Know before you go
I have totally fell in love with Jekyll Island. It’s absolutely charming with its orange trees, Spanish moss and old-south architecture. Located on the southern part of the Georgia coast along with St. Simmons, Sea, and Little St. Simmons: Jekyll Island is one of the four Golden Isles. Unlike Georgia’s popular Tybee Island, Jekyll Island is much more laid back and quieter too. It won’t take you long to notice that the island caters to an older generation. However, I still find the island absolutely perfect for any age!
In order to get onto the island by vehicle, you’ll have to pay $8/day or $38 for a week long pass. If you are on foot or bike, the entrance is free.
Getting around the island
Due to its small size, Jekyll Island is easy to get around on and there are several ways to do so. The most convenient way to get around the island for sightseeing is by car, but there’s a lot of ways to get around!
I recommend taking a historic tram tour. You’ll see bright red trams around the island- these take you around on the 90 minute Landmark Tour. The tour takes you around the island, gives you entry into the Mosiac Gallery, two cottages, as well as the Faith Chapel. An adult ticket is $20, children $10, and children 3 and under are free. This is a great deal and a must do on Jekyll Island.
Another popular option is to rent a bike. The island has 20 miles of bike paths that take you by sand dunes and beaches, over boardwalks, around historical sites, and under ancient shady oak trees strung with Spanish moss. You have a few options of bike rental companies and the prices are budget friendly. You can rent a bike with a child trailer attached to the back for as little as $5/hour or $16 for the whole day.
Something that is super unique and fun that you can do on the island, is rent an electric car from Red Bug Motors. These little red and white electric cars look like rounded golf carts and you will see them all over the island. They have to be rented by the day and you can rent a 2, 4, or 6 passenger car. A 24 hour rental of a four-passenger is $125 + 7% sales tax.
What to do with kids on Jekyll Island
No matter what ages your little ones are, there is something for everyone!
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center
By far, our favorite thing on Jekyll Island. A ticket is just under $10 and children under 4 are free. They have interactive learning exhibits that make the kids feel like they’re little scientists and a baby sea turtle on display! There’s also a large viewing window where you can watch a medical team treat injured turtles. Next door, is the Sea Turtle Hospital. Each year, the hospital receives turtles from different places where they’ve been found injured or sick.
A lot of the sea turtles recovering in the hospital have been cold-stunned. (reptile hypothermia) Each year, the hospital gives the cold-stunned sea turtles they receive a group name theme. This year, they have cheese names; munster, gouda, cheddar, asiago, and more! I think you’ll love the sea turtle center as much as we did.
One of the most popular destinations on the island, Driftwood Beach is a dream location for kids and adults. Kids love climbing over and under all the driftwood and it’s also a photographers wonderland.
The Horton House is not only one of the oldest structures on the island, but in all of Georgia. The house was occupied by Major William Horton who took ownership in 1738. He farmed the lands on the island to help feed nearby Fort Federica. These crops included hops and barley which produced Georgia’s first beer.
Mosaic Jekyll Island Museum
The Jekyll Island Museum guides you through the cultural and natural history of Georgia’s most intriguing barrier island. It was constructed completely within the existing footprint of the historic stables and has load of new artifacts of the islands past. Entry is $9 for adults, $7 for children, and 3 years and under are free.
St. Andrews Picnic Area & Beach
This is the perfect place to stop for lunch with a view of the beach and water in front of you.
Tidelands Nature Center
Another must while on Jekyll Island, the Tidelands Nature Center is by the Georgia 4-H. A small center with aquariums of fish, shrimps and sea stars, touch tanks, baby alligators and more. The entry is only $5 and age 2 and under are free. Keep in mind they ONLY ACCEPT CASH or CHECK.
You can also rent kayaks and canoes here to explore the 17 acre saltwater pond that is right beside the nature center. The kayak rental are a little expensive in my opinion. It costs $116 for a two person kayak for the shortest amount of time available, two hours. Or you can rent a canoe which can hold up to 3 people for just $20/hour or $40 for the whole day.
Shark Tooth Beach
Not your typical sandy beach, but here you can try your hand at shark tooth and sand dollar finding!
If you are into abandoned and or creepy locales.. check out Jekyll Islands abandon amphitheater. The theater was used each summer for a music festival on the island, but due to budget cuts, this ended in 2004. The Jekyll Island Local Authority has had restoring the amphitheater on their radar for years, but it’s yet to be restored. The theater is right across from a bond that is frequented by bird watchers near the Jekyll Island Fire Station. If you visit in the summer, bring bug spray!
Wanderer Memory Trail
This trail is dedicated to one of the last slave ships arriving in America, The Wanderer. The trail is full of informative sign posts, art work, and interactive artifact replicas made to enhance the experience for children. The trail ends at a tower over look and a perfect little beach.
Is Jekyll Island a budget friendly destination?
One of the most common travel questions; is it budget friendly? I’m a firm believer in the fact that you can travel any destination on a budget. I know having a budget friendly destination is even more important when you traveling with kids. In general, Jekyll Island is a budget friendly destination, but I’m going to give you some advice to lower you travel costs on the island.
Tip #1: Take the Landmark Tram Tour. You save money on entrance fees + get a 90 minute tour of the island.
