If you drive down the coast of Georgia, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, you’ll find the Golden Isles, four beautiful barrier islands with a lengthy history and more than their fair share of beauty. Jekyll Island is the southernmost island, separated from the other three by St. Simons Sound. Jekyll Island is home to several museums and historical sites you should definitely see if you ever find yourself on the island.
The Jekyll Island Museum
The Jekyll Island Museum sits near the southern end of Stable Road, and once upon a time, this was the location of the stables that gave the street its name. The wealthy estate owners who lived nearby would keep their horses in the stables here, at least when they weren’t off riding the trails of Jekyll Island. These days, the stables contain all kinds of collectibles that document the island’s past, not to mention a gift shop where you can take home some memorabilia of your own.
The Horton House
In 1738, the trustees of the colony of Georgia granted Major William Horton all of Jekyll Island. Major Horton was in charge of Fort Frederica on St. Simons Island, and he used the land to farm hops and barley to create Georgia’s first beer. The brewery where Horton made that beer has mostly fallen into a creek, but the remains of the modest Horton House still stand on Riverview Drive near the north end of the island. Several trails intersect near the house, and the ruins are open to the public.
The Jekyll Island National Historic District
Horton eventually sold the island to the DuBignon family, who in turn sold it to a business partnership in 1886. The business later became the Jekyll Island Club, which was the most exclusive club in the world, welcoming vacationing members of the Rockefeller, Goodyear, Morgan, and Vanderbilt families. Times have changed since the club’s heyday, but this history has earned the Jekyll Island Club and the surrounding buildings the status of National Historic District.
The club is a working resort even now, making it the best place to stay on the island. But then it’s also pricey, so you may want to check here to look at alternative accommodations.
The Wanderer Memorial
Tucked away on the southern end of the island, the Wanderer Memorial remembers a darker time in America’s history. It marks the landing of the Wanderer, a yacht turned slave-smuggling ship that reached this spot in 1858. This was before the Civil War but long after the United States banned the African slave trade, and it was the last known slave ship to ever reach American soil.
Jekyll Island has never been a major port or population center, but despite that, it has a unique history that goes back centuries and sets it apart even from the other Golden Isles. If you decide to visit, you owe it to yourself to spend some time getting lost in the island’s history.