Celebrating 75 Years of Jekyll Island State Park

1947-2022

An Era Worthy of Celebration

When the State of Georgia bought Jekyll Island and the exclusive Jekyll Island Club for use as a state park 75 years ago, Governor M.E. Thompson declared the island “a playground that now belongs to every Georgian.” For the first time in its history, a sizeable portion of Georgia’s coastline became available for public use. Plans were quickly implemented to “transform Jekyll into the finest seashore park in America,” from a fading millionaire’s retreat to a public treasure.

Inspired Events and Activities

“A playground that now belongs to every Georgian.”

Governor Melvin Thompson
1948

Explore the State Era

1947
1948
1950
1954
1955
1956
1958
1959
1961
1965
1969
1978
1982
1983
1984-1986
1987
2007
2010
2010
2012
2015
2019
TODAY
The State of Georgia Purchases Jekyll Island
The State of Georgia purchased the island in 1947 for $675,000 or about $6.7 million today.
Open to the Public
Jekyll Island opened to the public as a state park on March 5, 1948, with an evening dinner celebration in the Grand Dining Room of the Jekyll Island Club.
Jekyll Island Authority
Jekyll Island Authority was established as a self-supporting state agency to steward the new state park’s natural and cultural resources and protect it from overdevelopment.
Drawbridge
Drawbridge to the island was completed and opened, and Tallu Fish founded the Jekyll Island Museum, operating out of Indian Mound Cottage.
New Construction
Perimeter road around the island was paved. A Beach Pavilion was constructed at one of the only beaches open to African Americans in the south during segregation.
Peppermint Land
Peppermint Land
Peppermint Land Amusement Park opened.
CONTINUED IMPROVEMENTS
The Historic Gates welcomed guests onto the causeway starting in 1958. Also, the first beach hotel on the island, Jekyll Estates, opened.
Dolphin Club Lounge
The Dolphin Club
The Dolphin Club opened at St. Andrews Beach, the first and only section of Georgia coast accessible to African Americans, and hosted Blues legends including Otis Redding and B.B. King.
Aquarama
Aquarama
The region’s first indoor heated pool, the Aquarama, opened in 1961 at nearly Olympic-size length.
Airport
Funding was provided to pave the grass strip at the airport and construct a small support building.
Fishing Pier
The fishing pier was built on the north end of the island.
National Historic Landmark District
Jekyll Island’s historic district achieved Landmark District status, becoming known as the Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark District.
Bike Path
Construction of the first bike path began.
Georgia 4-H
The Dolphin Club, along with the auditorium and beach pavilion, were leased to the University of Georgia for 4-H summer camp, and later year-round youth environmental programs.
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
The original Clubhouse of the Jekyll Island Club was renovated and later opened as a hotel.
Summer Waves
Summer Waves Water Park opened as one of the first water parks for the region.
Georgia Sea Turtle Center
The Georgia Sea Turtle Center opened in the renovated power plant of the Jekyll Island Club.
Hampton Inn & Suites
Hampton Inn & Suites
The Hampton Inn opens, the first new hotel built on Jekyll Island in over 30 years.
Great Dunes Park
Great Dunes Beach Park
Great Dunes Park opens as a reimagined beachfront park with picnic pavilions, an activities deck, play areas, bocce ball and volleyball courts.
Convention Center
The new Jekyll Island Convention Center opened.
Revitalization
A pinnacle year for revitalization, the new shopping center, Beach Village, and hotels Holiday Inn Resort Jekyll Island and The Westin Jekyll Island open. The Jekyll Island Foundation also completes their Horton Pond and Skeet House projects.
Mosaic Opened
The reimagined Jekyll Island Museum opened its doors with new interactive exhibits building upon the stories once told by the museum's first curator, Tallu Fish.
75 Years as State Park
With the addition of new residential communities and several new hotel properties, the island attracts more than three million annual visitors to Jekyll’s natural beauty and vibrant history.