The Jekyll Island Club was once the playground of the rich and famous. When the club opened its doors in 1888, its members represented one-sixth of the world’s wealth. Now, anyone can visit the luxurious Jekyll Island Club Resort.
In the 1930s, Jekyll Island itself was known as one of the most exclusive getaways in the country. With its pristine beaches and the luxurious Jekyll Island Club, it was a favorite winter destination for John Pierpont Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, Marshall Field, William K. Vanderbilt, the Rockefellers, and many other wealthy families. The club had 53 wealthy members, and they continued to add to their resort so they could hold dances, dinners, and other events.
The club flourished over the years, and then the Great Depression hit, and membership dropped off. During WWII, everyone was forced to leave the island due to the danger of enemy submarines off the coast. After that, the club was abandoned for many years. In 1948, the state of Georgia purchased Jekyll Island and turned the entire island into a State Park. The property reopened to the public in 1987 and now operates as the Jekyll Island Club Resort.
While other coastal towns have become overdeveloped and overcrowded, Jekyll Island has managed to preserve its natural beauty — and today, the island and the luxurious Jekyll Island Club Resort are one of Georgia’s best-kept secrets.
I visited Jekyll Island Club Resort in May. As you drive to the clubhouse, the scenery is spectacular, and you can feel how special this destination is. The club is gorgeous and still has a lot of old-fashioned charm. But the activities and things to see are what impressed me most.
There is much to do at the Jekyll Island Club Resort. You could be busy for several days without ever leaving the club area. Let’s look at some of the memorable experiences available for guests.
Note: The Jekyll Island Club Resort hosted our visit. All opinions are my own.
1. Tour The Club
Soak in the timeless opulence as you learn about the club and what each room was used for when only the rich and famous visited is interesting. There is history, intrigue, and fascinating facts in every room of the gorgeous clubhouse.
Pro Tip: Take notice of the photos throughout the clubhouse. They also tell a story.
2. Visit The Mosaic
I enjoyed the interactive components that guide you through the barrier island’s natural history and rich cultural heritage. At the Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum, you can learn all about the history of the island and the Jekyll Island Club Resort. They have some fantastic exhibits available for all ages.
In 2022, Jekyll Island is celebrating its 75th anniversary of being a state park, and there are special exhibits commemorating the event.
3. See The National Landmark Historic District
The Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District is a 240-acre site nestled among the ancient live oak trees. It includes 34 historic structures. The luxurious Jekyll Island Club Resort sits in the middle of the district.
Take A Walking Tour
A Historic District map can be downloaded to guide you as you explore the district, or you can take a guided tour. (Our tour with a guide was fantastic. She knew so many interesting and fun tidbits of information I didn’t want the tour to end.) Either way, you will be transported back to the Gilded Age as you view the opulent cottages built by members who wanted more room for their families. None of the cottages had kitchens; they all went to the club for every meal. The cottages were more like mansions designed for comfort, with as many as 17 bedrooms for their guests.
Pro Tip: Villa Marianna provides an Instagram-worthy photo op with its beautiful fountain and gardens.
Hop On The Tram
You can also takee a guided tram tour through the Historic District and learn about the area, shop in the local artisan stores, and tour one of the cottages on the island. You can purchase the tickets for the tram tour at the Mosaic.
Ride In A Horse-Drawn Carriage
For a taste of the island’s rich history, you can take a guided carriage tour through the Jekyll Island Historic District. Rides are offered throughout the day and evening. Next time I visit, I want to do this tour during the evening hours.
4. Play Croquet On The Jekyll Club Lawn
Do you remember playing croquet as a child? I had forgotten about the game till I visited the Jekyll Island Club Resort. The croquet lawnat the center of the resort offers one of the club’s favorite pastimes. You can play this traditional game during your stay by reserving a time slot for your group.
Pro Tip: The equipment to play is complimentary for resort guests.
5. Go Bike Riding Around The Island
You can bike around the island on over 20 miles of paved bike paths through marshes, maritime forests, and historical sites. Bike rentals are available through Jekyll Wheels, located onsite behind the Jekyll Island Club Resort. They have a variety of bike sizes for all ages.
6. Swim In The Heated Pool
The pool at the Jekyll Club is the same one built for the rich and famous. It has been updated over the years and is heated and available for use from dawn till dusk. The Pool House Restaurant is nearby and serves drinks, snacks, and light meals.
