Free Things to Do on Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island offers an abundance of natural beauty, historical landmarks, and family-friendly activities, and the activities you choose while on vacation don’t have to break the bank. There are plenty of free things to do on Jekyll Island, perfect for planning an itinerary that’s easy on the budget. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Jekyll Island has something for everyone. Let’s explore some of the free things to do on Jekyll Island!

Enjoy Jekyll Island’s beaches

Oceanview beach park on Jekyll Island

For a day of fun in the sun, head to Great Dunes Beach Park, where free parking, pavilions and beach facilities make it easy to set up your umbrella and relax on the sand. Enjoy a picnic lunch at one of the pavilions at Oceanview Beach Park. The scenery at Driftwood Beach is unbeatable, and the epic sunsets at St. Andrews Beach shouldn’t be missed. If you visit between May and October, you may witness sea turtle season, when adult sea turtles nest and babies make their way toward the ocean after hatching! These are all free activities that will make your Jekyll Island vacation extra memorable!

Wander through the Historic District

Transport yourself back in time as you wander through the Historic District of Jekyll Island. Marvel at the elegant architecture of the Jekyll Island Club and explore the grounds where America’s wealthiest families once vacationed. Use an official visitor’s map as you stroll through the streets to identify the cottages and historic buildings where 19th century industrialists spent time enjoying Jekyll Island.

Jekyll Island Trail System

Jekyll Island trails

Explore the island using over 20 miles of paved paths meandering through maritime forests, marshlands, and scenic beaches. Whether you prefer biking, jogging, or leisurely walks, this extensive trail network provides a peaceful journey through the island’s diverse landscapes. Use a visitor’s guide map to guide you to the points of interest around the island.

Explore Horton House

Take a step back into the island’s colonial history with a visit to Horton House, the remnants of an English tabby house built in the 18th century. Wander through the ruins and imagine life on the island centuries ago. Venture across the road to visit Dubignon cemetery which houses tombstones of one of the earliest settling families on the island.

Walk the Steps of the Past

Wandered memory trail on Jekyll Island

Visit the Wanderer Memory Trail, an open air educational exhibit featuring the story of one of the last known slave ships, the Wanderer, which landed illegally on Jekyll Island. This powerful memorial trail includes interpretive signage which provides historical context and highlights the stories of individuals who were connected to the Wanderer, including enslaved Africans, crew members, and local residents.

Go Fishing

Jekyll Island is known for its excellent onshore fishing and many of the spots are accessible for free. Anglers can cast their lines from the island’s beaches, fishing piers, and docks. Some popular spots for shore fishing include Driftwood Beach, St. Andrews Beach, and the Jekyll Island Fishing Pier. Common catches in this area can include flounder, redfish, trout, and tarpon. Learn more about the best fishing spots to reel in your big catch on Jekyll Island!

Observe Local Wildlife

The marshlands, maritime forest, freshwater ponds and shoreline of Jekyll Island provide plenty of opportunities to spot local wildlife. Spend some time at Horton Pond to see alligators, turtles and wading birds in their natural habitat. Take a walk underneath the canopies of live oaks to spot racoons and bald eagles’ nests. To catch a glimpse of dolphins, migratory birds and marshland wildlife, head to the observation tower at St. Andrew’s Beach for a birds-eye view.

Bird Watching

Seabirds on Jekyll Island

Grab your binoculars and head out on Jekyll Island’s trails to spot ospreys, bald eagles, shorebirds and more. The island is an important stop for migrating birds along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, so fall and spring bring additional opportunities to see certain species. Some of the best birding spots can be found in the northern end of the island, while the interior and southern end of the island offer the chance to see a diverse array of perching birds and shorebirds. Try the Merlin Bird ID app for help in identifying the birds you see or hear.

Attend a Local Event

 Jekyll Island offers cultural and seasonal events throughout the year, many of which are free to attend. Summer brings free outdoor movie nights and Independence Day festivities. In October, the Jekyll Island Shrimp and Grits Festival takes over the Historic District for a free, family-friendly weekend of food, music and handcrafted goods. The holiday season is magical on Jekyll Island, with tons of free events through the month of December, and January brings the annual Island Treasures scavenger hunt.

Enjoy Local Art

Head over to the Jekyll Island Arts Association in the Historic District to explore free exhibits showcasing local artists. If you are visiting in March, don’t miss the annual Jekyll Island Arts Festival, a free two-day event with an art show, artist demonstrations, and live entertainment.

Jekyll Island offers a variety of free activities for travelers of all ages to enjoy. Whether you’re exploring the island’s natural beauty, learning its fascinating history, or simply relaxing on the pristine beaches, the island promises an unforgettable experience. Book your Jekyll Island vacation rental and start planning your visit!