GFM JUN 2017
A WONDERFUL WEEKEND GETAWAY
Jekyll Island became a winter retreat for wealthy industrialists in the late 1800’s, a time known as the Gilded Age for the island. Names such as Morgan, Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, and Pulitzer were among those members of the Jekyll Island Club who came to fellowship, hunt, fish, and get away from the cares of their empires. The goal of the club known for its exclusivity was to simplify life for just a little while.
Given its membership roster, the island had a number of modern conveniences long before they were commonplace (i.e. running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, etc.), but its location far from other civilization made it a comfortable escape. Over one hundred years later, the island has not lost its sense of sanctuary from the world at large.
There’s something extraordinary about being able to park your car and walk or bike to wherever you want to go. With over 20 miles of paths covering this seven by one and a half mile island, you can get anywhere without having to get in the car again the whole time you’re on the island. Even with the heat, an ocean breeze and gigantic oak trees keep life pleasant while you are out of doors.
Tours can be taken via boat, bicycle, tram, horseback, or horse-drawn carriage. Acres of golf courses (including a mini-golf course), beaches, and nature trails beckon to be explored and experienced.
Be sure to visit the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, Georgia Sea Turtle Center (where learning is disguised as fun), Summer Waves Water Park, Jekyll Island Museum, and the Historic District. Bicycles can be rented directly from the hotel for the adults in your party. Those with children can check out alternative locations (Great Dunes Park is where we found ours) for more suitable bikes.
For lodging, I highly recommend the Holiday Inn Resort—the newest hotel on the island, which refurbished the old Oceanside Inn & Suites with 157 spacious rooms (most with an ocean view), a fitness center, toddler-friendly playground, fire pit, coffee and martini bar, a pool with a breathtaking view, and on-site cabana restaurant The Rusty Anchor, with a second restaurant, Beach House. Suites are available as well as standard rooms, and nearby guest laundry facilities.
The Holiday Inn Resort also boasts a Kids Club with an on-site Activity Director and a special fun room just for the younger crowd. The playground is nearby, giving children a chance to shake out their wiggles while adults linger over the meal or lounge by the pool well within view of the kiddos. With all the resort has to offer, you almost want to just stay there all day—almost.
Not to be left out are the beaches—Jekyll has three main ones—Driftwood Beach, Glory Beach, and Great Dunes. Driftwood Beach, as the name implies, is actually covered with large, uprooted oak trees and other types of driftwood. There are tidal pools and many opportunities to examine sea life. We saw a couple of small crabs in the root structure of one of the trees. To get to Glory Beach, you will trek across a boardwalk over sand dunes to get a fantastic view of the neighboring Cumberland Island. Great Dunes beach is right across the street from Great Dunes Park, where the above-mentioned, kid-friendly bikes may be found. The park also features two playgrounds, a mini-golf spot, and a pizza parlor.
Dining options range from the more formal (Jekyll Island Club Hotel Grand Dining Room) to the very casual (‘Rah’ Bar). We enjoyed meals at ‘Rah’ Bar (Shrimp Salad on Croissant), The Rusty Anchor (Fried Egg Croissant with Cheese, Bacon, and a side of breakfast potatoes), and Tortuga Jacks (Fish Taco and Shrimp Taco), but our absolute favorite across the board was Driftwood Bistro, with a delicious fried okra appetizer and homemade Georgia Bourbon Peach Cobbler à la mode.
The Village, a fairly recent addition to Jekyll Island, has several shops for every budget, restaurants, and a great location for events (like the festival that’s part of the Turtle Crawl Weekend). Speaking of the Turtle Crawl Weekend, a collection of races to benefit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, you can go and run, or you can volunteer. Either way, it’s a fun time for the whole family. It takes place each May.
Every September, you can attend the Shrimp & Grits Festival, which also includes opportunities to volunteer (and get free stuff for doing so!) and a grand excuse to spend some of those final summer days on the island.
Jekyll Island is a worthy destination for family fun with plenty for mom, dad, kids, and everyone else to do. Spending time outdoors, breathing in the fresh sea air, and taking life at a slower pace provides the whole family with a chance to revitalize. The atmosphere is island living at its best—the great outdoors, plenty of seafood, and more than enough to keep you busy or help you take it easy. #