Return to Jekyll Island, Georgia

Four years ago in March I finished a group tour with Road Scholar that was located on Amelia Island in Northeastern Florida.  I wanted to stay a few more days before flying home and was curious to see Jekyll Island on the Georgia Coast.  I spent one night there with the whole next day to enjoy before driving to Jacksonville, Florida in the evening for an early flight the next morning.  Biking is a favorite activity with a path that rings the island for about 15 miles through beautiful scenery.   There are miles of open ocean views as well as marshes, forests and a charming historical district.  I rented a bicycle riding from morning to late afternoon, having the time of my life not even stopping for lunch.  I was fortunate to have sunny, warm and clear weather, perfect for biking.   Unfortunately, my Road Scholar trip had been cold and rainy for most of the week, so this day of sunshine was much appreciated.  Perhaps my friend Anette remembers that cold trip?    Above is a picture Mark dug out of the archives of me biking back in 2014.

I stopped to walk Driftwood Beach where dead trees still stood in the sand near the surf or lay where they fell in twisted shapes.   This was one of the most interesting and scenic beaches I had ever visited.   I rode to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center where I learned about the turtles that come to nest here on Jekyll Island and visited the turtle hospital where they receive care after they are picked up injured or ill.   I went off the bike trail and rode down dirt paths next to huge oaks filled with Spanish moss and palmettos.  I stopped by Horton House, a shell of a home that was built in 1736 by Major Horton for his plantation residence.  Horton commanded a regiment of British troops stationed here.  Below, another from the archive featuring me in one of the home’s windows.

On this island there are no strip malls, shopping centers, chain restaurants or stores, just a great deal of natural beauty.  I decided Jekyll Island was a place to return to – a special place where I wanted to spend more time.   Here is a little piece of paradise.  The feeling of paradise was shared by others and in 1886 the island was purchased by a group of wealthy families as a private retreat.  The Jekyll Island Club was built and members included millionaires J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt and Marshall Field.  Prominent families such as the Rockefellers, Goulds and Goodyears built vacation homes here they called “cottages.”  On my first trip to the Island I took a tour of the historic district where we learned about the families that stayed here, the cottages and were able to see inside several of them.

When we were planning this trip I wanted to spend a week at Jekyll Island after finishing our time in Florida.  A few months before we wanted to come, I called the only campground on the Island to get a reservation.  I found out that they only had an available site for three nights around the time we wanted to be there.  I was disappointed at not being able to stay longer, but decided to make the best of it.  Jekyll Island is popular with “snowbirds,” as well as a nice place to vacation for the beaches so I knew beforehand it might be difficult to get a reservation.

On February 24 we left St. Augustine, Florida and arrived to Jekyll Island, our first time staying on an island on this trip.   The campground (above) is beautifully tree covered and in a nice location, but our campsite was short, narrow and difficult to back into.  We were very close to another camper and felt squeezed in.  Still, I was happy to finally be back.  While Mark attended to some things around the trailer, I walked over to the “bird sanctuary” at the back of the campground.  I had visited this spot as well on my first trip.    In our travels, this is the first RV park that features an area devoted to feeding the birds.  Enclosed by a wooden fence, there are about eight feeders of different sizes and as I watched, a number of birds were happily feeding including Grackles, Mourning Doves, Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, and Carolina Chickadees to name a few.  There is even a large poster nearby that lists common backyard birds in the Southeastern United States to help with bird identification.  A mailbox for those that want to put a card or letter to the birds is a favorite with the children.  It is a delightful little spot.

Unfortunately, our trip to Jekyll was not meant to be.  We left St. Augustine sick with an upper respiratory flu or virus, our first real illness of the trip.  Neither one of us usually gets sick like this so it was a stroke of bad luck.  It looked like my plans of riding a bike along the sunny paths of Jekyll would not be realized.  Our first full day after checking in the day before, found us bedridden trying to get well.  On the second day I was determined to do a little sightseeing and drove to Driftwood Beach, not far from our campground.

It was a very grey, cloudy day with rain showers on the forecast for later in the afternoon. I thought if I started out shortly before noon, I would have some time before the rain came.  After walking down the beach awhile, enjoying all the driftwood sculptures, the sky became even darker and it started raining.  It was perplexing as I had only been out about 15 or 20 minutes.

I had not brought a jacket and as I walked back my shirt was soon wet, not very smart for someone trying to get better from an upper respiratory illness.  I headed back to the truck to wait it out and see if the rain clouds might pass, but after about 20 minutes with no sign of a letup, I drove on.  My last stop of the day was the Horton House for a very short visit before more rain started falling.   I took a picture of the front to post since the picture of me on my first visit shows me only sitting in one of the windows.

I had hoped to visit the Turtle Center again and have some pictures and information to share on the blog.  I didn’t feel well enough though to spend the time there and the rain had dampened my spirits.  Below is an evening sunset we took the first day we arrived at Jekyll.  The view is the lovely Sidney Lanier Bridge in the distance that crosses over to the town of Brunswick.

The next day we prepared to move on to Savannah, Georgia and Mark was still sick but resigned to the move.  I had not succeeded in making him a fan of Jekyll Island.  He really didn’t like the campground and was not that impressed with the Island after I took him on a few driving tours.  Of all the places we have traveled, Jekyll was the place we differed the most about.   I argued for the great natural beauty, the quiet, the feeling of getting away from it all, the uniqueness of a place that has not become over built with hotels, stores and houses.   He argued that it was not much different than the rest of the coast we had seen and not being able to find a cold drink and NyQuil on the Island was hardly a virtue.   My argument that prominent and millionaire families found much to like here also did not hold any weight.   Was his flu addled brain not thinking clearly?   So dear readers, I hope those that have not visited Jekyll Island but are considering a visit in the future will take my word for it.   Jekyll is worth it – it’s a pretty cool place!

Thanks for spending time with us!  Next blog we are off to Savannah.

6 thoughts on “Return to Jekyll Island, Georgia”

  1. Beth – I do indeed remember that cold and windy RS program, although I think the trip to Cumberland Island was nice. I hope you are feeling better by now !

    1. Thanks for your comment Anette! Yes, I loved the trip to Cumberland – the weather was perfect and I will never forget that glorious place. When I was there I thought it was one of the most beautiful and interesting places I had visited. It is my favorite memory of the trip. The boat trip on the Okefenokee Swamp was the coldest and wettest. I won’t forget us sitting in that open sided boat in our rain ponchos with the rain pouring in and puddling at our feet. A crazy time for sure, but a great memory!

  2. Really appreciate this post. I often wonder if I was to return to place so beloved if it would be so again. Moments in time that are precious are so because of that space and time and are hard to replicate. The thoughts about the two different experiences and shared with different people provoked an interesting conundrum. Thank you for your honest share.

    1. Thanks Barbara! Yes, I agree, sometimes you can’t replicate an experience – that experience will never be quite the same and there are so many different factors involved in how you enjoy a place or activity. When I was at Jekyll four years ago the south seemed so exotic to me. Now that I have been traveling through the south for awhile, some of that mystique is gone. It is still beautiful there, but I am not as awed as I once was. Couple that with being sick and not having time to enjoy the island of course did not help the experience.

  3. Incredible images of the uprooted trees on the beach. Seems like a great spot to film movies! The buildings remind me of Madagascar, the look of salt air and harsh weather.

    1. Thanks Matt! Yes, I find that beach to be so atmospheric – really like that place. I so wish I could have spent more time there that day but the weather was so uncooperative!

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