Untamed Lowcountry

Want to experience the wild beauty of the Sea Islands? Here’s a nearby place where you can

Jekyll Island, Ga., is one of the few places on the coast where visitors can enjoy horseback riding on the beach.
Jekyll Island, Ga., is one of the few places on the coast where visitors can enjoy horseback riding on the beach. Special to The Island Packet/ The Beaufort Gazette

There is a wild beauty to the Sea Islands and Lowcountry.

The ribbons of tide-fed creeks that lace the green marsh, the breeze rustling in the palmettos of the maritime forest behind the dunes and the whisper of waves along beaches strewn with graceful tree trunks bleached white under a sea of sunlight all form a coastal paradise that calls to the soul.

As time and progress bring development and people to the coast, there are still a number of places where its pace is slower.

Jekyll Island Georgia is one of those communities where time does not really stand still but it seems to have been slowed just enough to make a difference. The island is a community on the verge of change, but you can still experience the wildness of nature along with an elegance that has endured for over a century.

The island is located just two hours from Bluffton down I-95 on the Georgia coast. It is a seven-mile-long island connected to the mainland by a causeway and closely managed to prevent over development and preserve a natural and historic beauty.

Long ago inhabited by prehistoric peoples and coastal tribes of Native Americans, it was settled in colonial times and quickly developed into cotton and other plantations. After the Civil War, Jekyll Island was given new life as a resort island for wealthy businessmen of the Gilded-Age.

In 1888 the elegant Jekyll Island Club was built and became a winter haven for industrialists such as J. Pierpont Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer and William Vanderbilt. When not hunting and fishing or enjoying island life, they conducted business. In 1910 financiers met at the Jekyll Island Club to discuss and form policy that established the Federal Reserve.

In time, the resort ownership changed hands until it reached its present status as a resort hotel open to the public and rated as a top destination along the coast.

The 19th century cottages and buildings surrounding the turreted hotel are preserved and has become a historic village of shops and other attractions. When you visit Jekyll Island, you can visit for the day, an afternoon or stay as a guest of the Jekyll Island Club or at a number of other cottages and hotels on the island. A campground located on the northern end of the island is well-maintained and attractive year round.

It is the natural beauty of Jekyll Island that is most alluring to guests and you will particularly enjoy the miles of paved biking and walking paths that ring the island and connect you with the historic areas as well as the wild beaches. You can walk along several miles of driftwood covered beaches or play and relax along a barely developed sandy shore.

A fishing pier and other natural areas have been set aside to ensure a day in the wild that is never far from restaurants or relaxation. Recently, my family and I spent the day there and enjoyed hours of relaxing bike rides, exploring the beach and enjoying ice cream from a shop located near the club in the historic district. Traffic was light, the weather was clear and the day was well-spent enjoying a look back into history while encountering wildlife and the beauty of the Sea Islands along each mile.

For outdoor recreation or resort relaxation, Jekyll Island is the destination to be enjoyed by all ages.

Getting There:

Jekyll Island is located two hours from Bluffton down I-95 and is very easy to reach. Take I-95 south for 68 miles to Exit 29, US 17N. Take 17N 5.5 miles to GA 520 and the entrance to the Jekyll Island causeway. Jekyll Island is a gated community and charges a daily access fee of $8 per vehicle. That provides access to nearly all of the island including the historic district, natural areas and beaches. Once on Jekyll Island, you will find access is easy to all attractions and there is ample parking. Jekyll Island is a destination for events, festivals and other gatherings and has an active year-round calendar. For December the historic district and the Jekyll Island Club have been decorated lavishly for the holidays and the lighted live oaks and palmettos will add a holiday air to you visit.

For more information, visit www.jekyllisland.com