Jekyll Island things to do

Top Jekyll Island Georgia Things To Do Beyond Beaches

I lived in Florida the majority of my life and always heard about how great Jekyll Island Georgia was. And for some reason, I never made trip to see it. However, that changed on our Airstream travels and I am so happy it did. Jekyll Island was a pleasant surprise that lived up to to reputation and charm. So if you’re wondering about things to do on Jekyll Island and if it’s worth the visit, the answer is yes and plenty!

About Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is a small barrier island on the Georgia coast. And it is the perfect place for a peaceful getaway!

This unique and historic place offers the ultimate mix of a relaxation, education and outdoor activities. From driftwood beaches to historic tours, this island will lure you in with its historic southern charm. 

Jekyll Island sign at the Jekyll Island Museum
Jekyll Island sign at the Jekyll Island Museum

Whether you want to relax on the beach, play a round of golf or ride your bike around the island, Jekyll Island is a nature lovers paradise!

And with each activity you’ll find yourself enjoying the island more and more. So enjoy and embrace the laidback lifestyle as you discover the best Jekyll Island Georgia things to do.

Getting to Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island, as the name implies is a coastal community in the state of Georgia. Located on the Atlantic Ocean and bordered by the surrounding barrier islands: Cumberland Island, Little St Simons Island & Sea Island.

Located an easy 20 minute drive from I95 with the closet largest airports being Jacksonville (1 hour) and Savannah/Hilton Head (1.5 hours). 

Jekyll Island things to do
Walking and bike trails around Jekyll Island Georgia

The road to Jekyll is just a 2 lane road with a $10 toll to gain access to the island. The toll plaza is not manned and takes credit cards or cash. Keep in mind this fee must be paid each time you re-enter the island. So its best to come prepared, so you will not have to leave and then re-enter.

With that being said, once you arrive on Jekyll Island there really isn’t a reason to leave. The island has everything you need including a small general store, the Jekyll Market. This store offers a wide variety of essential supplies including food, beverages, beer and wine along with other general items.

However if you are staying on the island more than a few days, you might want to pick up supplies beforehand. So make to sure pack any special items you need, as you may not find them on the island. 

History of Jekyll Island 

This small island on the coast of Georgia has a rich and storied history. It was originally inhabited by indigenous peoples, then Spanish explorers and lastly English settlers in the 18th century. However, it is best known for its transformation into a winter retreat for the American elite during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The island hosted the exclusive Jekyll Island Club, whose members included J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer and William Rockefeller among others. 

View from Jekyll Island along the bike trail

In its prime, it was an island for the rich and famous. It was on Jekyll Island in 1910 that a secret meeting took place, leading to the creation of the Federal Reserve System. And Jekyll Island was also the location of the first Trans Atlantic phone call. This small in size but large in statue island has been an important landmark throughout the years. 

Then after World War II, for numerous reasons the wealthy stopped coming and Jekyll Island became an abandoned place. The only thing flourishing was the vegetation and the wildlife. 

Today, after many years of dedication and hard work Jekyll Island is now a state park. And with that meant preserving its natural beauty and historical landmarks for the enjoyment of all visitors. Making the islands uniqueness a history buffs and nature lovers paradise. 

Best Jekyll Island Georgia things to do 

Jekyll Island beaches are most definitely a highlight of the island. However there are many other activities and historic sites to immerse yourself into. So, no matter which experiences you choose, a Jekyll Island vacation is sure to impress. I know we had the best time exploring this island and I hope you do too!

1. Jekyll Island Historic District

Other than spending time at the beach, the Jekyll Island Historic District is the place to be. It is a must-see destination for both history buffs and nature lovers. As the district offers a range of attractions for visitors of all ages and interests. 

Jekyll Island Club Resort

One of the main highlights of the district is the Jekyll Island Club Resort. As I mentioned earlier, this historic hotel was once the playground of the rich and famous. You can explore the grounds with a guided tour that provide a fascinating glimpse into the island’s past. At the resort you can also enjoy a range of amenities, including a spa, fitness center and multiple dining options. Even if you’re not staying at the hotel you can still enjoy the breathtaking property and beautiful views.

