By now, I have made the trek up to Bluffton to meet up with Julie to carpool to Atlanta somewhere near eight times. That’s 16 times I’ve driven up and down I95 through Georgia… and every time I’ve gotten to exit 29 and seen signs for Jekyll Island and thought “Hmm, I should visit that while I’m down here.” And 16 times I have driven right on by.
Number 17 is the charm apparently.
The forecast for today is beautiful. High in the low 80’s, partly cloudy. A good day to go to the beach. And as this is the last weekend I’ll be making this drive, it’s now or never.
Jekyll Island is a barrier island, sort of like Hunting Island in SC geography-wise, but more built up. There are hotels, shopping opportunities, restaurants, permanent residences, a golf course, a tiny airstrip, historical sites, a campground, a few parks, and more. In the summer it becomes a popular tourist destination, but again coming in the off season works in my favor and the crowds are light today.
After paying $6 a day to get onto the island, (weekly and monthly rates are different), I stop in at a Dairy Queen for lunch. I believe it might be the only fast food eating option on the island that isn’t a stand alongside a strip mall. There are several sit down eating options too, but it keeps my costs down to eat cheaply.
Then it’s off to explore!
The first place I stumble into is the historic district. In the late 1800’s the Jekyll Island Club was founded as a summer retreat for the rich and powerful of the time. Several of these wealthy families built large vacation homes on the island which are still maintained today, and one can walk down the road and admire them, or take a tour to get more of the story behind each. The road ends at the ginormous old club house, which has become a high end resort for tourists while still keeping the original club house appearance.
The parking lot for the club house is convoluted, and I get lost in it and end up accidentally at the entrance to the resort where an immaculately groomed valet raises a brow at my truck, I probably don’t look like their normal clientele. I offer him a cheesy smile and a little wave as I drive on through. Eventually the exit is located and I make good my escape.
Next up is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which was recommended by a friend as worth the $7 entrance fee.
They weren’t wrong. Sea turtles lay their eggs along the coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina during the summer, I’ve seen markers for the nests before when I’ve been on the beach, it’s illegal to bother them since sea turtles are threatened.
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an educational center, but also a hospital and rehabilitation clinic for injured and sick sea turtles who are found by boaters and beach goers. As a vet tech, I found that aspect fascination. Their clinic had a glass wall on one side that lets people who pay the admission fee look right into the treatment room of the clinic and see what the vets are up to. It looked a lot like the treatment room of any sort of animal clinic, I guess underneath the shell there are still more similarities than differences between a turtle and a cat or dog, or a monkey which what I had primarily worked with. While I was there there were two technicians in the treatment area swabbing two baby sea turtles. As a technician I would have been nervous having the public watch me like that all day while I worked, but they must be use to it. Neither of them even glanced at the window.
Behind the treatment area and educational displays, there is another building with large sea water tanks set up inside with patients in them. The tanks are labeled with the patient’s name, and a binder attached to the railing lets you see what each turtle is at the center for. The majority of them are on treatment for something or other and are slated for release once they’re well again, but a couple are permanent residents because of injuries that would hamper their ability to survive in the wild. They all look well cared for though, which I am glad to see.
After that, there was an old ruin to see from the mid 1800’s, an old graveyard, and a public park on the north end of the island complete with fishing pier. The pier faces more out toward the swampy side of the island, I wonder if the fishing is better there being a little more sheltered. Right across from the park is the campground, and that I am very interested in.
I’ve heard bloggers talk of this campground with fondness, it sounded like a really neat place. Sadly it’s hard to get in to see a campground when you’re not planning to camp there, you know? So I use my usual park outside the campground and walk in trick. I belong here, really. Was just out for a walk. Honest.
Live oaks, pines, and what I believe to be magnolias are present in abundance, the trees are all mature and the whole campground is well shaded. The sites have a decent amount of space between them for a RV park, but are still by no means private. There are tent sites, back ins, and pull-throughs, RV sites are dirt and gravel. There are two shower houses, and laundry facilities on site as well. From October to March monthly rates are available which I think would be great considering how much less crowded the place is this time of year. Daily rates for full-hook up sites are $34 for back ins and $37 for pull-throughs. None of the sites have water views, but there are trails leading to the ocean from the campground and it can’t be too far of a walk because I spy one family all decked out with their cooler and chairs and swim gear walking down the lane.
Then I stumble into the bird garden. There is a wooded area towards the rear of the campground with bird feeders of all shapes and sizes hanging from tree limbs and standing on poles. Several bird baths decorate the ground level, and there are garden ornaments in abundance. And there are birds, lots of them. The air is full of their song and a little mailbox near the entrance has information about the various species that visit.
This is the first time I’ve seen something like this at a campground, I wonder why more places don’t do this? It’s beautiful. Two wooden swinging chairs allow campers to enjoy the garden, and I sit at one for a while, nodding at the lady at the next one over.
We sit in a companionable silence, enjoying the birds, the squirrels, and the beautiful weather. There is no need for small talk. An indeterminable amount of time later I get up and head out, nodding again to the lady with a smile as I leave. We haven’t spoken a word to each other, and yet we’ve said volumes.
It’s getting late in the afternoon and I need to get to Bluffton for the last Girl’s Night I’ll be attending for a while. For newer readers, Bluffton is where I last lived prior to hitting the road as a full-timer, and I have several friends who still live in the area.
But before I go, the beach! Jekyll Island’s beaches have light colored sand and a wide belt of dunes. There are several waterfront shops around and hotels with ocean views. The water is still a bit cold for swimming, but I dip my toes in the Atlantic and smile. With luck, I’ll be able to get my toes in the Pacific later this year. But for now, there is a social call to make. The next week will be busy, with the move to Atlanta coming up and all the prep that comes with that. But with a day like today to bolster me, I look forward to facing it head on. As one door closes, another will soon be opening.