“While fishing on the Jekyll Island Pier, I spotted a Loggerhead swimming towards the pier.” wrote J. Michael Tracy. “I grabbed my camera and got some nice shots. Jekyll Island is a photographers paradise.”Sea turtles have been around since the time of the dinosaurs, but all seven species in the world face potential extinction. Georgia’s only Sea Turtle rehabilitation center is on Jekyll Island.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Head to family-friendly Jekyll Island for Memorial Day Weekend

Looking for an easy last-minute getaway for the weekend? Consider Georgia's very own coast, home to family-friendly Jekyll Island, where there's plenty to see, eat and do for the whole gang. Combo that with an affordable price tag and a host of free activities, and you've got the perfect recipe for a fun family vacation.

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Located just about a five-hour drive from Atlanta within the chain of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island is a laid-back location, home to 10 miles of expansive beaches—including picturesque Driftwood Beach—and ethereal stretches of live oaks draped in Spanish moss. The island features four award-winning golf courses and Georgia's only rehabilitation center for endangered sea turtles. You can also check out dolphins on a guided kayak tour or ride a bike through the Historic District.

For the little ones, head over to Jekyll Island Mini Golf, which also boasts two playgrounds next door, or visit Summer Waves Water Park to beat the heat and have fun slipping and sliding away (bonus: kids ages 3 and under are free with approved swim diaper).

The island offers multiple lodging options, including the beachfront Holiday Inn Resort (701 N. Beachview Dr., Jekyll Island, 912-635-2211), which has a quarter-mile of private beach access, a beach-side pool and playground, and often hosts special events like live entertainment.

To make your trip even more affordable, Holiday Inn Resort lets kids ages 12 and under eat free at the on-site poolside restaurant, The Anchor, for breakfast, lunch or dinner. The hotel features 157 rooms, plus 21 suites, including the Kid's Suite that offers bunk beds and a separate room for mom and dad, plus a kitchenette with a full-size refrigerator, microwave and stovetop for cooking a few meals yourself, as well as a private balcony.

And if you don't consider it a real vacation without your furry, four-legged family member, you'll be happy to know you can bring Fido along for the trip. Holiday Inn Resort has several dog-friendly rooms available, and Jekyll Island itself features plenty of dog-friendly restaurants and beaches, plus 25 miles of paths and trails to enjoy long walks with man's best friend.

Located off Highway 520, next to the beach, the Days Inn & Suites hotel offers an affordable vacation with extras like free parking, continental breakfast and WiFi, plus on-site bike rentals and two pools, including a hot tub and kiddie pool. All rooms at the Days Inn feature a microwave and refrigerator to make family travel even easier (kitchenette suites also are available). Better yet, kids ages 17 and under stay free with an adult.

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Another great lodging option for families visiting Jekyll Island is the ocean-side Hampton Inn & Suites, which features a beautifully preserved oak tree canopy to admire as you stroll their boardwalk down to the beach. The property's zero-entry pool is ideal for little ones to splash in, and the Hampton's free hot breakfast makes it easy to feed the whole family on the cheap. This kid-friendly hotel, which is also pet-friendly, makes family travel easy with cribs, high chairs, a kids' menu and spacious guest rooms and suites. 

There's also the newly opened Westin Jekyll Island hotel, which features 187 guestrooms and 13 suites--with direct beach access and ocean views. Enjoy dining at one of their three on-site venues, ranging from a full-service restaurant to a poolside cafe and bar. The dog-friendly hotel also offers a zero-entry pool and is just one mile from popular Driftwood Beach. The Jekyll Island Beach Village is conveniently located next door.

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