One of our favorite family beach vacation spots for late afternoon and evening walks is South Dunes Beach.
Now that our kids are grown and we come to Jekyll more often by ourselves, playing on the beach is not as important as just getting out and walking, or laying in the sun, relaxing and catching some rays while sipping a cool beverage and reading a good book.
South Dunes Beach is one of Jekyll Island's best family beach vacation destinations for just taking it easy. Access to South Dunes Beach is through the South Dunes Picnic area. There are plenty of shaded parking spots here, under the spreading limbs of live oaks, so your car will stay relatively cool while you're out catching some rays.
To get to the beach, follow the paved pedestrian paths over to the back dune area. The dunes here at South Dunes are really big - some top 20'. There are several public access points located along the path, with shower stations at the ends. There are also public rest rooms in the picnic area.
You'll have some steps to negotiate as the boardwalks meander up and over the dunes. But the steps are few, and it's an easy climb. It can be hot here, though, because the sea breeze doesn't penetrate through the maritime forest and make it over the dunes.
Once on top, however, you'll feel the cooling breeze, and see the ocean and the beach proper spreading out before you. Just follow the boardwalks on across the fore dunes and down to the beach. Each boardwalk has a trash receptacle attached to it on the beach side, so it's easy to dispose of your trash after a day on the beach.
One thing you'll notice right away about South Dunes Beach - it's all but deserted.
The most people we've ever seen at this family beach vacation spot is a group of about 30 kids from the 4H Club Facility on the island, and they were doing some kind of research. Most times it's scattered families, maybe 10-15 people spread out over hundreds of yards.
That's not to say there could be more at any given time - just that, compared to some of the other Jekyll Island beach points, South Dunes is one of the less visited.
I've often wondered why. It's easy to get to, but maybe because it's relatively far from the hotels and most rental homes.
Whatever the cause, take advantage of it and visit. The beach is wide and flat here, with plenty of space to romp with your kids or dog, or just walk in the surf with your special someone.
Watch for dolphins - they like to swim along close to shore, and it's easy to see one - sometimes more than one - as they alternatively rise and submerge in the shallow water off the beach.
Lots of sea birds visit this family beach vacation spot, and the further south you walk the more you'll see.
Look for shrimp boats, too. They ply the waters off the coast, seining for Wild Georgia Shrimp - your next seafood feast, maybe.
You'll have plenty of beach to enjoy here at South Dunes. The beach is accessible and wide even at high tide. Waves are gentle due to the gradual slope of the continental shelf. But use care and common sense when swimming, 'cause you're own your on - there are no life guards stationed here.
At low tide, it's quite a trek to the water, but it's over firm-packed sand. If you're into jogging for fitness, the packed sand of this beach is the perfect place to run. The wide, firm sand is also great for any kind of game, from throwing Frisbees or footballs to impromptu volley ball matches.
Have to keep an eye on beach balls or other light, easily-blown toys when the sea breeze gets up, however. Throw a Frisbee into the breeze, it might go 5 feet, then sail back over your head. Throw it with the breeze, you might never see it again. And any toy that gets stolen by the wind usually winds up in the sea, where it's a lot harder - and more dangerous - to retrieve.
Generally, however, the beach at South Dunes is perfect for play.
Or for romance - there's nothing like roaming down the beach, finding a secluded stretch of sand, spreading a blanket, and lying back with your loved one, just relaxing and watching the dolphins play...
Whether you come to South Dunes Beach for play or love, this family beach vacation paradise will be here for you and your family, whenever you're ready.
“Don't grow up too quickly, lest you forget how much you love the beach.” -- Michelle Held