5 Fun Things to Do on the Charming Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is one of the best places to visit in Georgia, and I love seeing the island each year for its quaint historical charm and coastal beauty.

Located south of St. Simons and north of Cumberland Island, Jekyll is Georgia’s smallest barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches at Jekyll are not the pretty blue you see in the Gulf of Mexico, but they are tranquil and have something unique that you don’t see on many beaches – driftwood. With that and its historic homes, you can easily see why Jekyll Island is one of Georgia’s gems.

While I’ve visited this tiny island numerous times, I still haven’t done everything since there is so much to see and do! However, below are my favorite Jekyll Island activities, along with visiting tips.

Also, don’t forget to check out my articles on Georgia’s other popular and gorgeous barrier islands: Cumberland Island and Tybee Island.

Sunset at The Wharf restaurant on Jekyll Island. Image shot on Pentax 67.

Things to Know Before You Go

  • It is not free to visit Jekyll Island. There is a small entrance fee: $10 daily per vehicle or $15 for vehicles larger than 8′. You can purchase daily passes online or at the gate. They also have an option for annual passes. It is $100 for the annual pass or $150 for vehicles larger than 8′. Yearly passes can be purchased online. Once you are in, the island is yours to explore! You can visit here for more information and updates regarding the passes. Prices are subject to change.
  • For fewer crowds, try to visit when school is back in session and avoid holiday weekends. There is one road to get onto the island, the Jekyll Island Causeway, and traffic can back up for miles when it is crowded. If you can arrive early in the day, traffic won’t be as heavy.
  • Most roads are two-lane roads on Jekyll Island. You will want to watch out for people hiking and biking.
  • A gas station is on the island if you need to fill your car’s tank. Also, there is a general store, Maxwell’s, to pick up convenience goods and souvenirs. However, since it is an island, you’ll probably pay more for items than inland purchases.
  • Jekyll Island has a Beach Village with a few restaurants and a small shopping area. Other restaurants are located throughout the island, but you will not find many restaurant chains or franchises.

Five Fun Things to Do on Jekyll Island

1- Bike It!

We rented bikes to explore Jekyll Island on our last vacation. Biking is, hands down, the best way to see the island. Jekyll Island is approximately 7 miles long and has many bike paths, boardwalks, and unpaved paths to explore. 

We rode our bikes through the historic district, down through Beach Village to the boardwalks near the beach, then down a residential road to an unpaved path that cut straight through the island. 

Things to do on Jekyll Island includes renting bikes to explore.
Digital image of us riding our Baja Cruisers on the boardwalk.

It might be cheaper to bring your own bikes, but we decided renting them while we were there would be easier due to the hassle of transporting ours. And renting a bike for a day or a few hours is super easy. You can rent different bicycle types at Jekyll Wheels Bike Rentals and Repairs, Jekyll Island Bike Barn, and Beachside Bike Rentals (rentals vary seasonally).

Our bikes were 2 Baja Cruisers from Jekyll Wheels, which I gave very “original” names: Baja and Chipotle.

The 2 Baja Cruisers were about $58 to rent for the entire day, but prices may vary depending on the bike you rent. This was also our resort price since we stayed at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. It is slightly more expensive if you are not a resort guest, but it is worth it for all you can see on the island. View their price information here.

Jekyll Wheels has other bikes available to rent, but we selected the Baja Cruisers because the person we spoke with said it was a smoother ride. They were easy to use and comfortable, but I will not lie that I was sore the next day!

Bikes sitting outside the Crane Cottage.
Our Baja cruisers at the Crane Cottage. Image shot on Leica M6.

Remember to bring sunscreen and a hat, along with plenty of water. We did this in early June, so the weather was mostly sunny but scorching hot and humid. I forgot to bring a hat and was baking in the Georgia heat, even with sunscreen. I was the color of a tomato by dinner.

Also, you might want to pack light. The bikes were helpful because they had a basket to store items. For my basket, it held the Hasselblad and extra rolls of film. You can never have too many rolls of film on a vacation!

Spanish moss on Jekyll Island.
It was a beautiful day for a bike ride under the Spanish moss. Image shot on Leica M6.
Jekyll Wheels bikes near picnic tables.
Standing outside of Jekyll Wheels. Image shot on Fujifilm Pro 400h.

2- Visit Driftwood Beach

Sunrise at Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island.
Morning visit at Driftwood Beach. Photo courtesy from Bill Manning Photography. Image shot on Portra 160.

You cannot visit Jekyll Island without visiting Driftwood Beach. This is not ideal for a swim (for me, at least), but the landscape is beautiful and unique. The scenery changes as the driftwood moves each time we visit Jekyll Island.  

Unfortunately, a few years ago, the hurricane took out some driftwood originally there when we first went to the island. However, it is still interesting to see the driftwood formations since not many coastlines in the United States have these distinctive features.

I strongly recommend wearing good tennis shoes, hiking boots, or something protective for your feet. It’s effortless to trip over the driftwood or the many rocks scattered throughout. Kids enjoy Driftwood Beach; often, they climb the driftwood and pose for photos.

Our recent visit was rainy and cloudy, so my pictures are not the best. However, when the weather is more pleasant, Driftwood Beach produces impressive sunrise and sunset pictures.

Sunrise at Driftwood Beach.
Sunrise at Driftwood Beach. Photo courtesy from Bill Manning Photography. Image shot on Fujifilm Velvia 50.

Visit Driftwood Beach early in the morning if you are there for photography; sunrise is the best since fewer people are around. It is harder to get a landscape picture without people in the frame as the day progresses, and this is probably one of the most popular areas on Jekyll.

Also, look at the tidal times before your visit. There are many websites that you can search to view the tidal times.

