St. Andrews Beach
Walking from the St. Andrews Beach parking lot to the southernmost point of Jekyll is one of our favorite hikes on the island. On this walk you’ll see Little Cumberland Island, gorgeous stretches of Georgia beach, the mast of a buried shrimp boat, and you’ll likely see many shore birds. The round trip from the parking lot along the beach to the shipwreck and back is a little over a mile. But you might want to increase the distance of the hike by walking further along beach.
The St. Andrews Picnic Area parking lot is located off of Riverview Dr. on the southwest side of the island. Our usual route has us heading to the beach and turning left or south. Follow the coast until you see mast of the sunken shrimp boat. You can also take a short detour north from the parking lot to a lookout tower that provides a nice view.
We could easily call this article Bird Watching on Jekyll Island. You are likely to see seagulls, terns, oystercatchers, pelicans, and cormorants flying through the air as you walk this route. Much of this beach is a protected wildlife area, which means it is off-limits to pets. Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of the Wilson’s Plover, a shorebird known to nest here that is listed as threatened by the State of Georgia. At the southernmost tip of the island there are often large groups of birds hanging out along the shore. We’ve seen hundreds of birds at a time. Every once in awhile, a group will take flight and land in the water or on a patch of beach 100 feet from the starting point.
The southern tip of Jekyll seems isolated from the trappings of our usual world. Although the walk is relatively short, you may encounter no other people or perhaps one other small group. We’ve often followed a dolphin along our route. You will encounter no buildings or structures once you leave the parking lot. At low tide you might find Lighting Whelks and Georgia Knobbed Whelks at the edge of the surf. Leave any live shells behind, but collect an empty shell as a souvenir of Jekyll. The Knobbed Whelk is a excellent souvenir as it is the state shell of Georgia.
On the Move
Jekyll Island is gaining land on its southern end and losing land on its northern side, a normal and natural process. The Mary Ann shrimp boat sank in 1996 and now marks the southern tip. Only the mast is now visible due to the island’s continuing growth. Little Cumberland island, which is separated from Cumberland Island by a creek, is easily visible to the south.
You may see small, taped-off areas to protect where a turtle has laid her eggs or a shorebird’s nest. Of course, you should leave these spots undisturbed.
We recommend taking the time of high tide into account when you plan your hike. The beach along the initial section of the walk is underwater or partially under water at high tide. There are, however, a series of paths just inland from the beach that you can take from the St. Andrews parking lot. Along one of these paths you can find two large gun emplacements left from the Spanish American War. The paths are relatively flat, but not well marked. So finding the gun emplacements is a bit of hunt. If your final destination is Jekyll’s southern tip, you will need to head to the shore at some point along your walk, as the inland paths do not reach this spot. Taking the inland route is a bit more of an adventure!