Tucked away at the tip of an island oasis in Georgia is a place that some would like to keep a well-kept secret. Jekyll Island, which began first as an exclusive club in the late 1800s, is today a family-favorite location for vacations and a sought-after spot for Snowbirds to weather winter.
Thanks to a collaboration with the Jekyll Island Authority, we spent a week camping on the island so we could explore all it has to offer families. After wandering driftwood beaches, biking under Spanish moss canopies, and exploring cottages from a gilded past, it was easy for us to see why Jekyll Island has endeared itself to so many over the years.
Entrance onto Jekyll Island requires an entrance parking pass—campground reservations alone will not get you through the automated gate. A pass can be purchased from the drive-through kiosk island gate. Daily and weekly passes are available at the kiosks, but you can also purchase an annual pass for $58 at the visitor’s center (which is located on the left just before driving through the kiosk station). The daily pass is $6 and the weekly pass is $28.
Pro-tip on the gate passes: If you are planning to stay on the island the whole time, you could get away with just purchasing a day pass as needed, because once you are through the gates, you don’t need the pass again unless you exit and then return to the island. So essentially you could go on and off the island four times before you reach the point where the weekly pass makes better financial sense.
While there are several hotels and various condos/homes to rent on the island, Jekyll Island Campground is the only campground on the island. Thus it is in high demand among the RV crowd. Let’s start off with a video tour to introduce you to Jekyll Island Campground:
The first thing you need to know about Jekyll Island Campground is that it is more like a private campground than a state park. All of the sites, except the tenting area, are full hook up and there are 30 AMP as well as 50 AMP sections. Whereas many state parks offer expansive sites with plenty of space between sites, a walk through Jekyll Island Campground will reveal site after site in close quarters. Some sites offer more space than others, so if you want a bit of room between you and your neighbors, site selection is key.
It’s also important to note that the campground has lots of trees. I’m sure during the heat of the summer they provide a very welcome canopy of shade, but they can pose quite the challenge to parking a camper. The campground does offer several pull-through sites, so if backing up in tight quarters is not your thing, you’ll definitely want to reserve a pull-through.
One section of the campground we found particularly crowded. While many of the campers parked in these sites were smaller, in some cases they were practically bumper to bumper. These sites included G1-20. If you end up in that stretch of sites, be prepared for very close quarters. (Another site, F8, was a bit crowded too, but that was due to the location of trees on the site.)
Those sites we found to be the best due to site size and positioning include:
- I2, C10, and H20 looked out into the woods.
- H19, H17, H16, H15, G25, and G23 are the best pull through sites.
- D15 would have some road noise as it looks out to main road, but would be pretty easy to pull in and out of.
- F6 does not look big on the map but it is.
- C14 has a view toward the bay and may get decent satellite coverage.
- I1 and I16 have tent sites next to them but are nice sites.
During the winter months, the campground is pretty much filled to capacity with Snowbirds who have made reservations for several weeks to several months. The campground manager and hosts work very hard to provide a wonderful experience for their winter guests. A whiteboard schedule over by the community room features a revolving schedule of activities—weekly potlucks, exercise classes, game night, music jam sessions, bus tours, and much more. Because of this vibrant winter crowd, getting an extended stay campsite is going to be harder during the off-season winter months than it will be in the summer. So if you are plotting a winter visit, plan accordingly: To get first choice of dates, you will need to make reservations at least one year out but probably even further than that—some people have reservations for as far out as three years!
If your visit to Jekyll Island is in the off-season months of January or February, then your family is in for a special treat! Jekyll Island offers a unique scavenger hunt for visitors to the island. Every day during the special event, Beach Buddy volunteers hide several plastic float balls around the island. People who find them can take them to the island’s visitor’s center where they get to exchange the plastic ball for a glass float ball, specially created by artisans to replicate the ones fishermen used to mark their nets in the early 1900s.
Also a side note about off-season visits: During certain times of the year, Jekyll Island deals with swarms of sand flies. These pesky little gnats leave behind annoying bites, much like mosquitoes. They were out in full force while we were visiting and unfortunately the bug sprays we had with us did not work to deter them much. If you happen to be visiting during the months when they are active (which is somewhat dependent on the temperature: they don’t like extreme heat or cold), then here are a few tips to keep them at bay.
Campground Manager Ronnie Douglas said the summer crowd tends to be the younger crowd who come for a week or two at a time. The least busy time of the year? The month of August, because of the heat and because many families are getting ready for the start of school.
Since we had full hook-up we really didn’t use the bathrooms but they were clean and functional.
The campground features a community room, mini laundromat (with washers, dryers, change machine, folding counters), outdoor clothesline area, and dishwashing stations on the back of the showerhouses. There’s also a bird sanctuary area.
Although the campground does not provide a ton of family-friendly amenities—there’s no swing sets, pool, sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, etc.—the difference is that the entire island is your playground. The campground is just the springboard from which to explore the island.
The appeal of camping at Jekyll Island Campground is being right on the island and within an easy drive or bike ride to the beaches, bike paths, and historic area. For full details about all the fun we had while visiting, be sure to check out our complete family-fun guide. One of the great things about visiting Jekyll Island is that there is so much variety in what you can do that you are sure to find something to meet everyone’s interests. Some ideas include:
- GEORGIA SEA TURTLE CENTER
- DRIFTWOOD BEACH
- PASSPORT TO THE CENTURY TRAM TOUR
- ISLAND TREASURES HUNT
- SUMMER WAVES WATER PARK
- THE ROCKEFELLER EXPERIENCE HOUSE TOUR
- FORT FREDERICA (on nearby St. Simons Island)
Date of Stay: February-March 2018