Driving past dozens of moss-draped oak trees, we entered Jekyll Island, Georgia, where some of America’s wealthiest families once came to relax. The exclusive club played host to the Rockefeller, Pulitzer, Vanderbilt and Morgan families in the winter months.
Located between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, this sultry southern destination blends a historic past with modern amenities.
Jekyll Island feels secluded and is actually a Georgia State Park with expansive marshes and eight miles of beaches. Preserving the scenic beauty and protecting the wildlife is paramount. Sixty-five percent of the island is guaranteed by law to remain natural.
Accommodations: Something old, something new
While there are several hotels on Jekyll Island, we chose the Jekyll Island Club Resorts, which offers two distinctly different experiences.
Located in the heart of the Historic District is Jekyll Island Club Resort. The soaring tower and veranda of this Victorian structure, with lead art glass windows, ornate woodwork and Rumford fireplace, date back to 1887. This Historic Hotels of America property has 157 guest rooms and suites. The Grand Dining Room serves Sunday brunch, a Victorian tea, and dinner.
The boutique Jekyll Ocean Club opened last year. The 40 oceanfront suites accommodate either four to six guests. Suites range in size from 600 to 700 square feet. The on-site restaurant, Corsair Kitchen & Bar, serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Entertainment is offered on weekends.
We booked a wheelchair-accessible king suite at the Jekyll Ocean Club. The spacious bedroom in whites and beige provides a soothing retreat. A flat-screen television, mini-fridge, a small safe and storage are lined along one wall. The large bathroom has ample turning radius for a wheelchair and a roll-in shower has a free-standing bench.
A pocket door provides privacy between the bedroom and the sunlit living room with a bar, a coffee station with hefty mugs and a sink. The couch makes into a bed to accommodate additional guests. There’s another flat screen television as well as seating for six people. Two narrow, sliding-glass doors provide access to the patio and the manicured grounds.
Free Wi-Fi and a daily newspaper are appreciated perks. Guests of the hotel may use the fitness center at the hotel next door. The resort’s complimentary shuttle stops throughout the property, the Beach Village and Convention Center. The shuttle is not wheelchair accessible.
The hotel’s living room sits next to the restaurant.
Cozy up beside the fireplace with tons of seating and shelves filled with books and board games.
The restaurant’s windows face a swimming pool with an outdoor fire pit. Grab a s’mores kit and roast marshmallows under a starry sky.
On the resort grounds
Guests can take advantage of many activities on the property, including:
Bicycling: A favorite pastime on the island is bicycling the 20 miles of paved paths. A range of different type bike rentals are available hourly, daily and long-term.
Golf: The Island has four golf courses with 63 holes. Lessons, golf school, driving range and a pro shop are available at the Jekyll Island Golf Club.
Croquet: The Resort’s regulation greensward is a classic diversion.
Tennis: The Jekyll Island Tennis Center has 13 clay surface courts (7 are lighted) and a pro shop.
Beach services: Towels, umbrellas and beach chairs are complimentary for all resort guests.
History tours: Explore the 240-acre Historic District with a tour guide. Types of tours and cost vary. Jekyll Island Historic Tours & Gift Shop arrange the tours, call 912.635.4036.
Visitors to Jekyll Island can fish, ride horses, play miniature golf, shop, splash at Summer Waves Water Park, picnic and take a dolphin cruise.
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- The Island can be a romantic retreat for a couple or a fun multi-generational destination for families.
- Dining options range from casual to formal.
- A variety of retail shops and dining establishments can be found at Beach Village, two blocks from Jekyll Ocean Club.
- The Island offers four beach access points for those with physical disabilities: St. Andrews Beach, Great Dunes Park (crossover #32), Beach Village (crossover #38) and Glory Beach. The ramp at St. Andrews Beach reaches to the hard packed sand. Due to changing tides and shifting dunes, the mats at #32 and #38 do not always reach the hard packed sand.
- Beach wheelchairs are available for free with a photo ID on a first come, first served basis. Available from 9 am to 5 pm, call (912) 635-2368 for information. he Days Inn & Suites hotel also has a beach wheelchair.
- If possible, make dinner reservations in advance. Restaurants fill up fast.
IF YOU GO
Jekyll Ocean Club, a A Jekyll Island Club Resort
80 Ocean Way, Jekyll Island, Georgia 31527
All photo credits: Jim Twardowski (except lede photo).
Disclosure: The authors’ hotel stay was hosted by the Jekyll Island Club Resorts.