Tips Based on Our Trip to Jekyll Island:
- Remember toll money ($6 covers you for 24 hours and after that you have to pay again if you leave and come back)
- Pack for all kinds of weather
- Bring walking/running shoes
- Bring flip flops for the beach
- Remember that some stores/restaurants may have short hours or be closed during off-season
- Bring bug spray (no-see-ums did make an appearance on the path to Driftwood Beach and just a couple times on the mini golf course, but we were there during a cold month so they could possibly be more prevalent other times of the year)
- Set aside time for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center during feeding times at the rehab center to learn more about the turtle patients (great option especially if the weather gets wet)
- Check ahead of time to see if it’s nesting time for sea turtles and consider booking an evening turtle walk (keep in mind, nesting time for the sea turtles can affect your stay in regards to lights on the island)
- Check out rental options for bikes and surreys ahead of time (plenty of options from single bikes to trikes to tandem bikes)
- Pack snacks and water as you’ll likely spend a good deal of time exploring the island
- Try to go mini golfing early to avoid possible crowds
- Gluten-free options available at Jekyll Island Club Resort and The Jekyll Market
- JekyllIsland.com is an invaluable resource for planning trips to Jekyll Island (they list everything to do, see, eat, etc.)
You can read more about Jekyll Island Club Resort, the surrounding area or book a stay at JekyllClub.com!
Is this really where we’re staying?!
We were excited to finally make our way to Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club Resort. We had planned a trip the year before, but after a death in the family changed our travel plans, we kept it on our bucket list of must-see places in the U.S. and waited for the right time to visit.
I hate to ruin the surprise, but I’m happy to say that it was worth the wait (and the $6 toll)! Jekyll Island was easily one of the most laid-back, naturally family-friendly places we’d visited in a while.
We felt as though we’d stepped back in time—twinkling trees, southern hospitality and a slower pace of life met these eager New Englanders the moment we rolled up to the Club House.
They say first impressions are important and I’d say Jekyll Island Club Resort got the memo. Fortunately for us, we arrived at night and their twinkling entryway, a street framed by light-filled trees draping their graceful limbs across the road, felt nothing short of magical. It was like being transported onto the set of a Nicholas Sparks novel-turned movie—almost too enchanting to be real!
We weren’t the only ones completely taken by this spellbinding experience. We saw quite a few cars (which did get a little annoying after a long day of driving) stop short, their occupants hopping out to stand in the middle of the street and take pictures under the twinkling boughs.
Our hopes high, we checked in (a quick and easy experience) and headed to our home-away-from-home for the next couple nights.
Sans Souci & The Ghost of J.P. Morgan
We were put in a top unit in Sans Souci, a building originally built in 1896 for a small group of club members—including J.P. Morgan. Thank goodness the old-timey charm of the building’s interior had us preoccupied as we followed our bellhop up what turned out to be four flights of stairs because we realized after several trips up and down later that night that it was definitely a bit of a workout! Worthwhile, but also worth considering if you’re the type that prefers to avoid cardio while on vacation.
We stepped into our Deluxe Suite King room and looked around. While clearly up-kept (and with the addition of some modern conveniences), it looked untouched in many ways. Everything, from textiles to molding, was rich with history. We loved checking out all of the old photos of the Jekyll Island Club and Sans Souci taken back in the club’s hey days.
And the bathroom! Now that was a bathroom. If you’ve ever grumbled over cramming together in a closet-sized hotel bathroom while elbowing one another as got ready for the day you’d absolutely love the bathroom in the Deluxe King Suite. We’ve been to several resorts with larger-than-expected bathrooms, but our bathroom at Jekyll Island Club Resort may be the largest we’ve seen to date.
We also appreciated the delicious plate of giant cookies left as a welcome gift! The boys eagerly dove into those and were quick to tell us how amazing they were. What’s that saying? The way to a man’s heart… That definitely applies to all four of us! Ply us with delicious food and we’re putty in your hands.
The king bed was incredibly comfortable as were the sheets and pillows. Patrick and I slept well during our stay!
While there was a second bedroom with a smaller bed, the boys decided they were a little anxious over ghostly visitors and chose to sleep on the sleeper sofa instead. Patrick and I checked it out and while it may not have been super comfortable after several nights for a heavier adult, it was perfectly comfortable for the boys!
