Jekyll Island – 7 Must-See Secrets These Coastal Locals Aren’t Telling You!

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So why are so many folks flocking to Jekyll Island Georgia in the winter season, and rather discreetly? This tropical island getaway destination that most would categorize as a summer vacation destination, is one I often refer to as my secret island. Because I adore you, I’m letting you in on this little private paradise and all the Jekyll Island things to do because I believe (like the 1800s Millionaire owners) that winter is the absolute best time to visit Jekyll Island for a family vacation. Check it out and tell me if what you think!

close up view of Jekyll Island Eerie Driftwood Beach
the beautifully eerie Jekyll Island Driftwood Beach




JEKYLL ISLAND GEORGIA BACKSTORY

I’ve been hooked since my first visit where I locked eyes with my husband-to-be on its unspoiled, secluded beach. We were engaged at the exact spot two months later and now taken more family trips than I could count. I’m clearly enamored. Intrigued. Obsessed.

In the 1800s, Jekyll Island, Georgia was an exclusive hunting retreat for famous millionaire families escaping harsh winters up north and exchanging it for the perfect tropical Jekyll Island weather.  You may have heard of them: Rockefeller, J.P Morgan, Pulitzer, Vanderbuilt, and more.  They had a private island and soon built what we know as the Jekyll Island Club to host lavish parties of the Gilded Age era. In the forties it was sold to the state after the war and became Jekyll Island State Park.

I’ve been known to write over and over about our secluded spot, Jekyll Island, after our stays at the resort hotel, Jekyll Island Campground on our RV vacation because I just can’t get enough of its almost mystical, southern charms.  It may be because of the legend…

You’ve heard about the legend, right?

COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Do you have to pay to get on Jekyll?

    Currently there is a $6 State Park fee for one day and $28 for a seven-day pass.  There is also an 12-month AVI option as well.

  • Are pets allowed on Jekyll?

    Jekyll is one of the most pet-friendly vacation destinations I’ve ever been to.  All of the beaches except for one area is dog-friendly as long as a 6-foot leash and poop pickup is used, and many Jekyll Island restaurants have outdoor dog-friendly areas as well.

  • How long is Jekyll?

    Jekyll is just over six miles long and about 2.5 miles wide.

  • So why do other people secretly flock to Jekyll Island Georgia during the winter?

Here are just seven reasons:

ISLAND WEATHER

A big decision of why Millionaire tycoons like Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan chose Jekyll Island Georgia in the first place as their winter hideaway was because of the splendid Jekyll Island weather. These northerners were excited to find quite a contrast between their blustery winters and the pleasant, sub-tropic weather of the Golden Isles.

The average winter temperatures from December through March have highs in the 60’s and lows in the 40’s.  A little nip in the air that is still suitable for outdoor activities?  Yes, please!  Sounds like perfect mild winter weather to me.

view of Jekyll Island secluded beach

TREASURE HUNT

These beauties aren’t quite buried, but they are coveted treasures, for sure. Quietly, people come from all around the world to search for these one-of-a-kind glass orbs that are hidden around the island by volunteers. The island treasures are hand-made by artists to mimic the glass fishing floats that fishermen once used to keep their fishing nets afloat. People have been finding these lost fisherman’s floaters along beaches since the 1800’s.

Every day in January and February 2019, these beach buddies stroll around the island, carefully placing the gorgeous glass treasures in places like the Jekyll beaches, by benches in the Historic District, and along shops, etc.  They never hide them in out-of-reach places that will harm anything like the dunes.

view of Jekyll Island treasures in the Jekyll Island Georgia welcome center

BIRDWATCHING

Birding here is a big deal. Just ask the UGA 4-H leaders or the folks that head up the Coastal Georgia Birding groups. It just happens to be right smack in the middle of Savannah and St. Mary’s Georgia, along this Coastal birding trail. It is said that over 75% of the bird species in Georgia find their way every year.