Some seasons, especially the warmer seasons, have many biting gnats swarming on the beach. They are annoying little things, and they have no problem flying into your mouth as you speak. Needless to say, you might want to bring some buy spray!

The path near Driftwood Beach
The path at Driftwood Beach. Image shot on Leica M6.

3- Take a Stroll Through the Historic District

I absolutely love history. When you combine the beach and historical places on a trip, it’s the perfect combination. This is what makes Jekyll unique; you can take a walk in the past through its historic district and then make your way down for a relaxing afternoon watching the waves.

Most of the Jekyll Island Cottages in the historic district are great examples of the Victorian architectural style. In the late 1800s, some of the world’s wealthiest people, such as the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Vanderbilts, created a private hunting club and exclusive retreat on Jekyll Island. Out of this era came the many cottages and the lovely Jekyll Island Club, now a hotel and resort.   

You can walk around to see the exteriors of these cottages, but some tours will take you inside (you can even stay the night in some of them!). Visit here to see the different tours available.

For the cottage tour, we did the guided tram tour that packed a lot of history into 60 minutes, and we saw two cottages. We bought our tickets online, although you can also buy them in person. If you are like me and need to get seats at the front, arrive early in peak seasons to get your preferred seats on the tram.

There is also a gorgeous little chapel called Faith Chapel. We haven’t been inside yet as it was locked the last few times we went, but you visit the chapel on one of these tours. 

The history of Jekyll Island is extensive, and I recommend checking out its history here. A recently renovated museum, Mosaic Museum, walks you through its historical timeline. We went there a while back but haven’t had an opportunity to visit since the renovation. Future plans, perhaps!       

A cat stands outside in the bushes at Faith Chapel.
We always seem to come across kitties on our trips. This beautiful tabby was seen outside the Faith Chapel. Image shot on Leica M6.
Shooting film at Crane Cottage.
I was trying to figure out how to shoot a picture on the Hasselblad 500cm at the Crane Cottage.
Cherokee Cottage in Jekyll Island
Cherokee Cottage (part of the Jekyll Island Club Resort). You can reserve a room for accommodation. Image shot on Leica M6.
Horton House
If you like historical ruins, you can walk, bike, or drive to the Horton House, about a 7-minute drive from the Mosaic Museum. It is one of Georgia’s oldest tabby houses, built by William Horton in the mid-18th century and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Image shot on Leica M6.

4- Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a fun thing to do on Jekyll Island.
Outside the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Image shot on Leica M6.

If you have children in your group, add the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to your must-do list! I don’t have any children other than my cats, but we enjoyed our time at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Find the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on a map here:

Opened daily from 9am to 5pm, it is the only rehabilitation center in Georgia for sea turtles. It is a great place to learn everything you want about sea turtles, from the youngest to turtles that are decades old. They also have educational programs and a research department that focuses on conservation. 

The center isn’t too big; we visited for about an hour. You can stay more or less depending on what you do and how much you want to read and see.

There is a small learning center, a hospital pavilion, and a treatment room. The hospital pavilion has a few water tanks for turtle patients undergoing treatments. Sometimes you’ll catch the vets and assistants helping a turtle or tiny hatchlings. 

Visit this website for information on ticket prices and tour information.

Inside the gift shop at Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Inside the gift shop for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Image shot on Leica M6.

Patient water tanks at the Georgia Sea Turtle Hospital.
Inside the Sea Turtle Hospital. Shot on Leica M6.
A sea turtle receiving care at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
Image shot on the Leica M6 Film Camera.

5- Have Breakfast at the Jekyll Island Club Grand Dining Room

I absolutely LOVE breakfast, and when I go on vacations, I always look for the best breakfast or brunch spots. Having the first meal of the day at the Grand Dining Room at the Jekyll Island Club is an experience like no other. You’ll feel like you stepped back in time a century ago to have breakfast as the Vanderbilt family did.

The Grand Dining Room is elegant; I imagine it looked like this 100 years ago. A short hall of mirrors at the main entrance leads to the dining room with several nicely furnished adjacent rooms.  

The Grand Dining Room is located at the Jekyll Island Club Resort at 371 Riverview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA 31527:

The Grand Dining Room is open for breakfast from 7am to 10:30am.

Slightly more on the pricey side, the food is worth it; it’s delicious, and you can order off the menu or enjoy the buffet (when open) with various breakfast options. The coffee is delicious too!

Jekyll Island Club Resort. Image shot on Fujifilm Pro 400h.
Digital photo of The Grand Dining Room at Jekyll Island Club Resort.

After breakfast, you can sit in the lounge, play games, or read a book. They have the nicest Monopoly board I’ve ever seen. I didn’t pass GO while we were there, but I came home and bought the same board or a very similar version.   

Outside is their porch area that overlooks the Jekyll Island Club Resort Pool and the East River. It’s a great spot to enjoy your favorite beverage and cool off from the Georgia heat if you visit in the summer!

A Note on My Images

I am proud to say that this post’s images are the first film photography images I’ve taken while on vacation. Previously, I was the photographer’s wife, standing on the sidelines watching my husband take pictures for the last ten years, but I am now actively learning to shoot with film!

Most of the images in this post are shot on Leica M6 and Hasselblad 500cm. While these are not the best visually pleasing Jekyll Island images, I was excited to see my pictures developed. I clearly have a lot to learn, but I hope to improve with consistent practice.

Learning photography is a rewarding experience, but it is not without challenges. It is well worth it, though! My first time shooting film didn’t come without a hitch, and you can read about my first experience in my 7 Things Learned in the First Month of Film Photography post.

What are some of your favorite Jekyll Island activities? Please comment with your thoughts below!

A woman stands outside a historical cottage on Jekyll Island.
You can’t see it well, but I hold the Leica M6 outside one of the many historical cottages on Jekyll Island.

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