Discovering the beauty and magic of the island one digit at a time.
By JOHN DONOVAN
Let’s start with the title of this magazine: It’s 31•81, numbers which identify, in landlubber’s terms, the latitude and longitude of Jekyll Island. (31.0735° N, 81.4114° W seemed a little unwieldy for the cover.) Numbers such as those have guided seafaring explorers to Jekyll for centuries. These days, we have a few more numerals to help you find your way around.
From the age-old natural monuments of Driftwood Beach to the family-friendly openness of Great Dunes Beach Park, Jekyll has seven distinct beaches to explore, offering a spot for just about every type of sand-and-sea lover.
There may be no better way to discover a little Jekyll magic than on two wheels. Jekyll has two dozen miles of bike paths that wind through forests and along pristine beaches, much of the trip under the forgiving shade of the island’s majestic tree canopy.
The image of a soaring bald eagle is often associated with mountains and wide-open vistas. But Jekyll boasts two bald eagle nests, where pairs of Haliaeetus leucocephalus perch in the fall and hatch new eaglets in the mild winters.
Some like it hot, some like it cooler, but you won’t hear many complaints when the mercury stands at 71 degrees, the average annual temperature on Jekyll Island. Some call that perfect.
Two hundred forty-three
The island’s most famous residents are its sea turtles, who nest on local beaches from late May to mid August. The sea turtle population, revered and rehabilitated at the island’s Georgia Sea Turtle Center, enjoyed a record year in 2022. Conservationists counted some 243 nests.
Solomon is the biggest and, at around 51 years old, the oldest alligator on-island. And, like many Leos (gators typically hatch in late July and into August, under the sign of Leo.), Solomon loves the spotlight. He’s often seen basking on the golf course.
One thousand one hundred
In order to join America’s first transcontinental phone call in January of 1915, AT&T president Theodore Vail ordered some 1,100 extra miles of copper cable to be strung from New York to Jekyll Island. Vail popped in on the historic call while wintering on the island.
Nearly 300 years ago, a military man named William Horton established a plantation on Jekyll to grow food for soldiers. He built a house on it in 1743, parts of which—it’s now known as Horton House—remain as one of the oldest tabby structures in Georgia.
The largest Live Oak on the island is the Plantation Oak, located just north of Crane Cottage in the Historic District. The tree measures more than 120 wide feet, limb to limb, and better than 23 feet around. It’s considered the oldest tree on-island, too, at about 400 years old.
You can find stop signs throughout any leisurely drive around Jekyll Island. There’s even a newfangled traffic circle (a roundabout?) at the entrance to the Beach Village. But traffic lights? Nope. Not a one of them. Nada. Zilch. Zero.
Four thousand three hundred and fifty-one
It should be clear to anyone who visits Jekyll Island that the natural beauty of this place is paramount. The island measures some 5,950 acres. Only 1,599 of them are developed (and those are strictly managed). That leaves 4,351 acres of unspoiled beach, waterways, dunes, marshes, and maritime forest for everyone to enjoy.