by L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.
Than Jekyll Island, Georgia there can be no greater proof of the adage that good things come in small packages! Jekyll Island measures 7 miles long by 1.5 miles wide, a mere 5,700 acres. Like other barrier islands along the Atlantic Ocean, Jekyll Island is easily accessible from Interstate 95. When motoring southward for example it is nothing more common than a left turn across what invariably are inland sea marshes to the equally predictable signpost of the Island. The initial trumpeting of Jekyll Island is a singular bit of landscaping. There are two large ponds at the entrance on either side of the comparatively private-looking causeway to the Island. The ponds each sport splendid water fountains. Not much further along the decidedly quaint road from the highway to the Island one encounters a gateway reminiscent of a staid and grand entrance constructed of mellow stucco plaster with heavy wooden doors imparting a faintly tropical flavour boosted by the roadside palm trees and vast tidal marshes which afford an expansive view and which instantly cheer one’s spirit.
The first hint of the intimacy of Jekyll Island is not long in materializing upon passing through the inaugural gateway. After a brief meander from the gateway over the marshland with its wavering sea grasses then across the inevitable rising bridge connecting the mainland to the Island, one almost precipitously lands at the foot of the Island. As with all the sea islands the tempo is instantly arrested and one comfortably begins to navigate the narrow insular roads. It is impossible not to endure the universally pristine element of the Island. Everything is immaculate and nothing dilutes that impression while interloping upon the Island howsoever long. It is no accident that this once privately owned island, before being purchased by the State of Georgia, was home to large, successful plantations and latterly an exclusive private club which catered to select wealthy patrons. These telltale traits of privilege and hedonism linger to this day and agreeably insinuate the Island.
Thanks to forward-thinking conservationists, Jekyll Island is unquestionably a resort for nature lovers and people who value the benefit of outdoor activity. When nesting on the Island one has the springboard choice of grand old-world elegance and modern upscale hotels or traditional motel-style digs. On our first visit we stayed at the old-fashioned Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Most recently we sojourned at the new Westin Hotel.
While Jekyll Island Club Hotel is located inland on a 200-acre estate, the Westin fronts immediately on the Atlantic Ocean along the 8-mile beach which is bounded by a bike path above the dunes and offering spectacular views of the adjoining beach and sea. Perhaps because of its comparatively diminutive size the Westin Jekyll Island oozes the notorious Southern hospitality, its ingenuous staff conveying an undeniable sense of family and togetherness.
The Westin is located in the self-styled Beach Village which was christened as recently as November, 2015. The Beach Village puts at one’s doorstep a variety of restaurants from casual to semi-formal, sweets shops, beachwear clothing, beach hardware, coffee shops, gift shops and local realtors. While we regularly dined in the evening at the airy and well-appointed beachside restaurant at the Westin (which also offers patio dining nonpareil), we breakfasted at the Jekyll Island Market and Deli located practically across the street from the Hotel. There we enjoyed among other things unforgettable warm cinnamon rolls! In the late afternoon after having completed our ritual bicycle ride on the beach and around the entire Island on the paths and through the historic district and traversing inland marshes, we regularly paused for a restorative Java at the very hospitable Uncle Vance’s Coffee Shop where we could idly linger on an outside deck overlooking a small park within the Beach Village and watch the world go by.
There are endless venues for relaxation and contemplation within the Westin or near about. Courtyards with cushioned sofas abound. Of course the open air pool with it southeastern exposure invites sunbathing. There are welcoming park benches overlooking the beach dunes. And if one prefers privacy there is the seclusion of one’s bedroom balcony facing the sea.
The Westin Jekyll Island provides an opportunity to defeat the fallback dereliction of tourists who have lots going on but nothing happening. Here the occasions for tranquil leisure and uplifting sights proliferate. Jekyll Island allows for the unique accommodation of restfulness and at least temporary withdrawal from toxic urban society.