The Jewel of the Golden Isles
Sea Island Offers Visitors Southern Hospitality That Never Goes Out Of Style
By Noelle Valentine
Sea Island – a private, coastal Georgia resort island – is an exceptional destination appealing to those who appreciate gracious service and heartfelt Southern hospitality. Home to two of the Top 10 resorts in the continental U.S., as recognized in the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards three years in a row, the destination boasts four Forbes Five-Star experiences – The Cloister at Sea Island, The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, The Spa at Sea Island, and the Georgian Room restaurant – along with a vast array of adventures and experiences, Sea Island entices families, outdoor and activity enthusiasts, and those simply wanting to refresh and recharge. It is the only resort in the world to have received four Forbes Five-Star awards for seven consecutive years.
Sea Island lies off the southeastern coast of Georgia, halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville, Florida, and is surrounded by five miles of private, pristine beach on the Atlantic Ocean to the east and separated from St. Simons Island on the west by the largest salt marsh on the eastern seaboard. The resort is a one-hour drive from both cities’ international airports. Four miles away, McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport welcomes private aircrafts. Delta Airlines services the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport, 14 miles from Sea Island, through its partner, Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Sea Island transportation is readily available from all airports.
While there are a number of reasons to love Sea Island, we’ve put together a list of the top five, counting down:
- Southern Hospitality. Experience the South at its finest — the Sea Island Service team epitomizes southern hospitality. As soon as you arrive, the staff members go out of their way to welcome you and do whatever they can to ensure you enjoy an unforgettable stay. As you step into the lobby and are escorted to your finely-appointed, spacious, elegant accommodations, you’ll feel as though you’re taking a step back in time. Everyone is beyond courteous. After the first meeting with a staff member, you’ll be happily surprised to find that they always call you by name. Maintaining an exact attention to detail that can only be achieved by an award-winning staff, your stay will be managed by a single point of contact dedicated to ensuring that all aspects of your get-away are flawless.
- The Natural Beauty. Originally planted by former President Calvin Coolidge in 1928, the live oaks all over the island are now more than 80 years old and simply gorgeous — as are The Cloister’s gardens, golf courses and five miles of private beach. Coolidge wasn’t the only notable politician to add to the luxury hotel’s landscape; Margaret Thatcher, Gerald Ford, Tony Blair and Dwight Eisenhower and many more have planted trees in the lush, verdant landscape. As well, the fertile marshland and coast attracts masses of animals. You’ll discover the flora and fauna of the island’s maritime forest, marshes and beach with opportunities galore for birding and shelling, and the hotel even offers an adopt-a-nest program for the native loggerhead sea turtles.
- History. The Cloister hotel has a long history dating back to the 1920s — when Palm Beach trailblazing architect Addison Mizner designed it — and has welcomed guests for over 80 years. With its opening in 1928, Bill Jones and automobile magnate Howard Coffin created “a friendly little hotel” on the southern coast of Georgia. In the decades that have passed since Sea Island’s first guest, much in has changed while much remains the same. In 2006, an extensive rebuild replaced the historic building with all with the same charm, charisma and meticulous attention to detail of the property of yesteryear. Though the resort has evolved through the years, the simple traditions that define Sea Island have been preserved. The same children who once played on the shore years ago now bring their children and grandchildren to play on the same beach.
Over the years, The Cloister also has played host to presidential figures and European royalty. The Sea Island hotel was the venue of the G8 Summit in 2004, with George H.W. Bush and other world leaders in attendance. Continuing the pattern with other previous venues of the G8 meeting, the island is remote, easily secured and has luxurious accommodations.
- Activities and Amenities. Whether you’re 5 or 55, there is plenty to do at this Five-Star hotel, from swimming, fishing and boating (relax on the hotel’s own Cloister Belle yacht) to horseback riding, skeet shooting and squash, tennis and golf.
The Sea Island Golf Performance Center is one of the resort’s signature experiences. The state-of-the-art facility offers an indoor video studio, 300 yards of teeing area, target greens, short-game areas and an exclusive club-fitting service. Sea Island Golf Club’s three 18-hole championship courses – Seaside, Plantation and Retreat – are situated on breathtaking landscapes.
Seaside (Par 70; six tee areas; 5,048 to 7,005 yards; 120 to 141 slope) – Situated at the southern tip of St. Simons Island, Seaside is the pinnacle of links golf. A true links-style course – linking the sea to the land – features 15 holes flanked by captivating views of the Georgia coast’s diverse landscapes. Offering Sea Island’s most demanding layout, Seaside is the host venue for the PGA Tour’s McGladrey Classic.
