Nature inspires romance in a grand way on Little St. Simons Island

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Wildlife on Little St. Simons Island There’s no shortage of critters on the island, which opened to the public in 1979. Animals that call this area home include the American alligator, which can be seen on Goose Pond, for example. Marsh rabbits can be seen crossing paths as visitors approach. There are more than 330 species of birds on one of Georgia's Golden Isles including ibis, painted buntings and great egrets. Fallow deer, which are native to the eastern Mediterranean but were introduced to Little

No more than 32 guests allowed at one time, or you can rent the entire Georgia island

One-of-a-kind travel experiences do exist, and a visit to Little St. Simons Island, one of Georgia’s barrier islands that protect the coast from the tumultuous tides and waves of the Atlantic, is singular in the experiences and isolated atmosphere it provides.

The relatively small island combines romance with nature and beach, all folded neatly with a sense of complete seclusion. You can’t walk, drive, fly or even swim to Little St. Simons. Instead, you get there only by boat from nearby and much-larger St. Simons Island.

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Nature reigns on the 11,000-acre Little St. Simons, just a few minutes’ ride but worlds away from the mainland. Of the island’s vast acreage, about 3,000 of that is an amphitheater of majestic upland and maritime forests, with the remaining land in scenic salt marsh and beach. Not an ounce of pavement mars its surface. Other than the 20-acre compound that includes lodges and guest cottages, the remainder of the island is completely undeveloped and has been that way since it formed eons ago.

It is so ancient and hauntingly beautiful that you almost expect a prehistoric creature to pop its head out of the deeply verdant forests.

The island is one of those rare places that is perfectly serene and unspoiled. The cottages and main lodge, once a rustic hunting cabin where Hemingway would have felt quite at home, are encircled by ancient oaks drizzled with Spanish moss. Accommodations are comfortable and simple, not particularly luxurious. Call it more island classic than Four Seasons.

With a maximum of 32 guests allowed at one time in the 16 guest rooms, you will have roughly 688 acres just for the two of you to explore. If you really want to be alone, full island rentals can be arranged.

The showstopper beach, unbroken except for perhaps the spill of freshwater creeks or tidal pools, is a glorious seven miles long. Stand at the water’s edge looking down the shoreline, and if you squint just enough, you can almost see the curvature of the earth. On a cool and breezy late fall day when my husband and I last visited, we found that entire sliver of beach utterly empty. We had it all to ourselves, our only company untold numbers of shorebirds – pelicans, seagulls and plovers among them – masses of seashells and an ocean view that stretched into forever across the Atlantic.

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Built in 1917, the historic Hunting Lodge is the heart of Little St. Simons Island. It is a gathering spot for island guests, and its warm ambiance is complemented with a cozy fireplace, wraparound porches, a comfortable living room and family-style dining rooms. (Mary Ann Anderson/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Built in 1917, the historic Hunting Lodge is the heart of Little St. Simons Island. It is a gathering spot for island guests, and its warm ambiance is complemented with a cozy fireplace, wraparound porches, a comfortable living room and family-style dining rooms. (Mary Ann Anderson/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Combined ShapeCaption
Built in 1917, the historic Hunting Lodge is the heart of Little St. Simons Island. It is a gathering spot for island guests, and its warm ambiance is complemented with a cozy fireplace, wraparound porches, a comfortable living room and family-style dining rooms. (Mary Ann Anderson/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

The combination of the cadence of the rumbling surf and hundreds of avian voices in harmonious birdsong brought us to a complete standstill, where we sat on the beach and listened to the natural symphony of the island as conductor Mother Nature played just for us.

The beach, a combination of hard-packed sand and white dunes, is two miles from the lodge compound. You can walk, bike or ride in a staff truck to it along a well-maintained road. As an overnight guest, you have access to a fleet of cruiser-style bicycles, kayaks and motorized skiffs. Also to-do are a range of naturalist-led activities, among them fishing – rods and reels and fly-fishing equipment are provided – kayaking, hiking untold miles of trails, birding, and seine netting. Remember, though, that activities are based upon factors such as tides, wind, temperature, season, wildlife movement and, most of all, the guests’ interests.

It is peaceful here, sanctuary-like even, and so stunningly quiet that you can hear raccoons and armadillos skittering among the palmetto, swift-footed European fallow deer scampering in the woods, the great throaty bellow of an alligator swishing through the marsh, and yes, even the occasional diamondback rattlesnake slithering through the grass. The critters live among the four distinct ecosystems that define the island’s landscape, 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 fauna; wetlands highlighted by ribbons of tidal creeks; and the beach, that wonderful, wonderful beach.

Little St. Simons is one of those places made for romance, as there are no electronic gizmos like phones, televisions or computers to vie with your sweetheart’s attention. You’ll have cell and Wi-Fi coverage, but it may be spotty. So instead of looking at your phone, look at Mother Nature, who hosts the best entertainment on the island. Don’t miss the sunrise over the Atlantic, where she paints the sky in dramatic of reds, golds and purples that aren’t found on any artist’s palette.

During the day, look to the heavens to search for nearly 300 bird species that live here or migrate seasonally, including the fabulously pink roseate spoonbill, heron, dove, cuckoo, woodpecker, turkey, duck and bald eagle. The absolute queen of the island, though, is the painted bunting, whose bright plumage of red, blue, green and yellow makes it arguably one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

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There is no light pollution here — the night skies are lit only by brilliant constellations, and in spring and summer by the soft glow of lightning bugs.

Meals, comfortable and come-as-you-are casual, are included and are announced by the clanging of a cast-iron dinner bell hanging on the front porch and then served family-style on long tables. At breakfast, you’ll enjoy specialties of stone-ground grits from Statesboro’s Freeman’s Mill, the kind that actually crawl out of the pot slowly, real country ham, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits, and sausage gravy so thick and delicious that it will, to borrow from an appropriately Southern expression, knock your socks off.

For lunch and dinner, think seasonal, regional fare of plump wild-caught Georgia shrimp, oysters, and fish; Georgia-grown chicken, beef and pork; and Georgia-made cheeses from Sweet Grass Dairy, Flat Creek Dairy and Capra Gia Cheese Company. Sometimes meals are served beachside, so think fried chicken or Low Country boil, a spicy mixture of shrimp, potatoes, sausage and corn. It’s seed-to-table here, with fruits, vegetables and herbs harvested directly from the island’s own organic garden. Finish off your meals with homemade Southern treats including pecan pie and strawberry shortcake, topped with a cup of coffee from Café Campesino in Americus.

Boating off to a private island may very well be the most romantic getaway on Earth, and on the coastal gem of Little St. Simons, the doors are open for fresh perspectives on getting closer with nature and, for that matter, each other.

If you go

Contact Little St. Simons Island, a Select Registry member property, at www.LittleStSimonsIsland.com or call toll-free at 888-733-5774.

Rates begin at $475 per night for lodge rooms, $1,150 for cottages and lodges, and $8,800 for full island rental. Rates are all-inclusive, including the boat ride, accommodations, daily housekeeping service, daily breakfast, lunch, hors d’oeuvres, dinner, snacks, soft drinks and naturalist-led excursions offered twice daily as well as use of the island’s recreational equipment. Beer and wine are available at an additional charge.