WHY NOW: The heat, humidity, and pesky critters have moved on, and this 10,000-acre private island, accessible only by boat, comes alive with wildlife. The short trip through the waterways of Georgia’s Barrier Islands sets the tone: seclusion and solitude centered on the Hunting Lodge, the heart of the Lodge at Little St. Simons, built in 1917. Little St. Simons is one of the last privately owned barrier islands and is a paradise for nature lovers or travelers searching for a secluded destination. THE ACCOMMODATIONS: Overnight stays are limited to 30, and guest cottages-no phones, no TV-are scattered around the grounds. The Cedar House and River Lodge, both with fireplaces, offer stunning sunset views. Michael’s Cottage, a 1930s-style bungalow favored by honeymooners, is nestled at the edge of the forest. The distinctive design of Helen’s House, built in 1929, reflects coastal Georgia’s traditional history with its oyster-shell masonry. There are two small bedrooms in the rustic Hunting Lodge, each with private baths. GANG’S ALL HERE: Live it up and rent the whole island. It’s the perfect setting for weddings, family reunions, and business retreats. GOURMET IN THE ROUGH: Each evening the dinner bell sounds, and guests head to the Hunting Lodge for cocktails and hors d’oeurves in front of a crackling fire. Meals are served family-style in the main dining room. Expect gourmet Southern regional cuisine, like fried chicken with fresh vegetables and corn on the cob straight from the fields. Wine is on the honor system-open the cooler, pick your bottle, and sign a ticket. Beach picnics complete with bonfires, oyster roasts, crab boils, or a complete low-country boil-a traditional dish of locally harvested shrimp, blue crabs, potatoes, and corn-are not to be missed. WHAT TO DO: The pace is yours to set-canoe the tidal creeks; fish the pristine estuaries, marshes, and rivers for bluefish, red drum, spotted seatrout, and Southern flounder; or take a morning horseback ride through the forest. You can sign up for daily hikes with a naturalist, or pick a private porch and rock away the day under the shade of a moss-lined oak. There are seven miles of private beach, where you can easily spend a leisurely day shelling, swimming, seining, hunting for loggerhead sea turtle eggs, bird watching, or lying in the sun. Bicycles are the best way to make your way around the 20 miles of forested paths on the island, some rerouted to respect the nesting patterns of birds. Beware of the occasional alligator that has picked one of the crushed-stone paths for a mid-afternoon nap. Napping for humans is also a popular activity at Little St. Simons.
How To Get There
LSSI is a 90-minute drive from the Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida, airports. Rent a car for the two-hour drive or hire a shuttle (Errand Girl in Jacksonville, 912-634-8481) to deliver you to the car park at Hampton River Club, where the ferry to Little St. Simons runs at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily.
What It Costs
Rates include three meals, all island activities, and all recreational equipment. Prices range from $450-$675 per night, double occupancy. Full house (four to eight): $1,100-$2,500 per night. Full-island reservation for up to 30: $6,000-$8,000 per night. 888-733-5774 or www.littlestsimonsisland.com.
Where the Birds Are
Twice a year, Little St. Simons Island, which lies along the Atlantic Migratory Flyway, becomes an important lodging facility for more than stressed-out humans. The pristine coastline also provides refuge and food for a large number of migrating birds. More than 280 species of our feathered friends have been chronicled on this tiny site. The prime birding seasons are mid-April through mid-May and again from mid-September to mid-October. During the spring, brightly colored painted buntings, red knots, dunlins, sandpipers, and American oystercatchers are everywhere. At the peak of the fall migration, LSSI offers Shorebird Week in September, when special birding outings with naturalists, evening lectures, and featured guest speakers fill the bill. It’s a glorious time for beginners and crusty old birders alike. Roseate spoonbills, piping plovers, and marbled godwits, oh my!