Scattered with the sun-bleached remains of gnarled and weathered trees, stepping onto Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia is like stepping into an alternate reality. It feels like what you’d imagine a post-apocalyptic world to feel like – signs of a life that once was intertwined with a life that now is, all under the watchful and commanding eye of Mother Nature.
But what exactly happened at Driftwood Beach to create such an unearthly landscape? Read on to find out everything you need to know about this magnificent Jekyll Island location.
Where is Driftwood Beach?
One of four barrier islands comprising the Golden Isles of Georgia, Jekyll Island sits on the southern coast of Georgia, roughly equidistant between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. Although Jekyll Island boasts some of Georgia’s most beautiful beaches, none are quite as unique or as enchanting as its beloved Driftwood Beach.
Located on the northern end of Jekyll island, this tiny stretch of coastline leaves a lasting impression thanks to its graveyard-esque ambience and its striking views, all due to the skeletal remains of uprooted trees and weathered branches that dot its shoreline. Driftwood Beach is one of Jekyll’s most celebrated destinations and sought after locations for anyone visiting the Golden Isles. And for good reason.
Driftwood Beach History
Over the last 120+ years, erosion has claimed more than 1,000 feet (305 meters) of Jekyll Island’s coastline, the consequences of which are no more evident or more visually dramatic than they are on Driftwood Beach. But exactly what happened at Driftwood Beach to cause its iconic tree-laden landscape to form?
Due to the effects of decades of erosion, what was once a lush, maritime forest has become a boneyard for ancient oak trees and pine trees that have fallen victim to Mother Nature. Over time, as the ocean crept its way into the forest and strong winds and saltwater ate away at tree roots, the soil cover needed to keep it alive became stripped away. This caused the trees to uproot or to die, some of which miraculously remain standing while others lay half-buried in the sand. And because the tides along this part of the coastline aren’t strong enough to sweep them out to sea, the trees remain. Together forming the hauntingly beautiful landscape that Driftwood Beach is known for today.
When is the best time time to visit Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island?
There truly is no bad time of the year to explore this Jekyll Island gem; however, the best time to visit completely depends on the kind of experience you’re looking for.
Due to its growing notoriety in recent years, expect to find large crowds during the warm weather months of the year (typically April through October), especially at sun up or sun down. Winter months are best if you want a more solitary experience, but prepare to bundle up! Particularly in the early hours of the morning or when the sun goes down in the evening. This is when the winds are strongest and temperatures are coldest, especially in January.
As for the best time of day to visit, low tide at Driftwood Beach is most ideal. This is when the ocean water recedes, making it possible to meander in and out through the beach’s driftwood maze. High tide at Driftwood Beach makes the beach much less accessible, so your ability to climb on and through the trees’ skeletal remains will be far more limited. Make sure to check the Jekyll Island tide chart to ensure you’re planning your visit accordingly.
Low tide vs. High tide at Driftwood Beach
Two high tides and two low tides occur here every day, with the tide height ranging from 6 feet (1.8 meters) to 9 feet (2.7 meters). This tide change occurs every 6 hours and 12.5 minutes, so timing your visit is generally easy to do.
Driftwood Beach weather
Expect to experience four distinct seasons on Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia, but you can generally count on the climate year-round to be quite pleasant. The maximum temperature on average is 80˚ F (27˚ C) and the average minimum temperature is 59˚ F (15˚ C). And aside from the typical island storms that tend to quickly come and go, the climate throughout the year is overall pretty dry.
Summer is the warmest and wettest season of the year, with July being the hottest and August being the rainiest. The temperature swings can vary quite significantly during this time, with average highs typically falling between 85˚ F and 95˚ F (29˚ C and 35˚ C) and lows falling between between 70˚ F and 75˚ F (21˚ C and 24˚ C). However, humidity definitely plays a role in how hot it actually feels, so don’t be surprised to experience “Real Feels” of over 100˚+ F (38˚+ C) throughout the summer!
The temperatures start to drop come late September, and from September through November you can expect highs between 75˚ F and 85˚ F (24˚ C and 29˚ C) and lows between 50˚ F and 70˚ F (10˚ C and 21˚ C). The Fall season tends to be drier than the other seasons, making it a glorious time to visit for those who enjoy traveling during the shoulder season.
January is the coldest month of the year, but Driftwood Beach weather during the winter season is generally rather mild. Highs on average linger in the 60s˚ F (15˚ C to 21˚ C) with lows ranging from the 40s˚ F to the 50s˚ F (between 4˚ C and 15˚ C).
