What happens when a newlywed English reporter and her husband road trip through the US South and stop at a resort off the Georgia coast? The pretend they never stopped honeymooning.
SEA ISLAND, Georgia – There comes a point in every marriage...oh per-lease. Who am I kidding? I've been married all of five minutes (well, just over a year), so am no expert. But I do know something about that first year of marriage, and it is this: Every couple should plan a post-honeymoon trip during that first year to revel in that newlywed magic just a little longer. Because when the wedding is done and the honeymoon is over, you and your new spouse find yourself back where you started. In real life. Back to the working grind and deciding whose turn it is to sort dinner and take out the rubbish.
Of course that is reality, and hopefully you've picked the right partner for dealing with all the crap, but you know what's really great? When you escape it all and get real romantic again.
And that's exactly what my husband, Jamie, and I decided to do this summer. I said, "let's go on an adventure," and he agreed. Which is how we found ourselves transported from London on a little road trip through Georgia and South Carolina. There were various contributing factors, not least of which was the much raved about Sea Island resort in Georgia.
Because Brits abroad have a tendency to travel in cliches, we rented a convertible Mustang ("if we're going to do this, we are going to do it right," Jamie proclaimed). Ignoring the gathering storm clouds, we hit I-95N from the Jacksonville, Florida, airport with the roof down, excited about what was to come. That excitement dissipated when the storm hit and we had to pull over rapidly to put the roof up before getting drenched. At which point we realized that our roof leaked and were forced to a standstill on the freeway to wait out a downpour so heavy we couldn't see what was before us.
There were, needless to say, tense exchanges. Not the most romantic start.
Eventually we found ourselves under clearer skies as we reached Sea Island on the southeastern Georgian Atlantic coast. We were a touch stressed, but as we drove to the end of a heart-stoppingly beautiful driveway framed by live oaks leading to The Lodge and were welcomed by Jeffrey, a security guard with the silkiest, most delectable deep Southern accent I've ever heard, the tension started to melt.
Within the hour we were sitting side by side in the leather-clad, candle-lit Oak Room, sipping their Front Porch Lemonade, snacking on ahi tuna poke with wonton crackers and amazing Southern fried chicken. (It was decidedly tasty, as was everything we ate at Sea Island.) We watched lightning bolts crack over St. Simons Sound. Now we were relaxed.
Our waiter gave us little s'more DIY kits and directed us to the fire pit for toasting. Food really is the way to both of our hearts, so within moments we were like giddy teenagers all over again. When we finally retreated to our room, things got really sexy: They had left cookies and milk as part of turndown service. We went to bed very happy.
The Lodge, which is grand in a deep, dark, country gentlemen's club kind of way, feels cozier than its airier sister property The Cloister, which resembles a Spanish villa but both are very elegant. At the Lodge, imposing staircases flank either side of the immaculately appointed lobby that extends onto a terrace overlooking an apparently superb golf course and the St. Simons Sound beyond. Neither my husband nor I golf, but even we could appreciate the stunning course as we sipped gin and tonics on the terrace at sunset. This, incidentally, is the time when the resident bag piper plays. Apparently this golf tradition signals the end of play, but for us it was a rather amusing spectacle to watch various toddlers chase after the poor guy as if he were a real-life Pied Piper. We giggled in the wooden rocking chairs. Yes, even this was all rather romantic.
There are two more hotel options at the resort: The Inn, which is casual and beachy, and Sea Island Cottages, which range from intimate one-bedrooms to bring-the-gang eight-bedrooms.
Golf is only the tip of the iceberg of the offerings for all ages, which include biking, boating, fishing, horseback riding, nature excursions, kayaking, hunting and shooting, tennis, and squash. There's even falconry at Broadfield, Sea Island's Sporting Club and Lodge.
I started our first day in the most beautiful spa I've ever seen, where treatment rooms surround a stunning atrium with a soothing rock pool. There is no way anyone could feel tense in this space, especially not after a 60-minute, no-nonsense massage. We were due to have a couples massage (obviously romantic…), but what I have learned so far in my marriage is that there is nothing romantic about waking Jamie up before 11 a.m. on a weekend or a holiday. He sleeps like a stoned teenager whenever he can. (He is 33.)
