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

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. Jekyll Island has maintained its fascinating island charm partly because of law protection against overdevelopment and in how the 1800s Millionaire’s Village has been beautifully maintained. 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.

AWESOME secret island of Georgia (U.S.) you MUST see - shaded historical district

The Secret Island

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.  Your older kids won’t be excited about that tidbit of romantic information, but they’ll be glad to know that Jekyll Island, Georgia is also a fabulous place to have lots of active fun together as a family.

1. SWIM & SUNTAN ON BEACHVIEW DRIVE

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

2. GO BEHIND-THE-SCENES OF A TURTLE HOSPITAL

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

3. BIKE RIDE AROUND THE ISLAND

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

4. GRAB PHOTO OPS ON DRIFTWOOD BEACH

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

5. SHOP & EAT AT JEKYLL BEACH VILLAGE

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



6. WATCH THE WILDLIFE

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

7. GET ON THE WATER 

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

8. GO CAMPING

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

9. TAKE A GHOST TOUR

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

10. RIDE WITH NIGHT PATROL

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!

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?


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AWESOME secret island of Georgia (U.S.) you MUST see!




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Shan

Published on Huffington Post, Okefenokee Living Magazine, multiple sites and her local newspaper, Shan Walker is a Family Travel Journalist and adoring Wife to Superman and Mom to older kiddos. She shares “How-To” plan the BEST family vacations in the South with travel reviews and insider travel secrets that Women REALLY want to know!

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33 Comments

  1. 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!!

    • 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.
      Blessings,
      Shan

  2. March 1, 2013 / 2:46 pm

    Sounds like an awesome spot to relax and enjoy time with your family. Maybe one day, I’ll be able to head there too with the boys. Thanks for sharing your secret island!

    • March 8, 2013 / 1:10 am

      Welcome!
      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.
      Blessings,
      Shan

  3. March 7, 2013 / 11:18 pm

    It looks wonderful! Looks relaxing and calm! 😉

    • 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.
      Blessings,
      Shan

  4. March 10, 2013 / 1:44 am

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

    • 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!
      Blessings,
      Shan

  5. September 20, 2013 / 8:19 pm

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

    • 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!
      Shan

  6. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
      Author
      May 31, 2018 / 9:20 pm

      Yay! It is a very special place!

      shan

  14. 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
      Author
      June 1, 2018 / 11:40 am

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

      shan

    • Shan
      Author
      June 1, 2018 / 11:39 am

      Haha, Marta! I love turtles too! 🙂

      shan

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

  17. June 1, 2018 / 5:11 pm

    All of this sounds amazing! Especially the turtles!

  18. 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
      Author
      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!

      shan

  19. June 2, 2018 / 10:43 pm

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

  20. June 3, 2018 / 11:01 am

    We have only been to Tybee Island. This sounds like so much fun with so much to do!!
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  21. June 4, 2018 / 9:16 am

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

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