My paddle moves through the shallow salt marsh like a knife through butter. I am floating in a kayak on the gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, bobbing ever so gently with the evening’s calm tide. Wildlife is abundant here, although I’m relieved to learn there are no alligators in these parts. Overhead, a stoic heron moves slowly; to my right, buoyant bottlenose dolphins bounce in and out of the water. When golden hour strikes, the grass beds of the marsh shimmer in the setting sun’s light. A cotton candy sky paints a picture above, and just to my left, the sunset washes over the beautiful Sea Island Resort with its dazzling rays.
In this moment, I understand why they call this land the Golden Isles. Georgian poet Sidney Lanier once wrote that the marsh was “like a lane into heaven that leads from a dream.” Indeed, to me this feels like a time of magic. But to the locals, this is just a typical day.
Nestled on the coast of Southern Georgia, Sea Island Resort has been at the heart of golden sunsets for 90 years. The private and gated isle is the only resort in the world to have received four Forbes Five-Star awards for nine consecutive years. Having played host to the G8 Summit of world leaders, as well as to royals, celebrities, and families from all over the world, Sea Island is enriched with history and elegance. I am told over 40,000 weddings and honeymoons have taken place at Sea Island, including the honeymoon of George W. and Barbara Bush. Guests return year after year because, as they say, this is a place where time stands still.
The resort is made up of three main accommodations: The Cloister, The Lodge, and The Inn. The Cloister, orchestrated by Addison Mizner (one of the most prominent architects of the 1920s), is an illustration of Mediterranean influence, with red tile roofs, handcrafted oriental rugs, and exposed wood. Rebuilt in 2006, the main building features a fairytale-like staircase, a grand fireplace, and a picture-perfect view of the marshes just outside. But perhaps the most breathtaking aspect of The Cloister is its solarium, a bright haven in which to enjoy your morning coffee as you listen to the room’s little chirping birds.
Then there is The Lodge, a reflection of the English countryside. Reached by lines of 160-year-old live oak trees, dubbed the Avenue of the Oaks, The Lodge is a golfer’s paradise. Home to the RSM Classic, an official PGA Tour played on the Seaside and Plantation courses, The Lodge offers 24-hour butler service to get you ready to hit the green or to simply draw you a bath. When the day comes to an end, enjoy a whisky by the fire at the Oak Room as a bagpiper crosses the 10th fairway on the Plantation course and greets the oncoming evening.
The only five-star restaurant in the state of Georgia is located on Sea Island, too. The Georgian Room is a whimsical space, with pastel stained-glass windows and white-as-snow carpets. As you dine under chandeliers, let the resort’s sommeliers guide you through a list of world-class wines. For the whole family, visit Tavola, Sea Island’s destination for pasta and pizza.
Mornings can be spent partaking in delightful horseback rides along the five miles of soft private beach; or biking on the cobblestone roads of Sea Island Drive, admiring the dramatic private homes situated here. As for evenings, a stunning way to end activity-filled days is to treat yourself to one of the fabulous services at The Spa at Sea Island.
For all of its beauty, what truly makes this place special is its Southern hospitality. Be it a warm welcome or a kind goodnight, staff greet each and every single guest by name and with maximum care. “Our brand is gracious hospitality. Have we treated you with gracious hospitality, Ms. Monika?” Parra Vaughan, chief marketing officer at Sea Island, asks me at the end of my stay. Yes indeed, Ms. Parra, everything was a dream.
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