7. Enjoy Ocean Club Access
Guests of the Jekyll Island Club Resort also enjoy the amenities at the Jekyll Ocean Club. The Jekyll Ocean Club overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. You can enjoy the beautiful pool, eat poolside at Eight Ocean Kitchen and Bar, or enjoy the beach with complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas. There is a free shuttle service from the historic club to the Ocean Club.
Pro Tip: A shuttle runs between the two hotels every half hour.
Spend Time On The Beach
Even though the club does not have a beach, you can still enjoy the beach by taking the complimentary resort shuttle to the Jekyll Ocean Club. The club provides complimentary beach chairs and umbrellas for your time on the beach. It is just a short walk through the Jekyll Ocean Club, past the pool, and across the boardwalk to the beach. The beach is clean and uncrowded.
Pro Tip: You reserve your beach chairs as you go through the Jekyll Ocean Club.
8. Visit The Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Beside the resort grounds, you will find the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. It is an internationally acclaimed sea turtle center focusing on education, research, and rehabilitation. The center has interactive educational exhibits and a glass wall that allows you to watch the veterinary and his assistants in action with the turtles. Watching the staff operate, give medicine, and provide other services to the turtles was fascinating.
The center is the only turtle rehabilitation and education center in Georgia and has rehabilitated nearly 4,000 patients since it opened.
9. Visit Faith Chapel With Tiffany Stained Glass Windows
The Tiffany stained glass windows in the non-denominational church were created in the 1890s with rich deep jewel tones. The window is considered one of the most important and beautiful windows created by Tiffany Studios in New York City.
10. Dine In Luxury
Grand Dining Room
Set up for buffet breakfast each day, the room is enormous and one that was previously used for grand parties when the rich and famous came for the winter. Eating breakfast in the Grand Dining Room is a delight.
Dine on the water with excellent seafood and unmatched views. We enjoyed a sunset dinner at The Wharf when we visited.
Editor’s Note: Our readers ranked The Wharf one of the world’s top restaurants with a view in the 2022 Best of Travel Awards. Find the full list of restaurants with views here.
Eighty Ocean Kitchen And Bar
Located in the Jekyll Ocean Club, Eighty Ocean Kitchen and Bar is a relaxed oceanside restaurant with a menu focused on Lowcountry dining and coastal cuisine.
11. Rock The Day Away On The Jekyll Island Club Porch
Rocking chairs and other comfortable seating are available on all the porches. Sitting and enjoying the sounds of fountain water flowing, the smell of flowers, and the beautiful view is relaxing.
12. Walk The Jekyll Club Grounds
While the inside of the club is impressive, the grounds are equally as beautiful. We took some time to walk the grounds and enjoy nature, the flowers, and the trees.
There are several places for photos. One is the huge chair near the club.
13. View The Magnificent Trees
As you walk the grounds of the Jekyll Club, you will see the most magnificent southern live oak trees. These trees are about 80 feet high, with massive horizontal branches draped with Spanish moss. As I walked the grounds of the Jekyll Club, I felt like I was in a fairy tale under the canopy of trees.
14. Enjoy S’mores Around The Fire
The fire pits are lit each evening. Relax for some great conversation around the pit. Grab a s’mores kit by the pool, roast the marshmallow over the fire pit, and enjoy.
Off The Resort: Don’t Miss Driftwood Beach
There is plenty to do at the club, and you could enjoy your time there without leaving the grounds. But If you see nothing else, it is worth the short drive to the island’s north end to see Driftwood Beach. It is a secluded spot that provides a breathtaking view. The driftwood against the ocean makes impressive backdrops for photos. Swimming is not permitted, but it is an excellent place for a walk on the beach, and the shelling is outstanding there.
The beach and its iconic driftwood formed due to decades of erosion. What was once a maritime forest is now a sandy shore lined with weathered tree trunks and branches, creating a truly unique sight. Parts of The Walking Dead TV franchise were filmed on Driftwood Beach.
There are many experiences available to enjoy on Jekyll Island — do everything or nothing at all.
An Island Sanctuary
The Jekyll Island Club Resort is an island sanctuary full of history and traditions. It is a gorgeous, lovely place for a relaxed and pampered visit that gives you time to relax and recharge. While many modern amenities and comforts have been added, you still feel like you are returning to simpler times as you enjoy this island paradise.