During our short visit to Georgia’s Golden Isles over Labor Day weekend, Z and I headed out to explore Jekyll Island. Although it looks like it would’ve been a nice ride, the distance Saint Simons would be much more comfortable on something other than the beach cruisers we had. So, we cheated a bit and loaded a couple of bikes in the truck and drove over. (It’s vacation. Who’s keeping track?) Annual passes are available for locals and regulars, but visitors pay a $6 parking fee, good for as many ins and outs as you’d like until midnight.
Originally inhabited by the Guale chiefdom, Jekyll Island has gone through many transformations. In the 16th century it was claimed by both the Spanish, who named it Isla de Ballenas, and the French as Ile de la Somme. Shortly after General Oglethorpe established the colony of Georgia, he renamed it after his friend, British justice and politician, Sir Joseph Jekyll. The island was also the site of the long-running du Bignon plantation and a military stronghold protecting Fort Frederica on Saint Simons Island. The stately Jekyll Island Club, which served for years as an exclusive vacation destination for the wealthy, hosted the 1910 negotiations that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve. The club was eventually turned over to the state of Georgia after falling under considerable financial difficulties during the Great Depression.
In the 1950′s the island was revamped by the inmates at a convict camp, established there for that purpose. Hotels and other businesses returned to the island and its days as a vacation destination are once again in full-swing.
On our visit it was over 90 degrees, but a breeze coming in over the marsh kept things comfortable. We listened to the waves of cicada calls, winding through bike paths shaded by huge oaks. Although most lead around the island, we veered off onto a path right through the center of the marsh. Watching the shockingly white herons gliding and dipping into the greens, yellows and oranges of the grasses was truly an amazing sight. I wish my camera did it justice.
Turning down a smaller path, the marsh gives way to sand at Driftwood Beach, our destination, if we had one at all. The slow erosion of the north end of the island has created this “tree graveyard” on the south end. A bit eerie at first glance, there’s something beautiful about these majestic trees — some over a hundred years old — drifting into an afterlife, arresting in its own right.
We stopped in for refreshments at Fins on the Beach. Their peel n’ eat shrimp were overcooked or freezer-burned, either way a travesty in a place where shrimp boats are an everyday sight. But, the beer was cold and they had the best hushpuppies I’ve had in a long time – the perfect salty snack after a long bike ride.
Fins on the Beach
200 North Beachview Drive, Jekyll Island, 31527
Les Vacances on Saint Simons Island
Four Great US Islands: Where the Living is Better than Easy (Travel+Leisure)
Slave History in Georgia’s Golden Isles (The Guardian)