — you guessed it — three slides to choose from. Flash Flood is considered a medium thrill and features a double float so you and a friend can head down together. This is by far my kids’ favorite water slide. (They even let their mom ride with them sometimes!) The other two here are Thunder and Lightning, both high thrill body slides that take guests down fully enclosed flumes.

Pirate’s Passage is another high thrill slide that takes you down in a double tube…really fast and really far. Nature’s Revenge features medium thrill body slides. It stands 40 feet tall, and boasts two fierce slides: The Hurricane and The Tornado. 

Finally, Man-o-War is the newest addition. Four intertwined paths descend into the water below with two tube slides and two full-body slides.  

In addition to all the water park fun, you’ll also find a Larry’s Giant Subs, concession stands, plenty of seating — both shaded and in the sun — and cabanas for rent. We go to Summer Waves water park every summer, and it’s a highlight for us every year.

Read More: 25+ BEST WATER PARKS IN GEORGIA FOR SPLISH-SPLASH FUN

FISHING

Whether deep at sea, at a dock, or on the shore, Jekyll Island offers plenty of fishing opportunities for all types of anglers.

Across from the Jekyll Island Campground, the Clam Creek Picnic area is a hidden gem on the island. Drive through a canopy of draping live oak trees, past some of the best marsh views on the island, to the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier. If you don’t have supplies, the Jekyll Island Fishing Center here has everything you need for fishing or crabbing, including a fishing license.

GOLFING ON JEKYLL

Jekyll Island is beautiful, and that truth is very apparent when you play one of Jekyll’s four golf courses. The 9-hole Great Dunes course is the original, and alternates between difficulty and simplicity. This is where my friend’s husband took her boys, who are not big golfers, to play a round when they were on vacation.

In addition to Great Dunes, Jekyll also has three 18-hole courses — Oleander, Indian Mound and Pine Lakes. Pine Lakes provides even playing ground for both adults and younger players, Indian Mound is surrounded by nature and is the shortest of the three 18-hole courses, and Oleander is tightly designed.

TENNIS ON JEKYLL

The tennis courts at Jekyll Island were renovated in 2017, and are some of the nicest in the Golden Isles. The facility here features 13 Har-tru clay courts. The Jekyll Island tennis pro recommends visitors participate in clinics that are offered several times a week. It’s a great way to meet people and find someone to play with during your stay.

If you have your own posse of tennis players, court time is very affordable too. Forget your racket? No problem, they rent those as well. 

HORSEBACK RIDING

Is there anything better than going for a horseback ride on the beach at sunset? Or taking a horse-drawn carriage ride through the Jekyll Historic District? We say no. Lucky for you, those are just a couple of the horseback riding options you’ll find on Jekyll Island.

Driftwood Beach Rides, located near the fishing pier, offers 1-hour private and group beach rides, along with private and group sunset rides.

Historic District Carriage Tours offers guided tours throughout the Jekyll Island Historic District in the daytime, as well as private evening tours.

Golden Isles Carriage and Trail at Three Oaks Farm offers horseback riding on Driftwood Beach, narrated horse-drawn carriage tours of the Historic District, and a large petting zoo.

KAYAKING AND PADDLEBOARDING

Explore the marshes and waters around Glynn County by kayak or paddleboard and take in the area in a different way.

SouthEast Adventure Outfitters offers kayak and boat tours around the waters in nearby St. Simons and Brunswick. We were able to take a kayak marsh tour with them on St. Simons and had a great time.

Turtle Tides offers a Marsh & Shark Tooth Beach Kayak Tour, which is super popular on Jekyll. They also have a Gould’s Inlet kayak tour in St. Simons.

The Golden Isles Paddle Co. offers tours on both Jekyll and St. Simons, and offers rentals on St. Simons.

And the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center offers guided kayak tours in the salt marshes around Jekyll Island. They also offer canoe and fishing kayak rentals to be used in Tidelands Pond.

Read More: KAYAKING IN GEORGIA: 23+ UNBEATABLE SPOTS FOR PADDLERS TO LAUNCH

BIKE PATHS

One of the things I love most about Jekyll Island is the infrastructure was put into place before the current development boom, which means, there are 20 miles of bike trails that connect the hotels with pretty much everything else on the island.

Do yourself a favor and get bikes for your entire stay. We loved using it as our transportation during our visit – from going to the Beach Village shopping area, to the historic district. We also used it to explore the interior of the island – which I highly recommend doing. It’s very different inside the maritime forest than it is along the beach or even the marsh.

There are three bike shops on the Island, Jekyll Island Bike Barn (next to mini-golf), Beachside Bike Rentals, and Jekyll Wheels (at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel). Holiday Inn Jekyll Island has rental bikes on property for guests.

