Just off the Georgia coast sits a barrier island unlike any other. It’s 11,000 acres. That includes a 20-acre lodge compound. The rest is wilderness for exploring. This is Little St. Simons Island.
“Our focus is on getting people back out to the wilderness, enjoying the outdoors, learning more about how we manage this beautiful place and make sure it stays something that people can enjoy the same way it’s always been for years to come,” Little St. Simons Island general manager Jamie Pazur told WSB-TV’s Nelson Hicks.
Visiting this private island, an island where only 32 guests can spend the night, is like walking back in time.
PHOTOS: EXPLORING LITTLE ST. SIMONS ISLAND
“The lack of human alterations I think that really sets this place apart,” ecological manager Scott Coleman said. “So many of (Georgia’s barrier islands) were farmed historically or have other development or other impacts, but Little St. Simons has a history or very few impacts. So what you see here today is really similar to what we think the first Spanish explorers saw in the 1500 and 1600′s on the Georgia coast.”
Little St. Simons recently captured a number of awards in Travel + Lesiure’s World’s Best awards. The resort topped the list of the “15 Best Resorts in the South.” It ranked No. 5 on the company’s favorite islands in the United States. It ranked No. 4 on the “Best Resorts in the Continental U.S.” list.
Don’t let part of the name fool you. This isn’t St. Simons Island. And a trip here is nothing like a trip there.
“(It’s) completely different,” Pazur noted. “St. Simons is more like a resort town. They’ve got the village, they’ve got restaurants, hotels, a built up beach and we are not that. We are not where you come if you want a beach vacation like in the traditional sense. We are where you want to come if you want to go on an adventure for your vacation.”
There is a beach on Little St. Simons. In fact, it’s seven miles long. If you’ve ever wanted a totally private day on the beach, Little St. Simons is your spot.
On a trip to this beach, chances are, you won’t encounter another person unless there’s a naturalist activity going on.
“As a naturalist, my job is to take guests on the island out to experience the island on guided adventures,” naturalist Alli Smith said. “We do a lot of fishing, bird watching, kayaking, trips to the beach, talks in the barn, a little bit of everything, a little bit of learning a little bit of adventure.”
A trip to Little St. Simons is about great adventure. It’s watching birds feed their young at Norm’s Pond. It’s about seining at the beach to see what wildlife lurks just below the surface. It’s about fishing. It’s about kayaking. It’s about unearthing and inventorying a sea turtle nest a few days after hatching. It’s about experiencing nature like never before.
PHOTOS: EXPLORING SEA TURTLE NESTS, HIBISCUS GRANDIFLORUS ON LITTLE ST. SIMONS
“We have our giant hibiscus out in one of our freshwater wetlands tucked away into the forest,” Smith said. “There is no trail to get there which is very fun. It’s a little adventure every time we go but with a little bit of bushwhacking through the woods, you suddenly come out into this beautiful open area where you’re surrounded by like eight foot tall gigantic pink flowers and it’s just magical.”
Naturalist activities are offered twice daily with a mini activity offered at night -- like holding and learning about a king snake.
The activities are included with a stay on Little St. Simons Island.
The food is included, too.
“Dinner is going to be just that family style, traditional, things you’ll see like roast beef, a lot of fish and seafood obviously,” pastry chef Kevin VanDeray said. “We have a lot of local seafood. Shrimp, oysters are always great around here. And then the dessert, always the dessert.”
VanDeray should know about the desserts. He has competed in “Cupcake Wars” on the Food Network, winning three times including the show’s grand championship.
He’s responsible for creating the scones, trail bars, cookies and all the desserts guests on the island get to enjoy.
“All those desserts that my Aunt Ruby brought to the family reunion, they are showing up on the table here on Little St. Simons.”
Three generations of the Rosen family made a trip to the island recently.
“We wanted something that all three of us could do and appeal to three different age groups, but also be able to do it all together,” Amelia Rosen said. “Having the flexibility of being on a boat, or go kayaking or trips on the truck has been really wonderful for all of us to be included in.”
Amelia Rosen’s grandmother celebrated her 97th birthday on the trip.
“The time we’ve been able to spend together has been wonderful,” Rosen said. “I treasure every moment I get with my mom and grandmother. I think Little St. Simons offers an opportunity to do that without all of the distractions of wherever you normally live.”
PHOTOS: AMAZING WILDLIFE FILLS EXCLUSIVE GEORGIA ISLAND
While the trip was all about celebrating a birthday and family time, whether they realized it when they booked it or not, the trip aided in conservation efforts, too.
“Maybe fewer people understand that by staying at the lodge, you’re supporting conversation,” Coleman said. “People that come here are supporting the work of the Center for Coastal Conservation and that impacts what happens here at Little St. Simons with our habitats and wildlife and it influences what’s going on on the whole Georgia coast.”
Little St. Simons is open year-round with different seasons bringing totally different adventures for guests. Stays include lodging, food and nonalcoholic drinks, naturalist activities, bikes, boat transportation to and from St. Simons and more.
“It’s just been a fantastic, wonderful family time, environmental time,” visitor Miriam Jordan said. “The food has been fantastic. The service has been amazing. I just cannot praise everything here enough. It’s a wonderful place.”
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