by Guerry Norwood


Our Hodnett Cooper real estate agents got a personal tour of the new Jekyll Island Convention Center today. The new convention center opened at end of May with a ribbon cutting ceremony with Governor Nathan Deal. The 128,000-square foot Jekyll Island Convention Center had been in planning for more than four years. Construction on the center began in 2010, and was completed several months ahead of schedule and under the planned $50 million budget.

Already, the center has garnered extensive praise from convention planners and state officials. More than 200 conventions are booked through 2016, which will have a resulting economic impact of more than $40 million on Georgia’s economy and also generate increased tourism for Jekyll Island. The positive impact on tourism is already being seen in an uptick in revenues by hotels in the area, as businesses across the Southeast become more aware of all that Jekyll Island offers. This trend is expected to continue and even accelerate.

Jekyll Island has been chosen as a site for Twentieth Century Fox movie, X-Men: First Class. Filming began in October and is scheduled to run through January.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the film’s producers have agreed to pay the authority $16,000 for use of a 4.5-acre beach area east of Beachview Drive and the Clam Creek fishing pier.

Fox spokesman Chris Petrikin said Jekyll Island was picked for its visual aesthetic, ease of travel and the local availability of housing and equipment.


Join the United Way of Coastal Georgia for their 2010 campaign kickoff event, The Wrecking Ball. Be among the last to celebrate at the old aquarama on Jekyll Island. Home to many local events, including decades of proms and graduations, the former convention center is destined to be torn down this fall.  To commemorate its passing, the United Way has organized one last dance. With entertainment from the Class of 69′ Reunion Band, O.S.K.A.R RockHammer, and Mason Waters & The Groove Allstars, this event promises to be an evening to remember. Tickets are $35 per individual or $60 per couple. Dress is “your favorite aquarama memory,” so anything goes… from cap and gown to old prom attire. For tickets, click here.

Happy July Fourth to All!!

We are so happy to see the many familiar, and new, faces out and about in the Golden Isles this weekend. If you’re looking for something to do, aside from the beach, there is plenty of activity this weekend.

On Jekyll

The following events are scheduled for Sunday, July 4th on Jekyll Island:
All Day – Jekyll Island Mini Golf Tournament
5:00pm – Patriotic Festival opens with food, games and music
5:30pm – 6:30pm – Patriotic Tunes by the Southeast Navy Band’s VIP Combo
7:30pm – 9:30pm – Country Music Band Hayfire
9:30pm – Fireworks Finale
9:30pm until – Blackbeard’s Seafood Restaurant late night Happy Hour
9:30pm until – Great Dunes July the FORE!-th Night Golf Tournament

The following events are scheduled for Sunday, July 4th on Jekyll Island:
All Day – Jekyll Island Mini Golf Tournament
5:00pm – Patriotic Festival opens with food, games and music
5:30pm – 6:30pm – Patriotic Tunes by the Southeast Navy Band’s VIP Combo
7:30pm – 9:30pm – Country Music Band Hayfire
9:30pm – Fireworks Finale 9:30pm until – Blackbeard’s Seafood Restaurant late night Happy Hour
9:30pm until – Great Dunes July the FORE!-th Night Golf Tournament

On St. Simons

Sunshine Festival Arts & Crafts show in the Village – July 2nd to 4th, daytime. Painting, pottery, jewelry, fiber art, garden art, wood craft, photography, sculpture, sweetgrass baskets, art glass and much much more.

Fireworks on the Pier, July 4th, beginning at 9:00 pm.

In Downtown Brunswick

Mary Ross Park, Parade and Fireworks

Walking Parade lines up at 6:15 p.m. at Hanover Square and proceed through Downtown to Mary Ross Waterfront Park

Celebration at the Park begins 7 p.m. with games, prizes, music, free watermelon slices for everyone.
After dark, a Spectacular Fireworks Display over the East River!

by Guerry Norwood

The state of Georgia owns Jekyll Island, one of only four Georgia barrier islands reachable by car, where authorities attempt to maintain a delicate balance between preserving the island’s natural qualities and offering a full plate of outdoor recreational opportunities.

