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Whether you want to do some birdwatching, walk on unique beaches, play golf, or see where the millionaires used to play in the early 20th century, Jekyll Island offers all that and more with just a quick drive south and across the Sidney Lanier Bridge. This 55,000-acre island owned by the State of Georgia boasts approximately 10 miles of beaches and 22 miles of walking/biking trails. By legislative mandate, 65% of the island must remain in its natural state to preserve its ecosystem as a barrier island.

Guided nature walks are an excellent way to be introduced to the natural beauty of Jekyll Island. The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center offers scheduled nature walks from March through October and nature walks by appointment year-round. Reservations are required. For more information, call 912.635.5032 or visit georgia4h.org and choose 4-H Tidelands Nature Center under the 4-H Centers tab. Tidelands also offers an Exhibit Gallery, open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., where visitors can see live animals native to the Georgia coast including fish, stingrays, crabs, snakes, alligators, gopher tortoises, and turtles.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is a must-see for anyone visiting Jekyll Island for the first time. Approximately 150,000 visitors pass through the doors of Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation center annually and GSTC has provided care for more than 3,000 patients of different sea turtle species and other coastal wildlife. The center, now under the leadership of director Michelle Kaylor, is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and offers the public an opportunity to learn about sea turtles through interactive exhibits and see rehabilitation in action with patients in large tanks and a view into the hospital area. The center also hosts behind the scenes tours and summer beach programs that include dawn and night patrol ride-alongs as well as sunrise and evening turtle walks. The beach programs will resume in June. For more information about the center, visit jekyllisland.com/gtsc. This spring you can support the work of GSTC by participating in the Turtle Crawl Race 5K, 10K, or 1K Fun Run on April 27. Registration is now open at runsignup.com. 

A visit to Horton Pond is another terrific way to spot some wildlife in its natural habitat. This popular spot for observing alligators, turtles, ducks, and a wide array of birds is always a great place to bring your camera. Many of the pond’s occupants can often be seen sunning themselves on the platform or floating lazily across the water.

While Great Dunes Beach and the Beach Village shopping and dining area draw families looking for a day of fun in the sun and surf, Driftwood Beach is the most recognized beach on Jekyll Island. Often called “nature’s sculpture garden,” Driftwood Beach is a unique stretch of shoreline with skeletal trees rising from the sand. While this spot is popular for weddings, photographers, and other visitors any time of day, it’s even more magical at night for stargazing opportunities.

A stroll through the Historic District will take you to the always picturesque Jekyll Island Club Resort with its croquet lawn and immaculate grounds. The rooms and interior at the resort have been newly refreshed and they are excited to be reopening the Grand Dining Room and The Wharf with fresh new menus. Learn more about the island’s past and the cottages built in Millionaire Village during the Jekyll Island Club’s heyday by visiting Mosaic, the Jekyll Island museum, and taking a Landmark Trolley Tour or ride in style in a 1930s Model T replica like one of the original Club members in a private Millionaire Motorcar Tour.

Don’t miss Goodyear Cottage in the Historic District. This is the home of Jekyll Island Arts Association and the site where the 49th Annual Jekyll Island Arts Festival will take place Friday, March 8 through Sunday, March 10. This free, family-friendly festival includes a juried art show in the gallery, festival and pottery sales, daily artist demonstrations, interactive DIY youth and adult art opportunities, food vendors, bake sale, raffle, and music. The juried art will remain on display in the gallery through March 30. As part of the festival, the Jekyll Island Car Show will be held on Saturday, March 9 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and is open to all makes and models. For more information, visit jekyllartists.com or email jekyllartists@gmail.com.

If that isn’t enough, there are four golf courses, a mini-golf course, and the Summer Waves water park open to provide wet and wild fun for the family during the summer. And while we’ve suggested Jekyll Island as a day trip destination, there’s nothing to say you can’t stay longer!

Jekyll Island originally posted on by Elegant Island Living magazine.

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