One of Georgia’s less talked about gems, Jekyll Island has plenty of treasures to find. As if the splendor of the island wasn’t enough with its miles of beaches, purple muhly grass, and spottings of the beautiful Roseate Spoonbill among other flora and fauna delights, Jekyll Island invites visitors to so much more. Hunt for treasure like the locals do in an all-island hide and seek, follow the trail of a nesting loggerhead sea turtle, and take in a round of golf before strolling through the island’s rich history built by some of the wealthiest families in our nation’s history.
- Island Treasures Hide and SeekEach January and February, the Jekyll Island Authority hides several colorful glass balls throughout the island for a modern day treasure hunt. Each piece is an original work created by one of many artists commissioned throughout the country.Feel like a pirate, or maybe channel your inner child, with a real life treasure hunt on the island. The treasures you find might not retire you or even buy that boat you’ve been eyeing, but they surely don’t disappoint.
Each January and February, hollow glass balls are hidden daily around the island by sneaky volunteers known as “Beach Buddies.” A game of hide and seek pursues, as locals and visitors scramble to find these highly sought treasures. The idea behind the island fun goes back to the early to mid-1900’s. East coast fishermen would use brightly colored glass balls as markers for their nets. Every now and then one of the floats would break loose and wash ashore. By mid-century these floating sea baubles had become a collector’s item. The ones used for Island Treasures haven’t seen an ocean voyage, but are instead made by professional artists across the country, hand-picked by the Jekyll Island Authority to create the one-of-a-kind treasures.
- Georgia Sea Turtle Center The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is the only hospital created for the care of sick and injured sea turtles (photo courtesy of Jud McCranie)The only hospital created for sick and injured sea turtles, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island is dedicated to educating locals and visitors alike about these beloved and endangered reptiles. While the loggerhead is the most common to the island, four other species have been spotted in Georgia’s coastal waters—leatherback, green, Kemp’s Ridley, and Hawksbill.
The Center offers multiple programs throughout the year. Visit during the day to meet the flippered patients and learn more about the dangers these gentle creatures face. And you never know what you’ll find during one of the Center’s Turtle Walks—nighttime strolls along Jekyll Island’s beaches while learning about the journey of the loggerhead sea turtles to their nesting sites.
- GolfThe Jekyll Island Golf Club has grown to four courses featuring sixty-three holes designed by the nation’s top designers (photo courtesy of the Jekyll Island Authority)Vacationers have been teeing off on Jekyll Island since 1898. Members of the Jekyll Island Club established the island’s first course and have since brought in some of the top designers in the country to create the island’s four courses featuring sixty-three holes. Each course exhibits the beauty and natural terrain of Jekyll Island while offering a memorable experience for golfers at any skill level.
Perhaps the trickiest of the island courses, Oleander was designed by renowned course architect Dick Wilson. The oldest island link, Oleander previously served as the course for the Georgia Open for four consecutive years. Those not used to the sandy soil and ocean breezes of the coastal links might find this course a particular challenge, but it’s been known to best even the most experienced golfers.
- The History The Jekyll Island Club became a haven for the country’s most elite, including the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers (photo courtesy of Lawrence G. Miller)Perhaps one of the most interesting treasures of Jekyll Island is its history. The island’s story goes back to the first Indian tribes to inhabit the island. Then there are the stories of a fledgling colony and Georgia’s first beer, the DuBignon family that owned the island for nearly a century, and the harrowing tale of the Wanderer, one of the final ships of the slave trade that sold 409 men, women, and children into captivity.
But one of the best known stories is the Jekyll Island Club. In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased from the DuBignon family, owners of the property since 1790. In no time, the island was touted as the “richest, most inaccessible club in the world.” Heavily exclusive, only the country’s most elite, old-money families were allowed to experience the lavishness of the Jekyll Island Club. The Pulitzers, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts were among the member roll of what was known as a luxurious winter retreat, as well as a summer playground, for the Northern elite, building “cottages” to enjoy their vacations in refined elegance and overabundance. While the inaccessibility of the island’s beauty has long been removed, its charm and wonder still delight visitors of any age or prestige.
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