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.
At Island Tribe Belly Dance, director Sajah Medina has seen women of all builds and backgrounds nurture a new sense of confidence. She has been teaching belly dancing for more than 18 years and welcomes students of all stripes to experience the art's empowering effects. In addition to demonstrating its signature undulations, Sajah covers the dance's history and fashion, providing costume resources and workshops for those hoping to craft their own harem pants, belts, and coin purses for holding backup navels.
During her lineup of classes, she imparts the sultry steps of American tribal-fusion belly dance—a medley of Spanish flamenco, North African tribal, and Romani styles. She and her fellow instructors also captivate audiences at events, donning getups than range from classic belly-dance attire to vaudeville, steampunk, and industrial gothic garb.
Jay Handline created Dance Trance Fitness more than 15 years ago to shape up physiques with an intense exercise regimen disguised as a dance party. The program has since spread to locations in cities as far flung as Saudi Arabia and San Diego, torching calories and causing patrons to dig back up time capsules full of sweatbands. The energetic choreographers and dancers under Jay's employ blend moves from jazz, Latin, reggae, hip-hop, and rock dance to craft heart-pumping choreography that flows seamlessly against lively cascades of drums and bright swells of brass. This marriage of music-video-style dance and traditional cardio exercise tones muscles and melts calories from students of all age and fitness levels during sessions focused specifically on street moves, ballet influences, or efficiently stomping bubblewrap. Dance Trance Fitness works with a variety of causes to host benefits and other events, and the company bolsters students’ drive to get healthy with a range of online support options.
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.