One of Georgia’s four barrier islands known as the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island offers visitors 10 miles of unspoiled shoreline. With wide flat beaches, tidal marshlands, ample wildlife, and a charming historic district shaded by a canopy of live oaks, Jekyll Island is an island filled with stunning beauty. From the famed Driftwood Beach to the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel, we provide a list of the most breathtaking places essential to your island visit. With our help, you can experience the best that Georgia’s Jekyll Island has to offer in just one weekend.
Jekyll Island in One Weekend
Jekyll Island is perfect for a weekend getaway. It’s easily accessible from the Georgia mainland. At only 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, it’s straightforward to navigate by car, bike or even foot. And with a well-preserved historic district and undeveloped beaches and natural spaces, it offers some of the most beautiful scenery along the Southern Atlantic coast. While you could certainly spend a week enjoying the island, a weekend should also suffice. As detailed in this post, our essential guides are not a run-down of “Top Attractions”, but an assemblage of places that we found essential to getting the most from our experience. Here we outline our picks for the most breathtaking places to visit if you are spending just one weekend on Jekyll Island.
Jekyll Island’s most stunning spot is often considered to be Driftwood Beach. Located on the northwestern shore of the island, the beach is appropriately named for the abundance of driftwood trees and logs. The weathered trees are especially picturesque during the magic hours surrounding dawn and dusk. Our first visit was around sunset when the sky was just beginning to change hues.
As you can see from photos, the beach is a perfect spot for kids or anyone young at heart. From exploring tide pools to climbing upon driftwood trees, the beach is like a giant playground.
We enjoyed our visit at dusk so much that we returned at sunrise the next day. Driftwood Beach is a popular place to visit at any time of day, but it is particularly busy during the early morning and late evening. That said, the beach has numerous access points from N Beach View Dr, with plenty of parking options. We found sunrise to be slightly busier than sunset, mostly because of photographers waiting to capture the magical moment the sun emerges over the Atlantic Ocean. Nonetheless, the vibe was very calm and quiet.
If you are spending a weekend on Jekyll Island, we highly recommend visiting Driftwood Beach at both sunrise and sunset. You won’t regret it! Just be sure to check the weather forecast for the clearest day.
St Andrews Beach
Wrapping around the southern tip of Jekyll Island, St Andrews Beach is expansive! The western portion of the beach faces Jekyll Sound. While the beach here isn’t quite as wide as on the other side of the island, it offers plenty of interest from driftwood trees, to hiking trails, and a two-story wildlife viewing platform. This section of the beach has ample shaded parking, along with picnic areas, public restrooms and showers.
The eastern portion of St Andrews Beach offers much broader beaches. This section is accessible by parking lots at Camp Jekyll or the Jekyll Island Soccer Complex. However, amenities such as public restrooms and showers are not available here. That said, if you enjoy wide, empty beaches with plenty of space to walk, play and relax, the eastern shores of St Andrews Beach are for you!
Great Dunes Beach Park
If you are looking for a beach with some amenities, look no further than Jekyll Island’s Great Dunes Beach Park. This 20-acre beach located along the island’s eastern shores has picnic pavilions, grills, restrooms, showers, bicycle racks and ample parking.
While the beach is one of Jekyll Island’s most popular, we found it to be much less crowded on a weekday, especially during the early morning hours or around dusk.
Jekyll Island Historic District
One particular aspect that makes Georgia’s Jekyll Island so unique is the historic district. Approximately 240 acres of land along the island’s eastern side comprise the Jekyll Island Club National Historic District. This property includes a number of buildings constructed during the era of the Jekyll Island Club. Built in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a winter retreat for America’s wealthy elite, a stroll through the historic district leads past the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, the Faith Chapel, and a number of cottages.
Adjacent to the hotel is the island’s wharf.
While tours of the historic district, as well as many of the cottages, can be booked through Jekyll Island’s website, a simple stroll through past the historic buildings, under the live oaks trees is an activity in and of itself.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
No trip to Jekyll Island would be complete without a visit to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Located in the Jekyll Island Historic District, the sea turtle learning center is housed in the island’s old power plant. Built in the early1900’s, the plant brought electricity to Jekyll Island. The brick building now serves to educate visitors about the challenges sea turtles face in today’s world. The center has a number of interactive exhibits focused on various phases of a sea turtle’s life, from nesting, migration, conservation, survival and rehabilitation. Although relatively small, our family spent quite a bit of time in the learning center. The hands-on displays, in particular, were a hit with the kids.
A large window allows visitors to view inside the sea turtle operating room, where staff treat the sea turtles in rehabilitation.
In a building behind the learning center, the rehabilitation center is located. Here you can observe turtles in long-term rehabilitation at the center.
If you have an hour or two, you won’t regret visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center!
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