One of my favorite shore activities on Jekyll Island is bicycle riding. The island is flat and has over 20 miles of biking and hiking trails. There are numerous places to rent bicycles, and all will provide a map of the island with the bike paths marked. In my opinion, the best riding on the island is a big circle loop that starts at the Millionaire's Village (historic district) of the island and goes north to the Jekyll fishing pier at the far north end of the island. Leaving the pier, you ride across the foot bridge, through the marsh, and down the bike path by the beach road to the convention center, cut through the forest and end back up at the Welcome Center for the Millionaire's Village. This circle tour takes at least 2 hours of steady pedaling, but you can shorten it by cutting across the island by the golf course or using the road rather than the twisting bike path.
There are many other fascinating routes to take. Just get a map when you rent your bike and plot your own trail. You can ride all the way around the island, but the south end of the island near the water park is not shaded, and can get very hot! I usually criss-cross the island, following the bike trails or quiet streets, stopping often to look for alligators in the marsh.
The Jekyll Island beach is quiet and unspoiled. You can walk for hours and see only a handful of other people. If you go to the south end of the island near the South Dunes picnic area to walk, you might not see another person! I love walking on the beach at Jekyll because it is so uncrowded and peaceful. Because of the heat, Ronnie and I often walk at night in June with our red-beamed flashlight looking for sea turtles who have come ashore to lay their eggs. These lumbering creatures are protected, and there is quite an active sea turtle patrol out at night on their 4-wheelers. We've never been willing to stay up all night looking for turtles, so have yet to see one on Jekyll. However, I've often seen their tracks from the sea up to the sand dunes. They're very distinctive! The sea turtle patrol marks and numbers each nest, warning everyone to keep their distance.
When you look at a map, you'll see that Jekyll is located at the mouth of 2 large rivers. These rivers dump rich soil offshore and the currents carry it onto some areas of the beach. Because of this phenomenon, you might find the ocean bottom covered with mud rather than sand when you go swimming at low tide. The sand on the beach and at high tide is a golden color and is quite lovely. It's just NOT the snowy white powdery beach you'll find on the Gulf Coast. However, the richness of the offshore mud means you'll find numerous sand dollars and other beautiful shells buried in the mud or washed ashore. There is also a large sand bar stretching way out into the sea near Blackbeard's Restaurant. This sand bar is fun to explore during low tide. (It's covered at high tide.)
Jekyll's unique salt marsh ecosystem, its beaches and shore birds are the focus of walks led by Coastal Encounters Nature Center. Year round walks are scheduled and last 1 -2 hours. They also have night time turtle walks during the summer laying season.
Other Activities on Jekyll
If bike riding or beach walking is too tame for you, Jekyll also has 63 holes for golfers and 13 fast-dry clay tennis courts. Horseback riding is available at the fishing pier, and beach and trail riding is another great way to explore this fascinating piece of Georgia. An 11-acre water park is fun for all ages. Deep-sea charters and offshore boating and cruising the marshes are available from the Jekyll Harbor Marina south of the village on the Intracoastal Waterway. Dolphin watching trips are also popular. We watch dolphins cruise the beach almost every morning when the ocean is calm, so they must be plentiful in the rich seas off Jekyll. For "culture" lovers, the outdoor Jekyll Island Theater runs musicals during June and July. Aspiring actors from Valdosta State University make up the cast, and tickets are reasonable. (Don't forget the bug spray for the outdoor theater!) For such a small island, there's a lot to do! Jekyll Island, Georgia is a great place to spend the day while on your cruise up the Intracoastal Waterway. Visit the Historic District and explore the trails, beaches, and marsh areas. Since Jekyll is owned by the State and the land is managed, I hope it will continue to change for the better, or not change at all. I hope you have an opportunity to visit the island. I think you will find that one day is not nearly enough!