Jekyll Island Club Resort: The Perfect Winter Retreat on Georgia's Coast
It’s no secret I love historic buildings. From their classic style, ornate decoration, often quirky layouts, there are so many interesting things to discover, even if you’re just looking the facade. Historic hotels hold a special place in my heart and travels for all of those reasons. There are no two alike and each one was designed to fit perfectly in its environment to be a playground and or sanctuary for its guests.
Most of the photos you’ll see here were shot by Caitlin Lee of Caitlin Lee Photographers. She was a shooter at our wedding 6 years ago and it was so much fun working with her again this trip!
Jekyll Island History
Photos shot by Caitlin Lee
Jekyll Island was colonized in 1733 by James Oglethorpe, Georgia’s first brewery was established on Jekyll in 1747, and later became a hunting club. In 1886 the island was famously purchased by the newly formed Jekyll Island Club which became a retreat for the nation’s wealthiest families like the Rockefellers and Morgans. Many firsts took place on Jekyll: the federal banking system was conceptualized here, the first transcontinental phone call, and the nation’s first condominium was built next door to the Jekyll Island Club and is still standing today.
It was known as a golfer’s paradise and more wealthy families built island getaways on Jekyll up through the 1920s. The temperatures in the Golden Isles are mild in the winter making it a hotspot for snowbirds in the bitter months of January and February. After WWII membership dwindled and the state of Georgia purchased the island and club and reopened the island as a state park. The club had fallen into disrepair and reopened as a hotel after an extensive renovation in 1987.
I’m from St. Simons Island, Georgia originally and winter continues to be one of my favorite times of year to go back and visit the Georgia coast. It’s not cold as compared to the Midwest, its not to hot, and there are fewer crowds overall. February weather in the Golden Isles is typically in the 60s and lower 70s which was a welcome change for me now that I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As soon as February came I started feeling the cabin fever and decided I needed a little reprieve from single digit temperatures.
My good friend Celia and I met way back in 6th grade and clicked right away. Despite going to different colleges and one point over 7,000 miles away from each other (us in Maui them in Germany), we have kept in sync. The closest we lived near each other in adulthood was Ryan and I in Bloomington, Indiana and she and her husband in Lexington, Kentucky. We vowed then to try and see each other at least once a year and amazingly we’ve kept that promise despite us moving even further north and Celia having her first baby.
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I invited Celia to join me on Jekyll for a mini girls getaway with her adorable mini me Lore. Jekyll Island is an ideal place to relax in the Golden Isles because it is not nearly as developed as some of the other islands. You can stroll the beach for hours without seeing any other people. We didn’t really have an agenda other than catching up and enjoying the glorious “winter” weather. The pace of the South is slower than most of the United States and it's one of the things I love about it. Eating breakfast, strolling on the beach, or watching the sunset, you just take your time down there no matter what you’re doing. With restaurants, activities, and beautiful scenery, the Jekyll Island Club Resort is ideal for a relaxing getaway because it has everything you need. We had the best time wandering around the historic district, trying to play croquet, and eating all the things.
Photos by Caitlin Lee
The Jekyll Island Club Resort is right on the the water in the heart of the Jekyll Historic District. Not much has changed in this area except for some changes to the waterfront restaurant The Wharf after the last few hurricanes. Jekyll itself has changed a lot over the years with more development than I ever expected. There is a newer convention center, shopping district just off the bridge, more restaurants than ever before, and updated beach parks.
Since the island is a state park there is an entrance fee of $7 (daily rate). There are weekly rates available as well.
The club is a short drive or bike ride from the shopping area and the beach making it a very central place to stay. Being on the river makes for some of the best sunset views in all of the Golden Isles. It’s also one of the few places in the area where you can actually dine on the water.
When you check in, don’t bother looking for self parking lots because valet parking is complimentary! Roll up to the porte cochere and give the bellman your name and they take care of the rest. You can go check in while they unload your vehicle. There are so many different buildings to the resort, you don’t want to park your car until you know where you’re going.
