I carefully opened the library-bound books and began to turn the pages of the past. Each of the seven registers is filled with signatures in various ink colors scattered across lined and numbered pages. The first book, slightly tinted brown by time, was dated June 1940, and the last book denoted the current date. The sprawling signatures have a common bond—love brought them here.
Seduction by scenery is not just a catch phrase at Sea Island, a five-mile slice of paradise along the pristine Georgia Coast. The secluded retreat is revered around the world for privacy and natural beauty, and was selected for the prestigious 2004 G8 Summit, the annual gathering of the eight leaders of the free world. The allure began over 75 years ago with founder Howard Coffin's vision to build the finest resort in the world, and the popularity continues today with the fourth generation of the Jones family. Their vision has grown into The Lodge at Sea Island, The Lodge at Cabin Bluff, the private Ocean Forest Golf Club, a 600 private home cottage colony and several exclusive communities on neighboring St. Simons Island, all which provide privacy, tranquility and the sporting life at its finest. Accolades include the "Number One Resort in the U.S." by Conde` Nast Traveler readers in 2004. The romance connection is evident in the numbers.
Sea Island's Cloister Hotel has hosted almost 37,000 newlywed couples since 1940. Each couple receives a card stating what number couple they are to honeymoon at the resort. Honeymoon couple #1,768 was George and Barbara Bush. They visited in January 1945 and returned to celebrate their 50 th anniversary in 1995. Group photos of honeymoon guests are also part of the tradition, and for every 1000 th couple to honeymoon at The Cloister, the hotel celebrates with a reception and dinner. They are also presented with a certificate for a complimentary one-week stay at the resort. Save that receipt! Honeymooners at the Cloister can also present their original receipt and lodge for that same amount on their anniversary, (ask for details.) Some have found receipts decades later and visited for as little as $28.00! It is little wonder that the resort The Cloister has been averaging 200 honeymoon couples per year over the past few years.
Accommodations at Sea Island Resort are one reason why the resort is so popular. The Cloister is known as the cornerstone of Sea Island. Built in 1928, the opulent hotel hosted royalty, celebrities, world leaders, families and newlyweds. In March 2006, couples can witness the rebirth of the new building while blending timeless favorites of the past. The time-treasured honeymoon registers can be viewed in the Colonial Lounge, the public space living room of The Cloister. For a romantic evening of dining, experience the Cloister's Georgian Room. The restaurant features arched windows with cast stone trim and intricate hand-woven carpet.
Another great option for lodging on Sea Island is the luxurious Ocean Houses. Our room was decorated with fine furnishings, luxurious linens and came complete with a path to the beach. Try sailing, kayaking or strolling to the south end of the beach where the tide sweeps ashore buckets of large fancy shells for the taking. Be sure to reserve a unique beach horseback ride at the resort's stables. For the experienced equestrians, enjoy a "Bareback Swim Ride" where the horses deliver you for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean.
For privacy and the ultimate in romantic atmosphere, try The Lodge, located at the southern tip of Sea Island. The Lodge is another reason why the Sea Island Resorts are so popular. The 2005 Zagat Survey rated the Lodge "Best Small Hotel and #1 Top Dining." The Lodge has also earned the Mobil 5-Star and AAA Five Diamond rating. With amenities like a 24-hour personal butler (includes unpacking your bags), heated towel racks, and a view straight from an artist's canvas—consider yourself in honeymoon paradise without leaving the U.S.
A grand staircase leads to the first and second floors, where 40 guest rooms are synonymous with wedding bliss. Be sure and ask about the Romance Package that includes a Land Rover for exploring the island. Just before sunset, retreat to the rear of The Lodge and relax to the slothful sound of bagpipes. A tradition borrowed from Saint Andrews Golf Course in Scotland, the stirring echoes of a lone bagpiper signal another perfect day of golf has ended along the 18 th hole of the Plantation Golf Course. Make reservations after sunset to experience the Lodge's intimate atmosphere and the exceptional cuisine at Colt & Alison restaurant. My recommendation—the dry-aged steaks.
Plan a visit to the heart and soul of the Sea Island Resorts, the Avenue of Oaks (planted in 1850) on the front lawn of The Lodge. Walk the path where thousands of couples have whispered sentiments of love and find your perfect spot to relax. My husband/photographer stresses the importance of finding the perfect "golden light" of the day for surreal lighting effects. Golden light comes swiftly after daybreak and shortly before sunset. This is the time when the oaks, dripping with Spanish moss, allow just enough sun streaks through the gnarled branches to shine on your special moment—a golden moment in time on Sea Island.
For information on all Sea Island Resorts call (800) SEA ISLAND, or visit www.seaisland.com
For area tourist information call Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia CVB 1-800-933-2627 or visit www.bgivb.com