Sted is the kind of guy that looks like he might kayak for a living. The guide at Sea Island’s Rainbow Island Water Sports Center is tan, athletic, and exceedingly polite — like a Southern version of a California surfer. And when we arrive nearly an hour late for our kayaking session, he’s graciously accommodating, casually waving away our apologies and more than happy to take us out on the salt marshes that hug Sea Island’s southern tip.
Once we’re out on the water, however, we discover that underneath the trucker hat and behind the mirrored Oakleys, Sted is a veritable whiz when it comes to the unique ecosystem of the Golden Isles. As we glide across the marsh’s glassy surface, he tells us in great detail about the natural wonders all around us: the dolphins below (Atlantic bottlenoses love the warm, bath-like waters), the birds flying above (painted buntings and wandering albatrosses among them), and the golden Spartina grass lining the shores (a vital element that protects the environment from erosion — and gives it its whimsical moniker). “It’s all so cool to see how everything in nature is connected here,” he tells us. “I just love it.”
Your average hour-long kayak ride isn’t typically so engrossing — but that’s just the way it goes at Sea Island. The Georgia island resort measures just five miles by one and a half, yet it’s packed with discoveries, from white-sand beaches and nature trails brimming with wildlife to world-class restaurants and championship golf courses. It’s like a year-round summer camp for all ages. And for Exclusive Resorts Members who stay at Sea Island’s four-bedroom luxury cottages, all of the history, nature, flavor — and, of course, charm — is right at your fingertips, thanks to Sted and the more than 1,000 other Sea Island team members waiting to share the beauty and bounty of their beloved isle with you. Here’s how to experience it all.
For Nature Lovers
Where to begin? Sea Island is first and foremost a place of undeniable natural beauty, with miles of white-sand beaches, freshwater lakes, wildlife trails, tidal marshes, and palmetto-dotted grassland. You can explore them in countless ways, from salt marsh dolphin boat tours to horseback rides on the beach or through the oak-filled estate. Go on a birding excursion to spot rare winged beauties like the Scarlet tanager and the migratory Wilson's plover; observe nesting sea turtles and their hatchlings with naturalists on dawn and moonlight patrols; glimpse Georgia’s magnificent manatees; or get up close and personal with a Peregrine falcon or Harris hawk at the falconry center. Visit the Sea Island Nature Center to discover more of what makes the Georgia coast and its many ecosystems and wildlife so unique.
Adrenaline is hardly in short supply at Sea Island, where sporting is a way of life. Embark on all your favorites — fishing, kayaking (you can even fish from a kayak) — and try a few you may have never even heard of, such as wind winging and funcycling (it’s as fun as it sounds!). Land, air, or sea — take your pick with clay shooting and falconry, horseback riding and tennis, and sailing and surfing. Sea Island is also home to three championship golf courses, plus practice greens, tee areas, and a 17,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Golf Performance Center.
Even the most venturesome among us deserves a little bit of downtime — in fact, we believe everyone has an inner sybarite. Whether yours is deeply buried or right at the surface, The Spa at Sea Island awaits with just the right amount of R&R. You could easily spend an entire day in the warm embrace of this 65,000-square-foot retreat, where the meditative sounds of a cascading stream greet you in the garden atrium. In addition to spa treatments (a few favorites include Dr. Babor facials and the sea mineral body mask), you’ll find sunbathing terraces, hot and cold pools, saunas and steam rooms, and a meditation labyrinth. For the fittest of us, The Spa also offers a collection of recovery therapies, including stretching sessions, cryotherapy, and muscle activation techniques.
Variety is, of course, the spice of life, and at Sea Island’s dozen-plus dining outlets, every palate is sure to be pleased. Head to Tavola for authentic Northern Italian with a dash of Southern hospitality, plus an extensive wine collection featuring vino from all over il bel paese, from beloved Barolo to tried-and-true Tuscany. Scratch your itch for the freshest catch at Southern Tide, where dishes range from creative surf-and-turf like the crab cake BLT to comfort classics like shrimp and grits. There’s also the upscale Georgian Rooms — with a sushi lounge and stunning dining room specializing in fine cuts — and the classic Oak Room, where the sounds of Sea Island’s resident bagpiper fill the lively terrace every evening at sunset. For the ultimate meal, book a private dinner in the resort’s intimate wine cellar, or have the hospitality come to you with a private crab boil right in your Exclusive Resorts residence.
For the Littles
While adults certainly have their fun at Sea Island, some of the coolest activities at the resort are strictly for the kiddos (although you might be tempted to try to join in anyway!). Camp Cloister keeps those aged 3 through 14 happily busy with daily pool activities and arts and crafts. There’s also cookie making, paint parties, educational nature walks, and stuffed-animal-making workshops. Young ones from age 6 can become sharp shooters in the resort’s Air Rifle Bull's-Eye Class, while everyone 3 and up can join Kids’ Night Out’s indoor/outdoor games, dinner, and movie.
Select photos courtesy of Jackie Caradonio