Secret Island In The South: 10 Cool Things To Discover With Older Kids

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Southerners can be downright secretive when they find amazing family vacation spots that haven’t been discovered yet. That’s why you may not have heard of this “secret island” tucked in along the Georgia coast and just five hours south of Atlanta.  This island has maintained its fascinating charm partly because of law protection against overdevelopment and in how the 1800s Millionaire’s Village has been beautifully maintained.

view of beach village of secret island of Jekyll Island

The Secret Island

Jekyll Island, Georgia is fabulous for all ages but it’s a big hit with tweens, teens and older kids that can appreciate the mysterious stories, legends, and adventure that awaits. Here are the top ten activities that our family loves to do together while on this golden isle – and that you don’t want to miss.


Because Jekyll Island, Georgia is positioned like it is along a river and inlet, there are three different beach types to choose from. If your family is crazy about suntans, ocean waves and beach wind in their hair, head to the sand in the center of the island.  After passing the welcome center, follow the turnabout to the left and stay on Beachview Drive until you see Great Dunes Park on your left.  There are covered picnic pavilions and clean bathrooms at this beach access.

AWESOME secret island of U.S. - secluded beach
Jekyll Island Beach at Great Dunes Park


The incredible Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a working hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of injured sea turtles.  The best biologists and researchers are on-hand to guide your tour and show you what is behind the glass.  You’ll see the food preparation areas, animal holding areas, and the Treatment Room for these very large and sick turtles.

AWESOME secret island of U.S. - Sea Turtle Hospital
GSTC Patient, oi vey, cc


The more you ride bikes around the secret island of Jekyll, the more you’ll want to see.  Time will fly as you go through a Historic Landmark District that seems frozen in time.  The new paved bicycle trail system also weaves you through peaceful wildlife scenes of the maritime forest and alongside the beach.  Free bike trail maps can be found at the Jekyll Island Welcome Center.  Bike rentals are at on location at several hotels like the Jekyll Club Resort Hotel.  We’ve biked half the island (25 miles of trails total) several times as a family and it’s one of our favorite activities!

AWESOME secret island of U.S. - bike trails
Jekyll Island Bike Riding Trails


Driftwood Beach has no real “entrance,” so it gives notion to the secret island vibe.  You’ll only find this picturesque beach by walking on foot from the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier at Clam Creek.  At low tide, the sand is wide and hard-packed which makes it ideal for walking (you can bring Fido on a leash too).  The strong currents on this north end beach cause a muddy sediment at high tide, so swimming is not ideal.

But the slow erosion caused by those strong currents has also created a hauntingly romantic scene that’s called “the tree graveyard” by many and is a photographer’s paradise.  It’s an iconic spot privy to weddings, senior portraits, and family photos.  Vist Driftwood Beach at sunrise or dusk (my fave) for the most beautiful family portraits you could ask for!

AWESOME secret island in the U.S. - Driftwood Beach at sunset
Driftwood Beach Sunset, jillian meridith, cc


Not your average shopping center, the Jekyll Island Beach Village showcases eclectic shops with items like gourmet groceries, souvenirs, and essential beach gear.  We enjoy choosing from the many unique dining options such as Club Cafe and Love Shack BBQ. Our family also finds it hard to resist Fuse frozen yogurt while we are in the village too.

AWESOME secret island - Jekyll Island shopping
Jekyll Island Shopping at the Beach Village


Drive down to the southernmost point of Jekyll Island and you’ll find a delightful, shaded parking lot with an adjacent picnic area under the canopy of large oak trees.  This area of St. Andrews Park has a historical marker called The Wanderer that will give you pause as you reflect on it.  Keep walking past the clean restrooms and you’ll reach the secluded beach filled with migratory birds.  If your family travels to the right you’ll see a two-story observation tower that you have to climb! From the top you just might see dolphins and porpoises playing in the surf.

AWESOME secret island of Georgia - park with family picnic area
Jekyll Island Park, gailhampshire, cc


Sometimes you’ve got to get in the water with those older kids. Turtle Tides Jekyll will deliver your kayaks or stand-up paddleboards with all the safety equipment, maps, and information you need to choose an incredible family adventure.  They will also pick up your equipment when your excursion is over.  If you are unsure of leading your family alone, Turtle Tides also offers a two-hour private tour for your people as well.

The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center would love to have you over to the 17-acre saltwater Tidelands pond to fish for free as long as you bring your own fishing and crabbing gear and follow all Georgia fishing regulations.

AWESOME secret island of Georgia - kayaking the salt marsh
Kayaking the Jekyll Marsh, jason and kris carter, cc


Whether RV or tent camping is your thing, there are many memories to be shared at Jekyll Island Campground.  Unlike any campground we’ve stayed at before, the entire 18-acres are shaded by magnificent oaks dripping with Spanish moss.  There are 125 RV campsites and 12 primitive sites.  I love how the primitive tent area is tucked back in the corner so that you’ll feel as though you are deep in the wilderness. 

