Between March and May I traveled the East Coast with my son and my dog. We covered most of the states in the Eastern Standard Time zone except New England. From Florida to Lake Michigan, through Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and the states touching the coast and repeat. I can tell you with certainty, each state is so different from the other and I am constantly discovering new wonders that leave me speechless. Hopefully my images communicate the beauty and charm I see at each of these places better than my words.
A question I frequently get when I return from my trips is "which was your favorite spot?" To answer that question I consider the following points:
a) opportunities for epic/unique photos, I am a landscape photographer after all
b) variety of activities for all family members, including pets
For this 2021 Spring trip, the winner is unequivocally Jekyll Island in Georgia.
Jekyll Island has beauty, charm, weather, and activities to captivate all family members
I "stumbled" upon this incredible place because God is good. My son and I were on the way to St Augustine, Florida late March and stopped for some rest on the HWY 95, close to the Georgia-Florida borderline. I looked for possible locations to drive to in the morning for sunrise and Driftwood beach caught my eye. It turns out we were 20 miles away from Jekyll Island which is open 24 hrs. Without hesitation, I set up my alarm for 3:30am, prepared my backpack (lens, filters, batteries, memory card, cleaning cloth, headlamp, and tripod), and went to sleep.
Right next to the visitor center, which was closed at this time, is an automated gate where you can either enter your pre-paid entrance ticket or purchase a new one. I entered the number of days (one) and used my credit card to complete the transaction and the gate opened. In my experience, this day fee is in addition to any other fee you might have paid for lodging.
The road makes a loop around the island which is pretty flat. I headed straight to Driftwood beach, about 5 min drive on Beachview Rd.
I was surprised and excited to see a few cars in the parking lot already. Grabbed my backpack and headed to the beach following a path on sand. I started feeling anxious as I got a glimpse of the blue sky through the trees, I hasten my pace so I could catch the first light, thankfully it was just a short walk. When I reached the beach, the adrenaline rush kicked in, it was beautiful!
It turns out there was a photography workshop going on, thus many tripods where already in place around the drifted trees on the left side of the beach which has the most photogenic trees in my opinion. Good thing there was no shortage of trees offering composition opportunities for all. I quickly set up and started shooting hoping to capture the amazing light of the moment. Right then I knew I had to return with more time, just a few hours for one sunrise is not sufficient. A note to myself, come prepared with bug repellent and proper clothing.
Once the sun was up, I went to the beach for a walk with my son and my dog and they really enjoyed the driftwood and getting their feet wet, we walked on both directions, about a mile total covered with fallen trees with waves 1-2 feet high. Another feature to mention of this particular beach is the small pond on the side of the path to the parking lot where birds were having breakfast and sunbathing.
Also, across from the parking lot was a nature trail that went through the woods with beautiful Spanish moss coverings which is typical in this region.
We continued the loop going northwest stopping at Horton House to learn a little bit of history of the first settlers. I should mention that the full loop and trails are bike appropriate for all levels. I also noticed a trail on sand along the beach, if that is your thing.
That was the end of the first visit. As soon as we arrived at our destination that weekend, I made plans to return mid-April. I made reservations at the campground for two nights, which I enjoyed plenty shooting day and night. Sadly, a very unfortunate technical issue with my laptop lost me 90% of the photos I took during that second visit, below are the few I saved. I now have an excellent reason to return for a third time, hopefully next Spring.
This second visit also aligned with New Moon, so I got to shot Milky Way compositions both nights. The first night was a bit foggy for a good photo still was a great opportunity to scout and practice, plus it was only me, so I was free to move from one place to the other searching for the perfect composition. On the second night, the air was clear though also bugs were more active.
One morning I got to witness a very dynamic game of colors as the sky quickly covered with clouds to give way to a thunderstorm that lasted a couple of hours, I took that time for a much needed rest though I wanted to keep shooting that moody weather.
Later in the day, with more time, I explored other beaches on Beachview Dr. It was nice to see there was plenty of parking spaces and clean facilities. The water was calm and warm and I enjoyed observing how pelicans fly and dive to catch fish.
I also visited the southwest end of the island where I run into a family that was fishing for shrimps. Here's where the Wanderer Memorial is along with a short trail with great exhibits describing slave trade at the time. At the end of the trail was a wildlife observation deck. Parking lot had restrooms and picnic tables under the trees inviting to spend time appreciating this space.
Then I visited the northwest side of the island, following the walk path on Riverview dr. The view to the marsh is so calm during the day but at night the sky lights on fire. Along the well. groomed path are benches to enjoy the view and exhibits to give you a glimpse into the evolution of the island as a vacation place for high-class families whom would board a train in the city to come spend the season with games and dances in this paradise.
Another great spot for sunset views is the fishing pier near the Driftwood beach. Some people made it a special occasion with wine and all. Just be aware of the big ships pushing big waves making big splashes!
The island is small enough that you could bike the loop yet you'll find so much! more beaches, trails, museums, a turtle rescue center, convenience and souvenir stores, gas station, golf course, hotels, a small airport, even a water park (though it was closed then) AND dogs are welcome! Surely there are more wonders waiting to be discovered.
Spend a weekend or a week, in a luxurious hotel or in a primitive campground or boondocking but come prepared to have a wonderful time!
And before you ask, the answer is yes, I do have second favorite but that is topic for another blog. Make sure you follow me in FB or IG (or both) to get updates when new content is available. I also invite you to use the comments section below to share your thoughts on this blog, or ask questions, or make requests, or to share if you have already visited this place, what was your favorite moment? More than one person wants to hear your story!