Beaches Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island Beaches

Georgia beaches are wonderful places to spend quality time with your family. And Jekyll’s beaches are among the best. Come on out and create a little “Beach Magic” with your loved ones.

The constant dance of wind and tide and sand has created Jekyll Island’s outstanding beaches, home to ghost crabs, sand pipers and sea turtles. You and your family can also lay claim to a strip of Jekyll Island sand, if only for the span of a vacation.

The coastal plain off Jekyll Island slopes gradually, birthing small and gentle waves perfect for a child’s introduction to the ocean. Like most Georgia beaches, Jekyll Island’s are wide and flat, with firm packed sand perfect for fun-seeking families. Throw a Frisbee with your kids; run with the dog; put together an impromptu family volley ball game; or just simmer in your suntan oil and reach a “low country” boil!

Feeling brave? Kite boarding will get your adrenaline flowing. Or join a guided Turtle Walk. Whatever you decide to do in the sun, Jekyll’s beaches are great places to do it.


Want to take your furry friend to the beach? Beach dogs love Jekyll Island’s pet friendly beaches! Learn about the best beach for your beach dog’s holiday, and what you need to know to make sure you and your canine have a memorable beach experience.


St. Andrews Beach

One of the most uncrowded beaches on Jekyll Island is St. Andrews Beach on the extreme southern tip of the island. Go there for the isolation, the shelling – and, if you have a drag net, the shrimping!

St. Andrews Beach is pretty much deserted most of the time. If you walk from South Beach around St. Andrews point, you may not encounter another soul.

You will see sea birds (gulls, plovers, sand pipers, and more) by the score. St. Andrews is a favorite spot for protected and endangered shorebirds. Once, we saw a doe deer and her fawn picking their way down the beach to the water. Offshore, dolphins seine for shrimp and fish, and you can catch glimpses of their sleek backs as they breach to breathe.

The best way to get to the beach is to park at St. Andrews Picnic Area. Park among the live oaks, and stroll through the dune margin directly to the beach.

On your way to the beach, stop by the memorial to the survivors of the slave ship Wanderer, the last slave vessel to transport slaves to Jekyll Island’s shores without repercussions. On November 28, 1858 (over 50 years after the legal importing of slaves was outlawed in the United States), the Wanderer anchored near the southern beaches of Jekyll Island, its hull filled with enslaved Africans. The Wanderer memorial consists of three 12-foot tall steel sculptures of abstract ship sails, with plaques detailing the history of the slaves, the ship, and the slavers.

After taking in the Wanderer memorial, head on to the beach. St. Andrews beach is pretty much protected from the elements. It fronts the Jekyll Sound and doesn’t get the wave action that the beaches on the Atlantic side get. But, still, the winds can get pretty stiff here. Better hold on to your hats!

At high tide, you can’t walk too far, as the tide reaches all the way to the tree line. But at low tide you can explore to your heart’s content.

St. Andrews point is one of the best places on Jekyll Island to find sea shells, or locate and stake out a spot of shade under a tree just off the beach.

If you’re hungry for fresh seafood, you can find the freshest just off the beach. Bring your seine net and a few buddies and troll for your own shrimp, and fill up a cooler or two. Crabbing is also good here. You can have your own family seafood feast and it won’t cost you a dime (if you have your own equipment, that is).

If getting away from everything is your idea of bliss, then St. Andrews Beach is the perfect beach for you. Take your favorite beach chair, a good book, a cold drink, and relax. You’ve just re-set your clock to island time!


The beaches at Jekyll Island’s southern shoreline are perfect for exploring and play, and are often all but deserted. Martha and I love to walk here in the cool of the evenings. Keep alert – dolphins like to frolic in the surf close to the beach.

Glory Beach

A little further north is Glory Beach , where beach scenes for the Civil War movie “Glory” were filmed. You can access Glory Beach from the boardwalk at the Soccer Complex, from St. Andrew’s Picnic Area, or from South Dunes Picnic Area. It’s also a great place for spotting wildlife in the dunes (best time is right at twilight).

Seabirds sound a plaintive cry in the fading evening. It’s hard to imagine that in 1989 they filmed a major Academy Award winning motion picture here.