Take the time to unwind and connect with your family onsite by cooking an open-fire meal, walk to the bird sanctuary, shop at the camp store, or walk to the nearby fishing pier and Driftwood Beach.  Be sure to take camp shoes since it’s a sandy campground and plenty of bug spray for those flying Southern critters!

AWESOME secret island - Jekyll Island Campground
Jekyll Island Camping, rob marquardt, cc



Do something unique by viewing Jekyll Island by night.  Follow up dinner time with a ghost tour with Lighthouse Trolleys.  You’ll get to hear the legends, lore, and ghost stories of days gone by on this secret island.  The whole family will have a blast riding the open air trolley and visiting a very special graveyard!  By the end of the night, maybe you’ll be able to answer the age old question, “Is Jekyll Island Georgia haunted?”

AWESOME secret island of Georgia - cemetery on the ghost tour
Jekyll Island Ghost Tour, cliff, cc


Teens are known for wanting to stay up late so why not join them on a night patrol across Jekyll Island’s beach on an all-terrain vehicle?  Whoop!  Your family will be searching out nesting loggerhead sea turtles and be able to use what you learned prior to the trip just in case you discover some.  If you’d rather bond with your older during daytime hours, become a graduate of Gatorology class!

Jekyll Island Sea Turtle Experience

As you can see, Jekyll Island, Georgia makes the perfect family vacation spot to find lots of adventure with your family.  Each time we drive across the causeway, we literally feel the layers of busyness and stress roll off our backs.  This is one Southern family vacation spot you can’t miss!

This mystical, enchanting secret island of Georgia will always hold a special place in my heart because it’s where Superman and I saw each other for the first time AND where the marriage proposal happened – Jekyll Island Georgia.

Jekyll Island Welcome Center location: 901 Downing Musgrove Causeway, Jekyll Island, GA 31527

Click Here For Great Hotel Options In Jekyll Island

What do you look most forward to exploring on this secret island with your family?


Published on HuffPost, Okefenokee Living Magazine, and more, Shan is a Family Travel Journalist with a passion for helping women lose the overwhelm of planning family-friendly trips in the south. She shares travel reviews & insider secrets that Women REALLY want to know about Georgia, Florida, & the Carolinas vacations.

☕️ It’s THE REAL DEAL around here ☕️



  1. Michelle Nahom
    February 28, 2013 / 1:52 pm

    It looks like a great place! I love discovering new gems! Thanks for sharing your secret! We have a ski condo that is our home away from home and I love going there, because it gets me away from all the stuff that has to be done!!

    • Shan Walker
      February 28, 2013 / 3:45 pm

      Welcome Michelle! It is very unique and charming for sure. A ski condo sounds like an amazing getaway too since I’ve visited one once.

  2. Adrienne
    March 7, 2013 / 11:18 pm

    It looks wonderful! Looks relaxing and calm! 😉

    • Shan Walker
      March 8, 2013 / 1:09 am

      Welcome Back buddy!
      Relaxing and calming are two great words to describe the island. It’s very unique & special.

  3. Shan Walker
    March 8, 2013 / 1:10 am

    It’s amazing for families. So many things to do with the kiddos. Stay tuned~I’ll be writing about all the fun things to do with your family on the island.

  4. Crystal Green
    March 10, 2013 / 1:44 am

    Definitely looks like an amazing place for a vacation. I loved the pictures too. 🙂

    • Shan Walker
      March 10, 2013 / 9:16 pm

      It’s wonderful. Stay tuned by subscribing~I’ll be sharing more details of things to do on Jekyll Island as well!

  5. Sabrina
    September 20, 2013 / 8:19 pm

    No doubt it’s GA’s gem! Such a beautiful place!

    • Shan Walker
      September 20, 2013 / 9:53 pm

      Indeed Sabrina. There are so many layers of lovely that I could write every day about it.

      It truly is my favorite place to be!

  6. Kathiey
    May 23, 2017 / 7:31 am

    Ok, you have made me want to visit your secret island. Don’t worry I won’t tell anyone:-)

  7. Julie Hood
    May 23, 2017 / 8:13 am

    That sounds amazing!!!! My husband loves the south (we’re from PA) and so that will have to be on our travel list for sure!! I can’t believe Vanderbilt and JP Morgan went there, too!

  8. Amanda
    May 23, 2017 / 11:12 am

    I have friends who were there last year. I’d never heard of it before. Now I MUST check it out!!

    My favorite place is Grand Marais, Michigan, and I hate telling people about it bc I’m afraid everyone will discover it. LOL

  9. Liz
    May 23, 2017 / 1:42 pm

    I can see why you love it, it sounds and looks beautiful. If we ever travel down to Georgia, we will check it out! Thanks!