Photos shot by Caitlin Lee
I had a room in the main building so I had them park my car and headed to the top floor. Our suite had a little parlor with a comfy leather sofa and fireplace next to the bedroom with two queen beds and large bathroom. Check out all of the different room options here.
We had plenty of space for the three of us and there was a huge balcony overlooking the pool making for a perfect sunrise/sunset spot. All of the rooms are decorated with historic photos of the property through the years which gives you an idea of how many generations of people have been visiting this place.
Photos by Caitlin Lee
There are several cottages surrounding the hotel that have rooms and suites available if you are looking for a little more privacy but be close by to the resort restaurants and amenities. We wandered around The Crane Cottage to check out their famous sunken garden. It is a really popular place to get married and often wedding parties will rent out the entire cottage for a few days. How fun would that be?!
Photos by Caitlin Lee
Since this hotel isn’t beachfront, it was so nice to have a huge pool and bar just steps from your room. I actually ended up having the whole pool to myself the first afternoon while I waited for the girls to meet me. It is heated year round so it felt good to take a dip even in the winter.
*Note the poolside bar is open March-November the winter but the indoor lobby bar opens daily at 4 pm and The Pantry is open daily with all kinds of snacks, pastries, beer & wine.
I’m so glad I had a chance to bust out my new Sweet Paradise Club suit!
Food & Drink
There are quite a few places to dine at the Jekyll Island Club which makes it so easy to not even leave the resort during your stay.
I visited The Pantry more than once for snacks and breakfast. It is open daily and located near the check in desk making it a quick and easy option if you’re starving and can’t wait for sit down service. I had a massive egg and cheese croissant sandwich on Tuesday morning on the porch with some coffee to get my day going. They have a full lunch menu as well with sandwiches and salads. If the weather cooperates, enjoy your meal outside at one of the many tables in the courtyard or on the porch.
The Wharf is one of my favorites in the Golden Isles area. They have a wonderful selection of seafood dishes but their peel and eat shrimp is the standout for me. I always get them steamed and they come sprinkled with a blackening type seasoning that is delicious, lemon wedges, and a butter hot sauce and cocktail sauce for dipping. Add a cold beer or peach mule cocktail and it really doesn’t get much better than that in my book. They also have an excellent house bloody mary if that’s your thing! Celia and I ordered a bunch of appetizers so we could try several different things. We did peel & eat shrimp, slaw, cheese grits, jalapeno hushpuppies, wedge salad and crab dip. Not to mention they have one of the best views in the area.
Check out the other restaurants on property here
Grand Dining Room: This is the quintessential Southern fine dining experience open for breakfast, Sunday brunch, dinner, and Victorian tea (Friday and Saturday).
The Pool House: Open March-November poolside with salads, sandwiches, and pizza and some beachy cocktails.
Lobby Bar: Enjoy classic cocktails and light bar fare in the lobby bar. The pork belly biscuits with jalapeno-peach jam are fantastic.
Other activities available at the hotel
Stroll through the National Historic District or take a history tram tour.
Play croquet on the front lawn. This is free and a fun way to enjoy a sunny afternoon. Visit the Bell Stand for the equipment you need.
Rent bikes and cruise the island. Bike riding on Jekyll is amazing because the bike paths cover the entirety of the island and there is so little traffic as compared to other areas in the Golden Isles.
Take a history tour of the hotel. There are tours of the hotel Monday-Thursday at 2pm. I wish I would have done this but we just ran out of time. Tram Tours take you through the historic district and inside two of the restored cottages.
Ready to book your winter escape? Check out the resort’s availability here.
I’m going to be sharing more about things to do on Jekyll Island with your girlfriends in the coming weeks so stay tuned. Let me know if there’s anything you want to know about the island or the resort in the comments!
Big thanks to Caitlin Lee for photographing our girls getaway! If you’re in need of a photographer in the Golden Isles, check out her portfolio!
This post was created in partnership with the Jekyll Island Club Resort but all opinions are my own.