Best Budget Beach Vacation: Jekyll Island, Georgia

Would you like to vacation in the footsteps of the terribly rich without spending a fortune? Jekyll Island, off the Georgia Coast, may be the destination for you. Now owned by the State of Georgia, Jekyll Island was once a playground for folks with names like Morgan, Vanderbilt and Pulitzer. Today it offers a variety of family fun to all at a very reasonable price. Consider these options:


The one time haunts of the rich and famous are now the Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District. The original clubhouse has been preserved and is open to the public, as is the Faith Chapel with its gargoyles and stained glass. The primary attraction, though, is the assortment of “cottages” built by Northern industrialists as winter homes, including the Goodyear Cottage, Sans Souci, and Crane Cottage. Certain venues are available as rentals.

The ruined 18th Century Horton House was once the home of Jekyll Island’s original settlers. The building demonstrates the unique tabby construction of coastal buildings of the period, using a concrete formed of oyster shells along with lime, sand and water. The adjoining cemetery holds the graves of several generations of islanders.

Outdoor Activities

Jekyll Island’s primary attraction, of course, is ten miles of sugary beaches. Perfect for swimming, strolling and sunbathing, Jekyll’s sands frequently offer a bumper crop of seashells as well. Parking areas and restrooms, which are also used as changing rooms, occur at intervals all along the beach.

Bicycling is a popular activity on the single ring road that circles Jekyll Island just behind the beaches. Bring your own bike or rent one on the island. The road is flat and shaded at almost all points, but be prepared to share it with motorized traffic since except for a few short cross streets this is literally the only road on Jekyll Island

Golf enthusiasts will find an embarrassment of riches on Jekyll Island. There are no less than three eighteen hole courses available, as well as the historic nine hole course. Jekyll Island golf is a bargain, too: the $45 fee for eighteen holes includes a cart rental.

The award winning tennis center provides thirteen clay courts. Group and private instruction is available, or the staff can set up a pick up game for a lone player. On Saturdays junior clinics are available.


The Georgia Sea Turtle Center provides emergency care and long term treatment to injured reptiles, primarily sea turtles, and hosts long-term research as well. Explore the informative exhibits, and be sure to download the podcasts for the self-guided tour from their website before you go. In summer the center also offers turtle walks and nest walks.

The University of Georgia 4-H Tidelands Nature Center is the place to be for hands-on marine science experiences. Reptiles, birds and invertebrates are featured in the center’s exhibit spaces. Children will especially enjoy the “touch tanks.” Outside, nature walks and guided kayak tours introduce the visitor to the unique environment of the coastal barrier islands. Be aware that the center does not take credit cards, only cash, checks or traveller’s checks.

Jekyll Island also offers lodging, dining and shopping, of course, although many visitors pursue these activities in the nearby communities of Brunswick or St. Simon’s Island. For an inexpensive beach vacation on the southern Atlantic coast, Jekyll Island cannot be beat.