  10. Kim
    May 23, 2017 / 6:21 pm

    That looks like a beautiful place to visit…there are so many hidden gems right in the US

  11. Robin
    May 23, 2017 / 6:43 pm

    Omg, I love that this gorgeous place has personal AND historical significance! So cool to read about! I knew it existed but didn’t know anything about it – I promise not to share your secret 😉

  12. Sharon
    May 23, 2017 / 9:32 pm

    Aw I love this post! I live in Atlanta but still have never been to Jekyll Island. I am inspired to take a trip there soon!!

  13. Julie Hoag
    May 23, 2017 / 11:45 pm

    Wow! This island looks and sounds SO amazing! What a great find, thanks for sharing it!! This sounds like a great addition to a travel buckel list!!

  14. Margie DQ
    May 31, 2018 / 8:58 pm

    Great post! I would love this place… the bike trails, walking to driftwood beach on low tide, the town… will definitely try to go at some point. Thank you!

    • Shan
      May 31, 2018 / 9:20 pm

      Yay! It is a very special place!


  15. Kelly
    June 1, 2018 / 10:15 am

    I never heard of this place but I sure do want to visit it now! My husband would love driftwood beach. Thank you for sharing!

    • Shan
      June 1, 2018 / 11:40 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Kelly. It’s a very special island!


  16. Marta Rivera Diaz
    June 1, 2018 / 10:17 am

    The turtles!! GIMME all of the turtles!!

    • Shan
      June 1, 2018 / 11:39 am

      Haha, Marta! I love turtles too! 🙂


  17. Linette
    June 1, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    This is going on my list!! So beautiful and I am an NC girl, so this makes going home even better! So much to show the little ones.

  18. Meredith
    June 1, 2018 / 2:19 pm

    Gorgeous pictures and great ideas of things to do! I’m saving this for when my girls are a little older, I’ve always wanted to explore that part of Georgia!

  19. Andrea
    June 1, 2018 / 6:24 pm

    I’ve considered vacationing at Jekyll Island for a couple of years now. Now that I’ve seen all the things there are to do there, I’m convinced that it would be a great spot to visit.

    • Shan
      June 1, 2018 / 7:08 pm

      Yay! I think you would really enjoy it! It gets really hot in July through September (& bring bug spray then) but it’s a very unique experience!


  20. kara
    June 2, 2018 / 10:43 pm

    I have a couple girlfriends who would love this post! Looks like a fun list!

  21. Lee
    June 3, 2018 / 11:01 am

    We have only been to Tybee Island. This sounds like so much fun with so much to do!!

  22. Bekah
    June 4, 2018 / 9:16 am

    I would love to take a leisurely bike ride around the island and see the turtle hospital.

  23. Jaclyn Musselman
    July 10, 2018 / 7:23 am

    This island looks magical. How sweet is that turtle hospital!`

    • Shan
      July 10, 2018 / 7:30 am

      Right, Jaclyn?! Love it!

      much love,

  24. Keri
    July 10, 2018 / 7:42 am

    I have seen signs for this island when driving to Disney, but didn’t know it was a place for tourists. It looks fun!

    • Shan
      July 10, 2018 / 8:07 am

      It’s a lovely place – still a little under-the-radar! 😉

      much love,

  25. Rebecca
    July 10, 2018 / 9:18 am

    This post is a great find! Something for bigger kids and still exploring and enjoying the hidden gems.

    • Shan
      July 11, 2018 / 12:34 pm

      Thanks so much, Rebecca. Glad you enjoyed it. We love Jekyll!

      much love,

  26. candy
    July 10, 2018 / 10:17 am

    Playing in the sand and sun is a give me. Going to the turtle hospital and taking the ghost tour sounds like a bunch of fun.

    • Shan
      July 11, 2018 / 12:34 pm

      Yes, definitely! It’s a super fun place!

      much love,

  27. Keri Snyder
    July 10, 2018 / 12:42 pm

    This has been on our list to go to and now I want to go there even more! We love camping so that would be so fun there!

    • Shan
      July 11, 2018 / 12:35 pm

      Yay, Keri! That makes me so happy. You’ll love it but watch out for those hot humid months of July through September!

      much love,

  28. Leslie
    July 10, 2018 / 8:48 pm

    Fun! Thank you for sharing. I’d love to back back to Georgia, it was gorgeous. Oh I’d enjoy camping on the beach or checking out the sea turtles in their spot. It amazes me how huge they can be.

  29. Amy
    July 10, 2018 / 10:11 pm

    Oh, wow! Those trees! And a turtle hospital? My kids would absolutely be in heaven! I’d only heard about Jekyll Island from a book called, ‘The Creature from Jekyll Island’, but now it’s going on my bucket list! You go so many cool places!

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