Is Jekyll Island worth Visiting?

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Historic Jekyll Island, once the winter playground of the rich and famous, is now a playground for everyday people, like you and me. Developed during the Gilded Age to give rich industrialists a place to escape harsh northern winters, people today visit to enjoy the activities on Jekyll Island that entertain the whole family!

So, if you’ve been wondering is Jekyll Island worth visiting, we hope this guide convinces you that it is!

Where is Jekyll Island?

Jekyll Island is one of the barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, on the Atlantic Ocean. Together with St. Simons Island and Sea Island, this group is known as Georgia’s Golden Isles.

It’s about an hour from Jacksonville and 90 minutes away from Savannah, Georgia. Read our Savannah travel tips, and pair a few days there with a weekend at Jekyll Island for a fabulous vacation!

Almost 65% of Jekyll Island is protected from development, so there’s lots of natural beauty to enjoy, and there aren’t a lot of crowds! It’s easy to explore the island by car or on the Jekyll Island bike trails. And, because it’s essentially a state park, visitors pay a $10 daily admission fee to enter the island.

Budget tip: That ticket is good until midnight each day. You do not have to pay if you come and go multiple times during the day.

Activities on Jekyll Island

There are so many things to do in Jekyll Island, for any interest, making it one of our top picks for a multigenerational family vacation! The wide variety of activities on Jekyll Island and the many free things to do on Jekyll Island make it easy to plan a vacation here.

Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island

By far, my favorite of all activities on Jekyll Island is exploring Driftwood Beach!

Teenager sitting on petrified wood at Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island.

When people ask me what I consider a must see in the United States, Driftwood Beach makes the top ten list! Easily!

On the northeastern end of the island, Driftwood Beach was formed by the relentless wash of the sea of the trunks and branches of trees. The salty water killed the trees which are now petrified and sun-bleached. These trees have created an other-worldly playground of curled branches, sun-dried and strong, that beg to be climbed, sat on, and photographed. Be sure to look close foro critters that have made homes among the roots.

  • Check the Jekyll Island Tide Chart before your visit, and plan to visit during low tide.
  • Wear close toed shoes good for climbing.
  • Before letting kids splash in the small pools of water, remember this is a dog friendly beach.
  • Bring bug spray!
  • Please respect the beauty of this place so others can enjoy it too (don’t carve your initials in the wood, etc).

Read our complete review to plan your visit to Driftwood Beach Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island Bike Rentals

With miles of easy Jekyll Island bike trails, the best way to explore is with Jekyll Island Bike Rentals! There are several bike rental locations, including the convenient option to rent at local hotels.

Girl on pink bike with black hoodie and helmet.

Jekyll Island bike rentals offer hourly, daily, multi-day and weekly bike rentals. The prices in 2024 begin at about $6/hour and $20/day. A full week bike rental is about $60. Helmets are included with all Jekyll Island bike rentals, and participants must sign a liability waiver to participate.

For a fun alternative, Beachside Bike Rentals offers surrey bikes (for a few hours, multi-day).

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is one of the most popular things do to do in Jekyll Island. Admission to the turtle center includes the museum exhibition area, a viewing window of the sea turtle hospital, and access to the rehabilitation tanks where you can watch the rehabilitating sea turtles swim, eat and sleep.

The museum’s educational center explains the elements of sea turtle life: egg, gender, habitat, health and life span. Hands on exhibits, amazing visuals and helpful staff make learning about the life of sea turtles — and the risks they face — quite memorable. Education is definitely the focus, with the hope that people will be more considerate of the sea turtle habitat and their behaviors.

We found the window to the sea turtle hospital to be the most interesting. The hospital staff weighed and measured turtles, treated their wounds and damaged shells, and other things, all while we looked on. Information about the turtle being treated — age, how it was injured, etc. — was included so we could “know” the patient.

Caregiver treating a malnourished sea turtle at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, one of the most interesting activities in Jekyll Island.

Placards explain who the patient is and how they are being treated. The turtle in the photo above is malnourished and his shell is weak and peeling as a result. He’s being treated with a special, syringe-fed diet and his shell is debrided and cleaned daily. Hopefully, he will be able to eat on his own again soon and be returned to the wild within a few months.

