Join Rend Lake College and Presley Tours for a fascinating journey to Jekyll Island, an awe-inspiring getaway which people have been using as a seasonal retreat for 2,500 years.
“Jekyll Island – Off the Beaten Track” is set for Saturday, Sept. 30, through Saturday, Oct. 7. The trip will take people through the fascinating and history-rich Jekyll Island, the marshes and beaches of the Golden Isles, the remnants of the Gullah-Geechee culture on Sapelo Island, the mysterious Okefenokee Swamp and Savannah’s cobblestone streets and city squares of the 1700s. This learning adventure with limited walking is sure to whet your appetite for more.
Day One – The learning adventure begins as the group travels through Kentucky and Tennessee into Dalton, Ga., for the first night on the road. Participants will hear about the places and people along the route as they travel. People will have the evening on their own for dinner and relaxation. (Hampton Inn)
Day Two – The day’s journey will take the group through Atlanta and the scenic countryside of Georgia to Jekyll Island, which will be their home for three nights. Following check-in at the hotel located on the beachfront of the Atlantic, dinner will be at Blackbeard’s Restaurant. (Days Inn Oceanfront, 3 nights.)
Day Three – Following a deluxe continental breakfast at Schooner’s Landing, with a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, the group will depart for a tour of St. Simons Island, with its majestic moss-draped oaks and tree spirits. St. Simons Island, at the center of conflict between the English and Spanish, is the site of Fort Frederica National Monument, founded in 1736 as the location for the first settlement and to establish defense. Spectators will see the ruins of the fort and exhibits at the museum which will bring the settlement vividly back to life. Additional historical sites will be visited on the island. Following lunch on St. Simons Island, the group will board a boat for a dolphin-watching ride. This leisurely ride into the river will offer not only the opportunity to see dolphins, but also to learn more about the importance of and life within the waterways. People will have dinner on their own.
Day Four – It’s rise and shine early this morning for departure, traveling through vistas of tidal marshland to Sapelo Island, rich in natural history as well as human history, dating back at least 4,500 years. It is the fourth-largest Georgia barrier island and one of the most pristine, containing Hog Hammock, home of the descendants of slaves from the antebellum plantation empire. These individuals cling to a unique way of life which has all but disappeared. Participants will learn how R.J. Reynolds was associated with this island, about the largest shell midden in North America, and the importance of marshland ecology. The group will pause during the tour of the island for lunch at Lulu’s Kitchen, where people will feast on fabulous great southern island low country cooking. Participants then will return to the hotel, where they will have time to relax and enjoy the beach with dinner on their own.
Day Five – This morning, the group will be treated to a tram tour of the Jekyll Island Historic Landmark District – one of the nation’s largest restoration projects. The group will see the grand “cottages” which once belonged to the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and J.P. Morgan. The adventure continues with a tour to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, encompassing more than 400,000 acres of canals, moss-draped cypress trees and lilypad prairies, which provide sanctuaries for hundreds of species of birds and wildlife. Lunch will be at the park, followed by a slow boat ride into the fascinating swamp where the group may spot some endangered species. Participants will see exhibits and film about the refuge and visit the Chesser Homestead, a traditional “swamper” home built in 1927. The group departs for the historic riverside city of Savannah, Hostess City of the South, with its 18th-century “ballast stone” streets and 19th-century cotton warehouses. (Wingate Inn)
Day Six – After breakfast at the hotel, the group will join a guide for a tour of Savannah’s historic district. Participants will hear about Factors Walk and River Street, learn about Girl Scouts founder Juliette Low and learn how the city was designed with its unique and lovely squares surrounded by architecturally significant buildings nestled under giant live oaks hung with Spanish moss. There will be time for lunch and shopping before departure for an overnight in Macon, Ga. (LaQuinta Inn)
Day Seven – The group departs in the morning to soon bid farewell to Georgia as they head north to Chattanooga, home for the night. People will have time after lunch to check into the hotel and relax for a while before boarding the Southern Belle for a Dixieland dinner cruise. As people enjoy true Southern hospitality in the old riverboat tradition while cruising the Tennessee River, they’ll dine on prime rib, shrimp creole and all the “fixin’s” with the toe tappin’ music of the “Riverboat Ramblers.” (Holiday Inn Express)
Day Eight – It’s back to Illinois as the group travels the final leg of the tour.
The cost of the trip depends upon the number of people per hotel room: single, $1,715; double, $1,260; triple, $1,110; or quad, $1,035. There is a $25 deposit required per person.
There will be pickup points at Rend Lake College and in Mt. Vernon, Nashville, Marion, Caseyville and Paducah, Ky.