Jekyll Island things to do
Jekyll Island Club Resort

Jekyll Island Museum

And if you are interested in learning more about the island’s history, the Jekyll Island Museum is a great place to start. The museum features interactive exhibits that showcase the island’s rich cultural heritage, including its ties to the Gilded Age and so much more. So don’t skip this fun little museum. 

Interactive exhibit at Jekyll Island Museum

Trolley Tram Tour

You can also take a Trolley Tram Tour of the historic district, which provides a fun and informative overview of the island’s most notable landmarks and attractions.

Jekyll Island things to do

The tour includes stops at the Historic Cottages, which were once the summer homes of some of America’s wealthiest families. A highlight of this tour is you can get an inside view of one of the homes. 

Jekyll Island things to do
Historic Cottages seen on the trolly tour

Faith Chapel

Your trolley tour tickets also grants entrance into the the Faith Chapel. Which offers a serene and peaceful setting for reflection and contemplation, where you can tour on your own.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Finally, no visit to the historic district would be complete without a stop at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which offers a unique opportunity to learn about these fascinating sea turtles and their role in the local ecosystem. 

With so much to see and do, a visit to the Jekyll Island Historic District is an experience for the entire family. 

2. Summer Waves Water Park 

If this is a summer family vacation, then the Jekyll Island Waves Water Park is a fun way to spend a day. It is great for all ages and you will be awed by the park’s many attractions. Activities include water slides, lazy river, a wave pool and a kiddie area for young children. There is also plenty of lounge chairs and shaded areas for those who want to take a break from the sun.

One of the highlights of the park is the “Turtle Creek” lazy river, which winds through the park and provides a relaxing way to take in the scenery. However, if you’re seeking more excitement, there also are a number of thrilling water slides to choose from.

Waves Water Park is a fun change from hanging out on the beach. And even better if you love water parks and outdoor fun.

3. Bike Ride around the island 

Biking around Jekyll Island is the best way to explore the island’s natural beauty and historic landmarks. With over 20 miles of bike trails you can ride through scenic salt marshes, forests, and along the beach. And if you didn’t bring your bike there are several bike rental options, such as Jekyll Wheels

One popular route is the Driftwood Beach trail, which takes you along the beach and through a beautiful forest of driftwood trees. Another trail is the historic Millionaire’s Village were you’ll see grand homes built by America’s wealthiest families, including the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, in the early 20th century.

Jekyll Island things to do
Bike paths on Jekyll Island

Exploring the bike paths through Jekyll Island allows you to get up close and personal with the island’s wildlife, including alligators, turtles and a variety of bird species. Biking around the island was one of our favorite parts about Jekyll. 

4. Tour the Horton House 

A visit to the Horton House is a step back in time. It is one of the oldest tabby buildings in Georgia and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You can tour the home and structure and imagine how it once looked. As it stands today it is outlined structure of what once was. 

Horton House on Jekyll Island
Horton House, one of the oldest tabby buildings on Jekyll Island

The home was constructed by William Horton who purchased the land and promised to improve it. Visiting the home is an educational experience and leaves a lasting impression. The home is free to visit and resides on Riverview Drive with ample parking and also located nearby the bike path. 

5. Jekyll Island Fishing Pier 

The Jekyll Island Fishing Pier is somewhat of a hidden gem even if you aren’t a fishing enthusiasts. It’s worth a visit just to observe the catch of the day.

Jekyll Island Fishing Pier
Jekyll Island fishing pier

Or get a great view of the Sidney Lanier Bridge, which we enjoyed most. It’s yet another part of the island to explore.

 Sidney Lanier Bridge

With shaded pavilions and a bait and tackle shop, the pier offers a great opportunity for a leisurely afternoon relaxing or fishing.  

6. Visit Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island is an idyllic destination and one not to be missed. This beach is known for its beautiful driftwood trees that are scattered all over the shoreline, creating an amazing landscape that is unlike any other. As you stroll along the beach, you’ll be amazed by the sheer size and scale of the driftwood trees. Some of which are as large as 20 feet tall. The trees have been sculpted by the ocean tides and the winds, giving them a distinct character.