The boardwalk will take you thorough several dune zones. The first is a shrub forest thick with oaks, buckthorn and willow.

Keep walking. The shrub forest gives way to a lower shrub zone. Southern wax myrtle and groundsel merge with the forest zone and spread out before grading into the beach meadow zone. Here you’ll find Yucca filamentosa, camphorwood, and Russian thistle living in harmony with various wild grass species.

Between the dunes lie the sloughs. They’re important to area wildlife because they collect and trap water flow, providing oasis way-stations for deer, raccoon, marsh hare, birds, and more dune denizens.

Beyond the dunes proper is the intertidal area, and maybe zones of marsh transition.

Approach to Glory Beach

Glory Beach may well be a local name given to this section of Georgia Golden isles beach. It comprises parts of what’s known as South Dunes beach and St. Andrews beach (in reality, the entire ocean front of Jekyll Island is one continuous beach, characteristic of a barrier island).

South Dunes Beach

One of our favorite family beach vacation spots for late afternoon and evening walks is South Dunes Beach.

Now that our kids are grown and we come to Jekyll more often by ourselves, playing on the beach is not as important as just getting out and walking, or laying in the sun, relaxing and catching some rays while sipping a cool beverage and reading a good book.

South Dunes Beach is one of Jekyll Island’s best family beach vacation destinations for just taking it easy. Access to South Dunes Beach is through the South Dunes Picnic area. There are plenty of shaded parking spots here, under the spreading limbs of live oaks, so your car will stay relatively cool while you’re out catching some rays.

Central Dunes Beach

Check out Jekyll’s infamous sandbar, close by Central Dunes Beach. And while your at it, eat out at Tortuga Jacks – literally. Order your favorite seafood, and enjoy dining outside on their deck, overlooking the magnificent Atlantic.

Many of Jekyll Island’s hotels and beach front homes are clustered at the mid-point of the island at Central Dunes Beach. This section, along with the sandbar area, is often one of the more crowded Georgia beaches, hosting the most FSF – Folks per Sandy Foot (hey, that’s a very scientific measurement). The sand here comes alive with the color and motion of families having fun in the sun.

Reach this section of the beach through any of several public beach access points. Use the Central Dunes Picnic Area, or the Jekyll Island Club Hotel Beach Pavilion access (where you can treat your kids – and yourself – to a delicious frozen yogurt to cool your taste buds).

If you like to people-watch, Jekyll Island’s Central Dunes is the perfect Georgia beach to practice ogling your fellow man.

Central Dunes may be the busiest beach on Jekyll Island. Note I didn’t say crowded. Acres of wide, packed sand lead to the sea, and there’s always plenty of room for either active play or just lolling around in the sand and surf, vegging out and enjoying the scenery.

And the scenery is awesome. The great Atlantic Ocean stretches away to the horizon (and beyond – yonder lies Africa).

North of you is more beach, bordered by maritime forest, with a few hotels peeking through the trees, but mostly buffered from sight.

The air is fresh here, scented by the sea, and the sea breeze brisk and refreshing. This Georgia beach lies just north of the Convention Center. Close by, there’s a finger of sandbar pointing from the beach towards Africa. It’s a popular attraction for beach-comers at low-tide, but beware – the sandbar can be dangerous.

The wind can be strong at times, but that just brings out the kite boarders, adventurous souls who jump (literally) at the chance to zip over the waves on a skinny board with a huge kite attached. These folks can grab big air when the wind is up, and resemble elegant seabirds skimming the whitecaps – until they wipe out, when they look more like an ungainly albatross.

Offshore, look for dolphins trolling for fish in the shallows, or pelicans flying inches above the wave tops. Further out, shrimp boat silhouettes ply the waters, seining for Wild Georgia Shrimp.

If you like to walk, there’s plenty of sand to walk on. It’s mostly firm packed and easy to negotiate. Wear plenty of sunblock. Time can get away from you here, and you might walk further than you think – it can be a long way back to your access point when you’re tired and foot sore.

Watch for sea shells along the way. And, if your lucky, you might find the odd shark’s tooth lying at your feet. (If you’re unlucky, you could find the odd shark’s tooth – still attached to the shark – clamped onto your foot – just kidding!).

