Sea Island: Georgian Gem
Situated between marshland and ocean, sumptuous Sea Island is a paradise for golfers, couples and those who love the outdoors.
Georgia’s 100 miles of coastline offers a breathtaking expanse of rugged grace, with its patchwork of salt marshes, beaches, rivers and estuaries. In that setting lies the luxurious resort of Sea Island, teeming with tradition and offering visitors seemingly endless choices amid timeless beauty.
This venerable paradise is the only resort in the world to have received four Forbes Five-Star awards for 11 straight years, with those accolades bestowed upon the two main lodging options, The Cloister and The Lodge, as well as The Spa at Sea Island and the Georgian Room restaurant. Established in 1928, Sea Island has hosted the G-8 Summit of world leaders, and, as part of a unique tradition, seven U.S. presidents and other dignitaries have planted live oaks on the grounds, marked by signs that bear their names.
But you don’t have to be a head of state to enjoy what Sea Island has to offer—although it is a formidable challenge deciding from among the multitude of things to do. Just unfold the resort’s planning guide brochure and you’ll find a veritable accordion of activities, including golf, spa treatments, kayaking, skeet shooting, falconry, horseback riding, fitness, shopping, and on and on.
The relaxing garden atrium at The Spa (COURTESY OF SEA ISLAND)
The best advice: Try your best to do it all. And prepare yourself for plenty of pampering, with a healthy dose of Southern charm.
Golfers, families, couples seeking a romantic getaway—all flock to this opulent retreat that’s one of Georgia’s famed Golden Isles (St. Simons, Little St. Simons and Jekyll being the others). And if the accommodations weren’t already pleasing enough, Sea Island recently added six marvelous guest cottages next to The Lodge, overlooking St. Simons Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Five are two-bedroom dwellings (the remaining cottage has four), and all are the picture of luxury, featuring white-paneled living rooms, marble bathrooms and huge walk-in showers. Steps away are a new oceanfront pool and a pool house with a wraparound porch.
Much of the activity at this coastal paradise revolves around golf, and it’s no wonder. The setting is gorgeous, with fairways skirting ocean, sand dunes, marshes, grand old oaks and tidal pools. Sea Island boasts three championship courses—Seaside, Plantation (newly redesigned and set to reopen this fall) and Retreat. It’s also home to the RSM Classic, a stop on the PGA tour each November; pros who live here include Davis Love III, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson. And if you’re looking to become the master of your game there’s no better place to learn how than the Golf Performance Center, a dazzling, new 17,000-square-foot space that houses everything from a putting studio to covered instruction bays that look out toward waterfront target greens. Top-notch instructors offer remedies for your long game, short game—and your mental game. Another resort amenity sure to help get you adjusted both mentally and physically: Sea Island’s spa and fitness center, with 23 treatment rooms, suites for couples’ massages, an indoor lap pool and a multitude of workout equipment and fitness programs.
The holes of the Plantation course wind their way along the sea and amid tidal pools and old oaks (COURTESY OF SEA ISLAND)
While The Cloister is a Mediterranean- style structure, The Lodge projects an English manor feel. At each, you will find glorious dining options. The standout is The Georgian Room. With its gold and crystal chandeliers, hand-carved fireplace and formal service, you’ll feel like you’re dining in a grand old Southern mansion. The ever-changing menu might include items like Colorado lamb with squash, ratatouille and eggplant, or golden rainbow trout with cabbage and maitake mushrooms. Other dining choices include Colt & Alison, a classic steakhouse of high-backed leather chairs, a glowing fireplace and Caesar salads and Bananas Foster prepared tableside. Tavola is a rustic Italian eatery offering pastas and wood-fired pizzas, including the namesake pizza with house-made sausage, rapini, and smoked Gouda. Meanwhile, the River Bar offers spectacular views and a varied menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. A must try: the quinoa and spring vegetables with toasted almonds and citrus vinaigrette.
What could possibly outdo all this luxury? The beauty of the natural setting, of course—and letting it wash over you. Give these adventures a try: Book a horseback ride along the beach. Witness the ancient sport of falconry, which is basically hunting by using trained birds of prey. Grab a bike at The Lodge and pedal the five miles across the causeway to The Cloister while you marvel at the salt marsh vistas. Paddle a kayak along the ribbons of waterways that cut a path through the tidal expanses. Or take a walking tour of the those grand oaks planted by chief executives from Coolidge to Clinton, along with royalty from abroad—visitors to a locale that’s surely fit for a king.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
Sea Island is just east of Brunswick, Ga., 31/2 hours north of Orlando via I-4 and I-95. Learn about all this coastal spot has to offer at the resort’s website, seaisland.com
If you have family, friends and the financial wherewithal, The Cloister and The Lodge each has a marvelous wine cellar available for small-group dining. The Cloister’s English oak table seats 20 beneath two chandeliers and heart pine beams, while at The Lodge, guests descend to a bottle-lined chamber, where wines are paired with selections from Colt & Alison’s menu.
Weddings are big here, and as Sea Island’s planners say: “We don’t have one perfect place. We have many perfect places.’’ They include a simple chapel with heart pine pews, a garden setting underneath a canopy of oaks, or looking over a golden marsh at sunset. Numerous packages are available. Downloadable brochures are at seaisland.com/weddings
Relaxing on a wood-and-wicker swing on a cottage porch listening to a bagpiper at sunset. Getting a simple golf tip that adds considerable distance to a drive. Sitting in front of a crackling fire just before Christmas in The Lodge lobby. Having a raptor size you up, then swoop in and land perfectly on your gloved hand (okay, an edible reward was offered).
HOLD THE FORT
Not that you’ll run out of things to do at Sea Island, but a 15-minute drive north on St. Simons Island are the remnants of Fort Frederica, established in 1736 by James Oglethorpe to protect the southern boundary of his new colony of Georgia from the Spanish in Florida. England won a critical battle near here six years later, ensuring Georgia remained a British colony.