Old Meets New: Soaking up Southern Charm on Jekyll Island, Georgia

Prepare to descend into yesteryear

Wraparound porches with rows of rocking chairs… A tidy croquet court… Wide green lawns… Colorful Victorian cottages… Bicycles ambling along shady winding paths… Polished wooden floors… Spanish moss draped across grand old oaks… Does this bring a picture to your mind? I’m guessing this picture still wouldn’t quite capture the natural beauty and timeless elegance that is Jekyll Island, Georgia.

It begins with the turn off of I-95 onto Highway 17. The sky is a brilliant blue, dotted with white clouds. Lush green and gold stretch out flat to the horizon, laced with random threads of waterway anchoring the waving grasses. As you approach your turn onto the Jekyll Island Causeway, you spot the Sidney Lanier bridge standing fine and tall in the distance.

You make your way through the two towers standing guard on either side of the road, past the rows of palms lining the way, and before you know it you’re surrounded by stately oaks scattered across swaths of brilliant green. Moss drips from every branch and even the power lines. The smooth roadway is crisscrossed with bike paths and crosswalks, evidence this is a place to slow down and walk or bike as you explore the gorgeous setting.

When you pull up to the grand entrance of the Jekyll Island Club, flag waving high from its minaret, a valet whisks away your keys and you actually forget you even have a car here until your stay is over. You take a look around you. White rockers sit waiting on the painted porches. Wavery glass panes sit encased in wooden window frames, thick layers of paint telling of long years providing the lovely views. Steps creak and fans turn lazily above, gently ruffling the fronds of basket after basket of hanging ferns. On the cropped lawn out front, a round of croquet is in full swing. A man pedals by with a straw Panama hat and a poodle. You ask yourself what year it is.

Upstairs, you put an actual key into an actual lock and find your luggage in an airy room with crisp white bedding and a welcome note from your housekeeper. Next, if you’re there for a blogging bootcamp like I am, you introduce yourself to your roommate…

So, yes. I attended a blogging bootcamp!! My first ever attendance at anything blogging-related. It was pretty freaking amazing. I learned more than would fit in my brain… and that was only the first day. Which of course was unfortunate, because I had two more days’ worth of stuff that continued to be poured in there. So, what did I do? I took notes. Lots of them. I listened. I made friends. I took part in everything I could take part in. I took a million pictures. Made more notes. It kind of felt like I crammed a week into 2.5 days. So I vowed to come back again… you know, to make sure I do it right (winkwink).

Hello, my name is Trout, and I will be your dinner

After an amazing welcome/meet-and-greet dinner at Ocean 80 with the marketing manager for Jekyll Island Club Resort (whom I got to sit next to for fascinating conversation all the way up through dessert), I settled into my bed happy, full, and excited. The next morning, The Pantry, onsite at the Jekyll Club, offered a pretty place to sit and have my coffee and some breakfast, and get focused for the full day ahead.

A little bit about the island and the club. The Jekyll Island Club was a private club, founded in the 1800s on a private island, whose members included the JP Morgans, Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and Pulitzers, among others. The simple lifestyle here on one of Georgia’s Golden Isles was a self-imposed respite from the usual demands of high society. Club-goers brought their families and spent the season roughing it in private “cottages” (ambling mansions) or one of the San Souci condominium apartments. Servants and staff resided in the cottages’ top floors or in dormitory buildings. Meals were prepared in separate kitchen structures alongside each cottage, to minimize the fire hazard.

Hunting, tennis, golf, billiards, and carriage driving provided pleasant recreation outside the spotlight of society for men and women alike, in an era when women were expected to spend their time engaged in more genteel and appropriate activities. On Jekyll, they got to let their hair down.

An interesting tidbit: the plans for our currency system (the Federal Reserve) were drawn up and laid out in a secret meeting of bankers who spent a week on the island under the pretense of a duck hunt, avoiding use of their own names, lest the servants spread word of their undertaking.

Back in the day the island, also part of the Sea Islands, was accessible only by boat, and the Jekyll Landing Wharf provided a dock to tie up and disembark for the short walk to the club grounds. Today, the wharf has been converted into a restaurant aptly named The Wharf. It’s a great place to catch the sun setting over the Jekyll River and grassy marshland edging this side of the state-owned island.

In this lovely setting of yesteryear, we gathered for bootcamp sessions scattered throughout the weekend, interspersed with fun activities and free time to explore, and it was a perfect mix. Some of the fun included a tram tour around the club grounds with stops at some of the historic cottages to learn about life in the days of yore; an assigned photo shoot with a partner, scavenger-hunt-style; and even getting to go to high tea! Three of us also squeezed in a shuttle ride over to dramatic Driftwood Beach and had a fine time getting head shots from one of us who happens to be an amazing professional photographer*. I love how mine turned out!

As we learned about our craft as well as the history of our surroundings, talked and got to know one another, gathered for sunset drinks to report on our photo mission, and explored the verdant nature and graceful architecture together, we bonded. A warm feeling of comraderie is perhaps the most beautiful thing I took away from my time in this magical place.

*Thank you to @rachaelcaddellphotography for the awesome time with the camera! I hope to bump into you again soon!