Once Spring rolls around in March, the weather warms up quickly. From March through May you can expect highs from 75˚ F to 85˚ F (24˚ C to 29˚ C) and lows from 50˚ F to 65˚ F (10˚ C to 18˚ C). Spring Break season usually begins in late February or early March, bringing with it the unofficial start of tourist season.
Photography at Driftwood Beach
Given the combination of Driftwood Beach's rustic beauty and apocalyptic-like landscapes, it’s no surprise that this unique destination is a paradise for photographers.
Sunrise, sunset, and the golden hours surrounding both are when you can expect to find the biggest crowds, so you’ll likely never be alone during these prime hours of the day no matter what time of the year it is. Photographers arrive super early and tend to linger long after the sun rises or sets, so if you’re hoping to claim a particular spot for your tripod, make sure to plan accordingly!
Just be prepared to work around people in your photographs during the summer season and on holiday weekends as these are the most popular times for visitors. Both adults and kids alike enjoy climbing on the massive downed trees and their maze-like roots, so bring your patience and allow plenty of time as it can be a long waiting game to get your people-free snaps in between folks jumping on and off of the driftwood.
Sunrise and Sunset at Driftwood Beach
Sunrise and sunset times vary dramatically throughout the year, with Daylight Savings in the Spring and Fall impacting them the most. TimeAndDate is a great resource to use for checking sunrise and sunset times, as well as for confirming twilight hours, moonrise times, moon phases, and expected eclipses.
Can you swim at Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia?
Driftwood Beach is the perfect place to go for a swim thanks to its calm waves and shallow waters. Because it is “tide formed,” the continental shelf on this piece of the coast extends far out into the ocean. This causes the waves here to lose much of their energy before reaching the shoreline, which in turn means the waves are much smaller and the waters more shallow compared to other beaches that are “wave pattern formed.” This makes Driftwood Beach a fun and safe place for people of all ages to enjoy an ocean dip.
However, one thing that may surprise visitors to Driftwood Beach is the color of the water. Unlike the green and blue ocean waters of neighboring beaches along the East Coast, the water at Driftwood Beach tends to be brown and a bit murky. But it isn't dirty!
Its brown color is due to the fact that the Altamaha and Savannah Rivers empty into the Atlantic ocean here. As these rivers make their way towards the ocean, they churn up sediment, nutrient-rich silt, tannins, and microscopic plant and animal life from marshes and swamps along the way. This gives the water in this part of the Atlantic its notorious brown color, but rest assured it is not polluted! In fact, the Coastal Health District and the Coastal Resources Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources test the water here weekly during high season to ensure that it is clean and safe.
Do you have to pay to go to Driftwood Beach?
There's no charge to visit Driftwood Beach, but there is a fee to enter Jekyll Island. You can either buy a day pass for $8 or an annual pass for $75. Day passes are valid until midnight on the day of purchase and annual passes allow unlimited entries throughout the year. (Additional charges apply for vehicles exceeding 8 feet/2.4 meters in height.) Passes are available for purchase online or on-site at the Jekyll Island entry gate.
Can you take driftwood from Driftwood Beach?
Although driftwood is a popular item to collect for making artwork, décor, and furniture or to use in landscaping, removing driftwood from Jekyll Island's Driftwood Beach is strictly prohibited. Visitors are welcome to collect empty shells and dead sand dollars, but all other natural materials should be left behind.
Are dogs allowed on Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island?
Driftwood Beach is dog-friendly, so dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash and remain under the owner’s control at all times. And of course provided that they are always cleaned up after!
It is important to note, however, that neither dogs nor people are allowed on the sand dunes. These dunes are protected by the State of Georgia due to the fact that they are home to millions of species of plant and animal life and serve as a natural barrier from the tides, waves, winds, and storms.
It is also crucial to keep dogs away from turtle nesting grounds. Both Jekyll Island and Driftwood Beach are a haven for sea turtles, so their natural habitats should always be left untouched and undisturbed. This is particularly important during sea turtle nesting season, which typically takes place from May through August.
Can you camp on Driftwood Beach?
Driftwood Beach camping is not allowed, but Jekyll Island Campground is only ½ mile (0.8 kilometer) away and offers two camping options: primitive tent sites for $36/day (12 sites available) or full hook-up RV sites for $51/day (167 sites available). There is a maximum occupancy of six people per site, and although Jekyll Island Campground is pet-friendly, there's an additional $4 charge per day for each dog.
