Jekyll Island Club or Jekyll Ocean Club – Where Should I Stay?

Jekyll Island Club Croquet

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Imagine historic Savannah shrunk down and tucked away on a Georgia barrier island. On one side, the tidal rivers feed beds of marsh grass filled with birds, dolphins, and even manatees. On the other, gentle waves wash along sand dunes. The real magic is in the middle, where the playground of the industrial elite transformed into a park for the people in the heart of the Golden Isles. When we went to Jekyll Island, we knew that we wanted to stay with the Jekyll Island Club, the only question we had was which property. Should we stay at the historic Island Club Cottages or the modern beachfront Ocean Club Suites? We couldn’t decide, so we tried both, and we will answer the question – “Should I stay at the Jekyll Island Club Cottages or Jekyll Ocean Club Suites?”

Where is Jekyll Island?

Jekyll Island is almost the southernmost barrier island in Georgia, about ten miles up from the Florida state line. It’s easy to reach off of I-95 but feels like you are in another world. This is precisely why the Jekyll Island Club formed in the first place. It was a little slice of paradise where the east coast elite could travel by the railroads that run along the I-95 corridor to the end of civilization. You see, back in 1886, forty years before the invention of air conditioning, Florida was too uncivilized for the likes of the Morgans, Rockefellers, and Vanderbilts.

Jekyll Island is one of only four Georgia barrier islands accessible by car from the mainland. It has 5,700 acres of land, including 4,400 acres of solid earth, 1100 acres of tidal marshland, and a 200-acre Jekyll Island Club Historic District. The rest is tidal marshlands, mostly on the island’s western shore. The island is about 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide. The west edge on the intercoastal is almost all marsh while 8 miles of wide, flat beaches line its eastern shore. The hard packed sand is easy to bike or walk on, especially during low tides. There are roughly 20 miles of biking and hiking trails around and through the island. Check out our Jekyll Island activity map for all the details.

If you can’t see the Jekyll Island Bike and Activity Map, please refresh browser 🙂

A Brief History of the Jekyll Island Club

Even if you’re not a history buff, you have to indulge a bit to fully appreciate Jekyll Island. Don’t worry, we’re not going to spend too long on this but, trust us, it’s better with the backstory.

Jekyll Island’s First Resident

Jekyll Island has always ebbed and flowed between the last bastion of civilization and the edge of the wilderness. Its power and influence rises and falls like the tidelands that surround it. In the 1730s, the English appointed William Horton to set up a plantation on Jekyll. He was the first permanent resident on the island.

His farm provided cattle and grains to feed Fort Frederica on nearby San Simon’s Island. By 1748, the British garrison had left Fort Frederica, and William Horton’s plantation soon followed.

Bignon Plantations

In 1792, Christophe du Bignon and his family acquired the island and built a prosperous cotton plantain on the backs of African labor. In fact, the Bignon family was instrumental in the slave ship Wanderer landing on Jykell Island with their illegal cargo of slaves. In 1858, fifty years after the slave trade was outlawed, the Wander smuggled 409 captured Africans onto Jekyll Island. This was the last major slave shipment in American history, and a memorial in the Saint Andrew’s Picnic Area marks their landing on the southern shores of the island.

Bignon plantations were abandoned during the Civil War and, when the family returned after the war, they discovered they had no real interest in farming the land themselves. Instead, the innovative John Eugene Du Bignon bought out his relatives and sold the island to the Jekyll Island Club as an exclusive retreat for northern businessmen.

The Club Era

From 1888 to 1942 the Jekyll Island Club attracted the creme de la creme on American elite including Henry Hyde, Marshall Field, John Pierpont Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, and William K. Vanderbilt. Every winter for nearly half a century, Jekyll Island became the winter getaway where the wealthy gathered and conducted business under the warm Georgia sun. The first transcontinental phone call linked Jekyll Island, Washington D.C., New York City, and San Francisco. The Federal Reserve came to life in a secret Jekyll Island meeting, but who knows how many other deals were brokered on Jekyll that never saw the light of day.

Jekyll Island Authority

Just like the Civil War, WWII left Jekyll Island deserted. When the residents returned, they couldn’t re-open the club. Instead, the State of Georgia acquired the island in 1947 and opened it to the public. Now, people everywhere can experience life in the Gilded Age. In fact, through the Jekyll Island Club’s historic hotel, you can stay in the cottages of the rich and famous.

Staying at the Jekyll Island Club

We were in awe walking past the croquet court to the front steps of the Clubhouse. I was singing “Putting on the Ritz” to myself, not knowing how apropos that was. (We hadn’t taken the historic tour yet). The plaque by the front desk announced the obvious fact that we were in a Historic Hotel of America. What I didn’t expect was to be upgraded to a suite in the Sans Souci Cottage.

The room was furnished to the era, but the air smelled fresh and clean. The bathroom was large, with two hair dryers, and great water pressure. We even had plenty of outlets for all our electronics. We loved the cool air conditioning, but part of us wished it was cold enough outside to order a load of wood for the fully operational fireplace. Sitting by a roaring fire would have added the finishing touches to a romantic weekend on Jekyll Island. I never would have expected a Historic Hotel to be filled with so many modern amenities.

What Can You Do Around the Jekyll Island Club?

Staying at the Jekyll Ocean Club

When we first walked into our room at the Jekyll Ocean Club, we couldn’t believe it. We had a suite overlooking the pool and ocean. It turns out that the Jekyll Ocean Club is an all-suite hotel where every room looks over the pool onto the sea. The room was super clean and modern with a walk in shower and huge wrap-around couch in the living room. We especially loved the balcony where we could relax with our own private view. The bed was super comfy with perfect pillows, just like our cottage room at San Souci.

What set Jekyll Ocean Club apart was that it is a true ocean hotel where the only thing separating you from the beach was 5′ of bike trail. There’s no beach hotel closer in all of the Golden Isles. You could easily travel to the beach and back all day long. The water at Jekyll Island was filled with nutrients from the marshes, which makes it slightly brownish. The water quality for swimming was best at high tide. Low tide exposed a lot of hard packed sand, which was perfect for walking along the ocean. The windswept sand dunes were beautiful to photograph. After playing in the water, you can relax in their gorgeous pool or stunning hot tub.

What Can You Do Around the Jekyll Ocean Club?

Should you Stay at the Jekyll Island Club or the Jekyll Ocean Club?

Over on the Jekyll Island Club, you can stay in the clubhouse or one of the historic cottages. The Island Club properties are centrally located in the historic district with easy access to the croquet lawn and Grand Dining Room. We think the Island Cottages made a perfect romantic getaway complete with working fireplaces. The Ocean Club is an all-suite hotel with beautiful beach views and easy ocean access. This is the perfect property for families that want to travel together because of the strategic separation of the living room with sleeper sofas and the master bedroom. We do have to admit, there is something about sitting on the patio in the evening overlooking the sea with the one you love and a glass of wine to also inspire a bit of romance 😉 Hmmmm…….

Of course, you don’t have to choose. Being a guest of either property gives you access to all the amenities of both. You can wake up under the oaks in the historic district in the morning and roast marshmallows over the beach property fire pit in the evening. They even have a complimentary shuttle to make the trip super easy. It’s really the combination of the beach, the tidelands, and the history that makes Jekyll Island so unique.

Disclosure: A big thank you to The Jekyll Island Club for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more travel inspiration check out their Instagram and Facebook accounts.

As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.

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Jekyll Island Club and Jekyll Ocean Club

Jekyll Island Club and Jekyll Ocean Club

Jekyll Island Club and Jekyll Ocean Club

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