Thank you to Jekyll Island Authority for providing family passes for fun activities around the island and to Jekyll Island Club Resort Hotel for providing hotel rooms for our stay! We were not otherwise compensated and all opinions are our own!
We're from Florida's east coast so we know the beach life and and our local beach fun and we rarely venture away from our local beaches. However there is another beach setting just an hour north of Jacksonville with the best island life! It's Jekyll Island and it's a slower pace, a relaxed setting with much of the island being in state forest, and it's a historic setting with the Jekyll Island Club Resort being the hunting retreat starting in 1888 for millionaires of ages old. We were so excited to venture out and learn another beach culture and we're thrilled to share the family fun and food on Jekyll Island, Georgia with kid and family activities in mind! We loved our stay at Jekyll Island Club Resort and you can scroll down to find the family friendly activities utilizing the hotel as our home base!
The first thing you want to do when you get to the Jekyll Island Club Resort is explore the grounds. That means the first thing you see is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center! There is a small fee to enter the learning center and sea turtle hospital. You can purchase tickets in the Georgia Sea Turtle Center Gift Shop.
We loved the Sea Turtle education center! You can grab a passport and go around to all the stations as you pretend to be a sea turtle and learn about what your life in the ocean would be like. It's fun for the kids to get your passports stamped along the way, look through microscopes, and watch veterinarians in action through the hospital window.
They have scheduled sea turtle talks over in the hospital next door. You can see live sea turtles that have been rescued, look through books of previous turtles that were rescued and released, and view all of the holding tanks for the turtles. Definite must see on your visit!
2. Visit Driftwood Beach
Grab a bike or drive an park at the northeast side of the island to walk on Driftwood Beach! This is a natural part of Jekyll Island where the barrier island has succumbed to the salt water of the ocean waves and has killed the oak that were once on the shore. Now they are swirling, reaching, relaxing works of art...and playground pieces! Enjoy a hike on the beach, look for hidden painted rocks, and enjoy photography on the downed trees as the sun sets.
3. Go on a Bike Ride, of Course!
Jekyll Island is well known for it's biking! They have bike paths all around the perimeter of the island as well as east west paths that lead from the Jekyll Island Club Resort all the way east to the beach. Rent bikes right at the club or out at the beach and enjoy a day of biking! I rode from the beach bike rentals that are located right at the Jekyll Island Mini Golf location all the way north to Driftwood Beach. Back at the resort, we enjoyed teaching my daughter to ride without training wheels! They have kids bikes, bikes with training wheels, and bike trailers so everyone can ride. Ride to dinner, to mini golf, or ride to the beach - just grab a map and enjoy saving energy by traveling by bike instead of car!
We got up early one morning and asked the Jekyll Island Club Resort to take us over to the beach for Jekyll Island Mini Golf! Children 5 and under are free, ages 6 - 10 are $5.50, and adults are $7. They have some great deals where you can play again for half off, or play all day for a special rate! It's a fun activity before dinner or even after dinner on Fridays and Saturdays or if you want to come up from the beach for an activity. It's located across the street from the Atlantic Ocean and Great Dunes Park at the corner of North Beachview Dr. and Shell Road. Photo used with permission from Jekyll Island Club Resort.
Whether you're staying in the hotel or not, go explore the Jekyll Island Club Resort! We loved the rocking chairs on the porch at the check in area, the old walls, fireplaces, and castle feeling of the TV room with the board games, and we were there during the holidays so we enjoyed looking at the many Christmas trees decorated for December. You can eat at The Pantry for quick homemade sandwiches for breakfast or lunch or sit on The Pantry porch and enjoy the bikers riding by.
6. Eat Some Yummy, Local Food
One thing we LOVED about Jekyll Island was the fact that our kids ate EVERYTHING at every restaurant we visited! We know we can attribute much of that to the fresh food and seafood that is fished directly from Jekyll Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. A visit to The Wharf, across the street from Jekyll Island Club Resort, is a MUST! The seafood was so extremely fresh and tasty. The fish and chips were amazing, our kids ate all of the freshly fried calamari, and the soups were so tasty. Be sure to try the gumbo and the clam chowder if those are in season, get plenty of hush puppies, try the fish tacos, and you can be sure the Georgia fried shrimp will be the best you've ever tried (they are different than Florida shrimp and worth a taste!)! Highly recommend!
