You can now take part in a real treasure hunt on a small Georgia island

Visit Jekyll Island for the two-month Island Treasures event.

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman
USA contributor
A clear plastic sphere rests atop driftwood with the sea in the distance. Inside is a note reading, "Congratulations" with smaller writing that explains what to do next.
Jekyll Island Authority

What could be more cool than starting the year with exploring an island in search of treasure? And you have two months to do it? Nothing! If you visit Jekyll Island State Park, you can participate in a treasure hunt that starts Jan. 1 and runs through Feb. 28. On this small island in Georgia—it’s 7 miles in length and 1.5 miles in width—the 21st annual Island Treasures hunt launches 2023 with a free outdoor adventure. Here's all the info you need.

What’s being hunted?
Beautiful glass globes designed by artists across the US, which hark to the early 1900s hollow glass floats used by fishers to mark their underwater nets. The floats would sometimes break free where happy beachcombers would take them home as a souvenir—a hobby for tourists in the 1950s. These days, the one-of-a-kind swirled-glass orbs are commissioned for the event.

How does it work?
Each day, trained, sneaky volunteer ‘Beach Buddies’ hide clear plastic globes around the island. If you find one, you can redeem it for an actual, artisanal glass globe (it’s safer for the fragile ornament to be kept indoors while its proxy can be hidden out in the wild!). All you do is take the plastic sphere to the Jekyll Island Guest Information Center to exchange it for a glass one. Inside the plastic ball is a number that corresponds to a specific artisanal globe.

Does the whole island host the treasure hunt?
Yes, all along its ten miles of beaches! You can walk around or jump on a bike; there are 22 miles of bike paths. The typical temperature in January and February is in the mid-60s, so it’s perfect rambling weather.

Do you have to take a ferry to get there?
No. This is the only one of the four Georgia barrier islands with a paved causeway to drive over from the mainland. Although the event is free, you’ll need to pay an island entry fee of $8.

Is this island named for Dr. Jekyll?
The island’s name does not come from the iconic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. Instead, it’s named for the British politician who funded the island’s establishment as a colony despite its Native American population, Joseph Jekyll. The island served as a plantation employing the labor of enslaved people, and in 1858 was the site of the penultimate shipment of enslaved persons to America from Africa. It later became a playground for the wealthy, including the Rockefellers, and is now a state park owned by the state of Georgia.

How old do you have to be to participate?
Young and old are welcome! You just have to have a photo ID to claim the glass treasure (maybe young ones will have to bribe parents).

How many treasures will be hidden?
Two hundred over the course of the two months, which roughly translates to three per day, although there can be more or less depending on how many have already been found on a given day.

Are they hidden first thing in the morning?
They’re hidden throughout the day, which means the Beach Buddies have to be very sly (and the event website begs visitors not to follow anyone they suspect may be hiding treasures to keep the hunt fair for everyone).

What if some treasures aren’t found by Feb. 28?
There’s a one-month grace period to still turn in a globe, until March 31.

How do you know if there are outstanding globes?
A wall of treasures yet to be claimed can be checked at the Jekyll Island Guest Information Center, a visible count of how many remain.

Do you need a shovel?
No, this isn’t like pirates looking for buried treasure (although Jekyll Island does have a history of French pirates raiding it—and brutally killing the indigenous Guale and the Mocama people). Instead, the orbs are hidden in plain sight, and visitors are urged to stick to paths and not to wander into beach dunes, golf courses, marshes or private property.

What if you don’t succeed?
You can buy a glass globe for $75, either at the guest information center or online. Better yet, come back in 2024 to try again!

You may also like
You may also like