In the Golden Isles, the waters are rich with treasures. From fresh white Georgia shrimp to large blue crabs, and a scattering of tiny sharks’ teeth — there’s always something to find for locals and visitors alike.  

With the arrival of the new year, also comes the return of another unique treasure to Jekyll Island. The Island Treasures tradition is an annual event that attracts visitors to the island from around the region in search of one-of-a-kind glass floats. 

The event dates back to the early 1900s, when fishermen used glass floats as markers on their nets. The floats were made of recycled glass, resulting in imperfections that made each one unique. Occasionally, the floats would break loose and wash ashore for lucky beachcombers to find and keep. Collecting the rare, highly sought-after glass floats became a leisure activity in the 1950s.

In the early 2000s, the island turned this hobby into an annual hide-and-seek style event, as a nod to its rich history. During January and February each year, visitors scour the island in search of plastic floats marked with an individual number inside. They then exchange these at the Jekyll Island Guest Information Center for their prized glass float, each one as individual as they are. 

Each day, volunteers called Beach Buddies hide a select number of the plastic floats around the island. Beach Buddies are employees of the Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) chosen through a lottery process to keep the selection random. Employees vie for the opportunity, as they too receive an Island Treasure for their participation in making the event a continued success. 

Beach Buddies take great care in hiding the globes where visitors will find them. With a habitat so rare and pristine, floats are only hidden in common places where visitors are likely to frequent. One might find themselves wandering the historic district and stumble upon a float on the steps to Mistletoe Cottage, or shopping in the Beach Village and discover one on a bench in plain sight. For the protection of the island’s delicate habitats like sand dunes and marshes, Island Treasures will never be hidden off-the-beaten path.

The real beauty of the annual Island Treasures event lies in the opportunity to explore. From historical sites within the historic district to watching the active wildlife roaming one of the island’s four golf courses, it’s a peaceful place with many treasures to discover. 

But for those lucky enough to also find a float upon their visit to the island, these works of art become a collector’s item. Artists for the glass floats are hand-picked from across the country, with last year’s designers, the Glass Quest Hand Blown Art Glass Studio from Stanwood, Washington, returning. Each float is marked with a unique stamp signifying the year it was made, and each treasure-finder also receives a certificate of authenticity and an artist biography as a keepsake.

All in all, approximately 250 floats are hidden around the island over the two-month period. Some seekers plan their vacations around the tradition, while others visit for the day. First-time hunters looking to join in on the treasure hunt can visit jekyllisland.com/islandtreasures for details on the best places to explore.

For those who find one, they are a treasure worth keeping for a lifetime. And for those who do not, a visit to the island provides a treasured experience of its own.