Campground amenities include free WiFi, 30 and 50 amp electricity, water and sewer, two bathhouses with toilets and hot water showers, on-site coin-operated laundry, and a general store for basic supplies. Check-in begins at 2:00 pm and check-out ends at 12:00 pm, with reservations strongly recommended to ensure availability.
It's also important to note that there's a three-night minimum required for Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day, and early departures and cancellations are subject to a $25 cancellation fee.
Directions to Jekyll Island's Driftwood Beach
Driftwood Beach is located along North Beachview Drive between the Clam Creek Picnic Area and the Villas by the Sea Resort. To get there by car from the Jekyll Island Entry Gate, head straight on Ben Fortson Parkway. At the traffic circle, take the third exit onto North Beachview Drive. From there it’s about 4 miles (6.5 kilometers) down the road on the right.
Driftwood Beach Parking
Parking at Driftwood Beach is available directly off of North Beachview Drive next to beach access points, and there is also a paved parking area at the nearby bike path bridge. There's no fee to park; however, parking is limited and overnight parking is not permitted.
How long is the walk from the parking lot to Driftwood Beach?
To get to Driftwood Beach from the parking area, simply follow the designated path. The path is flat and relatively unobstructed, and takes about 6-7 minutes to complete on foot.
Everything else you need to know about Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia
Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Driftwood Beach to help you plan your visit to this magnificent East Coast destination.
Does Driftwood Beach close?
Driftwood Beach does not close. You are welcome to visit it at any time of the day that you wish.
Can you walk on Driftwood Beach at night?
Public access to Driftwood Beach is available 24/7, so nighttime walks are allowed. However, it is important to check the tide chart before visiting because the beach has limited accessibility during high tide. You should also bring a turtle-friendly light source as you will need it to help guide your way.
Are there bathrooms at Driftwood Beach?
There are no bathrooms at Driftwood Beach, but public restrooms are available at the Clam Creek Picnic Area. Bathrooms here are open around the clock.
This picnic area is only 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away and offers direct access to Driftwood Beach.
Is Driftwood Beach handicap accessible?
Unlike other Jekyll Island beaches, there is no ramp at Driftwood Beach, so it is not handicap accessible. Visitors must be able to walk a short distance and maneuver through soft sand and uneven terrain to access it.
Are there tours of Driftwood Beach?
4-H Tidelands Nature Center offers a number of educational nature walks to teach visitors about the island’s natural ecosystems, with a dedicated tour of Driftwood Beach offered on Mondays. All nature walks cost $7 for people ages 3-7 and $10 for people ages 8 and up.
Can you get married on Driftwood Beach?
Absolutely! Many people have tied the knot on Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia, and permits are not required in order to do so. However, it is important to note that couples cannot reserve the beach for their wedding day. Although Driftwood Beach weddings are permitted, it is a public beach, which means access is first come, first served and no section of it can be reserved or roped off from the public.
Are fireworks allowed on Driftwood Beach?
Neither fireworks nor sparklers are allowed on Driftwood Beach unless visitors are granted permission by the Jekyll Island Authority.
Can you ride horses on Driftwood Beach?
Horseback riding is permitted on Driftwood Beach, but only through authorized tour providers. Three Oaks Farm offers a variety of public and private options ranging from $65 to $395 depending on the length of the ride.
Can you drive on Driftwood Beach?
Motorized vehicles of any kind are prohibited on Driftwood Beach.
What is the closest airport to Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia?
Brunswick Golden Isles Airport (BQK) is the closest airport to Driftwood Beach, which is roughly a 30-minute drive away. However, flights into this airport are limited, so other options include Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), which is about 1 ½ hours away by car, or Jacksonville International Airport (JAX), which is approximately a 1-hour drive away.
Are there hotels near Driftwood Beach?
Driftwood Beach hotels are plentiful, and there are many private Driftwood Beach rentals to choose from as well. Although none are located directly on the beach, they are a short, walk, bike ride, or car ride away. The Jekyll Island State Park website is a great place to begin your lodging research.
Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island: All You Need to Know (2023)
Named one of the most romantic beaches in America by Travel & Leisure Magazine, Driftwood Beach in Jekyll Island, Georgia is mysterious and eerie, yet picturesque and alluring at the same. It’s a place you have to experience for yourself in order to fully understand the beauty and otherworldliness of this graveyard for fallen trees formed so uniquely out of Mother Nature’s leftovers.
But don’t wait too long to plan a visit! Conservationists predict that it's only a matter of time before rising sea levels claim what remains of this beautiful Jekyll Island gem.