We also enjoyed eating at Red Bug Motors Pizza, an Italian restaurant right at Jekyll Island Mini Golf. The pizza was so fresh and tasty! My kids were so happy eating everything - they ate my salad, my lasagna, and their pizzas. We were so happy they ate so well on our first night! Our most exciting adventure of the night was that the power went out across the Atlantic side of the island! While at Red Bug Motors, after just paying our bill, everything went black! And being on an extremely unpopulated island, it was jet black EVERYWHERE - each restaurant was dark, the roads were dark, everything was dark! The kids had such an adventure learning about generators, seeing the stars in the sky, and contacting their cousin who was at the Jekyll Island Club Resort and hadn't eaten yet. Luckily the hotel has a generator and they ate the most amazing food from room service at the resort!
We ate at The Pantry at Jekyll Island Club Resort daily! When we arrived we ate sandwiches, the first morning we had breakfast. It's a relaxed place for kids with affordable prices. And the kids can run outside on the porch while parents eat on the porch so it is very family friendly!
If you grew up in Jacksonville then you know the famous commercial song, "Sun, Fun, Excitement, Jekyll Island, Summer WAVESSSSS!!" Somehow we grew up an hour and a half south of Summer Waves and never got to enjoy the sun, fun and excitement... and we didn't get there on our visit due to it being winter! However, we highly recommend enjoying splash zone for little kids, Shark Tooth Cove for kids with slides and splashing, the Turtle Creek Lazy River, Frantic Atlantic Wave Pool, and for the more daring, Force 3 slides on your summer visit for tons of water fun and to stay cool! In the summer they even have Swim-In Movie Nights after the park closes!
Photos provided by Jekyll Island Authority.
8. Go to the Beach
Jekyll Island has some amazing natural beaches! There are in tact, beautiful dunes with plenty of public access to the beach. Bring your chairs or blankets and an umbrella, some snacks and drinks, and enjoy some time in the waves!
9. Enjoy Nature On The Island
While on the island we saw deer roaming, we loved the coastal strand habitat with ancient oak trees made wild by the wind and salty air, and we loved the darkness at night so we could see the stars! Getting out into nature is a must do on a visit to Jekyll Island! Hike the Jekyll Island State Park, search for sharks teeth at Sharks Tooth Beach, or visit Tidelands Nature Center.
My sister went on a sharks tooth hunt on our trip! She went south on Riverview Drive just south of Summer Waves. She entered a gate that led to the beach and started walking south. However, it was high tide and with her 4 year old and no one in site, a fear set in and she headed back to her car. We hope to go as a group next time and visit at low tide so we can find some teeth! The teeth below were found on a beach near Jacksonville, Florida!
10. Go Shopping
Last, but not least, go shopping! Right at Jekyll Island Club Resort there are historic buildings with shopping for gifts, apparel, and of course ice cream. There are also new shops where 520 dead ends into the Atlantic Ocean between the Jekyll Island Convention Center and the Westin Jekyll Island. Walk both sides of the shops and enjoy sitting at the dunes on the Village Green. We explored the hotel lobby after picking up some coffee there. My daughter enjoyed picking up gifts for family at home!
We so enjoyed our trip to Jekyll Island and our stay at the Jekyll Island Club Resort! Visit this link for 20% off your stay when you plan your trip in advance (year round black out dates apply)! Don't forget to visit during the holidays as well to enjoy the holiday events and the tree lighting ceremony (check out our Jekyll Island Holiday Fun Blog here). We can't wait to return and relax on the beach and enjoy some more yummy meals and family fun activities. Let us know if you visit Jekyll Island and the activities you enjoy in the comments below!