Jekyll Island Club Resort marries the historic with escapism.
Jekyll Island, the southernmost of Georgia’s Golden Isles, is steeped in rich history and small-town charm. Reachable by car from Atlanta in about five hours, the 5,500-acre barrier island is home to fewer than 1,000 year-round residents, which only adds to its appeal. If you’re like me, your excitement will build as you cross the Sidney Lanier Bridge, with gorgeous marsh views on either side for as far as the eye can see.
The crown jewel of the island is Jekyll Island Club Resort, which greeted me with trees dripping in Spanish moss. As I rounded the corner after crossing the causeway, the stately main building came into view, preceded by its famous croquet lawn. The resort was built in 1886 as the winter getaway for elite families and founding club members such as J.P. Morgan, William Rockefeller and Joseph Pulitzer, to name a few.
Now a full-service resort open to the public, the Jekyll Island Club oozes Gilded Age glamour. It’s easy to imagine a Vanderbilt or Astor sitting on the breezy patios that wrap around the main building or having breakfast in the grand ballroom.
Some of the original cottages remain on the property, and trolley tours are available for guests to learn about everything from the first intercontinental phone call in 1915 (which happened from Jekyll, as AT&T president Theodore Vail was recovering from an injury on the island when Alexander Graham Bell called him) to the secret creation of the Federal Reserve in 1910. I took one to get acclimated with my surroundings but to also learn more about the club’s role in both America and Georgia’s history.
After my tour, I made the short walk back to the hotel. Of the 160 guest rooms, nearly 50 are in three historic cottages for the history buffs who want an immersive experience. I was positioned in the main building, which made walking to the quiet, pleasant pool easy, although it did feel somewhat as if I was suspended between two eras as I cut through the dark-paneled Riverfront Lobby in my bathing suit to get there.
For my next act of relaxation, I took a short shuttle ride to its sister property, the Jekyll Ocean Club. Opened in 2017, it is the only oceanfront boutique hotel on the island. It took all of 10 seconds to walk down the path, find a chair and let the Atlantic Ocean lull me to sleep for a much-needed beach nap.
While there’s plenty to do on Jekyll Island—The Georgia Sea Turtle Center, golf, a water park, biking the 20 miles of trails or exploring the miles and miles of protected wilderness on the island—part of the appeal is getting away and not having to go very far for much of anything. The property has five restaurants and bars, including The Wharf, a picturesque pier restaurant that was practically built for sunsets. On my visit, I grabbed a cocktail, relaxed to live music and took a deep breath: I made it to Georgia’s own slice of paradise.
JEKYLL ISLAND CLUB
STORY: Lauren Finney Harden
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