Peter Frank Edwards

In the late 19th century, Jekyll—the southernmost Golden Isle—became an exclusive winter sporting retreat for the likes of J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Rockefeller. When the island was purchased by the Jekyll Island Club in 1886, one magazine described it as “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.” The 60-chamber Jekyll Island Club opened in 1888.

You haven’t really seen Jekyll if you haven’t explored the Landmark Historic District. Take one of the walking, carriage, or tram tours to experience life here when Victorian-era millionaires wintered on the island. Don’t miss the nearby bookstore, croquet on the hotel lawn, and cocktails at the hotel bar.

Peter Frank Edwards

The prices lowered when the structure became a hotel in the 1980s, but the luxury at what is now Jekyll Island Club Resort endures—particularly at Crane Cottage, built in 1917 by Richard Teller Crane Jr., who made a fortune by putting his good name on America’s toilets. (Other properties include Sans Souci, one of the first condominium buildings in the U.S., and Cherokee cottage.)

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In addition to the club, the magnates built mansions that still stand in the island’s historic center, where their service buildings on Pier Road are now quaint stores selling knickknacks to tourists. Other attractions include the Summer Waves Water Park, three 18-hole golf courses, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

The bare bones of sea-washed trees reach up out of a ridge toward the sun at the northeast tip of Jekyll. You can easily get to Driftwood from the bike paths―be sure to take your camera along. Golden Isles Carriage and Trail at Three Oaks Farm also leads daytime and sunset horseback tours across Driftwood Beach.

Peter Frank Edwards

Explore Jekyll Island’s over-20-mile network of scenic bike paths. The North Loop winds past the ruins of Horton House plantation and the tangled trees of atmospheric Driftwood Beach. On Beachview Drive, find Driftwood Bistro, serving classic Lowcountry dinners, and Tortuga Jack’s, a seaside Mexican joint. Watch the sunset while sipping a Georgia Peach Margarita.

Zachry’s Riverhouse
Peter Frank Edwards

Other local culinary picks include The Wharf, which reopened on the pier in 2017; Zachry’s Riverhouse on the marina; and Jekyll Island Seafood Company, newly established in Beach Village. The island’s most storied restaurant is the Jekyll Island Club’s Grand Dining Room (seasonal dishes like Veal Chop Oscar are superb), but its cuisine is rivaled by the casual fare at Corsair Kitchen & Bar at the Jekyll Ocean Club, the resort’s 40-room beachfront property that opened in the summer of 2017. Try the Lump Crab Stuffed Shrimp, one of the wood-fired pizzas, or the GA Shrimp with speckled grits and sweetly smoked tasso ham. Thirsty? Sample craft cocktails created by resident mixologist Chris Gantt.