The 5,700-acre island, with 8 miles of beach and 4,400 acres of uplands, supports every kind of natural community found on a Georgia barrier island, thus creating an outdoor classroom for the study of island flora and fauna. Several sites on the causeway and island are on the Colonial Coast Birding Trail. Also located on the island is the 200-acre Jekyll Island Club National Historic District, where the richest and most powerful men in America built an exclusive, winter hideaway from the demands of their businesses. The natural beauty of the island, the historic district, golf, tennis, and biking are the main attractions of the island, located only 6 miles from Brunswick and 10 miles from Interstate 95.

While there are not as many lodging, restaurant, or shopping options as on Georgia’s other developed islands, there are fewer residents and development is limited to one-third of the island, producing a wilder experience. About 20 miles of trails are available to hikers, joggers, and bikers, where they can experience firsthand the beautiful native flora and fauna of Georgia’s beaches, dunes, maritime forests, marshes, creeks, and salt flats. Because the island is a state park, a small parking fee is charged at the entrance to the island. Not as touristy and developed as Tybee, or sumptuous as St. Simons and Sea Island, this island with controlled development and outstanding natural areas might be just right for you.

Jekyll, a relatively small island measuring 7 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, consists of both Pleistocene and Holocene components, which has affected natural communities on the island as well as developmental patterns. The richer, older Pleistocene soils (35,000 years old) support a greater diversity of species and attracted farming and timbering activities during the plantation period of the island’s recent history. The younger, Holocene soils (5,000 years old), found at the northern end past Clam Creek and at the southern end in the form of dunes and sloughs of a recurved spit, are eroding southward. Under normal conditions, the northeastern end would feature extensive shoals, but sands migrating from islands to the north are trapped by a man-made trench, which allows large ships into Brunswick harbor. The northeast end features a beautiful boneyard beach, where a maritime forest of live oak is being undercut by currents and tides. At the south end, developing dune systems make a living laboratory for plant succession.

From eastern beach to western marsh, the mix of natural communities supports an impressive array of animal species. Atlantic bottle-nosed dolphins are commonly observed surfacing for air in Jekyll Creek, and deer and raccoons are abundant. Over the last 10 years, the beaches of Jekyll have provided critical nesting grounds to an average of 100 threatened sea turtles a year. Shells and marine creatures wash up on the beaches, such as knobbed whelks, mermaid purses, horseshoe crabs, and whelk egg cases.

Several species of marine creatures are found living in the intertidal zone such as ghost shrimp, mole crabs, and coquina clams. At the base of the primary dunes, quarter-sized holes are evidence of ghost crabs, which feed on tiny organisms in the wrack at night. Freshwater ponds, including those on the golf courses, are refuges for alligators, turtles, frogs, and snakes. Bird life is abundant across the island, including many shorebird, waterfowl, and songbird species. Woodpeckers and owls are observed in the woodlands, and hawks and vultures are seen gliding on warm currents in the sky.

Like Georgia’s other barrier islands, shell mounds are evidence that the island was a popular hunting ground for Indians on the coast. However, during the Spanish mission period from 1560 to 1680, Jekyll Island had no major Indian settlements and consequently the Spanish never established a mission there. (Earlier histories supply Jekyll with an Indian name, an Indian village, and a Spanish mission, but new research proves these accounts are wrong.) The original Indian name for the island is lost to history. The Spanish called it Isla de Ballenas, which translates to “whale island,” referring to the fact that the waters in this area were (and are to this day) breeding grounds for right whales.

During the 1600s and first half of the 1700s, Georgia became known as “the debatable land” as Spain and England struggled to control the new territory. England sent Gen. Oglethorpe and 114 colonists to Georgia to establish a foothold. Oglethorpe established towns and fortifications along the coast, including Savannah, Darien, and Frederica on St. Simons.