The last area at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center is the rehabilitation space, where visitors can watch the turtles in rehab. One guy had an amputated leg and was learning how to swim without it. Another turtle was rescued after birth when she didn’t make it to the ocean with the rest of her siblings. She’s just hanging out and growing until the next turtle release. Many others were there with shell injuries — the most common issue turtles face.

  • Address: 214 Stable Road
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Most visits last 2-3 hours.)
  • Cost (2024): $11 (ages 13+) and $9 (ages 4-12). Purchase tickets online for your reserved timed entry admission!

Jekyll Island Dolphin Tours

The protected waters around the area are home to one of the largest populations of bottlenose dolphins in the world. On your 90 minute dolphin tour, expect to see dolphins, sea turtles, manatees (sometimes), egrets, herons, osprey and other wildlife. The boats are US Coast Guard certified for up to 49 passengers, and offer some sun protection and a clean bathroom for guest use — important to know when traveling with kids!

Jekyll Island dolphin tour.

To plan your Jekyll Island dolphin tour:

  • Address: 366 Riverview Drive at the Historic Jekyll Island Wharf
  • Know before you go: ARRIVE 20 minutes before your tour time to check in!
  • Tickets (2024): Ages 16+, $25; Ages 4-15, $15; Under 4, FREE. Tickets often sell out, so purchase online in advance to guarantee your seat!

Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island

We visited in March, so the water park wasn’t yet open for the season. But, that doesn’t mean my kids didn’t notice it! The bright slides of Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island caught their attention, several times! I know they would have loved it.

A variety of rides and attractions will entertain kids for hours and help them beat the hot summer heat! The most exciting thrill at Summer Waves Water Park on Jekyll Island is Pirate’s Passage, a 5-story tall, enclosed tower slide that takes tubers for an exciting thrill ride. This is a double tube ride, which I think I would need — for courage!

I think I’d enjoy the Turtle Creek lazy river, a half mile long float in a tube! And, for the ultimate indulgence, rent a cabana for the day. Prices begin at $125/weekdays.

For little kids, the Splash Zone has shooting water, a giant bucket to soak kids, and other zero entry fun.

  • Address: 210 S. Riverview Drive
  • Operating Season: Weekends in May, August and Labor Day Weekend. Daily from Memorial Day to July 31.
  • Admission (2024): Monday-Thursday, $25 for ages 4+; $28 Friday-Sunday. Season passes are $80. Purchase tickets online to skip the ticket counter.

Jekyll Island Club Tours

Jekyll Island Club, which was developed in the late 1800s for the likes of the Rockefellers and Morgans, during the “Gilded Age.” Most of the homes built back then have been carefully preserved, used today as vacation rentals, museums, art galleries and other shops.

Cottage stop on the Jekyll Island Club Tours.

A great way to learn the history of the Jekyll Island Club is by trolley tour. These guided trolley tours last about 60 minutes and offer a look back into the Gilded Age. Tickets include admission to a historic cottage, the Mosaic Gallery and Faith Chapel.

For more details, read about our experience on the Jekyll Island Club Tour.

  • Address: Jekyll Island Museum, 100 Stable Road.
  • Hours: Vary seasonally.
  • Tickets (2024): $20 for adults, $10 for children ages 4-12, free for children 4 and under.
  • Purchase: Purchase tickets online. We recommend you purchase in advance as tickets sell out regularly, even in the “off season.”

Faith Chapel

Faith Chapel tours are included in the price of historic tours on Jekyll Island, but you can visit separately if you prefer.

Faith Chapel, built in the gothic style  for the exclusive use of club members of all faiths, reminded me more of a northeastern hunting lodge with gothic decorations — but that’s just me.

When you visit, you will learn the history of the chapel, see gargoyles and the signed Tiffany stained glass window, as well as learn about the luminous Armstrong window. The Armstrong window was my favorite element — by far!

Check the website for admission hours and ticket information.

Stained glass window at Faith Chapel on Jekyll Island in Georgia, depicting baby Jesus and the three wise men.

Horton House Ruins

On Riverview Drive (by car) or the North Loop Trail (by bike), near DuBignon Cemetery, you’ll find the Horton House. This well-marked landmark, sits right at the road and is hard to miss!

Collage of photos of the Horton House ruins in Georgia.

