Social distancing, COVID-19 and vacation are not words you hear together often, but with a bit of preparation and planning, it is possible to do all at the same time!
This summer, we took two, separate weekend trips to Jekyll Island, Georgia – a 5,500 acre island, just an hour north of Jacksonville, Florida – and found it to be peaceful, quiet and just the right amount of interaction with others – at a distance, of course.
From exploring the bike trails to attractions, to some beach time and great outdoor dining – it was just the escape we needed… and we are already planning our return trip.
Here’s a look at our social distanced vacation to Jekyll Island, Georgia –
Bike Trails on Jekyll Island
Jekyll Island is home to more than 25 miles of bike trails making it the perfect way to explore the island and travel without a car. From riding on the boardwalks by the beach or traveling on the inner-island trails – keep your eyes open for wildlife. We came across a family of deer on one ride and saw an area marked off for an eagle’s nest too.
During both of our trips, biking quickly became our favorite way to explore the island. We rode our bikes everywhere around the island and saw many other families doing the same. The island is incredibly bike-friendly.
And if you didn’t travel with your personal bikes, there are rental companies on the island and many have bikes available for rent right at the hotels, making it even easier to start exploring.
The Jekyll Island Visitors Center has bike trail maps and I actually used Google Maps on my phone to map out a few trails, just switch the setting in the app to biking. We rode to the Historic District, over to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center and we even rode our bikes to dinner most nights.
Outdoor Dining, FTW!
And speaking of dining – make sure you’re hungry when you visit Jekyll Island. From fantastic Mexican food to seafood, fine dining and even pizza – you won’t be hungry during your visit. And on both our visits to the island, it was important for us to find places with outdoor dining and we were not disappointed.
During both trips to Jekyll Island, we opted to eat at “off” hours in order to avoid crowds and long wait times for dinner. Lunch at 11:30 a.m.-ish, dinner at 5:30 p.m.-ish and that plan worked for us. At each restaurant, we asked for outdoor seating and had no problem being sat right away.
Our favorite lunch spot was The Wharf, located along the riverfront with a beautiful marina. We loved sitting outside and watching the boats go by. Fried shrimp is always my ‘go-to’ dish here, but they have plenty of Southern dishes and non-seafood dishes to choose from here.
If you’re in the mood for Mexican food (if you are like me, you are ALWAYS in the mood), check out Tortuga Jack’s. Overlooking the ocean, their patio is the perfect spot for outdoor dining and enjoying a few, cold beverages too.
The restaurant is directly on the bike path too, making it an easy ride to the restaurant and a great way to work off those chips and queso too! And again, arrive early for this popular spot to beat the crowds as they don’t do reservations.
Visit the Georgia Sea Turtle Center
My girls favorite place to go when we visit Jekyll Island is the Georgia Sea Turtle Center (yep, we rode our bikes there too.) As the state’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility, you can see turtles getting medical checkups, learn about their nesting seasons and how to help sea turtles.
As far as social distancing and safety procedures, the center is encouraging guests to purchase tickets online. You can just show them your tickets on your phone, no need for printouts. On our last visit, they were limiting the number of guests in the building. So, once again – get there early to avoid a wait time.
For a pre-social distancing era review of our visit to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, check out my review story here.
Accommodations on Jekyll Island
As I said, we made two separate trips to Jekyll Island during the summer. On our first stay, we called The Westin Jekyll Island our home, right in the middle of the shopping area and within walking distance to restaurants and overlooking the ocean. It is on the higher end of accommodations, as far as price and amenities, but we enjoyed our stay.
Hand sanitizing stations, social distancing markers on the floors, masks,etc. All bases were covered at the hotel. If on-site dining is important to you, make sure and call to see what is available as things may change.
On our second trip, we stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Jekyll Island on the South end of the island. The hotel is quiet and is oceanfront, yet doesn’t offer any ocean views because of the high dunes. However, there is a great boardwalk that leads you through a wooded area right to the beach.
All Hilton Hotels feature this sticker along the door and adjacent wall. Housekeeping essentially “seals” the door shut with this sticker after it has been cleaned. You ‘break’ the sticker apart when you unlock/open your door for the first time. It is a nice touch, but no matter where you stay, I’d still bring along wipes for high-touch areas throughout the room.
At the Hampton Inn & Suites, daily housekeeping was not available and the typical ‘free’ breakfast in the lobby was just a to-go bag with a breakfast/granola bar, a piece of fruit and bottled water. We knew this ahead of time and packed some extra breakfast food to eat in the room during our stay.
Ready to Plan Your Social Distanced Trip to Jekyll Island?
Jekyll Island, Georgia is a short one-hour drive from the Jacksonville (FL) International Airport and about an hour and a half south of Savannah, Georgia. Because Jekyll Island is a Georgia State Park, all vehicles entering the island must purchase a parking pass at the entrance to the island for $8.
The official Jekyll Island website was also a wealth of knowledge, including the most up-to-date on openings and closures due to COVID-19. For a glimpse of what it is like to visit, check out the Jekyll Island Instagram page and follow along on Facebook too.
What Are Your Tips for Social Distancing and Traveling?
** Because honesty and full disclosure are important to me: This trip was not sponsored in any way. All activities, meals and accommodations were paid for on our own. **