These islands, rich in heritage and scenic beauty, are named for the autumnal colors of their vast marshes.
On the southeastern Georgia coast, off the mainland city of Brunswick, are the beautiful barrier islands of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Sea Island, known collectively as the Golden Isles. The southernmost of these islands is Jekyll Island, where families can spend a relaxing vacation exploring fascinating historic landmarks and pristine beaches. From its luxurious resort to its stunning natural beauty, Jekyll Island is an absolute delight.
Jekyll Island welcomes visitors with history and charm. You can’t go wrong if you begin by touring the grounds of the Jekyll Island Historic District, including the Jekyll Island Museum and the district’s centerpiece, the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The historic hotel complex was once the winter retreat for the very rich from the North, and guests included William Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt and J.P. Morgan. The legendary property includes 16 kilometers miles of sandy beaches, golf, tennis, 32 kilometers of bicycle trails and a historic district. Surrounding the hotel, you’ll find the 97-hectare National Historic Landmark District, which is absolutely charming. Visit the Jekyll Island Museum, where there is no admission fee; take a guided tram tour or hop aboard a romantic horse-drawn carriage tour. Included is admission to two beautifully restored cottages, where you can experience what life was like for the residents who once lived there. The hotel itself offers luxury along with activities for the whole family. There are spectacular grounds to stroll, a swimming pool, tournament-level croquet, bicycles for exploring the island, a private beach pavilion and even afternoon tea to enjoy.
While exploring all that Jekyll Island has to offer, you might come across the Horton House ruins. Originally built in 1743 by Major William Horton, a trusted officer of James Oglethorpe, the Horton House’s remaining walls are built of tabby, a material commonly used in building at the time. The home was later the residence of the du Bignon family, who owned Jekyll Island and lived there until the late 1800s. The family cemetery is just across the street. Fun fact: Horton also brewed Georgia’s first beer.
Dramatic Driftwood Beach
While on Jekyll Island, don’t miss a trip to Driftwood Beach on the island’s north end. This spectacular driftwood landscape resembles a tree graveyard; it’s a surreal spot unlike anything you’ve ever seen and an extraordinary place to take photos. Take a long walk along the serene beach and explore the gnarled roots and branches. The best times to visit are at either sunrise or sunset, especially if you want dramatic photos and a romantic seaside outing.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
A must-see stop on Jekyll Island, especially for families, is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. After paying the admission fee, which goes toward supporting sea turtle rehabilitation, you’ll learn all about sea turtles. Unlike a typical aquarium, the center is focused on protecting and saving sea turtles as well as educating the public about the behaviors and habitats of the creatures. The tour guides are informative and enthusiastic. If you’re lucky, you’ll even get to see veterinarians caring for the turtles. The Golden Isles is truly a destination of unsurpassed beauty with warm people and charming attractions. You’ll love the classic, genteel atmosphere and will want to return again and again.
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