Some sweet day when blossoms fall
And all the world’s a song
I’ll go back to Georgia
‘Cause that’s where I belong
(“Georgia on my Mind”, State Song)
It’s said that Stuart Gorrell and Hoagy Carmichael wrote the lyrics that became the State Song of Georgia in 1930 with the inspiration of youth and a bottle of scotch. Their laid-back atmosphere and romantic vision seem to permeate throughout this deep South state. Almost the moment we stepped onto Jekyll Island, GA we felt the rhythm of the song ooze across the landscape. From the slow tides on the beach to the ancient oak-trees heavily laden and swaying with spanish moss, there seems to be a certain flow and romance about the place that lulls you to stay.
Jekyll Island, GA is one of the Golden Isles of the Georgia coast, a group of four barrier islands nested on the Atlantic. Like all the Sea Islands it has a long and often murky past. Early occupation by Native Indians dominates the Island history until 1510 when it was discovered by the Spanish. Throughout the next 300 years it changed hands multiple times, first to the English in the 1700′s, then to a Frenchman (Christophe du Bignon) in the 1800′s. The Bignon family introduced both cotton and slavery, and are wrapped up in the dark history of smuggling the last documented ship of illegal slaves (the Wanderer) to the US in 1858.
The history is still in the bones of the place, but most of the houses were reclaimed by the coast and the plantations overgrown by the unyielding wilderness. Today, the Island is a mix of natural preservation, private homes and resort facilities all-in-one. It’s a bit overdeveloped in spots, but in the far northern end, if you take the time to walk through the old oaks and down the coast you can still feel the atmosphere much as it must have been over 500 years ago. That’s where you’re likely to hear the sweet song of Georgia asking you to stay.
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