Twisted oak trees dripping with Spanish moss…. Sea grass glistening across sun splashed marshes (say that five times fast)… Sounds like Jekyll Island, Georgia to me! (And sounds like I need to work on my creative writing skills – ack!)
We recently got back from Jekyll Island, Georgia, a little barrier island off the coast just a little south of Savannah (also a fun spot). We decided to take a break from road tripping this year. For those that don’t know, we’ve gone on a big cross-country trip every summer for the last three years. And we hadn’t had a vacation yet so we found a little rental apartment less than a block from the beach and headed on down.
A Week at Jekyll
This was the first time since I can remember that we’ve spent a whole week at Jekyll. While our bums were a little sore from all the bike riding (there are loads of paved and dirt trails, all relatively flat that make it ideal) we thoroughly enjoyed our stay. David and I agreed that Jekyll is more of an “adventure” beach trip. What I mean by that is that Jekyll’s beaches, while nice and wide and pretty, end in brown, sometimes mucky water.
So don’t get me wrong, we went to the beach everyday, but it’s not what we think of as a quintessential beach trip (clear water, bright white beaches a la the Florida panhandle). So we go to Jekyll not so much to get our classic beach fix, but for everything else.
What We Like About Jekyll Island, Georgia
No high-rise hotels! Nope, they only allow a certain amount of development due to agreement they have with the state of Georgia. Also, because the island is a sea turtle nesting site, they keep things nice and low-key hotel-wise so the lights from the hotels don’t disturb the turtle mamas and babies.
Miles of bike trails, of course! You can ride from one end to the other and all in between. One of our favorite trails goes through the historic district. Jekyll was the winter home to the Rockafellers, Carnegies and other wealthy Americans during the late 1800s-1940s who formed the Jekyll Island Club. Many of the residences and buildings still stand and are open for tours, and you can also book a room at the posh Jekyll Island Club hotel. Huge Plantation Oaks dot the district which overlooks the beautiful Jekyll River and the lovely marshes.
It’s low-key. There are lots of older homes-turned-rental properties, so it’s kind of like riding around your grandma’s old neighborhood (well, maybe mine 😉 ) with lots of 1950s bungalos – very retro. Also, because it’s small there aren’t a ton of people, so it’s easy to find your own little patch of beach to play, relax, build sand castles or dig gigantic holes…
The water park. We got a Groupon deal for a day at the park for under $100 for all five of us. We spent the day slip sliding away, chilling in the lazy river, munching on delicious Larry’s Subs (totally yummy and big enough to share!) and splashing in the wave pool. The park is small enough that my older two boys could pal around together – something they don’t do too often, but when it comes to water and slides, they are two peas in a pod. David and I got some good one-on-one with our little guy and overall had a very enjoyable day.
The wildlife. Turtles, alligators (we saw 3!), deer by the droves, birds galore, dolphins, raccoons (we saw 2) – Jekyll is flush with wildlife which makes fun to see and explore as each day we saw something different. I’ll add that wildlife on this trip included a pack of wild kittens that my oldest was dying to bring home. We didn’t. 🙂
The history. I mentioned the Historic District and highly recommend the trolley tour. We got to see the insides of two of the millionaire’s “cottages” (their idea of a cottage anyway!) and got a pleasant tour around the grounds via trolley by a very knowledgeable guide. Even the kids thought it was fun and interesting.
Fresh seafood. We loved Zachary’s by the marina. If you go at peak times we hear there’s quite a wait, but we went later – around 8 – and got right in. I got the crab cakes – yum, David got a seafood sampler, also yum and the boys enjoyed shrimp po’ boys and crab cake sandwiches. Five thumbs up, plus an extra for nice views overlooking the marsh and the pleasant wait staff.
The Things We Don’t Like about Jekyll Island (as much)
The distance to grocery stores. If you forget something or need to restock the nearest store is a 6 mile drive and you have to pay to get back on the island (unless you buy a week pass which you might do if you want to explore the other islands/towns in the area). There’s a market on the island, but as you would expect, prices are exorbitant – $10 for a gallon of milk?!? So… plan accordingly.
The water. Like I said, it’s brown. It was brown all week. I want to say that Cumberland Island next door wasn’t so mucky last I visited (back in, ahem, 1993?) It may be further away to where the dredging doesn’t affect it as much, so if you’re craving clearer waters, you could plan a day trip there.
The place we stayed. I’m not a snob, although maybe only snobs say that 😉 but the place we stayed felt like Grandma’s 1970s basement called and wanted its macrame door decoration back (see below).
(Seriously. Is that a cat toy? What is it???) The place was dank and dated and the air conditioner was LOUD. But at least it had air conditioning we told ourselves – that’s a step up from camping, lol. Ok, so note to self, you usually get what you pay for and if you want cute and updated you gotta pay for it. Lesson learned.
That’s pretty much it. Jekyll is eye candy all around. The trees, marsh, dunes. grasses, wildlife, all add up to a peaceful place to relax and spend time as a family. If you like golf, there are two golf courses (with ocean views!) Sunbathing and feeling glam more your thing? There’s the Jekyll Island Club and it’s posh heated pool overlooking the river. Fishing? Check! Shell collecting? Check! Wildlife watching? Check! History? Double check! Jekyll Island is also a great (and I forgot to mention affordable) hub from which to explore other spots along the Georgia coast, such as St. Simon’s Island with it’s lighthouse and bustling shopping/restaurant district, historic Savannah with it’s river front and extensive history as the oldest city in Georgia, and Cumberland Island which is a National Seashore with pristine beaches and even… wild horses!
We loved our time in Jekyll and having that time as a family reminded us why we’ve gone on road trips for the last three years. We’re already planning next summer’s adventure… Maine anyone? 😉