Jekyll Island Mixes History & Natural Beauty

By Stacey Zable

In 1888, Jekyll Island Club opened in coastal Georgia as an exclusive Gilded Age winter retreat for some of the country’s wealthiest families. William Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, plus the Vanderbilts and Astors were all members of the “Millionaire’s Club,” representing one-sixth of the world’s wealth at that time.

Today, guests to the 5,500 acre-Jekyll Island—a coastal barrier island midway between Jacksonville, Fla., and Savannah, Georgia—experience the same natural beauty that lured these wealthy families more than 130 years ago. Among the island’s accommodations is the 160-room Jekyll Island Club Resort, which includes the Queen Anne-style Clubhouse and three historic Island Cottages. A new addition in 2017, the 40-suite Jekyll Ocean Club, offers a modern beachfront option for guests. A complimentary shuttle runs between the two properties, enabling guests to share amenities.

A recent $25 million enhancement to the Jekyll Island Club Resort, a National Historic Landmark, mixes vintage and modern touches. The Clubhouse, with its turret and 19th-century-style croquet lawn in front, faces the Jekyll River, where the millionaires would arrive by boat and often in their yachts. (The island was only accessible by boat until 1954.) So, you can imagine these elite families entering the Clubhouse for their formal dinners in the still-stunning Grand Dining Room. The outdoor pool is the same one that the members swam in. And as you sit on the rocking chairs that dot the many wrap-around verandahs, you feel the stress of the outside world evaporate while enveloped by this fantastic place.

Accommodation choices for today’s guests include the Clubhouse and the Annex, now called the Wing, where guest rooms can consist of fireplaces and enclosed porches. Three of the former family cottages have been transformed to offer individual guest rooms. Wedding parties and extended family reunions can take over an entire cottage, including the 10-room Cherokee and 13-room Crane Cottage. What was once the island’s condominium housing six units, Sans Souci now offers twenty-four guest rooms. It’s another excellent choice for groups looking to take over an entire space.

Dining at the Jekyll Island Club Resort allows one to enjoy breakfast in the restored Victorian-style Grand Dining Room. Riverfront dining and live music on select nights at the over-the-water The Wharf combines an incredible sunset with Southern cuisine, seafood, and a casual vibe. The Pool House next to the outdoor pool offers alfresco dining on sandwiches, salads, burgers, and drinks. All-day café The Pantry features an excellent selection of made-to-order or grab-and-go items for breakfast and lunch to enjoy on the outdoor verandah or in the historic Dubignon Room. You can even get a Pantry Picnic for dining on the go, a tradition reminiscent of the times of the original members. The Club can suggest the best places for picnics on Jekyll Island, such as the Riverfront Lawn or under the large live oak in front of the historic Villa Mariana. Guests can sip evening cocktails near the Grand Dining Room at the beautiful, rounded bar, which also happens to be a replica of the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, filmed at the resort. 

On the other side of the island facing the Atlantic Ocean, the Jekyll Ocean Club is a solid contrast to the Jekyll Island Club with its modern luxury suites featuring a bedroom, living room, and balconies. At Jekyll Ocean Club, relaxation is built-in with the beach steps away and just lying beyond the Ocean Club Pool and Jacuzzi. Complimentary beach chair and umbrella services set up guests for a day of decompressing on the magnificent sands that run for miles in both directions. Eighty Ocean Kitchen and Bar near the pool provides Lowcountry coastal cuisine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Following a day spent at either property, the dining venue is also a good spot for drinks and toasting the luxury of being a part of this unique world.  For more information on Jekyll Club, visit

Jekyll Island is a state park home to the 240-acre National Historic Landmark District. Take the Landmark Trolley Tour, which offers an excellent overview of the island’s history; it includes entry into one of the historic cottages, the Faith Chapel, and the Mosaic, the Jekyll Island Museum. Bike rentals are available for exploring some of the twenty miles of paths and trails. For golfers, there’s The Golf Club boasts sixty-three holes on four courses. The Tennis Center has 13 Har-Tru clay courts. There’s also Driftwood Beach, home to eerie petrified driftwood trees, including whole fossilized trees. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an education and rehabilitation facility perfect for kids. Finally, summer Waves Water Park (open seasonally) and miniature golf offer more family fun.

For more information on Jekyll Island, visit 

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