A beach is a beach, right? You’ve been to them a million times. Sand, surf, sun. They’re all the same. Not at Jekyll Island on the Georgia coast. This barrier island offers visitors several different beach environments, each of them perfect in their own way. Georgia beaches are known for their environmental diversity and resulting beauty. Our Inquisitive TravelingMom ventured away from the most touristy beach and found that all beaches are not created equal.
The Diverse Beaches of Georgia’s Jekyll Island
Laid-back Jekyll Island is a favorite destination for my family. We were lucky enough to stay at the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel one summer and they provide excellent service from their pavilion on Great Dunes Beach. My spoiled self took advantage of that and didn’t see the need to go anywhere else. On our most recent visit back, though, we were there on a day trip and up for exploring more of what the island had to offer.
Great Dunes Beach
The most visited beach on Jekyll Island by far is Great Dunes Beach. It covers twenty acres and provides all the facilities a family could need. Bathrooms, picnic pavilions and plenty of parking are all available at this location. For recreation, an activities deck is provided in addition to bocce ball and volleyball courts.
There are plenty of restaurants nearby and most of the hotels on the island are closest to this beach. Families can spend the entire day here and have no reason to wander elsewhere! Pets are welcome but must be on a leash at all times.
To me, Driftwood Beach is more of a “doing” beach. Oh, trust me, I sat on my towel and enjoyed a beach read while I soaked up some sun. So many people around me, though, were busily employed. With its driftwood monuments, this Jekyll Island landmark serves up all-natural family fun.
My kids spent a good amount of time looking for hermit crabs in the tide pools. They were joined by a plethora of other kids and those poor crabs didn’t stand a chance. When they tired of that, they took to climbing the driftwood. After that? Well, the multi-functional trees make a really good spot to tie up a hammock and take a rest. Pets on leash are also allowed at this beach.
St. Andrews Beach
Near the southern-most tip of Jekyll Island, St. Andrews Beach is near the marshland area of the island. As a consequence, the wildlife that make up this area is different. If you are a bird-watcher, St. Andrews Beach is your spot. A two-story wildlife viewing platform is available for your viewing and photography needs.
Also available at St. Andrews Beach is a shady picnic area with plenty of picnic tables and restroom facilities. This quiet spot is perfect for families that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Great Dunes Beach. One caveat, though, is that since you are closer to the trees and plant life on this beach, there are more bugs. The beach is beautiful, but plan to bring insect repellent with you.
The Wanderer Memorial on Jekyll Island
Also located on St. Andrews Beach is a memorial to the slave ship The Wanderer. The ship brought African slaves to the coast of Jekyll Island in 1858, roughly 50 years after importation of slaves was outlawed. The captain and crew were prosecuted but the federal government failed to obtain a conviction.
The story of The Wanderer and its people is told on panels surrounding the memorial. Although this looks like fun for kids to climb, please make sure your kids refrain from doing so. This is an art installation and should be treated with the respect of any other memorial.
South Dunes Beach
Located near the Summer Waves Water Park, this beach will garner you views of 20 foot dunes. There is an observation deck and a freshwater pond. Similar to St. Andrews Beach, the freshwater pond provides the opportunity to view wildlife species unique to this area of the island.
South Dunes Beach offers picnic areas with grills. Both open-air and screened-in pavilions make this beach a great choice for families that might want varied options for their relaxing day! However, you’ll have to keep pets at home since this beach is a bird sanctuary.
On your next trip to Jekyll Island, don’t settle for just one beach! Spend a few days exploring the rich and diverse ecosystems that are alive and well on Jekyll Island.