Looking to isolate yourself in a luxurious beach surrounding but don't want to stray too far from the U.S. mainland? Check out Sea Island, located off the coast of Brunswick, Georgia among the state's Barrier Islands. The oldest place to stay on the island, The Cloister, was purchased in 1911 by Howard Coffin, the owner of the Hudson Motor Company, who quickly turned the island's 20,000 acres into a playground for the rich and/or famous. In 1929, the Plantation Golf Course was built and the area drew wealthy industrialists, presidents and politicians such as Calvin Coolidge and Dwight D. Eisenhower; its draw for politicians has continued, as it hosted the G8 Summit in 2004. Public access is limited even when there's not a global summit taking place, as the island is privately owned by descendants of the Coffin family and the only people permitted are residents and guests of the resort. In addition to being a quiet, beautiful spot, it is an exercise in carefully controlled growth and respect for the island's environment, as it incorporates than 10,000 acres of forest, lawn and marshland and five miles of beachfront. Sea Island is part of The Golden Isles of Georgia, which includes Jekyll Island -- which offers more of a range of accommodations, from motels and campgrounds to hotels and cottage rentals -- along with St. Simons Island, the largest and most popular spot, especially for families, and Little St. Simons Island, which limits accommodations to 24.
These days Sea Island Company operates two (tel. 888/SEA-ISLAND; www.seaisland.com) destinations for travelers. In 2001, the Lodge at Sea Island opened, an award-winning property with butler service and only 40 rooms that either overlook the ocean or the fairways. In 2004, the company closed the Cloister, razed it, and rebuilt something new in its place, which opened in April 2006. Owners were careful to replicate many of the Spanish-inspired architectural features of the former building, such as the 1928 Spanish Lounge, which was taken apart and completely rebuilt for the new hotel.
In the heart of the summer you'll find families staying here -- July is especially popular. There's plenty to do, and kids 18 and under stay for free in their parents' rooms. There's a Cloister Package available July 10-August 21, which includes luxury accommodations, a $200 gift card per night, breakfast daily and more, starting from $750 per night -- it's a three-night package that can accommodate a family of four. The package also includes a picnic basket lunch per day, a turtle excursion per day and a gold brick sundae (that's a sundae with warm chocolate that hardens on top of fresh vanilla cream).
At the Lodge, there is a Lodge Golf Package with a summer special -- prices June 15-August 31 start at $440 per night for single and $550 for double, a savings of nearly $200 over regular in-season prices. The package includes luxury accommodations, one round green fees, cart, range balls per person per day, breakfast for two daily including room service. The only caveat is that the special requires at two-night minimum during the week and a thee-night minimum for weekend stays. The Cloister has a special called five for four, where guests pay for four nights and get the fifth free; rates start at $750 per night based on double occupancy, a package that's available through the end of August.
Guests who want to stay somewhere more intimate and private can opt for a cottage rental -- about a third of the 500 properties on Sea Island are available for rental. Guests become temporary members of the Sea Island Club and can gain access to dining, recreational and resort amenities of both the Cloister and the Lodge. Choose from three bedroom bungalows to nine-bedroom homes. Rates range from $2,400 to as much as $22,000 per week -- you can also opt for a monthly rental. Summertime rates start around $5000 per week, and cottages are fully furnished and equipped with everything you will need.
Regular rates for the summer start at $650 to $5,000 per night, except for July 4th which starts at $795. Rates include 24-hour butler service, turndown service, personalized stationary and Lady Primrose toiletries, use of its spa and fitness facility, the Beach Club (soon to have three pools), movie theater, ice cream parlor, dining room, snack bar, outdoor bars and coffee shop. Most other activities are a la carte and so are meals -- you have seven restaurants to choose from. You can do just about anything while you're here from horseback riding, to shooting to tennis, boating and fishing -- there are even programs for children, yacht excursions, a bird walk with a naturalist, and a tour of the Cloister's kitchen and wine cellar. Although there is high occupancy in July and August, there is still availability during these months, according to company representative Rachel Tate.
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