Our spring break trip to Jekyll Island

22 April 2021

After scouring the lower half of the Eastern Seaboard, we landed on Jekyll Island, Georgia for our spring break this year. Another blogger’s post was actually what made me look at it in the first place, so I’m happy to return the favor today! Though the island was largely what we were expecting, there were some things that I didn’t fully understand until arriving, so I hope this post is helpful for anyone considering a trip to Jekyll. The short version: it was delightful!

Jekyll Island is a small barrier island in very far south Georgia. It’s actually a state park, which surprised me (I guess I didn’t expect that, since there are hotels, shops, and homes on the island!). This means you have to pay a daily fee before crossing over the bridge (when we visited, it was $8/day), but it surely helps maintain its vibe, which is natural, relaxed, and un-crowded. There was abundant natural beauty and enough activities to keep our young family busy for a 5-day trip, but no traffic and very few lines. A win all around in our book!

From the Triangle, Jekyll is about a six-hour drive, which we decided to break up with an overnight stop in Beaufort, SC (one of our favorite small Southern towns!). We stayed once again at City Loft Hotel, which is perfectly COVID-friendly – it’s a restored roadside motel, so every room opens to the breezeway. The affordable suite we booked allowed our kids to have a separate room with a shared queen bed, which was a little wild settling in the first night, but actually totally fine after that.

Our brief Beaufort stay included a horse-drawn carriage ride, a pizza dinner at Hearth (we ate outside but the interior looks very cool!), ice cream on the riverfront swings, breakfast at Lowcountry Produce (right across the road from City Loft!), a leisurely stroll around the Point historic district (right behind City Loft, and my favorite part), and time at the riverfront playground. I will always advocate for a stop in Beaufort if it’s on your way!

On to Jekyll Island! We booked it for the beach immediately after arriving. Freedooooooom!

We stayed at the Jekyll Ocean Club, a sister property with the Jekyll Island Club. We considered both, but decided on the Ocean Club because we wanted to be close to the beach and the Ocean Club is made up entirely of suites. I think I drove John nuts in the lead-up to our trip because I could NOT for the life of me remember which one we were staying at, but in reality, they are very different properties.

The Ocean Club is modern and casual in feel (it opened in 2017). Like I mentioned, it’s all suites (great for traveling families!), and every room looks out at the ocean. The view we had is above!

The bottom floor is made up of a large lounge area and the resort restaurant, Eighty Ocean. Windowed, garage-style doors roll up to walk out to the pool, and then the beach is just a short walk over the boardwalk from there. The Ocean Club is set in the “hotel district,” so it shares a parking lot and is in close proximity to several other large hotels, like the Westin and a Home2 Suites by Hilton.

The Island Club, on the other hand, is a historic property. It was built in 1888, and reopened as a hotel in 1987. It looks like an elegant yellow castle (complete with turret!) set on sprawling grounds and surrounded by azaleas, historic homes, and huge live oaks draped with Spanish moss. The hotel is bordered on one side by the river and horse-drawn carriages roll by regularly :)

Though it’s elegant and historic (there’s a legit croquet course on the front lawn!), it also felt family-friendly to us – there were lots of multigenerational groups enjoying the pool and restaurants, and kids riding their balance bikes along the fern-lined porches. (Sea Island, another barrier island right above Jekyll, felt a bit more stuffy to us when we visited a few years ago.)

Dotted around the Island Club are a number of historic “cottages,” some of which are available to stay in, as well. I could be wrong, but I don’t *believe* there are any suites in the Island Club.

The nice thing is that because they’re sister properties, as a guest at either, you can access the amenities of both. This was especially helpful during our visit, because during COVID most of the property restaurants were only open to hotel guests. But, even if you visit Jekyll Island and don’t stay at either property, you can still walk the lovely grounds, which I would highly recommend doing! The Ocean Club and the Island Club are less than a five-minute drive apart.

We visited in late March, and the weather ranged from a high of 55 one day (!) to a high of 80. We lucked out with sunshine and blue skies most days, but because it’s on the coast, definitely remember to pack your sweatshirt no matter what time of year you visit!

Here are a few of the activities we enjoyed during our stay:

The beach! The beach at Jekyll is expansive in all directions, and never felt even a bit crowded. We didn’t go in the water much, but our kids had a great time building sandcastles and just generally digging :) Hotel guests can request beach chairs, towels, and umbrellas be set up without an extra fee, and between not having to pile everything into the car or lug heavy equipment to and fro, beach trips were SO easy. We could pop down for even just a half hour without it feeling like a burden!

My maternity swimsuit is from Kindred Bravely – I love it!

One cool thing: we were able to walk out to a crazy sandbar one afternoon! John and June are at least a football field away from the shore in this photo.

My favorite hat from Tuckernuck!

The pool! This was most definitely the highlight of the trip for June. We stuck to the pool at the Ocean Club, which was family-centric but not wild. She took a dip almost every day, even the 55 degree one :) There are fire pits at both pools, too, where we had s’mores one night. Pro tip: though they have s’mores supplies for purchase, it would be easy and MUCH less cost-prohibitive to bring your own if you knew you’d want to make them on multiple nights.

One morning we visited the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which is basically on the property of the Island Club. We waited about 45 minutes to get inside, likely because of a triple-threat combo of gray weather, it being spring break, and limited capacity due to COVID. This would not have been a huge issue, but the no-see-ums were out in FORCE, which was a bit challenging – though the only time we were bothered by bugs!

