Your Jekyll Island bucket list: What to eat, drink and do

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Photo by Sara Kendall

Are you longing for an island destination where the trees outnumber the people? Jekyll Island is this place.

The state of Georgia owns Jekyll Island, where 65% of the land is protected, leaving only a small portion for residential and commercial development. This means the island boasts lots of naturally beautiful areas, fewer crowds and a wide buffer between the beaches and the first row of development — giving you plenty of breathing room.

Jekyll Island beach. Photo by Sara Kendall

To get onto the island, a daily ($6) or weekly ($28) parking fee is required, as it’s considered a state park.

“Money Magazine ranked Jekyll Island as the No.1 travel destination in the United States for 2019, based on its accessibility, pristine environment, fascinating history and overall experience,” said John Bennett, Jekyll Island Authority’s marketing communications manager. “From miles of wide-open beaches, four award-winning golf courses— and Georgia’s only rehabilitation center for endangered sea turtles — there’s something for everyone.”

Stay

Beachview Club Hotel
721 N. Beachview Drive

On a quiet stretch of beach, Beachview Club Hotel is a boutique hotel offering 38 guest suites. Nestled behind live oaks trees covered in Spanish moss, these guest suites range from two queen beds with an efficiency kitchen to a king suite with a private balcony, gas fireplace and full-sized kitchen.

By the newly renovated pool, guests have a variety of places to relax and recharge from cushy loungers to ledge loungers. At night, slip into an Adirondack chair under a live oak tree or warm up around the fire pit.

Holiday Inn Resort
701 N. Beachview Drive

Holiday Inn Resort. Photo by Sara Kendall

Yes, it’s a national hotel chain, but you should consider this resort for being kid and pet-friendly. Spanning a quarter mile across a beautiful beach, Holiday Inn Resort sits on prime oceanfront property. Inside, it features modern coastal style, ample amenities and well-appointed guest rooms and suites.

One king or two queen beds are offered in guest rooms, while suites have oceanfront sitting area separated from the bedroom. Popular kids suites have two bunk beds separated by a pocket door that leads into an oceanfront bedroom and a separate kitchen. Pets are welcome to stay here.

Outside, treat yourself to the pool with an ocean view. Close by is a kids pool and whirlpool.  Poolside, refuel at The Anchor on salads, wraps and seafood baskets. For the children, there is a Kids Club and an outdoor playground with slides.

Jekyll Island Club Hotel
371 Riverview Drive

Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Photo by Sara Kendall

Within the 240-acres of the historic district, Jekyll Island Club Hotel is the grand centerpiece. Built in 1888, as a winter retreat for wealthy families — Vanderbilts, Morgans, Pulitzers and Rockefellers, Jekyll Island Club Hotel is still full of Victorian charm. It should come as no surprise that it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. Modern amenities include an outdoor pool, croquet lawn and a private beach pavilion. Dine at one of five restaurants and bars.

Jekyll Ocean Club
80 Ocean Way

Jekyll Island Club. Photo by Sara Kendall

Located right on the beach, Jekyll Island Club’s newest hotel features 40 oversized suites, which include a bedroom, living room and balcony with an ocean view. With a modern design, Jekyll Ocean Club has a hot tub and fire pit in its pool area. At its restaurant, Eight Ocean Kitchen and Bar’s menu leans toward local seafood. Selections include raw ceviche, lobster sliders and red snapper.

Eat/Drink

Beach House & Tap Room
715 N. Beachview Drive       

A step away from The Atlantic Ocean, Beach House has a true beach vibe complete with pastel beach colors and oyster shells chandlers hovering over inviting booths.There is something on the menu for all appetites, including artisan pizzas and fresh local seafood. Housing one of the largest draft beer selections in southeast Georgia, Beach House is also the place to sip on new beer flavors while on vacation. On select nights, diners can enjoy live music in their outdoor seating area.

Jekyll Market
11 Main St.

Jekyll Market. Photo by Sara Kendall

Centrally located in Beach Village, Jekyll Market is a gourmet grocery store that offers meats, produce and seafood. Inside the market, there are four restaurants — A Sweet Shop Named Sprinkles, Boardwalk Deli, The Hibiscus Cafe and The Love Shack BBQ Shrimp and Yard Bird. If everyone has a different craving, everyone can order what he or she wants, and then eat together at one of their seating areas.

The Wharf
370 Riverview Drive

Located across from Jekyll Island Club Hotel, The Wharf sits on a pier overlooking Jekyll Creek, offering a picturesque setting for lunch or dinner. In a nautical themed space, expect attentive service and top-notch seafood entrées such as fish and chips, shrimp and grits and seafood platters. Indoor and outdoor seating is available. Live music can be enjoyed Thursday through Sunday nights.

Do

Driftwood Beach (aka Tree Graveyard)
South of North Loop Trail on North Beachview Drive

Beach erosion has created a somewhat surreal landscape on Driftwood Beach. Trees are completely toppled, exposing what was once their extensive root system, and others leafless and leaning. The brutal force of nature has caused these trees to be beached for years. It’s a place where photographs don’t do it justice – you must see this in person.

Ride bikes
Locations vary

Bike riding around Jekyll Island. Photo by Sara Kendall

One of the island’s most popular outdoor activities is riding a bike on the dedicated bike paths throughout the island. The Jekyll Island Trail System features 25 miles of paved trails that lead you to beaches, through forests, and to the Historic District. If you don’t bring your own, you can rent bikes at several locations.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center
214 Stable Road

Visitors can watch turtle feedings, observe them being cared for in the Treatment Room by professional caregivers at Georgia Sea Turtle Center. There are many interactive exhibits to learn about the life of a sea turtle. Step outside to find the Sea Turtle Hospital Rehabilitation Pavilion, where guests can view rehab tanks where the injured turtles are recovering before being released back into the wild.

Jekyll Island Mosaic (aka History Museum)
100 Stable Road

Jekyll Island Mosaic. Photo by Sara Kendall

Revamped and reopened in April 2019, Jekyll Island Mosaic highlights the island’s history from the early days of Native Americans to the Gilded Age to the present day. A wide range of interactive exhibits — videos, recordings and hands-on activities — will delight visitors of all ages.

Golf and tennis
Locations vary

For those vacationers wanting to be active, play on 63 holes of golf or 13 clay tennis courts. If you are needing to brush up on your skills, there are professional instructors ready for private or group instruction.

Jekyll Island Golf Club
322 Captain Wylly Road
Great Dunes Golf Course
Corner of Shell Road and North Beachview Drive
Jekyll Island Tennis Center
400 Captain Wylly Road

Summer Waves Water Park
210 S. Riverview Drive

Water slides, a wave pool and the lazy river at Summer Waves Water Park could easily fill up a vacation day.

Mini golf
Corner of Shell Road and North Beachview Drive

There is only one course on the island, Jekyll Island Mini Golf, and you’ll find it beside Great Dunes Park. It features one course for beginners and one for advanced players. You’ll find a large playground right beside the mini-golf course, along with park benches, restrooms and a pizza joint, Red Bug Motors Pizza.

Explore Jekyll Island Historic District
371 Riverview Drive

Visitors can stroll among the historic grounds with 34 historic structures, including Jekyll Island Club Hotel, shops and restaurants. Hop on a tram or carriage ride to learn from more of this island’s history with a guided tour.  

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