JEKYLL ISLAND MINI GOLF

There are two mini-golf courses on the island, and the good news is they are at the same place. Jekyll Island Mini Golf is located right across the street from Great Dunes Beach Park, and right next to an awesome playground for kids.

The mini golf course offers two courses — Course One is easier and more shaded. Course Two is harder without much shade. We went around 5:15 pm in July and did the number two course. There wasn’t a wait and the ocean breeze helped to make it bearable in the sun. Mini golf can get quite busy in the evenings, so plan to play before dinner like we did, or immediately after.

JEKYLL ISLAND PLAYGROUNDS

Jekyll Island has two playgrounds next to each other, right next to the mini-golf and Jekyll Bike Barn, and across from Great Dunes Beach Park.

One playground here is for ages 5 and under, and the other is for ages 6 and up. Your kids will find plenty of things to explore — swings, climbing structures, tunnels and more. There are also benches and restrooms here.

We always grab pizza at Red Bug Motors Pizza while we’re here — it’s in the same building at the restrooms. Basically, this area is a one-stop shop for kid-friendly fun.

SCIENCE AND NATURE ON JEKYLL ISLAND

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My daughter at sunset on Driftwood Beach.

Jekyll Island offers plenty of ways to learn more about the science and nature that’s present here. Try one of these fun activities to learn more during your trip.

GEORGIA SEA TURTLE CENTER

For anyone who enjoys science, animals, medicine, or all three, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the perfect stop.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility. Here you can see sea turtles who are being rehabilitated, see veterinarians in action, and enjoy interactive exhibits that teach visitors more about these amazing animals. On our last visit, we watched as a veterinarian do surgery on a turtle that had been injured by a boat.

GATOROLOGY

Head to Horton Pond and meet with a park ranger who will teach you more about the American alligator during Gatorology. Gatorology is a fun and informative 1-hour class open to all ages that teaches about the history, biology and conservation of the American alligator. This is a hands-on experience that will also teach you about the alligator monitoring happening on Jekyll.

This popular class is held on certain days from April-September. Tickets must be purchased online in advance. Children 4 and under are free.

4-H TIDELANDS NATURE CENTER

The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center is a fantastic place to go for the awesome nature programs offered here. The nature center itself has touch tanks and animal exhibits, and they offer so many fun programs throughout the year, too.

In addition to the guided kayak tours, and canoe and kayak rentals mentioned earlier, you’ll find public programs, like nature walks that are offered year-round, and coastal ecology programs in the summer.

The nature walks offered include a guide taking you to learn more about certain parts of the island. You can choose from Driftwood Beach, South Tip and Beach Creek, or the South Dunes Picnic Area.  The 1- to 1.5-hour walks will take you through the beaches, maritime forests and salt marshes of Jekyll Island on certain days. Reservations are required.

The Coastal Ecology Programs in the summer include options such as Live Exhibit Feedings, Summer Seining, Critter Encounters, and Tidelands Pond Exploration.

GEOCACHING ON JEKYLL ISLAND

Geocaching is always a great way to explore more of a new place, and Jekyll Island is no exception. Geocaching is absolutely one of my mom’s favorite things to do on Jekyll. Even though we’ve been going to the island for years, geocaching takes us to places we probably wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Download the geocaching app on your phone, harness your inner pirate, and get ready to find “treasure” on the island. It’s a fun thing to do while enjoying a bike ride around the island.

Read More: GEOCACHING IN GEORGIA: YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO THIS FUN OUTDOOR ADVENTURE

BIRD WATCHING & RANGER WALKS

Jekyll Island is an important site along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, boasting some of the most diverse and plentiful bird watching in the country. My son always enjoys watching the oyster catchers along the beach. St. Andrews Beach Park is a popular place to go for bird watching.

In addition to bird watching on your own, you can enjoy a Ranger Walk to see Jekyll Island’s active bald eagle nest. How cool is that? Families can join Jekyll Island’s conservation staff for seasonal ranger walks to learn more about the island’s natural resources, unique ecosystems and fascinating wildlife.

SUMMER CAMPS

Whether your child is a junior scientist, a budding golf or tennis pro, or a history enthusiast, Jekyll Island has a summer camp sure to please.

My friend’s child has done Turtle Camp at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. In addition to learning about turtles, they take them on the beach and do lots of fun turtle-related crafts.

LEARN MORE ABOUT JEKYLL ISLAND’S HISTORY

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My son adores Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum — so we go every year.

Beyond the beach, Jekyll’s history is what interests me the most. Here are a couple of cool facts.