Unfortunately, after half an hour of unpacking (by us) and cookie munching (by the boys), we realized our room felt more like a sauna than a hotel room. We called down to the front desk and they promptly sent up someone from maintenance who affirmed the heat was stuck on the highest setting. He worked on it and told us it should begin going down shortly. We waited, but the heat was determined not to play nice, so we were moved to another Deluxe Suite King room on the other side of the building where the temperature was much better!
The room was a mirror image of our last room—just as historic and fun to poke around in.
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Trees
After settling into our new room we went outside to check out the twinkling trees up close, take some pics and take in the general charm of our current location.
It was pure magic!
Everyone eventually began to slow down, so we headed back to Sans Souci and made the climb to our suite. I don’t know if it was the stairs or the fact we’d only had sandwiches in the car to avoid wasting as much time as possible on our long drive up, but we were all famished by the time we plopped down on our beds. We looked through the room service menu, made a few selections and called them in.
Does Willy Wonka work here?
Room service was actually pretty speedy and the lovely woman that delivered our food was absolutely lovely! She even thought ahead and brought along the ketchup that our tired brains had forgotten to request for the fries the boys had ordered. Everything was delicious! I don’t know what they put in their dip, but can someone on Jekyll Island please send me a gallon of it along with several pounds of the handmade chips?! Absolutely yummy!
We ordered one gluten-free dessert, a lovely chocolate and coconut mousse, which arrived in a tiny tea cup made completely of chocolate! Liam, who may hold the title of “biggest chocolate lover” in our family (which is saying a lot since we’re all chocoholics), nearly lost his mind when he saw it. It was like something out of Willy Wonka’s factory and he struggled hard to resist it long enough for me to take a quick shot with my iPhone.
I’m happy to report that he said it was just as delicious to eat as it was fun to look at!
Eventually we tucked in for the night, Patrick and the boys falling asleep quickly while I laid in bed wondering whether or not I should have read up about the supernatural history of the resort. I finally determined I was glad I hadn’t (having made that mistake a few times before with other historic resorts) and nodded off.
We may have all dashed a little more quickly than usual on our midnight trips to the bathroom, but I’m relieved to report that nothing otherworldly, aside from the amazingly sparkly trees, was seen that night! Not that we wouldn’t have appreciated some financial advice from J.P. Morgan himself, but preferably not as a ghost.
We did bring home a couple of interesting photos with orbs in them. We know some people might consider them to be spirit orbs and while we’re not well-versed in discerning a spirit orb from a speck of dust, it’s fun to think about. We don’t have any opinions in particular on the validity of spirit orbs in pics, but we though we’d share for those interested in that aspect! Should we share them in a separate post some time? Maybe…
Stepping Back in Time
We woke up the next morning ready to tackle the full day we’d planned for ourselves. I wondered how different the resort would look during the day, given how extraordinary it was at night. To my delight, it was just as interesting to see during the day as it was after dark (even in the dreary weather).
There are some places we’ve experienced in older parts of the country where things have been allowed to remain as they were (or at least rehabbed to look as though they were); un-scrubbed of their history. Some of the cobblestone streets in Boston come to mind and now Jekyll Island Club Resort has earned a spot on that mental list as well!
There was something very distinguished and elegantly untouched about it, even in the dreary weather. If you’d taken cars and modern dress out of the equation, I think we would have had a hard time determining which decade we were in!
Jekyll Island-Style Breakfast & Shopping
After we did a quick spin around the grounds we headed off for our day of adventure. We had limited time on Jekyll Island, but were determine to experience as much as possible–starting with breakfast!
We pulled up to the shops at what I believe was Beach Village and settled on The Jekyll Market for food and some groceries. While there weren’t many made-to-order gluten-free options, they did have a decent selection of gluten-free staples in the grocery portion of the store. Patrick ordered a coffee and breakfast sandwich while the kids and I grabbed some goodies off the grocery shelves. Then Patrick and Liam sat down to eat while Seamus and I went exploring through the other shops nearby.
The shops ranged from relaxed, beachside trinkets to upscale shopping. While not all the shops were open, most of them were, which was nice to see in December! We settled on a hat for Patrick for Christmas, which I managed to hide until Christmas morning (Christmas present ninja here), and made our way back to the car.
It’s mini golf, guys!