Oglethorpe named Jekyll Island in honor of his friend Dr. Joseph Jekyll who was the greatest contributor to the new colony. On Jekyll Island, Oglethorpe established a forward observation post commanded by Maj. William Horton. Horton grew rye and hops on 222 acres for the purpose of brewing beer for English soldiers. Rum was forbidden in the new colony, but beer was not. Ruins of Horton’s brewery can still be seen on the island today.

Not wanting his enemy to see his Frederica fortifications, Oglethorpe used Jekyll as a neutral meeting ground for English and Spanish negotiations. After the Battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons in 1742, the Spanish relinquished their claims on Georgia, but stopped on Jekyll first and destroyed Horton’s home. Horton rebuilt, but left the island in 1(912) 748 for a new plot of ground near the Ogeechee River.
After Horton’s death, the island passed through several hands before being bought by the colorful Frenchman, Christopher Poulain du Bignon, who had fought with American patriots during the Revolutionary War. The du Bignons, in partnership with four other French families, settled Sapelo Island first, but when the partnership dissolved in 1793, du Bignon and several other families purchased Jekyll Island. Eventually, du Bignon became sole owner of the island and it remained in his family’s possession for nearly a century.

The du Bignons planted sea island cotton on much of the 3,000 acres of Pleistocene soil, which was much more fertile than the soil of Holocene portions of Jekyll. The older portions of the island were also logged for their live oak timber, and today have recovered in a mix of pines, younger oaks, and mixed hardwoods. The Holocene portions were left relatively untouched. The slave-holding du Bignons became wealthy plantation owners until the Civil War ended the plantation era in the South.

The last slaves brought to America from Africa landed on Jekyll Island in 1858, when the 114-foot racing schooner Wanderer unloaded its illegal cargo here. The importation of slaves had been outlawed, but great profit lay in smuggling human cargo to the South. The Wanderer picked up 490 slaves on the West Coast of Africa and sailed to Georgia, where the Charleston, South Carolina ship owner received as much as $600 per slave. Ironically, the slave ship was seized during the Civil War by Union forces, fitted with guns, and used to fight for black freedom during the war.

In 1886, du Bignon’s grandson John sold the island for $125,000 to the Jekyll Island Club, a group of the wealthiest, most powerful men in the country, ushering in the most well-known chapter in the island’s history. The club’s membership boasted some of the most famous names of American enterprise: Morgan, Vanderbilt, Astor, Gould, Rockefeller, McCormick, Baker, Biddle, Whitney, Armour, Crane, Goodyear, Pulitzer, Macy, and Bliss. This group’s interest in Jekyll sparked interest from other wealthy businessmen who purchased Wassaw, Ossabaw, St. Catherines, Sapelo, and Cumberland islands for personal hunting grounds and winter retreats.

The millionaires built a village of beautiful cottages and a nine-hole golf course. Because they owned the entire island and their activities only impacted one-tenth of it, the major effect on Jekyll was to preserve the island for 60 years while other islands, such as Tybee and St. Simons, were being developed as residential islands.

The Great Depression of the 1930s, World War II, and the advent of income taxes made Jekyll much less attractive to the millionaires, who sold the island to the state in 1947 for $675,000 to become a new state park. A causeway and bridge were completed in December 1954, allowing much greater public access. Today, the Jekyll Island Authority manages the island, where 65 percent is left in a more or less natural state (including parks and picnic grounds), and the other 35 percent is developed, including motels, a convention center, residences, businesses, public golf courses, and a water park. Some 800 people live on the island in privately owned residences. They have a 99-year lease on their land from the Jekyll Island Authority, which is transferable if the residence sells, but no more property is available for housing.

Activities on the island range from scheduled nature walks to gliding down a water slide. Visitors and vacationers will be well entertained by Jekyll’s golf, tennis, biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, historic touring, beachcombing, and bird-watching. Offered in stores on the island is a highly recommended field guide to Jekyll Island titled A Guide to a Georgia Barrier Island, by Taylor Schoettle, which makes an excellent companion to this volume and is able to go into greater detail.

Click Here for a You Tube video on Jekyll Island.

