Jekyll Island has become one of our favorite places for a family getaway, and it’s mostly because of the historic Jekyll Island Club Hotel. From the moment we pull onto the beautiful island, I can always feel myself start to relax. Our family operates at a pretty hurried pace most of the time, so it’s always a treat to stay in a place with such a laid-back vibe. Southern Living magazine recently voted it the best hotel in Georgia, and we wholeheartedly agree!
When you pull up to the hotel, the first sight you see is the iconic turret on the clubhouse peaking out from the giant oak trees, then as you drive up the long driveway you will probably spot a game of croquet on the front lawn. It’s like a step back in time! Anderson and I aren’t really history buffs, but every time we wander the gorgeous hotel grounds we can’t help our curiosity about the stately old buildings and the people who once stayed in them.
Once upon a time, the Jekyll Island Club was a private hunting retreat for some of America’s wealthiest families. You know, the Morgans, Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Pulitzers. But after a massive renovation in 1986, it’s now a hotel that even Almeidas can enjoy! We’ve stayed in the The Clubhouse a few times, and love the sun porch off the front of the room. It’s Kingston’s favorite part of the hotel! Located at the heart of the resort, The Clubhouse was constructed 1888 in the American Queen Anne style, and it’s absolutely beautiful!
This year we decided to spend spring break on Jekyll, and we had a blast! One afternoon we were walking the grounds and looking at all the old “cottages” (I love that the families who vacationed here years ago were so wealthy that they referred to these huge mansions as cottages. ha!) when we ran into an older man who was working on Hollybourne Cottage, one of the homes that has yet to be fully restored, and stopped to talk to him. He was excited by our curiosity and offered us an impromptu tour of the grand home! We jumped at the opportunity. And during our tour we learned that volunteers have been working for years (one guy for 16 years!) to lovingly and accurately restore the home. Our guide, Mr. Bill, comes down to Jekyll Island every winter and volunteers his time for 3 months. In its original condition, the vacation retreat was a much-loved haven for the Maurice family. They made an annual trip to Jekyll, where they enjoyed a whirlwind of entertainments and explored the island’s simple pleasures. One of the Maurice family’s decedents is planning a grand wedding on the property soon!
If you’ve never been to Jekyll Island, here are a few “don’t miss” places – Driftwood Beach. This hidden strip of beach is located on the north end of the island and is sometimes described as a tree graveyard. The pictures don’t even do it justice! – Horton House. This is the oldest house on the island, and you can walk through the remains. – Crane Cottage. We stayed here on our first ever visit to the island, and now I make my family take a picture next to it each time we visit. The cottage is known for its a sunken garden, lush courtyard, and elegant fountains, and is considered the most lavish of the cottages on the island. You will LOVE the garden. And you can eat in the courtyard!
The hotel staff is incredible, and they always spoil us with a huge plate of cookies from the Club Cafe. We never mean to eat them all, but they disappear quickly! But no one can live on cookies alone, so onto something important we Almeidas care deeply about… where to eat on Jekyll Island! Here are a few of our favorite spots:
– The Grand Dining Room at the Jekyll Island Inn and Club – We’ve had dinner here before, and during this visit we had the breakfast buffet one morning. It was delicious! I’m talking one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten! – Beach House Restaurant + Tap Room – Sit outside in the courtyard facing the beach. The food and environment make Beach House the perfect spot to relax and unwind. – Jekyll Market – The market is a gourmet grocery store that also houses several on-site places to eat a quick bite (including dessert) or grab some delicious snacks for later. – Tortuga Jacks – This is not the best Mexican restaurant we’ve ever been to, but it’s the only one on the island! So we always go here when we’re on Jekyll. – Club Cafe – We usually make a few stops at the Club Cafe. The coffee and sweets are always tasty, and they have a variety of grab-and-go snacks, plus an array of breakfast items.
We ended our most recent trip with a few days at the beach on St. Simons Island just a few miles away. It was the perfect end to our spring break, but I have to admit that of the two Golden Isles, Jekyll is our favorite! The Jekyll Island Club has a spring special right now, with 20% off rooms through the end of May. If you’re thinking about planning a trip, check it out here! And if you prefer to stay on the beach, the club has great news! They’re opening the Jekyll Ocean Club right on the beach this summer. I can’t wait to check it out!