Our first stop for the day was mini golf. The kids were incredibly excited, but having only been on traditional golf courses and not a mini golf course (that probably makes us weird parents, right?) they were a little confused when we first stepped foot on the empty course. They were completely drawn to the fun statues, but unsure of how to actually swing for such a short distance and around funky obstacles.
Ironically, the boys caught on pretty quickly (they always amaze me by how fast they pick up certain things) and their competitive natures left them carefully watching over our scorecard.
In the end, Patrick beat us all by a few swings, but everyone had a great time! I think the fact that we had the entire mini golf course to ourselves was definitely a perk (I hate the added pressure of getting out of someone else’s way), but we’ll definitely have to try mini golfing again sometimes soon with them!
If you want to see some of their mini golf antics, make sure you check out the video above!
Once we returned our clubs and headed to the car we discussed what made the most step for stop number 2.
Originally we’d planned to go to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center next, but we’d kept a good eye on the fickle weather and it looked like rain was coming, so we opted to head to Driftwood Beach instead!
Bucket List Destination – Check!
Driftwood Beach had been on our bucket list for years. I’d first seen pictures of it on Instagram and instantly fell in love. A beach completely covered with giant trees turned into driftwood, it was something too unique not to experience firsthand in this lifetime–at least in our opinions.
I’m happy to say Driftwood Beach was everything we’d hoped it would be! One part eerie post-apocalyptic scene and one part beautifully smooth, expansive beach; it was unlike anything we’d seen before. There was something so graceful and yet somewhat unsettling about being surrounded by those driftwood giants!
For those unfamiliar with Driftwood Beach (get ready to add it to your bucket lists), it’s essentially a graveyard of salt-preserved and sun bleached trees left scattered over the beach due to erosion.
We wound our way down the beach through the maze of trees for several hours; Patrick and the boys stopping here and there to examine teeny shells in the pools around the bases of the larger trees, while I straggled behind trying to capture the the mood of the beach on that particularly gray day.
At first I was bummed out we weren’t able to see the beach on a sunnier day, but I quickly came to the conclusion that the heaviness of the gray sky actually helped me to better capture the atmosphere on the beach that day. Silver lining! Silver-gray lining, maybe?
I’d love the see the beach again on a sunny day (and at sunrise), but that day the stormy sky and moisture-heavy air really set the tone for some striking pics!
The boys did a little climbing, we collected a few shells and then something shifted. We began to feel hot waves of air swirl around us and then we felt them—the first drops of what would quickly become a sprinkle.
Patrick and the boys made a beeline for the path leading back to the car as I hung back for a few minutes to try to grab a few more shots—there’s never enough time!
For the most part, we experienced few bugs with the exceptions of a cloud of them on the overgrown path between where we parked and the beach. Not bad after being eaten alive by no-see-ums (a particularly nasty little biting bug, for those that have never had the pleasure) on Sanibel Island days earlier.
We dusted off the sand, hoped into the car and headed to our next stop—the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.
They’re just so cute!
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center was quite close to the Jekyll Island Club Resort (not that anything was particularly far, given how small the island was), making it a convenient stop for families visiting the island and choosing to bike or walk rather than drive. Due to the weather we opted to drive during our stay.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center was created by the Jekyll Island Authority, who still runs it to this day. It goal is to educate, rehabilitate and research all things indigenous sea turtles. They have everything from educational displays to a rehab center where you can see recovering sea turtles. If you don’t walk in a sea turtle lover I’d bet the odds you’ll walk out one! Check out our video above to see the adorable sea turtles we got to “meet” during our trip.
Of all the areas of the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, the boys were most drawn to the sea turtles in the rehab pavillion. I actually had to pull them away from the small tank holding baby turtles so other people could view them because they were completely mesmerized! We planned our visit so that we were there right around feeding time, so we got to learn a bit more about why some of the older turtles were there and being rehabbed. It was sad to see ones that had lost part or most of their flippers, but good to know they were in the right place. Seamus and I grew particularly attached to one larger turtle that did us the courtesy of popping her head up again and again as we observed her.
After we’d learned quite a bit about the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and its patients, we stopped at the gift shop. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t need much to motivate me to shop when we travel, but it definitely gave me a good excuse to buy a few things knowing that the proceeds supported the center!
Everyone picked a souvenir and we began to hunt for dinner.
When in the south, barbecue is a must!
