Are you looking for the perfect, uncrowded beach for this summer? We recently visited Jekyll Island, Georgia this summer. Here’s what we experienced plus recommendations on what to do and where to eat on the island.
Despite all the media coverage of crowded beaches, in the Southeast there are great choices of beach towns that you can visit where crowding is not an issue. Jekyll Island, Georgia is one of these pristine, unspoiled beach towns where you can relax and recharge in a quiet setting while still having access to entertainment options. The main island activities include enjoying the numerous beaches, biking, and eating great food. For families looking for additional entertainment, Jekyll Island also offers mini-golf, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, historic tours, a waterpark, and more.
For more beach vacation ideas, see our list of the best beaches in the Southeast.
Our lodging was courtesy of Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island. We were also provided complimentary tickets to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Find a place to stay in Jekyll Island, GA. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.
Traveling to Jekyll Island from the Upstate
Jekyll Island is part of the barrier islands on the southern Georgia coast known as the Golden Isles. It took us about 5 hours to travel to Jekyll Island from the Upstate. Our trip took us through Columbia and then along the South Carolina/Georgia coast.
Jekyll Island is a Georgia State Park, and vehicles are charged an $8 daily parking fee. You only have to pay the fee when you enter the island.
What Is There to Do on Jekyll Island?
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
When we started telling friends that we were headed to Jekyll Island, one of the top recommendations of “things to do” was to visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. This turtle rehabilitation center offers a public glimpse of sea turtles and conservation efforts. While there, you can visit the sea turtle hospital where the turtle patients are recovering and you might even get to watch a turtle surgery or medical procedure take place from the observation area.
Right now the center is limiting guests due to COVID-19, which may result in a wait to get in. We were told that 2 pm was a quieter time but still experienced a 30 minute wait to enter the building at that time. You do not have to wait in line but do need to wait close enough to the entrance to hear your name called.
While signage was posted encouraging guests to social distance, limit numbers in particular buildings, and the staff wore masks, we did find that a large percentage of guests were not wearing masks or observing signage. Part of the tour is in an open air facility but you must walk through a gift shop and museum room to get there. More vulnerable guests may want to consider these factors as they plan their visit.
The center also offers guided sea turtle walks in the morning and evening.
214 Stable Road, Jekyll Island, GA
Georgia Sea Turtle Center Website (includes admission fees and hours)
Public Access Beaches at Jekyll Island
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort on Jekyll Island. You can read our full review, but one of the biggest perks was that the resort had beach front directly in front of the property. Choosing lodging that has beach front access will allow you to avoid more crowded public beaches though during our visit even the public beaches did not look overly crowded.
You will also find a number of public beaches on the island and several have unique features.
Near the north end of the island, Driftwood Beach is a beautiful spot that is famous for it’s marine forest driftwood from years of erosion. You can walk up and down the beach front and explore the many trees. We also saw quite a bit of wildlife from little crabs to interesting beach bugs.
Also, this area is adjacent to a paved path that leads through the salt marsh and is also quite scenic.
This beach is a great area for photos and our readers recommend seeing it at sunrise.
As you might guess, Sharktooth Beach is a great place to find shark teeth and also see other wildlife. Go at low tide if you want the best chance of finding interesting treasures.
Jekyll Island Oceanview Beach Park
Described as peaceful and uncrowded the Oceanview Beach Park also has air-conditioned bathrooms, changing rooms, and showers.
Great Dunes Pavilion
This beach is a great place swim, see local wildlife, and has a large sandbar. Outdoor showers, bathrooms, and changing rooms are available and mini-golf and bike rentals are just a short walk away.
St. Andrews Beach
St. Andrews Beach is a great place to see dolphins and another spot on the island where you can find driftwood. In addition, near the picnic area you will find The Wanderer Memorial that remembers the lives of 400 illegally imported slaves.
Biking at Jekyll Island
There are approximately 25 miles of bike trails and most of the beaches and parts of the island are easily accessible by bike. Many of the hotels offer adult bike rentals, but you can also find children’s bikes and other types of bikes such as dual bikes at the Jekyll Island Bike Barn (912.635.2648). We did learn that it’s best to rent early in the day rather than waiting as sometimes the bike rentals do run out.
Summer Waves Park
Jekyll Island’s water park is open with reduced capacity for the summer of 2020 and has multiple water slides, a lazy river, and a children’s splash zone. Tickets are currently $18/day if purchased ahead of time and $20 at the gate. Children, 3 and under, can enter for free but you are required to purchase an approved swim diaper.
210 S Riverview Dr, Jekyll Island, GA
Summer Waves Park website
Museum and Historic Spots on Jekyll Island
Mosiac, Jekyll Island Museum is a history museum that also offers tours of the historic district. On the island, there are significant remains and restored homes that you can either drive by or even tour, including the Horton House, the remains of an 18th century tabby house and the Indian Mound Cottage which was owned by the Rockefeller family in the early 1900s.
Tons to Do on Jekyll Island
These are just a sampling of the many activities available on the island. Families can also enjoy mini-golf or golfing, horseback riding, exploring the parks and trails on the interior of the island, or attending wildlife exploration trips such as a gator trip or dolphin tour. In addition, Jekyll Island is part of the Golden Isles and the surrounding islands are close enough to explore.
Where to Stay on Jekyll Island
Holiday Inn Resort at Jekyll Island
Our trip was courtesy of the Holiday Inn Resort of Jekyll Island. We loved that the resort had outdoor entrances to every room, ocean views on every room, and double rooms with sleeping quarters. The resort was also right on the beach and had multiple beach access points. We have written a full review that includes more information on our stay.
Camping on Jekyll Island
Many of our readers recommended the Jekyll Island Campground. The campground offers both full hook-up sites and primitive sites and is within walking distance to the Clam Creek picnic area and Driftwood Beach.
There are also plenty of other hotel options and short-term rentals on the island. We recommend considering proximity to bike rental options (or onsite bike rental) and the beaches for your stay. We did notice as we roamed the island that not all of the beaches were accessible at high tide.
Where to Eat on Jekyll Island
Due to COVID-19, we noticed that many restaurants were operating on limited hours and menus during our stay. Most restaurants were offering take-out and/or outdoor seating for patrons trying to social distance.
These are the restaurants we enjoyed during our stay:
The Beach House at Holiday Inn Resort at Jekyll Island
Whether or not you stay at the Holiday Inn Resort, you can dine at their on-site restaurant, The Beach House. We were happy with the wide range of options on the menu, reasonable pricing, and outdoor seating options. Kids, 12 and under eat free with a paying adult.
701 Beachview Dr N, Jekyll Island, GA
Beach House Restaurant website
We ordered a fabulous take-out breakfast one morning from the Sunrise Grille. They offer breakfast sandwiches and plates.
21 Main St, Jekyll Island GA
Sunrise Grille website
Wee Pub Beach
Our take-out from Wee Pub Beach included a Shepherd’s Pie that the whole family ended up fighting over plus some yummy sandwiches. We did have to enter a crowded restaurant to pick up our order but the food was definitely worth ordering.
20 Main St, Jekyll Island, GA
Wee Pub Beach website
Have you ever been to Jekyll Island? We would love to hear what your recommendations are!