Readers: This isn’t a travel review; it’s more of a travelogue of the epic 8 day road trip I took with my kids to the Georgia coast. It’s rambling storytelling with a lot of pictures thrown in. I’m writing with friends and family in mind, but you’re welcome to settle in and get all up in my business if you’re interested. And bless you if you are.
Jekyll Island. I’ve got a thing for this place, y’all. The kids love it, too. We visited last summer and had the privilege of staying at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. If you ever, and I mean EVER, get the chance to stay at the JICH, DO IT. The hotel is beautiful and the service is unmatched.
This visit, though, was just to be a day trip. Last summer, we spent a lot of time on Great Dunes Beach were the hotel has umbrella and chair services. I got a little spoiled and saw no reason to explore further. This time, we were hitting up the other beaches on the island. If you think a beach is a beach, think again when you visit Jekyll.
I had heard so much about this beach, y’all. Seen gorgeous sunset pictures. I was psyched.
When we got there, though, I was underwhelmed. I thought it was, well, … ugly.
It’s kind of funny, actually. I did the absolute minimal editing to this picture. And this picture makes it look prettier than how I remember it looking in person. It just looked bleak. The sand, the rocks (who was expecting so many rocks on a beach?), the trees – there was so much grey.
I thought that we wouldn’t be there long. That the boys would get bored and uninspired and want to move on.
Yet again, I underestimated the ability that young people have to see potential in things that adults write off. They had already scampered off to find a spot to call their own. My oldest had brought his hammock and tested various spots for suitability.
When I saw his final selection, I started warming up. Like in the Charlie Brown Christmas special – maybe this little tree isn’t so bad, after all. It was actually a really cool place for kids.
The kids, by the way, were plentiful. My oldest son has pied piper-like abilities to attract and evoke worship from much younger kids. They love him. Near our set up were several tide pools. Sons 1 and 2 were soon advising the best ways to find and catch “herman” crabs, as the younger kids were calling them.
They were finding them amidst the rocks that I had thought were so ugly. I got up to take another look.
I’m not going to get super poetic and crunchy on you. But I saw how much fun my kids were having climbing around. I saw how much the rocks were sheltering. I started to look at those rocks differently.
My little guy made his own (weird) fun.
Eventually, my perspective changed. Honestly, this was one of the most relaxing days I’d had so far. The weather was warm but not hot. The sun was gorgeous but with just enough cloud cover. My kids were of an age where they could entertain themselves and stay safe. And I had this dude with me.
Not especially a looker, but super interesting. I bought this book on our visit last summer and was just now getting around to it. I’ve stopped buying junky souvenirs on vacation and opt instead for books about a place or people connected to that place. Joseph Pulitzer, the newspaper magnate who established the Pulitzer Prize, was one of the millionaires who frequented the Jekyll Island Club at the height of its popularity. I bought the book at a bookshop that was once Pulitzer’s home. He had a deep love for Jekyll Island and it was one of his favorite escapes.
Here’s my obligatory selfie of the day, since nobody else seems to think to take my picture.
We spent a few hours on Driftwood Beach, but eventually the tide was coming in and we needed to pack it up. My youngest tried to put that off as long as possible.
I left Driftwood Beach with much more affection than I had when I arrived. We’ll be sure to return to Nature’s Playground on a future trip. A couple words about Nature’s Playground, though – there are no bathroom facilities but the nearby trees and shrubs.
St. Andrews Beach
Our next stop was St. Andrews Beach on the opposite end of Jekyll Island. This is a marsh-facing beach and thus the environment is different from the other beaches. If you are a birder, this is the place for you. There’s even a wildlife tower you can climb to observe! This beach has a picnic area with picnic tables, garbage cans and bathroom facilities. In the picnic area is something special that I wanted to see.
This sculpture installation is a memorial for the illegal slaves brought to Jekyll Island from Africa in 1858 – 50 years after the United States outlawed the importation of slaves. It was one of the last known slave ships to bring Africans to the U.S. for purposes of slavery.
There are panels that give plenty of information about the whole affair. In summary, roughly 300-400 slaves survived the journey. The owners and captain of the ship were prosecuted but the government failed to win a conviction. The ship was eventually lost off the coast of Cuba in 1871.
It’s important to me that my kids are shown the reality of slavery whenever possible. I think there is something powerful in walking the path of those passengers and seeing the very real places that touched their lives. If you visit, please remember that this is a work of art and a somber memorial – not a jungle gym. Please teach your children to be respectful by keeping them outside the roped area.
After our history lesson, we passed through the picnic area and headed toward the beach.
Although we didn’t see dolphins while we were there, I’m told this is a great spot for seeing them. This beach has more of a wilderness feel to it than the more touristy Great Dunes Beach.
Be forewarned – the woods were lovely, but I felt like there were more annoying bugs on this beach because of them. If you go, be sure to take some kind of repellent with you.
My people were wearing down. Having completed our mission of exploring new places at an old favorite destination, we set off in search of food.
We stopped at the Jekyll Market. This was part grocery store, part souvenir shop, part multi-restaurants. Honestly, I would have rather just gone to the Dairy Queen on the island and been done with it. The advantage here is that you can go to the various food options inside and get people different things. My older two got chicken fingers and I got wings from one vendor while my youngest got a sandwich from another. Overall, I found the wait times to be high, the food mediocre and a little on the pricey side. It was convenient but I was not a fan and can’t recommend it.
Back to Home Base
On the way back to the King and Prince Resort, I completed my responsibility as a lit nerd and showed my kids the Marshes of Glynn and told them about Georgia poet laureate Sidney Lanier. They were just about as enthusiastic as I thought they were going to be. They’ll thank me one day, I’m sure.
Again, after following my agenda all day, when we returned to St. Simons the boys just wanted to lounge in the room (my middle) or on the beach (oldest and youngest). That was completely fine with me. I had no problem with three beaches in one day.
When you go to the beach in February, it gets a little chilly. Call me weird, but there is something that I really love about being on a beach but cozying up in one of my favorite sweaters and jeans.
Again, we stayed until we couldn’t see a blessed thing.
Four days in and all was right with my world. Except my cell service. That was spotty and frustrating, but with the help of the beach and 15 more episodes of River Monsters on Animal Planet, I was able to overcome.