Tip #2: Choose a canoe over a kayak if you want to explore the salt marshes.
Tip #3: The most costly thing about visiting Jekyll Island is the price of the hotels. You won’t find any budget hotels under $100/night on the island like you can on most of the east coast. If you don’t want to pay for a hotel, consider camping. You can stay at the Jekyll Island Campground for less than $50/night.
Tip #4: Get around the island via one of the cheapest options available– by personal vehicle, by foot, or by bike.
Where to stay on the island
If you want a true budget option, you will have to stay in the near by port city of Brunswick to find hotels less than $100/night.
If you want to actually stay on the island, here are a few mid range options. You can most likely expect to pay $130-$200/night for these hotels, depending on the time of year you visit. (I prefer both the Days Inn and the Hampton Inn hotels on Jekyll Island)
Days Inn & Suites
Hampton Inn & Suites
Seafarer Inn and Suites
Jekyll Island Club Resort
Are there kid-friendly restaurants on the island?
As I said, Jekyll Island caters to an older crowd– but doesn’t mean that children aren’t welcome. My biggest recommendations for eating at restaurants on the island if you have younger children is to go in as soon as they open for lunch or to eat inside for dinner as opposed to the outside bar areas. This will allow you to get away from any music/loudness of people at the bars and it also keeps any tantrum throwing away from the others trying to enjoy their food. (Some restaurants will ask you to leave if you have children making a scene)
There are a lot of upscale restaurants on Jekyll Island. But, of course there are restaurants on the island that are more kid-friendly, casual, cheaper, and more laid back. Here’s a few great options!
Love Shack BBQ Shrimp & Yardbird
Red Bug Motor’s Pizza & Pub
Tortuga Jack’s Mexican Restaurant
Or if you want to grab a hot dog or pulled pork sandwich, walk up to Doc’s Snack Shop window to place an order, then you can eat at the tables on the front porch. Super fun, cheap, and definitely kid-friendly!
Tips for visiting Jekyll Island with kids
Jekyll Island is a really laid back place to travel and you shouldn’t worry too much about traveling here + if you forget anything like sun screen or snacks for the road, some hotels have these things for purchase in their lobbies. However, there’s a few things I wouldn’t visit Jekyll Island without.
Tip #1: The most important tip on this list… Don’t forget your bug spray! Especially if you are visiting during the warmer months, you won’t be able to enjoy the island without some quality bug spray. My youngest daughter is seriously allergic to mosquitos and my youngest is allergic to all kinds of bug spray, so for us, packing long pants and long sleeve shirts is a necessity as well.
Tip #2: If you are traveling with small children under the age of 4, you are going to want to bring something to help them get around the island. If you choose to rent an electric car or rent a bike with a trailer, those things will have you covered. For walking the trails or simply walking around the island; I’m going to list some of my favorite baby and toddler products that have got me through my travels with two young daughters that are just a year a part.
Toddler Backpack With Harness My girls are still using & loving these backpacks.
Lille Baby Toddler Carrier The holy grail of travel toddler carriers, and reasonably priced too!
Heavy Duty Folding Wagon If you’ve ever considered getting a wagon for your kids, this is the one to get. I spent days searching online for a collapsable travel wagon that folds up small enough for my travel needs. I have yet to find one that is this high quality that folds up to such a small size.
Tip#3: If you have the opportunity to try the local delicacies, do it! Peaches and boiled peanuts are both staples in Georgia. If you are driving into Jekyll Island, you are likely to see a peach stand or two at the end of a driveway. If you want to try some boiled peanuts while on Jekyll Island, you can buy some for $3 at Doc’s Snack Shop.
Best time of the year to visit Jekyll Island with kids
Like most of the American south, Jekyll Island is best avoided in the hotter months. Personally, I don’t like to travel very much in the region from May-September. Even in the end of September/early October the temperatures can get up to 100F, humidity soars, and the mosquitos thrive. For more pleasant weather, less mosquitoes, and fewer crowds–visit in March & April or October & November.
Where to go after Jekyll Island
Here’s a few a my favorite places to see around Jekyll Island. If you’re coming from somewhere up the east coast, you can go see all of these attractions on your way to or from Jekyll Island. They also make a great day-trip from the island.
Fort King George
Fort King George Historic Site is about 40 minutes north of Jekyll Island. This is the oldest standing English fort on the coast of Georgia. You can explore the fort, watch a cannon demonstration, see wild alligators, and get a great view over the grounds. An adult ticket is only $7.50, children are $4.50, and under 6 are free. Keep in mind that the fort is closed on Monday’s and occasionally Tuesday’s, so check their website or call ahead before visiting.
St. Simmons Lighthouse and Museum
About 30 minutes north of Jekyll Island is the St. Simmons Lighthouse. This is the closest lighthouse to Jekyll Island. Entrance into the museum and access to climb the stairs of the lighthouse is $12/adults, $6/children, 6 and under are free.
This is a beautiful location on a salt marsh about 35 minutes from Jekyll Island. Fort Frederica’s troops defeated the Spanish on St. Simmons Island, ensuring Georgia’s future as a British colony in 1742. The area got the nick name the “bloody marsh” Today, you can see the old fort, rows of oak trees, live musket demonstrations, artifacts of war, and much more.
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