  • In 1910, Senator William Alrich convened a secret meeting of financiers on Jekyll Island to create a proposal for banking reform that was the forerunner of today’s Federal Reserve.
  • Theodore Vail, the president of AT&T, participated in the first transcontinental telephone call while at Jekyll Island.

Today, the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District is a 240-acre, riverfront compound and one of the largest, ongoing restoration projects in the southeastern United States.

Here are four ways to learn more about Jekyll Island’s history.

MOSAIC, JEKYLL ISLAND MUSEUM

Jekyll has so much history, you could wrap an entire weekend around learning it all. The best place to start your education, is at Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum.

Constructed completely within the existing footprint of the historic stables building, this history museum is filled with interactive exhibits that both adults and kids will enjoy.

My kids both adore this museum (as do I), and we go every year, usually more than once. The museum is organized in historical order, so the back of the museum features the earliest settlers, and you move your way through history until you get to what the island is today.

You’ll learn more about the many roles Jekyll has played throughout time. First, as home to Native Americans, a plantation, an illegal port for the slave trade, and the more well-known Millionaires Club Era when Jekyll was the private playground for wealthy families such as the Vanderbilt, Pulitzer, Goodyear, and many other industry titans. 

Kids can sit in a sailboat to imagine what it was like for the island’s earliest settlers, or sit inside a grass hut. See the clothes, jewelry, and other items that formerly belonged to some of the world’s wealthiest. Learn more about the slave trade that took place here, and hear their stories. And definitely take the time to take a seat in a classic Studebaker, and imagine being an early visitor to Jekyll Island State Park.

HISTORY TOURS

There are a few different tours of the Historic District, but one of the most popular is the Landmark Trolley Tours. If you visit the Historic District at all during your visit, you are bound to see these red trolleys driving by.

This guided trolley tour of the historic district includes entry into a historic “cottage” and admission into the Mosaic Gallery and Faith Chapel on your own time. The tour lasts 60 minutes and begins at Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum.

Horse-drawn carriage tours are also a popular way to see and learn more about the historic district.

JEKYLL ISLAND CLUB HISTORY TOUR

The Jekyll Island Club Resort has been a major part of Jekyll Island for years, and a great way to learn more about it is by taking a Hotel History Tour.

The Hotel History Tour is led by history aficionado concierge Sherri Zacher. The tour explores the original main Clubhouse building, and you’ll hear stories about the millionaire members of 1800’s, the restoration period of the 1980’s, and more current history.

This tour is free for overnight guests of the Jekyll Island Club or the Jekyll Ocean Club, and $15 for others. Tours are held Tuesdays-Fridays at 2pm.

HISTORY AT YOUR OWN PACE

Throughout the historic district are signs that tell about the history of various buildings and the area in general. If you don’t want to take a guided tour, just walk through the district at your own pace and read the signs.

Be sure to find the telephone that was used for the first transcontinental phone call – it’s off by itself in the historic district, and a fun treasure hunt for those who have never been to the area.

SHOPPING ON JEKYLL ISLAND

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
Courtesy of Jekyll Island Authority

BEACH VILLAGE

The Beach Village is a fairly new addition to the island and reminds me of the village at Seaside or Watercolor. Each time we visit, there are more stores in the village. One of my favorites is Tonya’s Treasures. This boutique is similar to its sister on St. Simons Island and has nice jewelry and monogrammed items. Beach Village is within walking distance of the new(ish) Jekyll Island Convention Center.

The Jekyll Market has everything you need from breakfast items to ice cream, BBQ for lunch, t-shirts, jewelry, flip-flops and beach items, to cold-cuts, and even tap beer! You’ll definitely want to check them out.

The Salt Table is a specialty salt shop and is a must-visit for us every time we go! Exploring the Beach Village shops is an absolute must.

GIFT SHOPS IN THE JEKYLL ISLAND HISTORIC DISTRICT

Whether I’m staying at the Jekyll Island Club Resort or not, I like to visit the gift shop on the bottom floor, mostly because I like to look at the historical photos outside, but they also have nice merchandise too.

The historic area has lots of charming shops located in the historic buildings, and you’ll find plenty of unique gifts or hand-made artisan collections at the Pier Road Shops. Something for Everyone and The Island House are two of our favorites here.

SEA TURTLE CENTER GIFT SHOP

If you love the sea turtles that make Jekyll their home, this is the place to get both standard and unique turtle gifts. You’ll find shirts, turtle souvenirs, and plenty of fun and unique toys for little ones. The shop here is one of my kid’s favorites.

For that person who is hard to please, you can even adopt a turtle. My boys had fun following their sea turtle Simone’s recovery and release.

