The island is covered with live oaks, Spanish moss, and palmetto. Criss-crossing the island is over 20 miles of bicycling and walking paths. You can always find a peaceful spot on the beach. Few locals come over to Jekyll from nearby Brunswick because of the $3 "parking" fee charged to all cars entering the island. There are some year-round residents, and a handful of hotels along the beach. Definitely NOT a place to visit if you are looking for nightlife!
Some small ship cruise lines visit Jekyll Island as a port of call. These cruises are during either the autumn or the spring along the Intracoastal Waterway. Since many other mainstream ships are starting to depart from nearby Jacksonville or Port Canaveral, Florida, Jekyll is also a good place to stopover for a day on your way to or from your cruise.
History of Jekyll Island
Jekyll has a fascinating history dating back to the end of the nineteenth century. The island was purchased from John Eugene duBignon in 1886 for $125,000 by some of the wealthiest men in America as a hunting resort. His family had owned the island since 1800. The names of the owners are recognizable to most history buffs, and include J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, Marshall Field, John J. Hill, Everett Macy, William Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Richard Teller Crane. The island was prized for its "splendid isolation."
The club members commissioned architect Charles A. Alexander to design and build a sixty room Clubhouse. The Clubhouse was finished November 1, 1887, with the first official season beginning in January, 1888. In 1901, an attached annex was built to handle the expanding needs of members. A syndicate of members, including J.P. Morgan and William Rockefeller, built a six unit apartment building in 1896 they named Sans Souci--the first condominiums!
The owners would usually spend a couple of winter months at Jekyll Island, arriving by yacht from New York. (Remember, this was BEFORE Florida was developed.) The Jekyll Wharf where they tied their yachts is still used by boaters, sailors, and small ship cruise lines today. Although Jekyll was a hunting resort, it certainly didn't look like any hunting or fishing camp I've ever been to with the About fishing guide! Between 1886 and 1928, the owners built "cottages" along the marshy side of the island where they would be protected from the ocean. Many of these beautiful cottages (mansions) have been restored or are currently a work in progress. The largest "cottage" is almost 8,000 square feet. The Jekyll Island Clubhouse is now a romantic Victorian hotel.
Throughout the Club's history, many recreational amenities were added. The first golf course was laid in 1898, with two more done in 1909. A marina to handle yachts, a swimming pool, tennis courts, bocci, croquet and other recreational facilities were also available to help members while away the time they spent on the island.
With the onset of the Great Depression, the Jekyll Island Club members became disenchanted with the island. They began traveling to European spas and elsewhere for their entertainment. After the 1942 season, the U. S. government asked the members not to use the island for the duration of World War II due to concerns for the security of the powerful owners. They never went back. The island was sold to the State of Georgia in 1947. The state attempted, until 1972, to operate the Clubhouse, Sans Souci and Crane Cottage as a hotel complex, but its efforts were unsuccessful and the buildings were closed. In 1978, the 240-acre club district was designated a National Historic Landmark. In 1985, work began to restore the Clubhouse, Annex and the Sans Souci into a world-class hotel and resort named the Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The $20 million in restoration funds have all been invested in the buildings and grounds, since the facility can only be leased. Great care was taken to create a faithful restoration while installing modern conveniences. The Club is once again a showcase, and is now available for everyone to enjoy.
Today the 240 acre National Historic Landmark is often called "Millionaire's Village."
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