Driftwood Beach: Camping to Catch a Sunrise


The Dawn of a New Day from the Shores of Jekyll Island, Georgia

Taylor A Ritz

Driftwood Beach: At a Glance

Type: Out-and-back Elevation Gain: 0 feet
Length: 2 miles total Difficulty: Easy
Time to Complete: 1 hour Season: Year-round

 

Located in a string of barrier islands along Georgia’s coast dubbed the “Golden Isles,” Jekyll Island used to be a well-kept secret. Just one glimpse of its number one attraction, Driftwood Beach, is enough to understand why this spot has been voted one of America’s Ten Most Romantic Beaches and featured on USA Today as one of the best southern beaches for a weekend getaway. A single visit to this strange landmark makes it easy to see why this otherworldly attraction has garnered so much attention.

Littered with the driftwood skeletons of trees long dead, an ethereal presence seems to dominate the beach located on Jekyll Island’s northeast shore. Producers of “The Walking Dead” agree; this beach has been a filming location for the popular post-apocalyptic AMC series more than once.

As an easterly-facing beach, this location is also an excellent locale to view the sunrise of a new day. In addition to its renowned and uncommon beauty, Driftwood Beach is a popular destination for trail running, swimming, fishing, and photography.

driftwood beach

How to get to Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is technically a state park, though houses and businesses call the island home as well. Vehicle entrance to the island requires a parking pass that can be purchased at an automated toll both or at the nearby Guest Information Center. The fee was recently raised to $8/day, but parking passes are available as multi-day and annual passes as well for a discounted fee.

The parking pass allows you to access all public outdoor areas including beaches, picnic/grilling areas, playgrounds, piers, marinas, and bicycle/nature trails for 24 hours.

Once you cross the final bridge onto the island, continue a short distance to the roundabout. Take the third exit, traveling north on Beachview Drive. After approximately 4 miles, just past Villas By The Sea, you will reach a small sandy parking area on your right. You can park here and take a short trail to the beach.

Despite the location’s popularity, you will soon realize that without prior knowledge of the existence of this place, this prized spot would be all too easy to miss.

Catching a Driftwood Beach Sunrise: What to Expect

Once you reach the beach, turn left. You will be greeted with the sight of hundreds of driftwood pieces: some still entire intact trees, some still reaching upward as if to take in the sun’s rays.

At low tide, you can walk along this beach mostly unhindered, but at high tide, you may have to climb up and over driftwood obstacles to walk the length of the beach. Though an easy, flat hike, those who may find climbing around and traversing a driftwood maze difficult should closely consult a tide chart before planning an excursion to Driftwood Beach.

In addition to witnessing the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, Driftwood also offers views of nearby St. Simon’s Island, Sea Island, and Little St. Simon’s Island, all popular tourist destinations in their own right. If you’re lucky, you may witness dolphins partaking in a pre-dawn feeding as well as other wildlife stirred to wakefulness by the sun’s appearance.

 

Monthly Sunrise and Sunset Times for Driftwood Beach at Jekyll Island

Month

Sunrise (Average Time)

Sunset (Average Time)

Average Temperature Low

January

7:23 am

5:47 pm

43°F

February

7:06

6:13

46

March

7:20

7:21

52

April

6:57

7:55

58

May

6:30

8:15

67

June

6:23

8:30

73

July

6:34

8:29

75

August

6:52

8:07

75

September

7:10

7:31

72

October

7:30

6:53

63

November

6:52

5:29

53

December

7:16

5:27

45

 

In addition to sunrise, Jekyll Island also offers sunset beach views on the west-facing St. Andrews Beach.

Can you Camp at Driftwood Beach?

The short answer is: no.  However, if you want to catch the sunrise from Driftwood Beach, you may want to sleep close by. Though you can’t camp on the beach itself, you can enjoy an overnight outdoor experience nearby.

Jekyll Island Campground: The Jekyll Island Campground is located within walking distance of Driftwood Beach. The grounds are comprised of 179 campsites: 167 full hook-up RV sites and 12 primitive tenting sites. Amenities include free wi-fi, a General Store, hot water bathhouses, and bike rentals. This campground is almost always full, so reservations need to be made well in advance of your trip. 

Rates:

  • Full hook-up back-in: $47/day
  • Full hook-up pull-through: $47/day
  • Primitive tent: $32/day
  • Pet fee: $3.75/day per dog

Little Raccoon Key: Little Raccoon Key is a small, private island offering a unique “glamping” opportunity, and is located 10 minutes from Jekyll Island. Accommodations include a large canvas tent with a king-sized bed and a maximum occupancy of 12 people. The owners only take one reservation per night, so those who choose to stay here will have a private island they share only with the wildlife that call it home. Rates start at $399 per night.

Nearby Attractions at Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island is an enigma of a state park, historical site, and beach resort combined into one unique destination. Everywhere you turn is an enticing activity suitable for all members of the family.

Jekyll Island Trail System: take a hike or bike through the 25 miles of paved biking trails along beaches and through forests. Bike rentals are available from Jekyll Island Bike Rentals.

Georgia Sea Turtle Center: a rescue and rehabilitation center for sea turtles that offers tours and educational talks.

Jekyll Island Historic District: an area comprised of the Jekyll Island Club Hotel and surrounding cottages, built in the late 1800s by historic household names including the Rockefellers, Morgans, and Vanderbilts.

Summer Waves Waterpark: A family attraction featuring water rides and slides.

Horton House Ruins: One of the oldest buildings still standing in the state of Georgia, Horton House was built by William Horton, a major in the British army. The structure was created with tabby (a mixture utilizing oyster shells, sand, and water) in the 1730s.

Driftwood Beach: A Diamond in the Dunes

Jekyll Island is full of wonders and attractions of both cultural and historical significance. By far the island’s crown jewel, Driftwood Beach offers a unique and singular experience for those who know where to find it.


1 comment


  • B. Collins

    I’d love to see the historic district and the sea turtle center. The beach seems like it would be very peaceful. Will add to my bucket list!


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