If you’re thinking Gulf Coast beaches, think Georgia. Georgia may not have a long coast, but what it has is absolutely beautiful. And one of the very best beaches is the 10-mile stretch of beach on Jekyll Island, a barrier island off Georgia’s Gulf Coast.
Historically Jekyll Island was a winter resort and playground for the rich and famous, but now “Georgia’s Jewel” is open to everyone. The 240 acres that encompassed the old resort is a National Historic Landmark, and is the largest such landmark undergoing restoration. But, the Historic District isn’t all construction; it has shops and restaurants, and it’s decorated in a 19th century style. Guides are dressed accordingly.
If lying on the beach and soaking up the sun isn’t enough, put on your walking shoes and take a nature walk. You can go solo, or you can take a tour with an experienced guide from the Tidelands Nature Center. You may see some of the island’s loggerhead turtles, who bury their eggs on the beaches and dunes from May through August. They’re a protected species, and their nests are flagged by the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. If you see a disturbed nest, or an unflagged one, let the Georgia Sea Turtle Center know.
Another great way to see the island and its many specimens of wildlife is by canoe or kayak. You can rent one and slide through the protected salt marshes and estuaries, and see birds, fish, dolphins and more. Be sure to bring a jacket in fall or winter, as it can get cool out on the water, and don’t forget a good-sized tote to carry your camera, notebooks, water and snacks.
Jekyll Island’s beach is divided into three named parts: north, middle, and south. You can park at the middle beach, and public restrooms are also available there. The north beach has an access ramp, but no parking or amenities and access to the south beach is a long boardwalk over the fragile and scenic oat grass covered dunes. Whichever you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy the soft white sand and the Georgia Coast sunshine.