Last week Tom and I took the tandem and drove over to Jekyll Island to hit the bike trails there. Even though you can see Jekyll Island from St. Simons, you have to drive east over the causeway to Brunswick, south over the Sidney Lanier Bridge, and then west over the tollway ($6 per car) to Jekyll. Instead of one mile over the water, it is 20 miles by land.
Unlike St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island is mostly owned by a conservancy that keeps the island natural. About 1,000 people live on Jekyll full-time and there is relatively little development. There are two residential areas, a Historic District, a big campground, a line of hotels and condos along the beach, some churches and restaurants. This makes Jekyll easy to navigate.
There are more miles of bike trails on Jekyll than there are roads. Tom and I decided to make a big loop around the island so we could see most of it at one time. There is plenty of parking on the island – big lots at each of the beaches, a huge lot at the convention center, and smaller lots at each of the tourist attractions. We parked at the gas station/grocery store/Dairy Queen parking lot in the center of the island and headed out.
It was a beautiful day for a ride: 65 degrees and an absolutely clear sky. We rode quickly by the Historic District because we knew we would explore that another day. I saw hundreds of waterfowl in the marshes along the way. At the Horton House State Historic Area, we got off the bike to read the historic markers and check out the plantation house and cemetery. When we got to the northern end of the island, we parked the bike and walked to the end of the pier. We saw people fishing, bird watching, riding horses, and walking along the beach.
We headed south through a marsh on a boardwalk and soon got to the beach side of Jekyll Island. Jekyll has more beach than St. Simons because St. Simons is protected on the east by Sea Island. We rode for five miles along the boardwalk above the beach, enjoying the sun off the ocean. Hotels and condos sit well back from the beach and the dunes have a wild look.
South of the shopping and restaurant area, the bike trail heads away from the beach and returns to the side of the road. We rode another mile and then decided to take one of the cut-off trails instead of riding all the way to St. Andrews Beach. Although most of the bike trails are paved, the cut-off through the maritime forest is hard-packed sand. The cut-off was an especially beautiful part of the ride, because we felt very removed from civilization. After a couple of miles, we popped back out onto the paved trail directly across from the parking lot where we started.
Of course we had to have ice cream after our ride. How convenient that Dairy Queen was right there!
We enjoyed our ride on the bike trails of Jekyll Island very much. With fewer people and less traffic, it is worth the drive and the toll onto the island. Being away from the road during most of the ride made us feel like we were seeing places the car-driving tourists would miss. Bike riding is a wonderful part of island life.