This Hideaway Island Is the Chill Holiday Escape You Need Right Now
The holiday spirit is in overdrive in this beautiful, bikeable state park.
If this were any other year, cruising past illuminated displays of three French hens, two turtles doves, and a partridge in a pear tree for the 15th time in three nights would have me reaching for an extra shot in my eggnog. But this, of course, is not any other year.
Desperate to inject some joy into 2020’s finale, after Thanksgiving I set about planning a last-minute holiday getaway with a specific set of criteria: It had to be within driving distance of Florida; semi-remote, with space to roam while staying COVID-safe; and it had to pack some good tidings and cheer.
Which is how I found myself on Jekyll Island, singing along to the Twelve Days of Christmas with my sugar-high kids in the back seat, ogling the same light display for the umpteenth time—and absolutely loving it.
Never heard of Jekyll? Just north of the Florida border, this bite-sized barrier island off the coast of Georgia was once the wintering grounds of banking elites with surnames like Rockefeller and Morgan. Today Jekyll Island is 100% state park: beautiful, bikeable, and blissfully chill. Days are best spent on the island’s many bike trails, exploring maritime forests and driftwood-covered beaches, and eating all the shrimp and grits you can handle.
Now through January 3, Jekyll packs a ton of Christmas spirit into its small acreage. And while programming looks different this year due to the pandemic, they’ve got parades, fireworks, drive-in holiday movies, and a few Santa sightings on tap. Even if you skip the events, the island’s atmosphere is straight-up magical: Its historic houses and oak-lined lanes are decked out with over a half a million twinkling lights.
Besides partaking in myriad loops of the lights drive each night, we also took a turn through the mini-golf course—currently festooned with sugar plums, swirly oversized lollipops, and the likeness of Frosty and friends. Honestly, after the year we’ve had, leaning into some cheesy old fashioned holiday cheer just felt necessary.
But this quiet island hideaway is an ideal escape any time of year. Here are some highlights.
Where to stay on Jekyll IslandJust steps from the mighty Atlantic, the casual Beachview Club Hotel has a pool, fire pit, and full suites overlooking tangles of live oaks. The Jekyll Island Club Resort, a Victorian hotel that dates back to 1888, is a more upscale option in the heart of the historic district.
At the island’s northern end, a spacious campground shaded with enormous oaks is a dreamy spot to pitch a tent or park an RV. It sits just across from the very cool Driftwood Beach, so-named for the ancient trees that fell there due to beach erosion.