Southeast of Brunswick, and developed in the late 1880s as a private, members-only resort for New York multimillionaires, Jekyll Island now offers a chance for those not in control of a Fortune 500 company to enjoy a generous slice of Golden Isles life. Now owned by the state of Georgia, a grand hotel and dozens of palatial vacation “cottages” that would look equally at home in Newport, Rhode Island, are accessible to the general public after a long life spent catering to the richest of the rich.
At the center of the island, and the best place to start a visit, is the landmark Jekyll Island Club Hotel (855/535-9547, $189 and up). The very pleasant rooms here aren’t all that expensive, considering the luxury you’re swaddled in, and the setting is superb. Majestic oak trees dangling garlands of Spanish moss cover the 200-acre grounds, and within a short walk, many of the grand old mansions are now open for guided tours ($16 adults). The nearby stables have been converted into a nice museum (daily, free), which tells the whole Jekyll Island story.
One new development here has been the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (214 Stable Rd., 912/635-4444, $7 adults), housed in the old Jekyll Island power plant. This is one of the prime places for the study and rehabilitation of these lyrical swimmers, whose native habitats have been threatened by all the housing and resort development along the Atlantic shore.
Less than a mile east, the Atlantic oceanfront is lined by Beachview Drive and a five-mile-long beach—with the least developed stretches at the north and south ends of the island. Bike rentals (912/635-9801, $5/hr)—which really provide the best way to see the island—are available along Beachview Drive.