JEKYLL ISLAND SEASONAL EVENTS

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My kids love Holly Jolly Jekyll!

Jekyll is best known as a seaside beach getaway during the summer, but there’s something to be said for visiting in the cooler months too. In addition to more moderate temps, there are also lots of great seasonal events. Here are some of our favorites.

ISLAND TREASURES

In the months of January and February, you can take part in a super fun treasure hunt for Island Treasures. This fun activity is based on the fact that in the early 1900s, fishermen used hollow glass balls as markers for their nets. Sometimes they’d break off and wash ashore, and in the 1950s, collecting these glass balls became a popular hobby for many.

Now, Jekyll Island picks artists from across the country to create one-of-a-kind glass floats for this event. Each day in the months of January and February, “Beach Buddies” hide clear globes in common areas around the island for visitors to find. Think of it as a kind of hide-and-seek game. If you find one, you get to trade it in for a real artist-created glass float.

My parents actually visited Jekyll in February 2023 specifically so they could participate in this event, and wouldn’t you know it — they found one on their second day! (They found theirs after having lunch at The Wharf, near one of the palm trees lining the sea wall.) It was such a huge thrill, and their glass globe is now proudly displayed at their house.

TURTLE CRAWL

The Turtle Crawl running weekend is held each April on Jekyll Island to benefit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. You can participate in the 1K Fun Run, the 5K race or the 10K race. They also have a virtual race, called the Ghost Crawler.

The race weekend marks the start of sea turtle nesting season on the Georgia coast.  Participating is a fun way to support the work of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and have a lot of fun while doing it.

INDEPENDENCE DAY FIREWORKS

Celebrate the 4th of July with a fireworks show on Jekyll Island. Held on the ocean side of the island, you can see the awesome fireworks best from Great Dunes Beach Park or Oceanview Beach Park.

Fireworks are usually prohibited on the island, making this a special event you don’t want to miss.

JEKYLL ISLAND SHRIMP & GRITS FESTIVAL

Held in November, the Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival combines food with fun. During this awesome festival, you’ll find family-friendly entertainment, an artists market, live music, plenty of shrimp and grits, and so much more.

This event is held on a Friday and Saturday each year in the Historic District.

HOLLY JOLLY JEKYLL

Holly Jolly Jekyll is a holiday event that has to be seen to be believed. During the months of November and December, the island transforms into a holiday dream. You’ll find over 1 million lights, more than 350 light displays, and more than 45,000 lights on the Great Tree in the historic district.

You can take a trolley tour through the lights, or you can easily do a self-guided drive through the lights in the historic district and throughout the island. The 12 Days of Christmas light display along Shell Road is one of our favorites.

In addition to the lights, there are also plenty of special events during this time. See the Holiday Fireworks, attend one of their Holiday Drive-In Movies, or participate in the Holly Jolly Jekyll Light Parade of golf carts.

For the past three years, we’ve attended this event just after Christmas, and I can assure you — it is worth a visit. We love to do a self-guided drive around the island, before parking in the Historic District and exploring on foot. It’s so magical and special, and one of our favorite annual traditions.

JEKYLL ISLAND RESTAURANTS

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My son enjoying his daily ice cream from Island Sweets Shoppe.

Jekyll Island is home to some amazing restaurants and very few chain restaurants. You’ll find something for everyone in your group here. Here are some of our favorites.

DRIFTWOOD BISTRO

Driftwood Bistro, located at the Villas by the Sea condo complex, is by far my parent’s favorite restaurant on the island. Here, you’ll find southern cuisine with a twist. Their menu is popular for featuring sweet Georgia Wild Shrimp caught locally in the waters surrounding Jekyll Island, and their classic southern sides.

There’s a full-service bar here serving hand-crafted cocktails, frozen drinks, beer, wine and more.

Driftwood Bistro is open Tuesday-Saturday from 5-9pm and they don’t take reservations, so plan accordingly. It’s good, and people know it.

SUNRISE GRILLE

Located in the Beach Village near the Convention Center, Sunrise Grille is a go-to for our little family. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and we can attest that we’ve had good eats at all three times of day!

We love to grab a table outside and people watch. It’s a great little spot, and definitely worth a stop.

THE WHARF

The Wharf is a Jekyll Island Club Resort restaurant that’s located right on the water. We love the food here, and the atmosphere and views cannot be beat.

This restaurant and bar on the pier offers up Southern favorites and delicious drinks. In addition, every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6:00 – 9:00 PM, guests and locals enjoy live music performances on the deck.

This restaurant is absolutely perfect for a date night, and watching the sunset here cannot be beat.