It was much more sensible to meet up with him for salt marsh paddleboarding before lunch. This was a real treat, as our guide, Ian, was so knowledgeable and informative about the area. We paddled along the shore, stopping for a sandwich lunch that was waiting for us, courtesy of a thoughtfully arranged speedboat delivery, on a picnic blanket under an umbrella. Ian offered to leave us to it to have a special moment together, but Jamie knows that I, being a journalist and just plain nosey, find quizzing a stranger about their life equally special, so we insisted he join us.
The spa, the paddleboarding, and dinner that evening were all located around the Cloister (on Sea Island), a seven-minute drive from The Lodge (on St. Simons Island). A free shuttle runs regularly, and the islands are so beautiful I didn't mind the back and forth. I especially loved driving under those enchanting live oak trees with our roof down, the air filled with the smell of Southern Soul Barbeque (a local favorite).
If you are into that sort of thing, there is a formal vibe to Sea Island. Men and boys over eight are required to wear collared shirts and jackets at Colt & Alison, the classic steakhouse at the Lodge. The resort hosts an infamous bingo (yes, bingo) night (ladies wear cocktail attire) where some serious bingo shiz goes down. (Like what? Well, they have to lock the doors. Why? Because of some obscure gambling laws, we learn when the whole phenomenon was explained to us.) It's such a big deal they sell Sea Island Bingo T-shirts. Ah, Southern traditions.
We preferred to spend time in the more relaxing areas like The Georgian Room Lounge inside the Cloister. Cocktails and light bites were the perfect way to round off what transpired to be a really fun and romantic trip. Our waiter, Nate, recommend "life-changing fries" (they were pretty special) and suggested a restaurant for our next stop, Savannah. (We went, and so should you, to The Grey. Sit at the bar and order sweet potato pie for dessert. You can thank me/Nate later.) To accompany the fries, we ordered sensational sliders served with secret sauce in pipettes. This delighted Jamie, who has an irrational fear of condiments and sauces.
Our two-night visit at an end, we set off the next morning with paper bags filled with complimentary snacks. On your last night, they bring a selection of jars to your room so you can assemble a care package. It's a delightful little touch. We drove off with smiles on our faces. And more in love than ever.
BOOK A ROOM
Rates at The Lodge and The Cloister start at $395/night. Click here to make a reservation at any of the Sea Island properties.
Sea Island, located on the barrier islands off the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, is a private island dominated by the resort. The only way to get onto it is to be a guest at one of Sea Island's hotels or to be a member or resident. The Cloister and The Beach Club are the main epicenters of activity. St. Simons Island, which is more town-like with shops and eateries, is where The Lodge is located.
How to Get There
The closest airports are Jacksonville International Airport (JAX) in Florida (one hour by car) and Savannah International Airport (SAV) in Georgia (an hour-and-15-minute drive). Sea Island can arrange transfers from the hotel, but it's nice to rent a car.
This Place Is Perfect For
Kind of everything. Whether it's a romantic weekend away or a multi-generational family holiday or a spa break with the girls, Sea Island can tick a lot of boxes.
This is an incredibly family-friendly place. In addition to all the activities, there’s an incredible sweet shop and ice cream parlor by the ever-essential pool. That said, we found it easy to avoid the little darlings at the adult-friendly pool.
Very elegant, in an either clubby or Spanish villa way, but also family-friendly.
Number of Rooms
There are 40 rooms at the Lodge, and 265 at the Cloister.
In addition to the sweets and treats left nightly and before departure, the roomy bathroom was stocked with Molton Brown products.
It’s an overwhelmingly white clientele. I say this is a white person myself, but coming from a city like London, it's very odd to be around such a monotone group.
That driveway up to The Lodge, framed by the cascading live oaks. It made me swoon every time
You're here for the resort, which is spread over two islands and the surrounding waters. There's not a ton else to explore.
What to Do Nearby
Here too, the resort is so packed with activities, you don't have to go anywhere to find distractions to fill the days.