Access to Central Dunes is easy. There’s a big public parking lot adjacent to Tortuga Jacks. When my boys were little, we used to come here on bikes after a rain and ride through the puddles – the boys loved it! Such simple pleasures…

There’s also parking at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. A nice picnic area lies before the dunes, along with a boardwalk with showers at the inland side. Bring a picnic lunch, and take a load off.

Don’t care to drive? Ride your bike to this Georgia beach. Bike trails parallel the sand (though they twist a bit to navigate around Tortuga Jacks and the Convention Center). You’ll find benches at strategic spots along the bike trail in case you need to stop and rest, or just want to enjoy the fantastic ocean panorama.

Central Dunes is the perfect Georgia beach and, along with all the other Jekyll Island beaches, provide a wonderland of adventure for fun-loving families. Come for the sun, sand, and surf. And stay for the people watching. Just remember – they’re watching you, too!

North Beach

Jekyll’s northern beaches are narrower than the southern ones, and some areas are inaccessible at high tide. These areas are protected by granite rock breakwaters which are inundated by the sea when the tide reaches its zenith. At low tide, the beaches are perfect places for sunbathing and play. Want to know why the beaches at the north end are different than their southern cousins?

Georgia’s top beaches include Jekyll Island’s North Beach, a great venue for family beach fun. The area we think of as North Beach starts at the end of Driftwood Beach and encompasses the beach front at Villas-by-the-Sea and the former Jekyll Oceanfront Clarion Resort (which is now closed awaiting new ownership).

Past the Clarion is a section of homes overlooking the beach. Some of these are rentals, and make great oceanfront homes for a family beach vacation.

The North Beach area is constantly changing due to the erosive force of wind and water. Erosion strips sand from the North Beach and deposits it further south.

Over the years, the North Beach area has narrowed, while the South Beaches have widened. But there’s still plenty of room for family beach fun or to stage a wild beach party – at low tide. When the tide rises, the water comes all the way up to the granite rock breakwater, so the beach is inaccessible at high tide.

Villas-by-the-Sea

Villas-by-the-Sea has built a 400′ boardwalk which parallels the beach and is above the high tide line. It connects to their Beach Pavilion, and is a great place to walk with your sweetheart or family and enjoy the ocean when you can’t get down to the beach due to high tide.

There’s also a sand terrace between the rental homes and the former Clarion resort and the sea, and it, too, is above the high tide line. Martha and I have taken our beach chairs out to the terrace several times and enjoy lounging back, a cold drink in hand, and watching the play of the sea breeze on the sparkling Atlantic.

At low tide, the beach is perfect, with no accessibility problems at all. You can find shells and the odd piece of flotsam (we even found a small coconut once, or at least what I thought was a coconut).

The sand is firm and wide at low tide, and cut with rivulets draining water back to the sea. Kids and grownups alike can cool off by wading through the tidal pools trapped by sand berms at low tide.

Kids may be tempted to climb over the rock breakwater protecting the North Beach, but it’s a good idea to discourage this activity. The rocks are slick, some jagged, and may have sharp-edged barnacles growing on them.

Jekyll Island’s top beaches are perfect places to spot wildlife, and North Beach is no exception. You can see dolphins frolicking in the surf, or watch the seagulls chasing free meals behind the cruising shrimp boats.

If you’re staying in one of the interior homes on the island, there are several public beach access points you can use to get to the beach. There are access walks at the ends of Gould, Ellis, Tyler, King, and Brice Streets.

Or you can access the beach through Villas-by-the-Sea’s boardwalk.

Further north, where Beachview Drive starts to turn away from the sea to round the island, there’s a pull off area where you can park your car. Here, you’ll find trails to the beach that come out at the end of Driftwood Beach, where the breakwater for North Beach starts. Driftwood Beach is another of Georgia’s top beaches.

Driftwood Beach

One must-see beach is Driftwood Beach, at Jekyll Island’s extreme northern end. It’s the perfect place for a romantic rendezvous among the wind and water scoured up-rooted trees that give Driftwood Beach its name. Bring your camera – sunrises here are spectacular!

Driftwood Beach may well be the most popular Jekyll Island Beach for taking beautiful photographs. You can wander among the bones of huge oaks and pines scattered along the beach, toppled by storms or undercut by erosion, and now half-buried by the unceasing movement of sand and water. It’s a unique beach created in part by erosion, and we think you’ll love it as much as we do.