TORTUGA JACK’S

Need a break from seafood? Want a beachside bar with smoking drinks, or ones served in a coconut? Tortuga Jack’s is the place.

The atmosphere and location are what’s especially awesome here — the restaurant is located oceanside, right across from the mini golf course and along the bike path. Get a spot at the high tops for ocean views, and contrary to what smoking drinks might make you think, this is a family-friendly place.

Here you’ll find Baja Mexican dining and delicious drinks. They have live music on select nights too.

BEACH HOUSE RESTAURANT

Beach House Restaurant is a coastal-themed restaurant that’s run by the Holiday Inn, but is in a stand-alone building next door. We think it’s a great family-friendly choice, because their menu offers it all — seafood, burgers, artisan pizzas, salads, and more. Corn hole, and ping-pong are located just off the patio for the kids…or kids at heart. We find ourselves eating here at least once per trip.

This restaurant also has a full bar that offers seasonal craft beers. Live music can be found here on certain days.

ISLAND SWEETS SHOPPE

I cannot possibly talk about Jekyll Island without mentioning Island Sweets Shoppe. This delicious spot in the historic district offers old-fashioned candy, hand-dipped ice cream, chocolates, fudge (peanut butter is my favorite), pecan turtles, pecan pralines, and more.

We truly go here every day during our biannual vacations here. The ice cream is the best! Grab a seat under one of the magnificent trees nearby, on a bench outside, or at Doc’s Snack Shop nearby to enjoy.

MORE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT JEKYLL ISLAND

Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun
My son looking for crabs on Driftwood Beach.

Jekyll Island is a truly beautiful place, and there are some things you should know before going to make your trip even more memorable.

  • There is an entrance fee to the island. The cost is $8 for a daily pass or $75 for an annual pass. If you’re staying for the week, you can just pay the daily pass fee — but if you leave the island sometime during that week, you’ll have to pay $8 to enter again. An increased parking rate of $4 is sometimes added during busy times (like Holly Jolly Jekyll). Cards are preferred.
  • The speed limits on the island are low, and you need to abide by them. The island is filled with bike riders, young families, and wildlife. The speed limit is low for a reason! Most areas of the island are 25 or 35 MPH, and you should stick to it — the police presence here will make sure you do.
  • Golf carts are popular here! It’s not uncommon to see red golf carts throughout the island. Why? Red Bug Motors rents electric and gas-powered vehicles so you can tour the island in style. The Red Bug name comes from the fact that Red Bug vehicles were the first vehicles rented on Jekyll Island beginning in 1919. (You can find one at Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum!) These Red Bugs are allowed on the roads and not on the bike paths, so make sure you’re watching for them.
  • Deer are everywhere! If you rent a house like we do, they will come in your yard to visit. Some will be scared of you, but a lot of them won’t. My kids love to spot the deer who come by. They are especially active in the evening hours, so keep an eye out.
  • Don’t use regular flashlights on the beaches here at night. As we’ve mentioned, protecting the sea turtles is a big priority here, and for that reason, you should only use turtle-friendly flashlights at night. Turtle-friendly flashlights glow red instead of white, so the turtles don’t get confused.
  • There are alligators at Horton Pond, across from the Villas by the Sea condo complex. It’s a great place to visit with an awesome overlook to see them, but of course — do not approach them, and do not get close to the water’s edge. We stay on the overlook when we go. No fishing or swimming is allowed in any of the ponds or lakes on Jekyll Island.
  • Do not disturb turtle nests or turtles. You will see areas on the beach that are cordoned off because of a sea turtle nest, which is fun to see, but do not touch it or disturb it in any way.
  • The Georgia Sea Turtle Center does offer Summer Beach Programs that can get you closer to these amazing animals. You can ride with Night or Dawn Patrol, or go on an Evening or Sunrise Turtle Walk.
  • Have fun! (We know you will!)

JEKYLL ISLAND FAQ

What is so special about Jekyll Island?

Jekyll Island is special because of its rich history and natural beauty. The Historic District contains 33 historic structures, including the Jekyll Island Club Resort.

Is Jekyll Island worth visiting?

Yes, Jekyll Island is worth visiting. In addition to its rich history, you’ll also find 10 miles of beaches, golf courses, a tennis complex, plenty of great shopping and dining, nature centers, miles of bike paths, and amazing seasonal events.

Can you swim in the ocean on Jekyll Island?

Yes, you can most certainly swim in the ocean on Jekyll Island. There are plenty of public beach accesses and parking on the island.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO GEORGIA

WHERE TO STAY ON JEKYLL ISLAND

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Jekyll Island GA: Protected Coastal Beauty With Resort Fun