Among all of the islands off the coast of Georgia, Jekyll Island is probably the most well-known and popular. While some of these coastal islands are rustic with very few services for tourists, Jekyll Island has lots to see and do while still retaining its natural beauty. Whether you’re looking for a family vacation destination, romantic getaway, or a weekend of exploration nearby, these are the top things to do when you visit Jekyll Island, Georgia.
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Visit Georgia Sea Turtle Center
There are few places that take the preservation of sea turtles as seriously as the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island. When you visit, you can watch experienced veterinarians care for and treat injured sea turtles that are brought in for rehabilitation. You can visit the center between 9 am and 5 pm daily and partake in year-round programs for all ages. Another nice place for nature lovers to visit nearby is the Tidelands Nature Center, which has a small collection of animals and offers tours and activities for kids.
Take Photos at Driftwood Beach
Even if you’ve never been to the Georgia islands before, chances are that you’ve probably seen photographs of the mysterious and iconic Driftwood Beach. These downed oak trees have been photographed countless times because of their twisting shapes and unusual textures that line the beach going right up to the water. It’s on the northern end of the Island and has an eerie vibe and a haunting beauty. Bring your best camera at sunrise or sunset to go for a long walk along the beach and get an amazing shot of your own! Pack a picnic lunch and set up a blanket or beach towel in the sand to watch the waves roll in among the branches.
Learn About Island History at the Jekyll Island Museum
Not only is the Jekyll Island Museum a great place to start your visit to the island to learn more about it, but it’s also absolutely free. Inside you’ll find artifacts and photographs that tell the story of Jekyll Island’s past, including its role as a winter retreat destination for some of the most elite families in America. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm and also has a gift shop where you can shop for souvenirs. To learn more about the island’s history and see the various parts of the island, you can book a tour on the island’s historic tram.
Check Out the Architecture of Faith Chapel
Whether you’re religious or not, the architecture of Faith Chapel on Jekyll Island is definitely worth seeing. The chapel was built in 1904 and originally used as a non-denominational church. It has a stunning architectural design with Armstrong stained glass windows, animal carvings, and gargoyles. You can visit the chapel for free between 8am and 10am daily. For a tour, you can purchase tickets for $5 or purchase any other historic landmark district tour and tour the chapel for free.
Play a Game of Golf
There are four lovely golf courses on Jekyll Island, which makes this an ideal place to play a game on your vacation. You can play at the historic nine-hole Great Dunes Course or the 18-hole courses, which are the Indian Mound Course, Oleander Course, and Pine Lakes Course. The cost to play at the nine-hole course is $25 with a cart or $15 walking, and the cost for the 18-hole courses is $59 with a cart or $32 walking.
Kayak through the Marshes
This small Georgia island is bordered by marshlands that are home to a wide variety of animal species. One of the best ways to experience the nature of this area is to rent a kayak and paddle your way through the marshes on a nice day. You can take a kayak or SUP tour or rent out gear to head out on your own from the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, Kennedy Outfitters, Southeast Adventure Outfitters, Saint Simons Paddleboard & Kayak, or Turtle Tides Jekyll. If you’re into fishing, you can bring your boat out to try your luck with the saltwater and freshwater stocked areas with trout, striped mullet, and sheepshead fish. Another great way to get active on Jekyll Island is to rent a bicycle and pedal along the easy, flat terrain along the waterways and to the beach.
See the Horton House Ruins
The Horton House is a historical site on Jekyll Island that used to be the center of plantation life. It was built by Major William Horton, who was second in command after the famous British general, James Oglethorpe. The ruins of the house still remain, and they are open to the public for free daily. You can read the historical plaques and markets to learn more about the site, as well as the DuBignon Cemetery on the other side of the road.
Splash Around at Summer Waves Water Park
Water parks are always a favorite summer activity for families, and there’s a fun one right here on Jekyll Island. Highlights of the park are the Force 3 triple-slide, the 40-foot-tall Nature’s Revenge slide, a five-story enclosed tower slide, the wave pool, Shark Tooth Cove for young kids, the splash zone, and a lazy river. The admission cost is $19.95 per adult, $15.95 for kids under 48-inches tall, and free for kids three years old and younger. Season passes and locker rentals are available as well. When you get hungry, stop by the Larry’s Giant Subs for a healthy lunch or snack.
Eat Seafood at the Island Restaurant
With its coastal location in the Atlantic Ocean, it should come as no surprise that Jekyll Island is an excellent place to enjoy a seafood dinner. Top seafood restaurants to check out here include Zachry’s Riverhouse, Courtyard at Crane, Driftwood Bistro, and Love Shack BBQ Shrimp & Yardbird. If you’re looking for a great ocean view to go along with your meal, pick Tortuga Jacks for Mexican cuisine or Latitude 31 for views and music. Delicious ice cream treats can be found at the Jekyll Market.