Once inside, our kids enjoyed peeking into the treatment room, where you can watch vets and volunteers care for injured and sick turtles; looking at the kid-friendly info displays; and visiting the hospital pavilion behind the center, where you can stand on an elevated platform and see into tanks holding rehabilitating turtles (volunteers share stories and infos with you there, too!).

We were conflicted on how many days we should rent bikes, but in the end, we went with just one day, which ended up being perfect for our family (currently, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old). We opted to bring June’s bike with us, because it was easier to pack and already perfectly sized for her, and rented bikes for both John and me. Shep rode in a bike seat on John’s bike, which we also rented. (All from Jekyll Wheels, also on the Island Club property.)

We ended up taking a mammoth 10.5 mile bike ride on the day we rented, in a big loop from the Island Club out to Driftwood Beach and back. This was June’s first time ever riding a bike alongside us, as opposed to us on foot, and I’m as surprised as you she made it that far! This was only possible because Jekyll Island appears to be 100% flat, so it makes for very easy riding. Driftwood Beach was totally worth visiting – and easy to park at if you don’t want to bike there! :)

Our other big adventure was an afternoon trip to Cumberland Island. It’s another barrier island about 45 minutes south of Jekyll, and verrrrrrrrrry longtime readers might remember that John and I took a spring break trip there in college! It was fun to return after 12 years with our two (and counting) kiddos, and both enjoyed the ferry ride and the abundant wild horses. (We saw around 30 in just a quick loop, so if you’re going for the horses, you probably won’t be disappointed!)

We opted to go out on the 11:45 ferry and come back on the 2:45. We were worried it would be too short, but it ended up being great for the short legs we were traveling with :)

A quick rundown of the dining options we tried:

Eighty Ocean: This is the on-site restaurant of the Ocean Club. We had breakfast here about half of our days, and it was delicious! Very yummy pancakes :) We also ate dinner here three nights, and while it is upscale, there were always lots of kids. It’s also easy to burn off a little energy on the pool patio or rooftop deck nearby (above) while waiting for your meal, if needed :) For COVID-consciousness, we were able to be seated on the screened porch area for all of our meals.

The Pantry: This is a grab-and-go market with a menu of sandwiches, flatbread pizzas, and salads on the property of the Island Club. We had breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert here during our stay. The expansive covered porch just outside, above, is a lovely place to eat your meal!

The Wharf: This is a pier stretching into the river, also on the Island Club property. They have indoor and outdoor options, though we only experienced the outdoor. Live music some nights!

The Pool House: As the name suggests, this is an open-air restaurant at the Island Club pool. We ate lunch here twice and it’s a lovely spot!

The Grand Dining Room: I reeeeeeeally wanted to have afternoon tea on the porch of the Island Club, but sadly it was not being offered due to COVID when we visited. Instead, we opted to have breakfast in the Grand Dining Room on our last morning, and though it was fun to see the elegant space, I honestly don’t think it was worth the money for the quality of food. And a little stressful with a wiggly two-year-old :) I would totally do tea if we go back in the future, though!

All in all, Jekyll Island was the perfect spring break respite for our family, and we are SO grateful to have gotten the chance to visit! I would highly recommend it for families of all ages, and particularly for multigenerational family trips. If you have any questions about our visit, I’d be happy to answer!

My blue tiered dress is from Old Navy and my pink cover-up is from Boden! Affiliate links are used in this post!

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April 22, 2021 9:52 am

Your entire Jekyll Island trip looks magical and so, so beautiful! I’m so glad y’all got to enjoy it so much!!

Jessica Fowler
April 22, 2021 10:25 am

This trip sounds beautiful, and your review comes at the perfect time because we just found out my husband is going there for work (he’s a journalist and covering an event) and I get to tag along! We live in Atlanta but because of where it’s located/the route to get there, the barrier islands are not necessarily a direct trip, so we’ve never been! Looking forward to exploring somewhere new and definitely checking out some of your recommendations!

April 22, 2021 10:55 am

Oh, it looks so wonderful!! Sea Island has been on my list for a while but this sounds even more fun with kiddos in tow! Also love all of your darling maternity beach looks :)

April 22, 2021 11:34 am

Ah yay! It’s so fun reading your recap! Since we live fairly close, we have never stayed overnight. So your experience is extra fun and interesting to read!! I‘m sorry you had to wait so long to get into the Sea Turtle Center – we never even had a line! But we also haven’t gone during COVID. Cumberland Island has been on my „to visit“ list for a long time and now I‘m definitely planning a trip for this summer!! I’m so glad you had a great trip, friend!

April 22, 2021 12:43 pm

This looks like it was a lovely trip! Perfect for making sweet family memories!

April 22, 2021 7:50 pm

I love this! So helpful, I would definitely consider going! We went to Hilton Head for a week in November and are heading there again in May because we had so many COVID-conscious options as far as activities go. It looks like Jekyll Island has the same! So glad you all had a great time.

April 24, 2021 8:42 pm

Can you please link your dress and cover-up! Looks like a lovely trip!

April 25, 2021 7:33 am

What a great trip! We just got back from Beaufort and Tybee Island. I think this might have to be our destination for spring break 2022!

April 26, 2021 2:59 pm

This trip looks lovely! And your maternity swimsuit is perfect <3 Are you and John also planning a babymoon trip?