News that the posh Sea Island resort has gone bust and is seeking buyers leaves me feeling wistful for the days I spent on the Georgia coast in my childhood – even though I have never actually vacationed on Sea Island.
I have traversed the small Sea Island Road many times in the past 38 years, but I have never stayed there overnight. All of my life, at least some part of my family has lived on neighboring St. Simons Island. As a result, it never made sense to consider paying to spend the night just few miles away – either at the famed Cloister or in one of the beautiful, multi-million dollar “cottages”.
Sea Island was still a lovely draw, however. Life seemed to slow down and take on a peaceful tone the moment we drove or bicycled past the old Cloister and those first cottages. (St. Simons was more peaceful back then too, but it has always been more commercial and more populated than Sea Island.)
Development came like gangbusters to St. Simons in the years after I graduated college. The small houses and small businesses on the St. Simons of my youth now sit alongside multi-million dollar mansions and a growing number of national chain stores and restaurants. But we could still head over to Sea Island for a while to get a reminder of a slower, smaller – if not infinitely more upscale – way of life on the beautiful Georgia coast.
Of course, development and change also came to the “old” Sea Island. There are no Starbucks or Outback Steakhouses on Sea Island (and you still have to cross back to SSI to hit the Harris Teeter for groceries), but Sea Island’s houses began multiplying greatly in number and square footage. The G8 Summit in 2004 brought international dignitaries and even more prestige to the already prestigious resort. When the history-filled Cloister was torn down, a new $200 million Cloister rose out of the remnants of old Sea Island in 2006. Around that time, the Sea Island Company also erected a security gate, which restricts access to the island for the casual visitor.
Now that Georgia’s famous resort is in troubled financial waters, I wonder how it will affect the community of owners and vacationers who hold so many fond memories of the grand old place.
Even with all of my family a few miles away on St. Simons, I had always harbored the dream that my husband and I would one day leave the kids with their grandparents for the weekend and enjoy a luxurious stay at the Cloister. I don’t know what the future holds for the Cloister or Sea Island, but I do hope that dream isn’t gone for good.
Do you vacation on Sea Island – at the Cloister or in a cottage? What draws you there? How do you think the Sea Island Company’s financial woes will impact the resort? If the resort is sold and big changes are made to the island, will you still return for vacation? What Sea Island attributes are most important to you?
Do you have any classic memories of past vacations on Sea Island or at the Cloister? Will the coastal gem that we know as Sea Island lose its luster if the resort is sold?