In 1733 Gen. James Oglethorpe founded the colony Georgia. He named the island after his friend Sir Joseph Jekyll, for many years the name Jekyll was misspelled however in 1929 the Georgia legislature corrected the spelling adding the L which had been missing. Prior to this settlement missions were established by the Spanish in the coastal area of Georgia, however no mission was ever established on Jekyll Island itself. Prior to this time Jekyll was part of one of the Georgia Native American chiefdom's known as Guale. The area that time was inhabited by the Muskogee and tribes of the Creek Nation.
The tribes survived on the native vegetation and fished the creeks which were abundant with fish. They gather nuts and fruit and were also known to grow sunflowers, pumpkins, tobacco, corn, and been crops, they also made a tea from parched holly leaves.
St. Simons Island is directly across the water from Jekyll Island; Jekyll Island State Park is protected by a conservation clause which protects 65% of Jekyll Island protecting its scenic beauty and unusual wildlife. Southern Oak trees are draped with Spanish moss and can be seen throughout the park. While visiting Jekyll Island the Faith Chapel, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center are notable places to see. There are also many shops and attractions with several restored cottages there often rented out to vacationers. Horse carriage tours are highly recommended while visiting the island.
Jekyll Island is one of the many barrier islands along the Georgia coastline that have paved access. Jekyll Island has approximately 5700 acres with about 4400 acres a solid land. The remaining 1300 acres are tidal marshlands. The island itself is approximately 7 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide with 8 miles of flat beaches along the east shore. These beaches are made of hard packed sand making it easy for walking or bicycling along the coast, there are approximately 20 miles of hiking trails. Jekyll Island is located in Glynn County; many vacationers visit Landmark Historic District where guided tours are available. Summer Waves is a local water park which is become almost as popular as their golf course.
There are three picnic areas on Jekyll Island, and a large 480 foot bridge on Highway 17. The Sidney Lanier Bridge offers an amazing view of the area. Just northwest of the picnic area is a large fishing pier for the avid fisherman. A bridge crossing Clam Creek, east of the picnic areas, will take you to Driftwood Beach and North End Beach. The island marshes are filled with many different mammals' birds and reptiles that can be observed throughout the park.
Another must to visit while on the island is the Horton House where Maj. William Horton resided. It was built in 1742. This two-story structure can be found on N. Riverview Road. Just down the road are the ruins of the first brewery in Georgia which was established by Maj. William Horton. This building is one of the oldest historical buildings in the state of Georgia, across the street are the graves of five people in the du Bignon Cemetery, all expired in the 19th century.
Directly across from the Clam Creek picnic areas entrance is a campground with public restrooms, laundry facilities, showers, and a small store which offers bike rentals.Until the 20th century the southern end of the island was unsettled, however there is now a picnic area with several picnic tables, a bathroom with showers, and a 20 foot boardwalk. Due to the many years of misuse the area had to be repaired in 1983 by using bulldozers to push the dunes back into place. The boardwalk will take you to Glory Beach where the movie "Glory" was filmed. It was the producers of this film that built the boardwalk that is in use today. The boardwalk takes visitors through a number of natural habitats including ancient dunes and freshwater marshes. The third picnic area is St. Andrews located on the river side of the island and is a big attraction because of the Dolphins and a large variety of fishing birds that live there.
While visiting Jekyll Island visit the Jekyll Island history Museum is a must where you can learn about the importing of slaves on the slave ship Wanderer, which was the last slavery vessel known to transport slaves with no ramifications. This historical site houses a 12 foot steel sculpture of the ship sails. It was November 28, 1858 almost 50 years after importing slaves was outlawed in the United States that the Wanderer anchored off of Jekyll Island with 465 enslaved Africans.