On Jekyll Island, waves lick the 10 miles of beaches as kayaks cut through the salty water, cyclists roll over 20 miles of paved trails, and riders on horseback clop through hushed maritime forests. All visitors to the barrier island can partake in myriad active, relaxing, or educational activities while immersed in its lush natural landscapes, where dunes give way to beaches filled with hermit crabs and shell collecting and where birders clutch binoculars to examine avian habitats and decode gulls' sign language. The island's public golf club, open since 1898, hosts two 18-hole courses and one 9-hole course on manicured greens and rolling terrain. In the summer, the Summer Waves Water Park provides a cool escape from the heat with six slides, a wave pool, and a lazy river. For indoor adventurers, exhibits at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center illuminate the lives of the shelled reptiles, and a museum preserves relics of the wealthy families who used the island as their gilded getaway and a place to bury their expired money. The Jekyll Island Authority oversees all conservation and development on the idyllic island, existing to continually improve the park and its amenities.
St. Simons Island, recently named the third-best island in the country by AOL Travel, is etched with an elaborate network of scenic biking trails, which visitors can explore on a fleet of rental two-wheelers. A web of leisurely tracks weaves through the south end of the resort village, winding along the marshlands coast at East Beach and along the length of Frederica Road. Cyclists can also navigate the island's pearly beaches or traverse the popular airport trail. For a more demanding outing, a 12-mile stretch originating at the northern end of Frederica Road offers wide-open riding, panoramic views, and honey-coated speed bumps.A scenic, 20-mile drive south brings island hoppers to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a marine-turtle rehabilitation, research, and education center located on Jekyll Island. During guided tours, guests explore a host of exhibits on the islands' indigenous reptiles, illuminating the creatures' habits, human efforts to protect them, and findings from ecological and wildlife health research. In addition to sea turtles, the center also nurtures diamondback terrapins, river cooters, and gopher tortoises.
Designed in a collaborative effort between former Masters champion Fred Couples and Love Golf Design, The Golf Club at Sanctuary Grove’s 18-hole, par 71 course snakes across 7,003 yards of immaculate greenery. Golf carts nimbly traverse the course’s labyrinthine corridors, zipping players past the intervening ponds, towering pines, and trash-talking waterfowl that supply the bulk of the course’s challenges.
Since 1959, Putt-Putt of Fernandina Beach has hosted friendly rounds of mini golf for families, leagues, and tournaments. Co-owner Aaron Bean was one such player—he began working at the putt-putt location as a teenager and still currently holds the course’s nine-hole record of 10 strokes and most convincing celebratory swan dive into the ocean, which is located just steps away. The course has also tested the putting prowess of players in the 2010 Sonny’s Florida State Putt-Putt Championship and 2011 Southern Putting Tour Championship.
The 27 holes at Fernandina Beach Golf Club sweep through subtropical Florida's misty, palm-filled landscapes, inscribing fond memories of grass sighing and cups clinking. Each set of nine holes extends over more than 3,000 yards of native trees and naturally occurring jelly bunkers, rewarding golfing companions with a nirvana of subtle, rolling greens. Golf carts zip through the links and beat the heat, saving energy for daring dives into the course's water hazards to recover lost balls and misplaced Arthurian swords.
With its elevated greens and crisp ocean breezes, Selva Marina Country Club's challenging par-72 course has entertained day-clubbers of all levels for more than 50 years, including Jack Nicklaus in 1966, who recorded a double-eagle on the 18th hole. Revel in the Country Club's private, unpretentious, and scenic environment, where golfers can easily drive, pitch, and putt on the spacious practice area just blocks away from the shoreline. Spare the expense of hoverboard or Icarus wings rentals and rove Selva's open fairways in the provided golf cart, allowing linksmen to explore the winding pathways or stop for a tan in the local sand traps. Whatever your ability level or past experience with the sport of golf, the Selva Marina course is amply suited to beginners and putting veterans alike.