This year marks the 75th anniversary of one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets, Jekyll Island. Purchased in 1947, the state transformed it from a private getaway for the ultra-rich and famous to a state park open to all. The island has a storied history, and today offers plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy. With 10 miles of pristine white sand beaches and lush forestlands, Jekyll Island is a nature lover’s paradise and still one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets.
Have you ever visited Jekyll Island? I was fortunate to visit in May and stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. Greeted with an anniversary reminder made of flowers at the entrance of the island, I knew I was visiting someplace special. While on the island, I learned some interesting things about the island and resort.
Jekyll Island, Georgia, is a barrier island off the coast, which is approximately a 90-minute drive from both Jacksonville, Florida, and Savannah, Georgia. The state of Georgia owns the entire island, requiring at least 65 percent of the island to remain undeveloped. Jekyll Island is the perfect destination for a vacation full of relaxation, peace, and quiet.
Jekyll Island Club Resort hosted our visit. All opinions are my own.
Jekyll Island History
The Rockefellers, Carnegies, and other rich and famous families used to come to Jekyll Island for a winter retreat. They built “cottages” the size of mansions and an exclusive clubhouse on the island. Many visit today to learn about the history and get a glimpse of a bygone era.
Over 3,500 years ago, the island was inhabited by Native Americans. When the colony of Georgia was founded in 1733, Jekyll Island was part of it. It was named after a financial supporter, Sir Joseph Jekyll.
Prosperous plantations were part of the island until the Civil War ended.
Purchased in 1886 by several wealthy families, Jekyll Island was the winter retreat for America’s most influential and affluent individuals of the era. The wealthy families enjoyed the mild winters and lush beauty for 56 years. Leaving behind a rich heritage that is now a National Historic Landmark District. You can visit some of the homes still intact and revitalized.
The Club closed in 1942 and sat empty for a few years. The State of Georgia purchased Jekyll Island in 1947. From then on, there were island improvements, such as an amusement park and an olympic-sized pool at Aquarama Dive Club
Jekyll Island Fun Facts
During our visit, I learned many interesting facts about the island and its role in history. In 1858, the last slave ship, the Wanderer, crossed the ocean and landed at Jekyll Island with 409 enslaved people. The Wanderer Memory Trail pays homage to black history.
During a secret meeting on Jekyll Island in 1910, the plans for the Federal Reserve Bank were created.
The first-ever conference call originated on Jekyll Island with Watson and Bell in 1915. Important dignitaries from San Francisco, Boston, and New York City were on the call. Phoning in from the White House was President Woodrow Wilson.
The Mosaic Museum On Jekyll Island
Take a walk through time and Jekyll Island history with a visit to the Mosaic Museum. You will find memorabilia from the last slave ship and its arrival on the island. Memorabilia and an interactive activity about the first conference call are highlights as well.
The Mosaic has a special anniversary exhibit running through the summer. The museum is well worth a visit, and be prepared to spend some time with the interactive exhibits about summers at the club, the first conference call, and more.
Historic Jekyll Island Tram Tour
While at the Mosaic, you can purchase tickets to ride the Landmark Trolley Tour, taking you through the historic district and pointing out important places of interest. You have the opportunity to tour one of the cottages and learn more about the island. The tour was fabulous, our guide was very knowledgeable, and it lasted approximately an hour and a half.
The Jekyll Island Club
Visiting the Jekyll Island Club for just a few hours is like returning to yesteryear. Originally built as a hunting retreat, the carefully preserved leaded art glass and original woodwork are just a few of the beautiful things you will see. While you enjoy the modern amenities of the club, you still feel the wealthy influence of its founders.
Luxury abounds everywhere, from the giant “cottages” with 22 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms to the original pool, the hall of mirrors, and rooms named after prestigious members.
The grounds are absolutely gorgeous, with giant live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, and everything green and well-manicured. We sat in the rocking chairs that overlooked the grounds and enjoyed the view.
Fourth Of July Fireworks On Jekyll Island
This year’s fireworks display will be spectacular as they celebrate the 75th anniversary.
Block Party At The Beach Village
One of the anniversary events, the Block Party at the Beach Village is scheduled for August 6.
Jekyll Island Shrimp & Grits Festival
The Shrimp & Grits Festival is returning from November 4–6, 2022. Enjoy delicious shrimp and grits while taking in some family-friendly entertainment, live music, and a craft brew fest. The island is hopping with people during this fun-filled event.
Holly Jolly Jekyll
Each year, the Christmas celebration in the Historic District is magnificent with half a million sparkling lights. Don’t miss this holiday tradition that starts after Thanksgiving and runs until January 8. This year, Holly Jolly Jekyll promises to be extra special.
Other Jekyll Island Activities
Other island activities include an outdoor tennis complex, 63 holes of golf, a fishing pier, the Summer Waves Water Park, horseback riding tours, nature centers, Jekyll Island dolphin tours, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, and 20 miles of bike trails. And don’t miss Driftwood Beach on the northern shore of the island. There is a lot to see and do on Jekyll Island.
Pro Tip: A vehicle entry pass is required to visit Jekyll Island. Single, multi-day, and annual passes are available and can be purchased online in advance, at the entry gate, or at the visitor center upon arrival on the island. Pedestrians and bicycles can enter at no charge. The pass is required even if you are staying at a hotel on the island.
Jekyll Island is a treasured spot in Georgia that often remains a secret to those outside of the state. If you haven’t yet had the chance to visit this breathtaking island, now is the time! From its rich history to its picturesque beaches and signature events, there is much to celebrate on Jekyll Island. Whether you want to relax or explore all the island has to offer, Jekyll Island is worth adding to your travel list! Help Georgia commemorate the 75th anniversary of one of its best-kept secrets.
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