Camping at Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island is a barrier island located on the coast of southern Georgia, and is part of the Golden Isles. From North Atlanta its about a 5.5 hour drive during non-peak traffic times. The island offers everything from golf, to camping, to visiting the Sea Turtle Center, yet its only 35% developed to help protect the ecosystem. 

Sunset on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Sunset on Jekyll Island, Georgia

My first experience was in middle school, with a class field trip to the island. We learned so much about the island and got to experience the marshes first hand with a walking tour in mud boots...I still remember the smell of the marsh! Growing up in Georgia gave me a lot of opportunity to experience all of its amazing, beautiful sites and seasons, which I find myself trying to relive with my children as a "newer" mother (daughter #2 to arrive in 2.5 months!). 

Marsh right across the street from our camp site

Marsh right across the street from our camp site

There is so much to explore on Jekyll Island, so we typically do a three day/two night minimum camping trip, and try to start our drive by 5am to maximize our time there once we arrive. After hours in the truck, numb butt (from being pregnant), and over-stimulated from trying to entertain a toddler, there is nothing like the feeling of pulling onto the final straightaway to get onto the island. Rolling the windows down and getting a whiff of sea and marsh smells resets your entire mind. I always enjoy our trips here because it never seems over-crowded like some nearby islands, and the patrons are quiet and respectful to each other and the island. 

Final stretch to the island

Final stretch to the island

What We Did  

Camping

This trip we camped at the Jekyll Island Campground in our popup camper the weekend before Christmas, 2015. The campground is located at the north end of the island, and is in the center (not beach or marsh front but there's really only a road and some land between you and them). The rates are similar to state parks and it's pet friendly. One thing we noticed was there were a lot of "long timers", meaning folks who stay for weeks or months at a time, plus they were retirement age and older. This means the park was quiet and clean, but not many children to help entertain our own when we hung around the camper.  

The campgrounds themselves were beautiful; a variety of trees with moss, mostly level lots with livable space between your neighbors, two bathroom facilities, and your typical laundry and supply store. Note about the bathrooms: They are cleaned daily, one is closed from 5am-7am, while the other (closest to our site) was closed from 7am-9am. Inconvenient in my mind because we don't have a bathroom in our popup and we are typically awake by those times, so you have to plan your morning bathroom visits accordingly!

This campground assigns you a spot upon reservation, we stayed in C16, but you are always able to change it if you have something specific in mind. Our spot was on the south side of the park, marsh side. We weren't as close to the bathrooms as I would like, but those spots were already taken anyways. We experienced amazing weather: 50's day one, 60's day two, and low 70's day three..... Did I say amazing?! BUT, BUGS...... A point I want to bring up is bugs. Ticks galore on Lula (even though she had on Frontline Plus) and the no-see-ums were out in full force by our final day due to the warmer weather. Can I say Thermacell!?!? Get one, it's that easy. Great bug repellent that you don't have to spray on you.

Campground map to our site, C16. Note the restroom locations.

Campground map to our site, C16. Note the restroom locations.

Beach Combing

We always spend time at famous Driftwood Beach (pet friendly), and this time we also visited Glory Beach (not pet friendly). I wanted to go to a place I read about online as well, Shark Tooth Beach, but after I learned it would be about an hour long hike through tick infested greenery, I decided to skip it since we had Ava and I was six months pregnant! You can learn more about what I read on Shark's Tooth Beach here. I love to collect shells, Ben says I "geek out" and become obsessed with it, but on Driftwood Beach the best place I have luck is where they have all of the large rocks piled on the beach to protect if from erosion. Not the first large batch you see when you enter the southern part of the trail, but the smaller grouping north of it. You have to move the rocks around sometimes, and most shells are broken, but you can also find the occasional sea glass that's ready for plucking. 

We went to Glory Beach twice this trip and had a completely different experience both times. The amount of walk-able beach is drastically different during low and high tides, so I'm glad we saw both. For shell hunting, best place is near the dunes where the water pushes all of the shells up, but stay off the dunes, its a protected nature area hence why no pets are allowed.  As far as shell quality, most pieces will be broken, but there are a lot of little conch shells. I found a few whole sand dollars as well. There must be a reef out there as well because I did find a few dead coral pieces, or shells that had coral on them. Ava enjoyed helping to pick up shells, which saved my back!

Glory Beach at low tide

Glory Beach at low tide

Explore the Island

There is so much you can do on Jekyll Island, but we were being frugal this trip so stuck with the no-cost activities. Make sure you plan time to visit these other attractions or sights during your own trip: 

  • Georgia Sea Turtle Center
  • Summer Waves Water Park
  • 4-H Tidelands Nature Center
  • Historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel (at least drive by at a minimum!) 
  • Bird Rambles Nature Tours
  • Ranger Walk Tour Programs
  • Bike ride around the many trails to find more remote historical sites (sunken shrimp boat, abandoned mill, or cannon ruins) , affordable bike rentals available
  • Golf or Tennis

Jekyll Island really is a great place to visit with your children, as a romantic couple, or even just to adventure on your own; there is something for everybody.

DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS TO SHARE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES CAMPING AT JEKYLL ISLAND? I'D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

HAPPY CAMPING!

Mindy Sullivan