Plantation (Par 72; six tee areas; 5,194 to 7,058 yards; 122 to 136 slope) – Unfolding from a forest of ancient live oaks, cedars and Georgia’s lush, long-leaf pines, the Plantation’s tree-lined layout brandishes breathtaking ocean views, plentiful lakes, expansive fairways and liberal sight lines between holes. The Rees Jones-designed course tempts both the experienced and novice player with a tiny hint of danger lurking in the course’s tidal creeks and lakes.
Retreat (Par 72; six tee areas; 5,082 to 7,106 yards, 117 to 135 slope) – When Davis Love III and his brother Mark began renovating the Retreat Course in October 2000, they knew they had a difficult task. Fusing the players’ preferences from the previous design, the brothers created a distinctively dramatic design. The green complexes successfully combine slope, sand bunkers and undulations that challenge golfers to find a wide variety of shots.
For unique activities you’ll only find at The Cloister, play a game of bingo unlike any you’ve seen at the local VFW hall. At The Cloister, bingo games are upscale, popular family affairs held in the ballroom.
You may be on a secluded private island, but the best amenities are at your fingertips. Georgia’s only Five-Star restaurant and spa call The Cloister home. You easily can spend the day being pampered at The Cloister Spa. Unwind in the leafy garden atrium on your comfy chaise lounge, soak in the pool where the gushing waterfall drowns out any stresses, or reflect and relax in the onsite labyrinth.
- A Home Away From Home. Sea Island is a home away from home for discriminating travelers and young, modern families, who have made the Sea Island Tradition their own.
The Cloister Ocean Residences – Those who are looking to own a piece of this exceptional island destination will find their home away from home at The Cloister Ocean Residences, a shared ownership opportunity. “It’s a smart way to own and enjoy the best of Sea Island, with all the amenities and benefits of a Five-Star resort and none of the worries of maintaining a vacation home — all at a fraction of the initial and ongoing costs,” says Randy Burgess, project director for The Cloister Ocean Residences, who touts the $100,000 value of the Sea Island Club membership that comes with the purchase.
The Cloister Ocean Residences are a private, gated oceanfront enclave overlooking an expansive beach. The community blends 22 elegantly furnished one-, two- and three-bedroom residences just steps from the beach. These residences are designed to free their owners from the high expenses and maintenance worries of traditional vacation homes.
Owners enjoy one-fourth undivided, deeded interests in fully furnished and maintained residences, with a guarantee of one week each month. A complimentary Chairman’s Club membership for three years in 3RD HOME offers the ability to exchange weeks for vacations at thousands of other luxurious destinations worldwide. Visit www.3rdhome.com for more information.
“The Cloister Ocean Residences are much more than an oceanfront real estate purchase; they provide a lifestyle of quality time spent with family and friends, creating special memories and a legacy for generations to come,” says Burgess. Shares start at $375,000 and go to $1.1 million, with an average of $700,000.
If a simple vacation is more of what you desire, rental opportunities abound. Select a place from any number of the luxurious, well-appointed options available. For more information, visit www.cloisteroceanresidences.com or call 844-842-8317.
The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club – The AAA Five-Diamond, Forbes Five-Star Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club caters to guests seeking ultimate privacy and luxury. The intimate 40-room hotel and golf clubhouse offers expansive ocean views, and is surrounded by the emerald fairways of The Sea Island Golf Club. The stunning accommodations offer the feel of a classic English country manor with hand-crafted Oriental rugs, spacious marble baths with deep-soaking tubs and rainhead showers.
Sea Island Cottages – Renting a cottage on Sea Island is a treasured tradition for many of the resort’s frequent visitors. Of approximately 600 privately owned Cottages on Sea Island, 150 are available for rent. Each is uniquely designed, providing guests with a selection of styles and décor from which to choose. The homes range from three to eight bedrooms and most residences offer beach, salt marsh or tidal creek views. Rental of the Cottages includes complete access to dining, golf, spa, and resort privileges at The Cloister and The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club.
Those wanting to own a second home and be a part of the Sea Island lifestyle have many options. Sea Island Properties can provide information about housing options. With interest rates at all time lows, it’s a great time to look for lots, residences, condos and shared ownership properties. From quaint smaller cottages to estate-size oceanfront compounds, you can choose from Dune, Forest, Ocean or River Cottages. Ocean or Beach Club residences offer 3-4 bedrooms, just steps from the Sea Island Beach Club. Beach Club suites offer 1- and 2-bedroom floorplans. The River Club Townhomes offer 2-5 bedroom floorplans. The newest of the Sea Island resort offerings are The Cloister Cottages. They have 4 bedrooms and are approximately 4,000 square feet with gourmet kitchens, screened porches and a plunge pool. Contact Sea Island Properties at 912-638-5161 or visit www.seaislandproperties.com.
Renowned for its hospitality, unique location and opportunity to create lasting and ongoing memories, Sea Island has been creating lifelong traditions for discerning travelers and offering real estate ownership opportunities since 1928.
Experience Sea Island at www.seaisland.com or call 855-231-6761.