I walked along the gravel-and-pebble path of Beach Road
on Little St. Simons Island, I could hear and feel the
rhythm of the rumbling surf of the Atlantic long before
I could see it. As I quickened my step over the windswept
dunes whipped to softness by sugary sands, I began to
smell it, too, as the waves evaporated into microscopic
grains of sea salt and permeated the warm spring air.
One of only two U.S. properties, the Lodge on Little St. Simons was recently honored with a GreenGlobe award - a highly commended environmental acheichevment for its green practices and resource preservation.
When I crossed the beach to the watermark where the ocean
melded with earth and waded in to knee-deep, I glanced
to my left. Chattering flocks of pelicans and seagulls
fluttered along a shoreline so long that I imagined I
could see the curvature of the earth.
The beach on privately-owned Little St. Simons Island,
perhaps the purest of all the barrier islands of Georgia
that creates a protective line of defense against the
great tumultuous storms of the Atlantic, meanders on for
seven glorious miles, broken only here and there by the
spill of freshwater creeks or small tidal pools of ocean
On this day, all seven miles were completely mine and
mine alone. There is something extraordinarily spellbinding
and even slightly primitive about having miles of the
vast Atlantic coastline all to yourself with nary another
soul around, just skittering crabs, oodles of shorebirds,
and even an occasional loggerhead turtle lumbering ashore
to lay her eggs.
This sense of isolation is one of the secret ingredients
of the 10,000-acre Little St. Simons Island. Reached only
by boat, the island is one of those rare places that is
perfectly secluded, serene, and quite unspoiled. And more
so, the Lodge on St. Simons Island, once a rustic hunting
cabin where Hemingway would have felt at home, provides
luxury accommodations in cottages and cedar-sided lodges
for a mere thirty guests, so at any given time each person
has roughly 333 acres to herself.
The sanctuary-like Little St. Simons Island is seemingly
anointed by the gods of nature as a place of extraordinary
beauty. Part of the reason is that a mélange of
four distinct ecosystems define the landscape of the island,
including the pristine wilderness of the maritime forests
with its tangled canopy of oaks, cedars, pines, and wild
magnolias; endless acres of brilliant green salt marshes
teeming with every coastal critter and bird imaginable;
those delightfully uncrowded beaches; and the wetlands
highlighted by ribbons of tidal creeks.
If you're one of the fortunate thirty guests at the Lodge
on Little St. Simons, you can take island "safaris" or natural history tours with one of the naturalists,
who will explain each ecosystem and how important it is
to the island's survival. More than likely, you'll take
your safari while sitting in the back of a pick-up truck-sometimes
hanging on for dear life as the truck bumps and rattles
over the sandy paths-and you'll probably come upon an
incredible profusion of wildlife, perhaps a diamondback
rattlesnake as it suns itself on a sand ridge, a swift-footed
European fallow deer as it scampers through the woods,
or even an alligator, its eyes glowing like hot coals
as it watches and contemplates your next move.
The wildlife doesn't commit itself entirely to the forests,
though. As I sat on the porch of the main lodge one morning,
I quietly and conscientiously eavesdropped on the sounds
of nature. In less than ten minute's time, I heard the
soulful cry of a mourning dove calling its mate, the high-pitched "caw-caw" of a crow, the wallowing of an armadillo
in the underbrush, the hard "whump!" of a pine
cone hitting the ground after being nudged from its branches
by a squirrel, the heavy sigh of the coastal breeze as
it whirled through the massive oaks, the nearly imperceptible
splash of a dolphin swimming in a nearby creek, and the
short snorts of a fallow deer nibbling at the ground just
a few feet away.
Little St. Simons has been declared an "Important
Bird Area" by the Audubon Society, and for good reason.
There are nearly 300 bird species on the island, including
all different types of heron, doves, cuckoos, woodpecker,
turkey, duck, and the seasonal bald eagle, but the queen
of the island is undoubtedly the painted bunting, whose
bright plumage makes it arguably one of the most beautiful
birds in the world.
There is always the quiet drama of the forces of nature
here, even if unseen. Only six miles long and less than
three miles wide, the relatively pint-sized island amazingly
continues to grow larger by slow, gradual inches because
of an outflow of sediment from a host of rivers churning
their contents into the sounds, a phenomenon uniquely
that of Little St. Simons.
The Lodge on Little St. Simons is one of those places
made for romance, solitude, or camaraderie with friends
or family, and then combined with outdoors adventures
like kayaking, beach seining, fishing, canoeing, swimming,
horseback riding, and hiking or biking more than twenty
miles of forested trails.
But even more so, this is a place custom made for halcyon
days and nights: there are no phones, radios, televisions,
computers, or electronic contraptions of any kind. Evening
skies are lit only by the constellations and lightning
bugs, and if you're fortunate enough to experience a rainstorm
during your visit, the echo of rain beating against the
tin roof of the main hunting lodge practically guarantees
The all-inclusive price of a stay at the lodge includes
three meals a day. Meals, comfortable and come-as-you-are
casual, are announced by the clang-clang-clang of a cast-iron
dinner bell hanging on the front porch and then served
family-style on a long table, where you never know with
whom you will be sitting, perhaps even a politician or
celebrity of some sort.
On the menu for breakfast is artery-clogging, seasoned-to-perfection
stone-ground grits-the kind that actually has to crawl
out of the pot, the way the Good Lord intended-fried eggs,
real country ham, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits, and sausage
gravy so thick and delicious that it will, and I have
to use an appropriately southern expression here, knock
your ever-lovin' socks off.
Lunch and dinner or possibly a beach picnic might be plain
ol' homemade fare like platters full of fried chicken,
an oyster roast, or even a Low Country boil, or it could
be a gourmet dish like pecan crusted pork loin prepared
with port wine and pear sauce.
Dessert is always homemade, with a special emphasis on
sinfully rich southern treats like pecan pie, strawberry
shortcake, and hummingbird cake.
When you visit Little St. Simons, leave your watch at
home. You'll know when it's time to get up by the sunrise
scattering its iridescent light across the marsh, when
it's time to eat by the peals of the dinner bell, and
when it's time to rest by the late afternoon shadows growing
longer and the nocturnal creatures waking from their slumber.
Little St. Simons Island is a place that I could never
leave and be perfectly happy. It is nature at its finest
and its most raw, so it's not for everyone. There are
a gracious plenty of bugs, as you would expect of a coastal
island, and even slight risks of danger with its fair
population of diamondbacks, cottonmouths, and alligators.
But with this degree of high octane beauty and energy
waiting, a snake or a 'gator or two merely succeeds in
adding a bit of intrigue to your coastal getaway.
St. Simons Island is located just off the Georgia
coast, approximately halfway between Savannah, Georgia,
and Jacksonville, Florida. It is accessible only
by boat from Hampton River Marina Club on St. Simons
Rates are available upon request and are all-inclusive
of lodging, meals, island activities, and recreation,
including canoes, kayaks, boats, fishing gear, bicycles,
horseback riding, swimming pool, and guided environmentalist
and naturalist tours. Even sunscreen and bug repellant
are included. For the ultimate family vacation,
class reunion, corporate retreat, or even anyone
who wants the island all to herself, full island
rentals for up to 30 guests are also offered.
For more information, contact The Lodge on Little
St. Simons Island by calling toll-free (888) 733-5774
or locally at (912) 638-7472. Visit the website
or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.