Horton House dates back to 1742 and was built by Major William Horton who lived on the island during the British colonial period. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the State of Georgia. It was made of tabby, a mix of oyster shells, lime and water that harden like cement. The wide walls helped keep the house cool in summer and warm in winter.

Despite its missing roof, windows and doors, Horton House inspires the imagination. If you visit, ask the kids where the fireplace might have been or how many bedrooms they think the house had. Information boards at the site help answer those questions.

  • This roadside attraction is free and always open.
  • Prepare for the bugs!

Other activities on Jekyll Island

In addition to the things to do on Jekyll Island highlighted here, there are loads of activities for families to enjoy — whatever their interest.


Golfers can get their fill on the three 18-hole golf courses on Jekyll Island. The Pine Lakes Course is uniquely suited to families or players of varying skills, with family friendly tee boxes to adjust the difficulty of each hole for experienced and novice players to enjoy together.

Mini Golf

We enjoyed this course, twice, when we went! Jekyll Island Mini Golf is located near Great Dunes Park, and offers two courses, one for beginners and one for the more advanced. The courses are well-lit and lots of fun!

  • Address: Located at the corner of N. Beachview Dr. and Shell Rd.
  • Hours: Vary by season.
  • Admission (2024): Ages 11+, $8/game; Ages 5-10, $6/game; Under 5, free with paying adult.
  • Discounts: Enjoy 1/2 price replay in the same day or all day play for $20 (ages 11+) and $15 (ages 5-10).

Horseback Riding

One of the most popular activities on Jekyll Island is horseback riding on the beach, provided by Three Oaks Farm. Offering rides 365 days a year, with group sizes up to 20 riders, participants must be at least age 5 to participate. And, it’s one rider per horse.

They also offer private rides for just you or your travel group and sunset rides. All horseback rides include a beach ride.

  • Address for tour start: 6 Clam Creek Road
  • Reservations (2024): Reserve your ride online. Public rides begin at $68. Sunset rides and private rides are higher.

Kayaking and Paddleboarding

There are several places where you can rent kayaks and paddleboards. For guided tours, though, we recommend 4-H Tidelands Nature Center. Offering coastal ecology programs, 4-H Tidelands Nature Center’s guided kayak tours are informative, providing an awareness, knowledge and appreciation for the Golden Isles coastal ecosystems. They also have a coastal species exhibit gallery, which features live marine animals of coastal Georgia, which kids might enjoy.

  • Address: 100 S. Riverview Drive
  • Reservations: Make reservations by phone (yes, even in 2024) at (912) 635-5032.
  • Hours: Tours are offered throughout the year Monday through Saturday.
  • Rates (2024): Guided kayak tour rates begin at $65. If you bring your own kayak, tours begin at $45. Admission to the Tidelands Nature Center is $5.

You can also rent kayaks and paddleboards, or take tours, at Golden Isles Paddle Company.

Where to stay on Jekyll Island

Now that I’ve piqued your interest with all the great things to do in Jekyll Island, where should you stay when you visit?

That’s another great thing about a vacation here! There are lots of lodging options for whatever you need. For weekend getaways, I recommend hotel stay. But, if you’re visiting for a week or planning a multigenerational trip, consider a vacation home rental.

Our favorite Jekyll Island hotels

The most popular hotels offer the hotel perks that make a vacation better, like free breakfast, free wifi, and free parking. Compare oceanfront hotels and those close to the activities to find the best option.

Holiday Inn Jekyll Island

The Holiday Inn Jekyll Island at 711 North Beachview Drive is an oceanfront resort hotel with traditional hotel rooms, expansive two-room suites, and most with fabulous ocean views. Other amenities include an outdoor pool and hot tub, fire pits, an exercise room and convenient, onsite restuarants. We stayed here on our last visit to Jekyll Island and appreciated the space, friendly staff and location.

Collage of images from the Holiday Inn Jekyll Island, bed, playground, exercise room and outdoor firepit.
  • Book your room: Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island
  • Address: 711 North Beachview Drive
  • Amenities: Free parking, free WiFi, pools, hot tubs, playground, fitness center, bike rentals, tour reservations, restaurants.
  • PETS ALLOWED in select rooms, additional fee applies.