For more information:
Jekyll Island Convention and Visitors Bureau
PO Box 13186, Jekyll Island, GA 31527.
Phone (877) 453-5955.

Executive Director Jones Hooks and key management of the Jekyll Island Authority will be hosting a “Town Hall Meeting” of open dialogue with residents, business owners and interested parties to discuss operational issues and opportunities on Jekyll Island. Thursday, June 17, 2010 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm, upstairs at McCormick’s Grill, Jekyll Island Golf Course.

Jekyll Island Town Hall Meetings are a regular forum of informal dialogue. There is no agenda in this Town Hall Meeting format, and attendees are welcome to drop in at any time during the gathering and join the discussion.

By Guerry Norwood

Jekyll Island Historic District, a National Historic Landmark administered by the state of Georgia, is situated on the southeast side of Jekyll Island. Occupied by the Guale Indians who called the area Ospo, the island was a popular hunting and fishing site. Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, maintained an outpost on the island, and a plantation was established by one of his officers, Maj. William Horton. In 1794 a French family, the du Bignons, bought the island. They retained possession until 1886 when the island was sold to the newly formed “Jekyll Island Club.” Considered to be the most exclusive social club in the United States, the Jekyll Island Club had a limit of 100 members, among them the Astors, Vanderbilts, Pulitzers, Morgans and McCormicks and was laid out by prominent landscape architect H.W.S. Cleveland. A club house was built on the island and members constructed private “cottages”– enormous residences designed to house entire families with staff. The club was open for the post-Christmas season when many families came down from Newport and New York to relax and enjoy the “country life.” In 1942 the U.S. government ordered the area evacuated. The state of Georgia purchased the island from the club in 1947 and turned it into a state park. Most of the cottages have been preserved and are open to the public. Among them are San Souci, owned in part by J.P, Morgan and one of the first condominiums in the U.S.; Indian Mound, the twenty-five room home of the Rockefeller family; the Goodyear Cottage completed in 1906 from designs by the firm of Carrére and Hastings; Crane Cottage, circa 1917, the largest and most lavish of the cottages; the original Club House, a wood and brick Victorian structure with towers and manicured lawns; and Faith Chapel, built in 1904 in the Gothic style with copies of the Notre Dame de Paris gargoyles. The chapel also has a large signed Tiffany stained glass window.

The Jekyll Island Arts Association presents the Arts Festival on Jekyll Island. March 12, 13, and 14 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm in the Historic District. Painting, pottery, wood carving, photography, ceramics, basketry, porcelain arts, stained glass, sculpture, and more!  Admission is free.

by Guerry Norwood

North End Beach, best walked at low tide, shows dramatic evidence of erosion, with the exposed roots of dead, decorticated oaks and pines producing a boneyard beach that wraps around to the eastern side of the island. The oaks have flat root mats and the pines have deep, vertical roots. During storms, the heavier oaks tend to tip over and remain, while the pines snap off at the roots and are carried off by the tides. Off the north end is the Brunswick shipping channel, which is annually dredged to allow deep-draft container ships to enter Brunswick Harbor. Geologists believe the dredged channel is responsible for the loss of more than 1,000 feet of beach since the early 1900s when dredging began. Sand drifting southward from islands across the sound is trapped in this channel rather than renourishing the northern beaches. The result is erosion with no accretion, and the Holocene fragment with its natural communities continues to adapt and change.

After North End Beach, the path turns south to border a marsh that experiences poor tidal circulation, thus supporting high marsh and marsh border flora that is less tolerant of salt water, such as the yellow aster-flowered sea oxeye and dark needle rush. On the other side of the marsh, which is accessible by beach during lower tides, is a fascinating and beautiful boneyard beach that reveals the erosion that has occurred on the northern end of the island.

