By Capt. Bill Pike
Smoother, Softer, Simpler
Easily accessed along the marshy edge of the Intracoastal Waterway, Georgia’s Jekyll Island is a low-key, laid-back, low-country slice of the sunny south.
Let’s say you’re not into devoting leisure time to glitzy, pricey, BIG destinations. And let’s say you’re looking for a place to retire (at least for a couple of days), a place that’s woodsy, unassuming, and almost totally removed from the seeming speed of modern-day life. And finally, let’s say you’re cruising the stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway that passes through the so-called Sunny Isles of Georgia.
Take it from yours truly—pay a visit to Jekyll Island. For starters, the pay-to-play entertainments on Jekyll are manageably, almost amusingly, tame. There’s a smattering of restaurants with reasonable prices, all within either walking or biking distance of the Jekyll Island Marina, a friendly little spot (and the only marina on the island) with a pool, hot tub, a fleet of free beach cruisers, and a drive-yourself van service. There’s the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which charges $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children. And there are the annual fêtes to enjoy, among them the Turtle Crawl Triathlon, the BBQ Beach Bash, and the big Shrimp and Grits feed.
But the stuff that’s eminently affordable, or even free as the wind? It’s available in spades on Jekyll, especially to somebody with a boat that’s either tied up at the marina or anchored in a nearby creek.
We last visited Jekyll Island in mid-November, when the trees of southeastern Georgia are decked out in muted reds, yellows, and oranges. Staying a couple of nights at Jekyll Island Marina cost us a relative pittance (transient dockage runs $2.25/foot with cable and Wi-Fi included), at least by comparison with rates often charged farther south in Florida. And physically tying up along the extraordinarily long facedock was relatively easy, despite a rather powerful tidal current that conveniently paralleled the dock, both during our arrival and during our departure. Restrooms (with showers) were near the dockmaster’s office and they were whistle-clean, a not altogether common phenomenon on the ICW we must sadly opine, and the beach cruisers we boarded to tour the little island were fast and fun.
Walking and biking trails are legion on Jekyll. And nothing—absolutely nothing—beats gliding through the historic district on a bike, in the stately, shadowy shade of enormous old live oak trees hung with spooky Spanish Moss, just an hour or so before sunset. A smidgen of the cachet comes, we presume, from the uniqueness of the district’s pathways, many of them bordered by the former estates of ancient, fabulously wealthy, long-gone summer residents with names like Joseph Pulitzer, J.P. Morgan, W. K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. And yes, maybe another smidgen, we also presume, comes from the quietude, the near silence that pervades, especially on weekends.
One warm evening, we stopped by the “Rah” bar adjoining Latitude 31°, a restaurant at the end of a long pier not far from the marina. The oysters on the half shell there were superb, the blackened shrimp was excellent, and so were the crab cakes. Key lime pie seemed like the only logical choice for dessert.
Taking a lubber’s approach to Jekyll is possible, of course. There’s a causeway and a modest selection of hotels. And there are highways for automobiles. But, to get the full, serenity-bestowing benefit of the place, to truly enjoy a smoother, softer, simpler life, if only for a while, we recommend arriving in your very own boat. Trust us. It’ll be better.