Explore the Beaches and Nature Trails of Jekyll Island

Bike, hike, paddle, and relax on your next trip to this coastal Georgia gem.

Jekyll Island, GA
Rent bikes for riding the paths to see sights along the 20 miles of bike trails and walking routes. Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

No matter where you are on Jekyll Island, if you shut your eyes and listen closely, you can hear the low rush of ocean waves. Find it on a map, and you'll see why. Jekyll is a triangular patch of green bounded by water—the East River to the north, Jekyll Sound to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east—and it's a favorite destination for beachgoers seeking fun in the great outdoors.

The southernmost of Georgia's Golden Isles, Jekyll is located between St. Simons Island (a busy spot with a bustling shopping district) and Cumberland Island (a designated national seashore preserving miles of salt marshes and coastal wetlands). Jekyll is the best of both worlds: It's a resort destination loved for its biking, beaching, and golfing, and it's also a state park with peaceful shores and a commitment to conserving its natural riches for generations to come.

Name Your Adventure

Jekyll is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a state park this year, and it's still going strong. There are lots of places to cast a line: Spots like Glory Beach and St. Andrews Beach make the island a favorite fishing destination, and there's clamming off the Jekyll Island Pier too. River- and ocean-bound boats also launch like clockwork from the Jekyll Harbor Marina.

Catch even more waves by booking your place on a Golden Isles Paddle Co. sightseeing tour, which offers dolphin-spotting excursions and sunset floats through the area's tranquil waterways. The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center has guided kayak trips and canoe rentals as well as programming on the ecology and biodiversity of the area.

There are plenty of options for those who want to remain on land too. Seasonal ranger walks invite vacationers to experience the area's scenic wonders, and travelers with binoculars flock to walking trails for nature tours and afternoons spent spotting birds beneath the trees. There's an avian sanctuary at the Jekyll Island Campground, and other parts of the island are havens for herons, anhingas, egrets, and roseate spoonbills. Horton Pond is another hub for plant and animal life. It has a wheelchair-accessible observation deck with views of the water and its inhabitants, among them wading birds and alligators.

Take a break to learn a little about sensitive area wildlife at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located near the Jekyll Island Club Resort. This facility is known for its interactive exhibits and turtle-rehabilitation programs.

The best way to see the sights is by pedaling. Jekyll Island Club Resort guests can rent bikes at Jekyll Wheels and traverse the island's more than 20 miles of bike trails and walking routes. The Jekyll Island Bike Barn also offers wheels for adults and children, from tricycles to tandem rides, to get the whole family rolling. Take a spin along the paths to feel sea breezes and take in the island's natural beauty.

Wander the Beaches

The State of Georgia bought the island in 1947, unlocking its 10 miles of beautiful shoreline for visitors, and one of its most recognizable stretches is the aptly named Driftwood Beach. It's located right across the sound from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum and is scattered with skeletal remnants of trees that have been toppled and gnarled by the elements.

Nearby Sharktooth Beach is another off-the-radar spot that features an uncommon draw: Instead of sand, it's blanketed with sun-bleached oyster shells. Visitors come to hunt for sharks' teeth and prehistoric fossils amid the seaside rubble. Other points along the shore—including Corsair, Oceanview, and South Dunes Beach Parks—are popular places to savor a picnic, build sandcastles, and splash in the surf.

Croquet Court at the Jekyll Island Club Resort
Peter Frank Edwards

Plan Your Island Time

Book a room on Jekyll, and you'll be close to adventure. Guests at Jekyll Island Club Resort have easy access to amenities including the bike trails, pool, and seasonal events, as well as the storied past of the resort, which is peopled with Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. Or to get even closer to nature, make Jekyll Island Campground your base. It includes 18 oak-canopied acres of sites for pitching tents and parking RVs and campers. If glamping is more your speed, nearby Little Raccoon Key offers luxury tents on solar-powered campsites along with dolphin tours as well as ecotourism programs to introduce you to your home away from home.

Whether you'd like to pace the golf greens, wind along bike paths, or glimpse coastal wildlife, there's an activity on Jekyll Island that is calling your name. Close your eyes, and listen for the waves—can you hear them yet?

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