Westin Jekyll Island

The Westin Jekyll Island Beach Resort at 110 Ocean Way is an upscale, beachfront hotel near the Jekyll Island Convention Center, golf, restaurants and most attractions. The hotel offers upscale amenities, free WiFi, free self-parking ($15 daily for valet), golf, health club, children’s club (fee), outdoor pool and bike rentals. There’s also a free shuttle to local attractions.

Guests of the Westin Jekyll Island Beach Resort love its upscale amenities, easy beach and convention center access, golf course and location.

  • Book your room: Westin Jekyll Island Beach Resort
  • Address: 110 Ocean Way
  • Amenities: Golf, WiFi, Free Parking, onsite restaurant, children’s club, pool, fitness center.

Home2 Suites Jekyll Island

Another great option is the Home2 Suites Jekyll Island at 101 Ocean Way. Offering free breakfast daily, this is a budget stretching option for family vacations! Your stay here also includes free onsite parking, free WiFi, and an outdoor pool. Some rooms have a balcony to enjoy the ocean views! Pets are welcome for a fee.

Guests of the hotel rate it quite highly, particularly for the friendly staff, great breakfast and comfortable accommdations.

  • Book your room: Home2 Suites Jekyll Island
  • Address: 101 Ocean Way
  • Amenities: Free breakfast, free parking, free WiFi, outdoor pool, beach access
  • NOTE: Highly rated for a couples getaway!

Jekyll Island Club Resort

Of course, there’s the historic Jekyll Island Club Resort, the hotel that started it all. The resort offers a wide variety of rooms and suites, so there’s bound to be one that fits your needs. This historic hotel is certified eco-friendly, offering historic charm with modern efficiency. Amenities include 36 holes of golf, free beach shuttles, outdoor pool with loungers and beach umbrellas, free parking (valet available), electric car charging stations and bathrobes in each room. This hotel is pet friendly, welcoming furry family for a fee.

Climbing a live oak tree covered in spanish moss at the Jekyll Island Club Resort.

Guests choose this hotel for its unique accommodations, old style charm, friendly staff and beautiful resort. One reviewer said, “The Jekyll Island Club is like stepping back into the Gilded Age with wi-fi and gas fireplaces.” Yes, old meets new in all the best ways.

  • Book your room: Jekyll Island Club Hotel
  • Address: 371 Riverview Drive
  • Amenities: Free parking, free WiFi, Outdoor pool with loungers and umbrellas, free beach shuttle, golf, restaurants and charm.

Vacation home rentals

Our first visit was a multi-generational trip with extended family. We stayed in a vacation rental near the beach with lots of space. For multi-generational travel, more than one family vacationing together, or girls getaways, we recommend vacation homes for where to stay on Jekyll Island.

At this time, there are 342 houses, 78 condos, and other vacation rentals offered for where to stay on Jekyll Island. Search vacation homes to find one with the size you need, the amenities you want, and the best location for your vacation getaway. There are so many options in so many price points, you’re sure to find the perfect getaway for your family or group.

Restaurants on Jekyll Island

There are several restaurants on Jekyll Island, clustered near the hotels and attractions on the island.

We got lunch at Tortuga Jacks, a Mexican restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining and live entertainment that is dog friendly. They have two restaurants on the island. The food was great, with bike parking just outside the door!

Another popular option is Driftwood Bistro, a locally owned restaurant serving “low country” cuisine, but not just shrimp and grits! Their meatloaf, with your choice of red or brown gravy, is amazing! This award winning restaurant is considered one of Georgia’s Best 100 Plates and the Best of the Golden Isles.

But, I have to admit, we find ourselves driving a bit to enjoy the St. Simons restaurants nearby. So, enjoy the options close to your hotel, but head to St. Simons for dinner at least once during your stay. You won’t regret it!

Is Jekyll Island worth visiting?

So, back to the question that started this whole post: Is Jekyll Island worth visiting?

There are lots of things to do in Jekyll Island, but it’s not the place you go for a wild and crazy vacation. The activities on Jekyll Island are a throw back to the Gilded Age: biking, hiking, boating and golfing.

We think it’s a spectacular choice for families, multi-generational trips and for couples’ getaways. When you go, head to Driftwood Beach and climb the fallen trees, take a bike ride around the perimeter loop, and spend long, lazy days on the beach. Enjoy the slower pace this island offers, with or without the dog. It’s a throwback to another age, when life was slow and time together was sweet.