As fans of real southern barbecue, we decided to eat at The Love Shack (ironically located in The Jekyll Market where we’d been earlier). Unfortunately, we walked up to the shack only to find we were 20 minutes too late and they had closed.
With our hearts set on barbecue on our final night in Georgia we did a little searching and came across Southern Soul Barbeque on St. Simon’s Island next door. Thankfully, because we’d hopped on the island late the night prior, we knew we’d still fall within the 24 hour period on reentering and wouldn’t have to pay the toll a second time.
While rush hour did make the drive a little longer than it would have otherwise been, it was worth it! The food at Southern Soul Barbeque was absolutely delicious to the point we tried to determine if there was any way to make a another stop the following day before our flight. Sadly, there wasn’t, but we’ll definitely go back again next time we’re in the area.
We do a lot of culinary things right up north, but the south owns barbequing in our opinions! Get yourself some southern barbeque someday soon if you’ve never had the joy of experiencing it.
We brought our food back to our suite and savored every last bit! When we were finally done, we cleaned up, bundled up and headed off for our final adventure of the day—faux ice skating by the ocean.
Cake “Ice” Skating by the Ocean
We’d heard about this Skating Village next to the ocean where you could go “ice” skating, but we were unsure of what that meant. I think Patrick and I both assumed (because we’re a little nutty) it was synthetic ice in the sense that it was chemically and/or electronically kept cold. We’re northerners, we don’t understand non-ice ice! 🙂
Honestly, looking back, we really had no idea what existed in terms of faux ice rinks since we’re from an area with no shortage of ice from October to March, but we were about to learn!
For those of you, like us, scratching your heads and wondering what fake ice rinks are they’re not really ice at all. They’re actually made with special plastic sheets that allow you to scoot around on them using regular skating blades.
Having used both real ice and fake ice, Patrick and I both agree they’re not quite the same, but the boys had a lot of fun! We did notice that 99% of the kids on the “ice” (the other adults quickly decided not to skate after giving it a brief try) weren’t able to stay upright for long. Nobody was doing double axels, however, we saw some really creative methods for scooting around on bums, crab-walking, crawling, etc. Kids are so creative!
I think the boys would definitely want to go again because they had a good time slipping around with the other kids, but we recommend going in knowing that (odds are) most of your time will be spent flat on your bum. 😉
After the boys were thoroughly soaked from sliding around (the plastic was wet from the rain earlier that evening), we headed back to Jekyll Island Club Resort, making a quick pit stop at a gas station for some cold drinks.
Good-night, Jekyll Island.
We made the climb up to our suite, showered, packed and snuggled into bed thoroughly exhausted from the day. We did note that our room hadn’t been visited by housekeeping, but after a call down the front desk we were able to get fresh towels and some extra soap. We suspect that housekeeping wasn’t aware we’d been switched from our other suite, but it shall remain a mystery!
I was incredibly proud of the fact we’d accomplished everything we’d set out to do and enjoyed doing it! Sometimes you plan out your day and things (weather, people, ADHD) shake their heads at you and force you to make alternate plans. Not this time! It was a really great experience and I’m only sad that we couldn’t stay on Jekyll Island longer.
The next morning our alarm went off before the sun came up. We sleepily brushed our teeth, checked out and headed back to Orlando to catch our early afternoon flight back home.
Jekyll Island was amazing!
Jekyll Island Club Resort was a really unique experience and there was plenty to do on the island to keep our busy family occupied. We would highly recommend going there and checking it out.
If you don’t go down for the holidays, you may want to check the turtle hatching schedule and go then. That’s always been a bucket list thing for us to experience! Someday…
All in all, service at Jekyll Island was fantastic! While we did experience a couple snafus (the heat in our first room and housekeeping not visiting in our second room), the way in which Jekyll Island dealt with everything was great. Everyone we spoke with was incredibly courteous and we were very comfortable in our suite as a family of four.
If you’re ever mulling over places to visit in the U.S. make sure you put Jekyll Island near the top of your list! It’s a wonderful getaway spot with plenty to do for both families or friends.
To learn more about Jekyll Island Club Resort or to book your stay visit JekyllClub.com!
Have you ever been to Jekyll Island Club Resort? Did you know it’s believed by some to be haunted?
Note: This post may include hosted stays and activities. All opinions are our own based on our personal experiences.