There are many species that visit all year long like shorebirds and gulls, but I especially enjoy photographing the waterfowl that show up in the winter as I stroll along the beach at the southern tip of the island.  If birding is something that puts a smile on your face like it does mine, you can also visit the bird sanctuary that is tucked in the back of the Island Campground.

image of jekyll island georgia birds on the beach
mwms1916 cc

SECLUDED ISOLATION

Part of the Golden Isles of Georgia because these sea islands sparkle like gold treasure against the blue Atlantic waters, and the tidal seagrass along this coast becomes the most luminous shade of gold at every sunset. Remember the poet, Sidney Lanier’s poem about the area? There is something about the stillness of the panoramic beauty in the winter.

My online friend wrote a book a few years ago about the Splendid Isolation that the millionaires of the gilded age discovered while playing out their fairy tale saga. When I’m walking in the quietness here in the winter, I feel the same splendid isolation that these tycoons must have felt so long ago. It’s amazing:  each time we drive across the six-mile causeway to enter the isle, I feel my stress levels drop lower and lower as we get closer.

view of jekyll island georgia book cover

ROMANTIC GETAWAY 

When I mentioned the seclusion you feel while visiting, romantic thoughts may have dashed through your “wifey” mind.  There are definitely many opportunities for couples to find a little romance. Besides the holiday celebrations, multiple hotels and restaurants promote Valentine weekend getaways and packages.

view of Jekyll Island sunset on Jekyll Driftwood Beach
Ben Thomas cc

What’s better than getting away to find adventure on a secluded island with the love of your life? This island is bursting with romantic places and windswept weddings.  Date nights that include walking hand-in-hand along eerie Driftwood beach are just one of the secrets that locals know!

HISTORY TOURS

Have you been dying to visit the mansions (that the rich and famous called “cottages” back in the gilded era) in the Millionaire’s village?  The Island Museum will be giving tours to show off these jewels in their holiday splendor.

Twilight tours will be spectacular trolley rides through the National Historic District at night to show off the grandeur of our beautiful secret island.  Visit the Historic Museum or give them a call at 912) 635-4036.

JEKYLL HOLIDAYS

Nostalgia and opulence drape the island like a fairy-tale for Jekyll Island Christmas events. It’s transformed into a lighted wonderland of yesteryear, especially the Historic District and its resort hotel.

There are many things to do during the holiday season that kicks off with the annual tree-lighting ceremony every year on the Saturday evening that follows Thanksgiving.  Typically, the Holly Jolly Celebration is a family fun two-day event for all including:

  • a kid zone
  • a Christmas movie on the “Green”
  • live music
  • letters to Santa
  • food trucks
  • artist’s market
  • lighting of the Christmas tree
  • fireworks and snow during the tree lighting

Admission is free to the weekend event.  Fees are individual to attractions and food vendors.


Which Jekyll Island secret event do you want to experience first with the family?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


view of Jekyll Island Georgia entrance and Sidney Lanier Bridge




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Shan
Shan

Published on HuffPost and Okefenokee Living Magazine and other publications, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist and lover of all things ‘calm & cozy home.’

She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about southern family destinations and creating cozy homes they can’t wait to go home to.

Her hope is that overwhelmed women feel like family travel and cozy home gurus in their own right.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️

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4 Comments

  1. February 12, 2016 / 4:40 pm

    This spot looks absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for sharing it with us at the Tips and Tricks link up party!!

  2. Clay Miller
    November 8, 2016 / 8:31 am

    Great article! I know some other secrets, but I won’t tell them, because then they wouldn’t be my secrets. But Jekyll is definitely a magical place.

    • Shan
      Author
      November 8, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      Funny! Thanks for your kind words, Clay. Thanks for hanging out here!

      blessings,
      Shan

  3. April 12, 2017 / 12:10 pm

    This place sounds amazing! I think I need to put it on my bucket list because I really want one of those glass orbs!

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