by Lissa Poirot
Jekyll Island Club Hotel celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012. What originally began as a hunting retreat for America’s millionaires of 1886, including names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Gould, Astor, Pulitzer and Morgan, has become a fixture of not only Jekyll Island but of all of Georgia’s Golden Isles. The Victorian hotel features wraparound porches and wooden shingles and floors nestled among towering palms and moss-draped oaks. White wicker rocking chairs invite families to sit back and take in the natural environment of the island, where wild deer, sea birds and other creatures make a daily appearance.
Jekyll Island is an entire state park, protected by the state of Georgia from overdevelopment, which is perfectly fine for the visitors and residents of the sleepy island.
In 1986, the hotel was restored to its initial splendor, where architects had to rely on old photographs to recreate staircases and colors. All rooms, restaurants and the lobby received a renovation in 2009; however, the rooms still feel more dated than historical. Still, there is something to be said of staying at a hotel with more than 125 years of history.
Our Editor Loves
- Historic setting on a national park
- 20 miles of bike paths
- Onsite dining options
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Parks
- Connecting Rooms
- Free Wi-Fi
- Onsite Dining
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Located in Jekyll Island's National Landmark Historic District, Jekyll Island Club offers 157 guest rooms and suites in five distinct settings. Rooms are 100 percent smoke free (anyone caught smoking inside is charged a $175 cleaning fee), and each room is equipped with a clock radio featuring an iPod dock, a 32-inch flat-screen TV, DVD player, in-room safe, coffeemaker and mini bar. The entire hotel is wireless and all rooms receive complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi.
The main building is referred to as the Clubhouse, and resembles the original building created 125 years ago for its wealthy guests. As this portion of the hotel once housed the servants, as well as the guests, some rooms can get "cozy," so be sure to alert the staff of your family size during booking. This location also features rooms connected by an enclosed balcony, which makes a nice family setting. The hotel can confirm connecting rooms in this building. These rooms offer views of the river.
Added on to the hotel in 1901, the Annex features 54 rooms and suites with either views of the courtyard or the croquet lawn.
Once the apartment accommodations for J.P. Morgan, and one of Georgia's first condos, Sans Souci means "without care." The building houses 24 rooms in what remain a more condo-like environment, with high ceilings and working fireplaces.
Constructed in 1917, Crane Cottage was known as the "most expensive and elegant winter home ever built on Jekyll." A grand centerpiece to the historic district, the Italian villa is now a part of the hotel, featuring 13 rooms for guests. This cottage, renovated in 2001, is often rented out fully to bridal parties and their families during weddings, but if weddings are not being held, the rooms are available for regular guests. However, even if you book a room in the cottage, you can be bumped due to a wedding.
Another former winter cottage, Cherokee is named for Georgia's state flower, the Cherokee rose. Also built in Italian renaissance style, the home houses 10 guest rooms and is also often booked to house large families and small weddings in doubles and king suites. The first floor features a billiards room and main hall.
The hotel's Olympic-sized swimming pool seems small and dated after spending time at most modern resorts with oversized pools and lazy rivers. Still, the pool serves its purpose: it's a place to cool off and for children to play, with views of the river just over a shoulder.
The hotel's beach pavilion is located along the Atlantic, just a short drive or bike ride away from the hotel. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available, and the pavilion provides restrooms, picnic tables, and snacks.
Bicycles can be rented at the front desk, as well as child carriers, for a minimal half- or full-day fee. The island offers 20 miles of bike trails, and the front desk will also provide a map in case you get lost amongst the marshes, beaches, forests and historic district bike paths.
The resort offers tournament level croquet for free on the resort's front lawn croquet court. Be sure to wear white, and sign up in advance for playtime.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
A block away from the hotel is the island's sea turtle center, which provides daily tours. Kids will see rescued sea turtles and learn more about Georgia's sea turtle preservation and rescue programs. (Free for children under 3)
Horse-Drawn Carriage Rides
Leading up to the hotel is Jekyll Island's Historic District where a number of "cottages" (really, former mansions) are available for tour. Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage tour to hear all about the mansions and their former residents. The 45-minute rides require reservations and are offered every day except Monday. Rides are held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, and originate at the Island History Center. An evening tour, departing from Jekyll Island Club Hotel, is also offered at 5 p.m.
Summer Waves Water Park
Not associated with the hotel and open only during the summer months, this small water park packs a punch with its water slides, wave pool, splash zones and fun for the kids. The park is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on most summer weekdays, and open until 8 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The Grand Dining Room
For an old-fashioned, traditional dining experience that you can just imagine was exactly the same (well, maybe better dressed) 100 years ago, visit the resort's Grand Dining Room. Breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon Victorian Tea are served daily, as well as dinner, where reservations are highly recommended and jackets or collared shirts are required on men. Dinners here can be pricey.
Courtyard at Crane
The resort's Crane Mansion property, which features 16 rooms and living areas, is also the setting of a casual dining restaurant, where families can eat indoors or out. While the restaurant serves lunch and dinner, its weekends are reserved mainly for weddings and private receptions. The a la carte lunch menu includes salads, sandwiches and specialty entrees, while the dinner menu is more extensive.
This bakery and deli is open daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a few seats indoors and plenty of whicker seating on the hotel's wraparound porch for an outdoor bite. Take out is available, as well, and families can grab pastries, desserts, salads, sandwiches and pizza. It's also the place to go for a morning Starbucks fix. There are two Club Cafe locations, one at the Clubhouse and another at the Beach Village.
Pool Bar & Grill
For casual dining at the pool, the hotel's pool bar is open seasonally. Besides offering a full bar and smoothies for kids, the grill cooks up a mean burger, hot dog or grilled chicken sandwich.
Located in the basement of the Annex, with an outdoor courtyard, The Pub is more of a small sports bar open Monday through Friday at 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. and it's considered happy hour all day on Sunday.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
During the summer months, Jekyll Island Club Hotel offers a Club Family Beach Getaway that includes accommodations with king, queen or two double beds, breakfast buffet daily in the Grand Dining Room, a Jekyll Island Club logoed beach towel, 10 percent off of babysitting, beach chairs and umbrella at the hotel's beach pavilion, and a choice of Georgia Sea Turtle Center or Summer Waves Waterpark passes. The package is available for Sunday through Thursday night stays.
A Lending Library is located in the basement of the Annex, offering plenty of books to read on the beach or beside the pool.
The hotel's fitness center leaves something to be desired. Located in the basement of the Annex, it is small and only features a couple of stationery machines. Rent a bicycle and ride around the island for exercise instead.
Babysitting services are available with 72-hours notice.
The Art of Smart Timing
Jekyll's high season is mid-March through August when spring break rolls into summers and weekends become packed with guests. The hotel's shoulder season is September through November, when the climate is more temperate. The low season is December through February.
Jekyll Island is located near Brunswick, Ga., which offers a small airport, the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport. The property is also close to Jacksonville and Savannah International Airports.
The hotel provides complimentary intra-island transportation and valet parking. When you drive to Jekyll Island, as it is a National Park, you will need to pay a fee. If you leave the island and return, you will have to pay again.
For Mom and Dad
Enjoy a tour of the island's 240-acre historic district surrounding the hotel, which includes tours of cottages and shopping in quaint boutique shops. Tours begin at the Island History Center and last approximately an hour and a half.