The Golden Isles of Georgia are about an hour drive from either Jacksonville, Florida or Savannah, and consist of four barrier islands that border the Atlantic Ocean. The southernmost and smallest of them is Jekyll Island, a state owned beautiful blend of serenity and discovery, managed by the Jekyll Island Authority. Over the years I had visited the Island because of its history and laid back atmosphere, which I enjoyed with my children when they were young; riding bikes around the island, swimming in the ocean, horseback riding on the beach at dusk, croquet, tennis on the courts and golf, both on the 63 championship holes and the two Mini-Golf courses.
Since then I have been back to Jekyll Island for golf trips and enjoying the Jekyll Island Club Resort, the grand dame of a bygone era, where some of the wealthiest families of the country lived and played in the winter season. The impeccable service at the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, a National Historic Landmark and a Historic Hotel of America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is one of my favorite places to stay. It is set in a park like setting surrounded by huge “cottages” built by the likes of J.P. Morgan, John Rockefeller, Joseph Pulitzer, William Vanderbilt, Marshall Field and others known as Millionaire’s Village. Near the turn of the 20th century, these leading industrialists wanted a private place to play and enjoy the mild winter of the southern USA with their families. They found Jekyll Island that was only accessible by boat. Their “cottages” are still on display, and you can enjoy an historical tour of some of them.
With eleven miles of sandy white beaches, vast expanses of mature maritime forests and preserved wetlands, Jekyll Island is a nature lover’s paradise. The Jekyll Island Authority is the steward of the Island maintaining a delicate balance between nature and humankind. There are parameters in place to protect the ecosystem while still providing visitors a first-class vacation experience.
A substantial upgrade has been made to the Beach Village shops and a brand new 128,000 square foot convention center. I was in awe of the remarkable change from the dated area that once occupied the area to this new top-notch retail marketplace with a new oceanfront Four Star Westin Hotel adjacent to the convention center. Jekyll Island has come of age and now large corporate meetings and conventions have the latest facilities to utilize at a great island retreat. While I was there the Georgia Rotary Clubs were having their annual convention.
The brand new Westin Jekyll Island has 200 comfortable rooms and suites, 5,000 feet of event and meeting space, an outdoor pool between the hotel and the beach, personalized in-room spa experiences, a WestinWorkout fitness studio and three dining choices; The Reserve, Salty’s Pool Bar & Grill, and the Westin Cafe. I took a tour of the hotel while I was there and it is extraordinary. Go to WestinJekyllIsland.com to learn more and make reservations.
Right next door to the Westin is the new addition to the Jekyll Island Club Resort, the boutique Jekyll Ocean Club, an all suite oceanfront destination with with open air dining, and a lovely outdoor pool area.Visit JekyllClub.com for more information on the Ocean Club and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The Jekyll Island Club Resort is part of the Georgia Golf Trail.
Georgia’s largest public golf club sits right here on Jekyll Island and is known for its Southern hospitality and legendary landscape. Cooled by the ocean breezes and temperate climate, golf is played 365 days a year here. With three championship 18 hole courses; Oleander, Indian Mound, and Pine Lakes, there is always room for vacationers or groups to find tee times. For a step back in time, the nine hole Grand Dunes course is challenging and plays next to the beach, and was originally the course those well-heeled millionaires had built for themselves in 1898. In 1924 the USGA used the course as a testing ground for steel clubs which would one day replace the hickory shafted clubs. Spencer Bookman, PGA Professional & Director of Golf, and his fine staff provide excellent service to charity tournaments, group outings as well as instruction for the young and old.
If you enjoy taking a step back in history, a place where you can see the stars instead of brake lights, and just play in a natural setting, Jekyll Island is the perfect place to enjoy a holiday or vacation.