Jekyll Island things to do
Driftwood Beach at low tide where you can walk among the trees

As you can see on the photos, we walked through, over and under a forest of driftwood along the shore.

Jekyll Island Georgia things to do

And if you have time, try to visit Driftwood Beach for sunrise or during low tides and high tides. Each time of day offers a new unique perspective on the landscape. So whether you are a nature lover, photographer, beachcomber, or simply seeking some quiet time, you’ll find everything you need to relax, unwind, and reconnect with nature at this beautiful and enchanting destination.

 Jekyll Island Georgia things to do
Sunrise on Driftwood Beach during high tide

7. Play Golf and Tennis

Jekyll Island is a great place for anyone looking to enjoy some outdoor activities. Whether its playing a game of tennis or pickle ball on the island’s well-maintained courts. Or a round of golf at Jekyll Island Golf Club, which is considered one of the best golf courses in the area. The island is full of outdoor activities. 

8. Horseback Riding 

Riding horseback on Jekyll Island is a magical experience. You can ride through lush forests and along pristine beaches or you can choose from a variety of trails that take you through different parts of the island. The horses are well-trained and gentle, making the ride suitable for riders of all levels. So its and enjoyable adventure for all.

Horses at the stables near the fishing pier

9. Horton Pond and Tupelo Trail 

These two attractions are located in the heart of the island and offer visitors the opportunity to explore the island’s unique ecosystems and wildlife.

We took the clearly marked Tupelo Trail through a dense forest of tupelo trees, which are known for their beautiful fall foliage. You can find the entrance near the Horton House or across the street form Driftwood Bistro. Both locations will get you there.  

Along the trail, you can spot a variety of birds, including woodpeckers, owls, and hawks. The trail is also home to several species of reptiles and amphibians, including snakes, lizards, and frogs. So be on the look out!

 Jekyll Island Georgia things to do
Horton Pond on Jekyll Island, best place to see an alligator

The trail surrounds Horton Pond which is a peaceful body of water surrounded by towering trees and dense vegetation. The pond is home to a variety of fish, turtles, and waterfowl, making it a great spot for fishing or birdwatching. This is also the spot to be if you are looking to get a glimpse of an alligator.

You can also hike Horton Pond Trail around the pond via an 0.8-mile loop and get a birds eye view via the observation deck. However make sure to pack insect repellent or spray beforehand because the bugs were bitting. 

10. Dolphin Tours

Another great way to enjoy Jekyll Isalnd wildlife is on a dolphin tour. As you cruise along the coastline, you will have the opportunity to observe the playful dolphins swimming and jumping in their natural habitat.

In addition to the dolphin sightings, you will also have a chance to admire the scenic beauty of Jekyll Island, including its pristine beaches and lush marshlands. The tour guides will also share interesting facts about the island’s history and ecology, making it a fun and educational experience for all ages.

11. Enjoy A Beach Day 

A visit to the beaches on Jekyll Island is a delightful experience that is not to be missed. With miles of pristine coastline and crystal clear waters, you can relax, go for a swim, build castles or simply relax.

The island offers numerous beach parks like St Andrews Beach Park, Overview beach Park and Great Dunes Beach Park where you can enjoy the beach along with access to shade, picnic areas, restrooms and showers. 

And for the more adventurous type, there are plenty of opportunities for water sports like kayaking with 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, paddle boarding, and surfing.

12. Day Trips from Jekyll Island

If you’re visiting Jekyll Island and looking for a fun day trip, consider exploring the nearby destinations of Savannah and Tybee Island. Savannah is a charming city known for its historic architecture and southern hospitality, while Tybee Island boasts beautiful beaches and a laid-back atmosphere.

Or for something a little different, Cumberland Island is a beautiful and remote barrier island that is only accessible by ferry.

Camping on Jekyll Island

There is only one campground located on Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island Campground. And I would highly recommend staying on the island to experience in full all the Jekyll Island Georgia things to do.

In Conclusion

Jekyll Island has so much to offer for a vacation destination. It is more than just a beach vacation, it’s a historic journey through one of the most unique places in the United States. So, get ready to explore and I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

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