On a storm tossed day the mood is melancholy; then, the beach reminds me of something out of the Lord of the Rings. But on a sunny summer day at low tide this Jekyll Island beach has a magic all its own.

The exposed limbs and roots of the dead trees, bleached gray-white from the scouring of wind, sand and water, resemble the skeletons of great prehistoric beasts, or sea monsters who’ve beached themselves in the distant past.

Who loves Driftwood Beach?

Kids love it here, playing chase and catch-me-if-you-can among the maze-like tangle of trunks and branches, splashing and laughing in the surf as they climb among the “driftwood”, hunting for that perfect shell or sand dollar.

Driftwood Beach driftwood

In this magical setting, imaginations are free to run wild. For a short time, kids can become dastardly pirates slinking among the bone yard, cutlasses gleaming as they furtively bury their ill-gotten gains. Or astronaut explorers, searching for life on the sands of Mars…

Bring a picnic lunch, spread it under the shade of one of the still-living trees, and watch your kids romp, living out their fantasies on this fey Jekyll Island beach.

Driftwood Beach is on the North end of the island, just north of Villas-by-the-Sea. This is the shortest, best access. It’s easy to get to – you can park your car in the pull-off area adjacent to North Beachview Drive, just before the road takes a jog inland. From there, several paths through the brush and trees lead to the beach.

We highly recommend the Driftwood Beach adventure. Come at dawn for the sun rise. Or during the day for the sun. And evening is the perfect time for wildlife watching. Just don’t forget the camera!

Shark’s Tooth Beach

And don’t forget to delve into the mystery of Shark’s Tooth Beach. It’s not typical of Georgia beaches, and it’s not easy to get to, but could be well worth your while to investigate.

“Ever been to Jekyll Island’s Shark’s Tooth Beach?” Tom rode his kayak in the eddy at the margin where the marsh grass met the river, and kind of leered at me, wiggling his eyebrows.

I was with a small party of other sea kayak novices on a float trip out of Tidelands Nature Center. Tom Woolf was our guide. The green of Jekyll Island’s maritime forest spread to starboard, endless marsh to port. We were resting, and I’d just told Tom that our family came to Jekyll every time we could pry ourselves away from work and school. “We know this place like the back of our hands,” I’d boasted.

Apparently the island had a few secrets I wasn’t privy to.

“Shark’s Tooth Beach?” I said. “That’s a new one. Where’s it located?”

Tom told me how to get there – and what, if I was lucky, I might find. As it happened, Shark’s Tooth Beach turned out to be a memorable adventure, and served to remind me once again – on this island paradise, there’s always something new to see and do.

Prehistoric Sharks Teeth

Sharks Tooth Beach was a great place to find prehistoric sharks teeth – the teeth of the Megalodon, an almost-legendary shark that lived during the Cenozoic era, from 1.5 to 28 million years ago.

Megalodon grew to more than 58′ long. Makes a great white look like a minnow.

No Megalodons swim in the waters off Jekyll Island nowadays (at least I don’t think they do!), but they left their calling cards – their fossilized teeth, which themselves could reach over 7″ long. A 52′ Megalodon had a bite force of 24,395 lbs., compared to 4,000 lbs. for a typical great white shark (from Wikipedia article entitled “Megalodon”).

Megalodon sharks teeth have been found all over the world, but the teeth you’ll most likely run across on Sharks Tooth Beach belong to the great white shark.

If you want to experience the thrill of the hunt, you can find the Sharks Tooth Beach trail head off Riverview Drive, just past Summer Waves Water Park. If it’s hot, take plenty of water with you. It’ll take you about an hour of steady hiking to get their, maybe longer with small kids.

If you’d rather not hike, you can access the beach by boat from the Jekyll Harbor Marina or the Jekyll Island Boat Ramp. Kayaks would be perfect!

 

This summer, take the time to explore all the wonderful Georgia beaches, especially Jekyll Island’s 10 miles of “Beach Magic”. Each area has its distinct personality, one constantly adjusting to the maritime environment.

So come to Jekyll Island – and join in the ever-changing dance of wind and tide and sand.

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