This year instead of our annual snowboard/family trip to Vermont we decided to stay close to home. The business is new and we wanted to be responsive to anyone who happened to want to do a holiday paddle. So instead of our regular two weeks away we decided to just do a three day trip to Jekyll Island, Georgia. The weather had been so nice we decided to take the whole trailer of boards with us to explore the area on a paddleboard.
Jekyll Island is about a five hour drive from Sarasota and is on the coast. The island is tiny, sleepy and perfect for getting away. We have been there a couple of times and we always stay at the Jekyll Island Club which was a hunting club for the millionaires of the early 1900’s—like Rockefeller, JP Morgan, and others. The whole place is perfectly restored. The architecture and lawns are just beautiful. We were lucky to stay in a room in the Annex Building with an amazing sunroom overlooking the croquet lawn and the holiday decorations. Staying there makes us feel special–like millionaires of the 1900’s.
Our first day, we rented bikes and rode around the island. There are bike trails everywhere and very few cars so it was a safe and pleasurable time for all involved. After a couple of minor crashes, everyone got the hang of it and had a great time. We were able to ride to the beach, along the beach and through residential neighborhoods. It was perfect for the low-key mini vacation we had in mind. The kids wanted to spend a lot of the time just climbing the huge oak trees on the lawn.
And, we were fine just relaxing and watching them climb.
On our second day, we had a leisurely breakfast in the Grand Dining Room, explored the Sea Turtle Center and headed out to find a place to paddle. The weather was nice—although there was a bit of a wind building and we knew we wanted to get out before it brought in cold weather. We also had to shorten our paddle plans a bit because we had the kids with us. They are good little paddlers but at about two hours they are begging to go home.
We stopped at the Tidelands Nature Center on the south end of the island and the woman there (I wish I would have gotten her name) took her time explaining a bunch of different routes that would be good to explore based on where the tides where (very low) and the currents (strong in some areas).
It was great to talk to her because she was able to really explain what we might need to worry about—things like strong currents, oyster beds and submerged sailboats. This is really key when paddling someplace new—always ask someone what to look out for. Try calling a SUP Shop in the area or a kayak shop–we have had good luck getting advice and guidance from local paddlers in every new location that we paddle.
We decided to take her advice and launch from the boat launch near Tidelands, paddle across the channel, into the salt marsh and then through some of the tidal channels. The landscape was just so different from what we are used to paddling and we were excited to get out and check it out.
Salt marshes are important ecosystems and really beautiful. We found ourselves paddling down narrowing channels—with steep mud banks covered with tall grasses. We saw lots of footprints in the mud banks, likely raccoon. We saw lots of oysters and some beautiful birds. I’m sure if we would have stopped to really take it all in we would have seen a lot more. We were just happy to be out there.
We paddled to a beach called Shark Tooth Beach to just relax and look for shark teeth. While we were sitting there, we heard a HUGE splash and caught a glimpse of something dark in the water across the channel. We are assuming it was a dolphin since we had seen others in the day. But who knows? It never reappeared…..and it was a really big splash.
By the time we paddled back to the beach, the sun was beginning to set and the air was getting cooler. We packed up our boards and headed up the road for low country boil at a restaurant right down the road.
Unfortunately, we had to head home the third day. We really wish we had more time to explore. We got a bunch of great ideas for future paddles in the area including paddling deeper into the salt marsh, exploring the paddle routes on St. Simons Island (which is very close), and a downwind run from one end of the island to the other. The best thing about Jekyll Island is it is fairly close! In just a few short hours, you can be paddling and exploring an ecosystem very different from where we usually paddle.
We are thinking about setting up a group trip to the area if anyone is interested. We would love to share this beautiful place with you on paddleboards!