Just south of Savannah and an easy drive north from Jacksonville Florida’s airport lies beautiful, laid-back Jekyll Island, once the playground to such American business tycoon families as the Pulitzers and Rockefellers. Today Jekyll is a low-country playground offering family friendly fun.
My husband and I and our two daughters, ages 9 and 6, recently spent 5 nights and 6 days at the beautiful Jekyll Island Club. Although we could have easily spent all our time enjoying the club pool (which is heated year round) and its amazing view of the intracoastal and the beach, there are several family friendly attractions on the island. We loved exploring the beauty of this laid-back historic gem and our girls loved some of the more modern attractions.
Here are our 5 Family Favorites on Jekyll Island:
Summer Waves Water Park – A fantastic place to spend the day with kids of all ages and a nice mid-week vacation break from the beach (although, honestly, I never get tired of the beach!) The more chilled out wave pool and lazy river were my favorite attractions, while my husband and girls opted for some of the more thrilling water slides (there are six to choose from). There’s a nicely organized water play area for toddlers and preschoolers, several snack bars, and lockers for keeping belongings safe. Plus, with admission priced for kids (under 48 inches tall) at $15.95 and kids 3 and younger admitted free, it’s fairly reasonably priced fun if you make a day of it.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center – Although the center is small, I was thoroughly impressed with the amazing informational exhibits and the rehabilitation hospital for sea turtles (think MASH unit for turtles) located out back. Each turtle “patient” had a fully-detailed information chart describing their injury(ies). A plexi-glass window and monitors also offers visitors to the center incredible views of a sea turtle being examined by staff members. My girls walked away with amazing information about a sea turtle’s life cycle thanks to the well-organized hands-on exhibits, as well as turtle rehabilitation and conservation. Adopting a sea turtle is on our “must do” list.
Miniature Golf – Miniature golf is a favorite for our family when we vacation at the beach and I love that Jekyll Island’s family course is located across the street from the beach. Children ages 4 and younger are admitted free, making this another budget friendly activity for families vacationing on Jekyll.
Historic Tram Tour – No visit to Jekyll is complete without appreciating the fascinating history of the island. These open-air 90-minute tram tours held the interest of my kids and our guide was entertaining with his quips about family life on the beach back in its turn of the century heyday. With several stops along the way to break up the tour, the tram departs from the Jekyll Island Museum and includes an interesting look inside two of the historic cottages. If you’re thinking quaint tiny cottages, though, think again. The Indian Mound Cottage (circa 1892) purchased in 1904 by William Rockefeller, younger brother of John D. Rockefeller, for example, has 25 rooms.
Biking – With more than 20 miles of paved trails, biking is a great way for families to explore Jekyll, which is a mere 7miles or so long. Free bike path maps are available at the Jekyll Island Welcome Center and at the bike barn on Shell Rd. Rentals are available adjacent to the island’s miniature golf course and children’s playground. Although we didn’t rent a 4-person surrey, it’s on our “must do” list for a return visit!
Disclosure: The Jekyll Island Authority provided my family with complimentary passes for bike rentals as well as passes for the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and historic tram tour.