The southern trail, suitable for biking, follows the eastern side of Clam Creek to the North Beach Picnic Area. The bike path follows the marsh, where one can observe alligators, otters, deer, and snakes, along with bird life such as egrets, herons, painted buntings, yellow-throated warblers, clapper rails, and kingfishers. The path dissects some pine and cedar hammocks that are havens for wildlife, before reaching the North Beach Picnic Area. This site was closed in 1986 due to erosion problems. Today, it is the best example of a boneyard beach on a developed island off the Georgia coast. Some exploration will reveal how currents and tides are stripping away soil and undercutting and killing a maritime forest that tumbles onto the sands to create a beautiful boneyard beach. If the erosion continues, Clam Creek will connect with the Atlantic on the eastern side and create an island out of the Holocene northern portion of Jekyll.

by Andrea Marroquin

Due to the popularity of “The Holidays in History” tour offered the past several years, the Jekyll Island Museum has expanded what was just a weekend program into a showcase for virtually the entire month of December.  “The Holidays in History” tour will provide snapshots of celebrations of the Christmas season in America through time.

Tours will begin at the Jekyll Island Museum on Stable Road with a guide shepherding small groups of guests through the centuries by tram.  They will venture throughout the 240-acre Jekyll Island National Historic Landmark District, richly decorated for the season.

“This tour will be really special,” promised John Hunter, the Director of the Jekyll Island Museum, a division of the Jekyll Island Authority.  Guests will hear the carols that were popular in each period and encounter one costumed interpreter performing reenactments of how the holidays may have been celebrated, at different period-decorated cottages in the historic district.  Along the way, meaningful customs of each time will be revealed.

“Our costumed characters will change frequently and will be a daily surprise,” Hunter said.  “Guests will see the entire district and enter two of the cottages.  But which cottage interiors they visit will also change on a daily basis.  This enables us to be responsive to those guests who want to come back for a variety of experiences with us.”

Through the course of December, guests might witness a Victorian Christmas at Club Cottage in the year 1890.  They might hear about the Jekyll Island Club’s seasonal celebrations inside historic Faith Chapel, built in 1904.  They might take their revelry into a rustic hunting retreat at Moss Cottage in the year 1905.  They might experience an Edwardian holiday season at Mistletoe Cottage around 1910.  Or they might participate in festivities at Indian Mound Cottage in the year 1917.

“Jekyll Island is an ideal backdrop for this program,” Hunter explained.  “Our history is so rich and our historic buildings span a very broad time range.  The homes will be all decked out for the season.  It is really fun to see history come to life here.  This is a truly heartwarming and memorable program.”

Along the pathway through time, visitors hear holiday tunes of the past in celebration of the eras they travel through, from Victorian times through the Jazz Age.  They also interact with a period character along their travel route.

Meet John Eugene or Alice Dubignon, filled with holiday spirit, during the time when their family owned Jekyll Island in its entirety.  Bump into Head Housekeeper Minnie Schuppan, or Club Superintendent Ernest Grob, readying a cottage for the Club Members’ arrival.  Share popular Christmas carols with a member of the Rockefeller staff.  Or exchange Christmas greetings with a Club Member or Guest on their way out for a round of golf or preparing Faith Chapel for a Christmas party.

Hunter explained that the museum possesses an array of costumed characters to draw from as well as a talented crew of interpretive guides.  Experiences will vary throughout the month of December and no two tours will be the same.

“We promise guests that no matter what day they come, they will glean an overview of how Christmas celebrations have evolved through time and experience the sights, sounds, customs, and pleasures of holidays past.  We hope that this tour will help to spread the sentiment of the season and bring those joys into our guests’ holidays today and in the future,” Hunter said.

The Holidays in History program is offered daily, December 6-31, 2009 at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, & 3:00 pm, except December 24 and 25.  The rate for this special seasonal tour is $16 for Adults, $7 for Children 6-12, and Free Under 6.

Coming back to sneak a peak inside some of the museum’s other decorated cottages?  Hoping to meet a different costumed character?  The Jekyll Island Museum offers a special discounted rate of $5 per person for a “second day” tour, so that guests can visit multiple cottages during the course of their stay.  For more information contact the Jekyll Island Museum at (912) 635-4036.

To view a YouTube video sneak preview of the tour, visit