Travelers in search of over-the-top experiences, the utmost in quality, and a new area to immerse yourself in, look no further than right at home in The States. An abundance of style meets southern hospitality for a winning combination in a vacation along Georgia’s coast—one that means you don’t need to travel overseas to have it all, or for a little island-hopping. Start at an iconic mainland destination near the coast, Savannah, followed by three glorious little islands to savor. Whether you’re celebrating a milestone occasion, or just reveling in the joy of being out on the open road, these hidden wonders in the Peach State are ripe for discovery. You’ll find unparalleled service, delivered with southern charm and culture.
Exclusive jaunts in Savannah
Founded in 1733, Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and justly famed for its gothic delights (iron-gated mansions, massive, moss-covered oaks, and cobblestone streets) that have enchanted writers such as Flannery O’Connor and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil author John Berendt. It also boasts modern-day vibrancy, with a buzzing contemporary art scene and some of the best restaurants in all of the south.
There’s a plethora of homestyle charm for sophisticated palates across the board, and especially so at the Perry Lane Hotel, located right in the heart of the city on the southern side of the historic district. This four-star hotel provides distinct Savannah experiences exclusive to Perry Lane guests—book a private guided architectural tour and sip on a cocktail of your choice along the way. Or go behind the scenes on a deliciously special tour of Byrd Cookie Company, a Savannah institution since 1924.
You’ll want to spend time soaking up the Savannah scene and the culinary creations at Perry Lane too. Make a point to enjoy the elegant southern ritual of afternoon tea on premises, dine on locally-sourced dishes like Wild Georgia Shrimp with grits and stewed tomatoes at Emporium Kitchen & Wine Market, and sip a refreshing beverage at the rooftop bar Peregrin or hand-crafted cocktails at The Wayward (try the Old Fashioned Breakfast, made with maple syrup).
There’s also plenty more to nosh in this elegant foodie city. Venture out for all-day brunch at The Collins Quarter, and be sure to reserve a table at The Grey, home to executive chef Mashama Bailey, winner of a James Beard award (note that the bar menu, packed with dishes like fried chicken with spicy honey and pickles, is fabulous too), and Husk Savannah, housed in one of Savannah’s most famously haunted houses.
Much more local culture beyond delectable food awaits; small businesses, art, architecture, and historic sites abound in this college town too. Shop and play at the new Plant Riverside District, where you’ll find live music every day of the week at places like Electric Moon Skytop Lounge + Moon Deck and the Myrtle & Rose Rooftop Garden Lounge. By day, shop the District’s galleries and stores including J. Parker Ltd, which has “has dressed men of the Coastal Empire in fine apparel, furnishings and sportswear since 1972,” the museum-like District Boutique, and 18loves, the brainchild of local “heartist” Amelia Jamerson who sells her original illustrations on cards, stickers, and totes, and even as a map of the world featuring each country’s national flower.
Keep cool while visiting arts and cultural centers at Jepson Center for the Arts (don’t miss the colorful digital installations of Caribbean artist David Gumbs), SCADStory, where an immersive 4D installation will inspire you to dream big, or SCAD Museum of Art—Los Angeles-based painter Hayv Kahraman’s show The Touch of Otherness is up now through July 17. And take leisurely strolls through Savannah’s legendary squares and parks, or go on a trip to Wormsloe State Historic Site to marvel at the oldest standing structure in Savannah, the Colonial estate of Noble Jones, who arrived in 1733 with the first group of settlers from England.
Five-star experiences on Sea Island
A mere 90-minute drive from Savannah will take you straight to Sea Island. There you can luxuriate at a Forbes Five-Star resort on a privately owned island in the sunny Golden Isles of Georgia. Whether you want an intimate hideaway with exposed beams and marble baths at The Lodge or the spoils of the ultimate Southern sporting club at Broadfield, you can choose from five types of accommodations at the Sea Island Beach Club. The Club also boasts access to five miles of private beach, private poolside cabanas, and all manner of water adventures.
There’s no shortage of fabulous outings, from equestrian and bike tours to three championship 18-hole golf courses, and private cruises on the Sea Island Explorer Yacht (complete with an onboard naturalist or falconer). For history buffs, guided tours are available with an onsite historian.
And of course, some southern pampering after all that action is on offer at the Forbes Five-Star Spa, whose water atrium features a hydrotherapy pool and cascading waterfall. Replenish with multiple mouthwatering options for dining throughout the resort, from southern comforts at the Oak Room to a sumptuous buffet of local seafood and southern favorites (including hush puppies, oysters, and shrimp) under the stars at the Rainbow Island Supper. Delish!
Your own private getaway at Little St. Simons Island
Just an 11-mile drive from Sea Island, the all-inclusive, eco-friendly Lodge on Little St. Simons Island makes a sublimely relaxing getaway for nature lovers. For those who relish privacy, the only residents on this private island are about a dozen Lodge staff members and occasional visiting researchers. The barrier island just off Georgia’s coast is in fact a private sanctuary with seven miles of undeveloped beach. An ecological gem, this retreat also offers unspoiled maritime forests and marshlands easily accessible to its vintage vacation cottages. Soak up the natural splendor while river and surf fishing, kayaking, hiking through the forests, and swimming and shelling at the beach. And enjoy farm-to-table produce and the freshest seafood straight from the surrounding waters.
Pro tip: A great setting for an extended family getaway, the whole crew will enjoy the island’s unmarred beauty for an unbeatable private family reunion at the Lodge on Little St. Simons Island.
Vacation like a Carnegie on Cumberland Island
A little further down the coast, enjoy the luxury of alone time on the largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia, Cumberland Island, which provides guests more than 17 miles of secluded, expansive sandy beaches to explore. Bask in its beauty and enjoy some solitude or uninterrupted bonding time with the family. One of 10 National Seashores in the United States protected and preserved by the National Park Service, the island is also one of the most isolated parks in the country. (Before you go, note that a stay at Cumberland Island takes some preparation as visitors are limited, and there are no concessions on the island. Start planning and make reservations through the Cumberland Island National Seashore website.)
Once the island retreat for the Carnegies, the largely undeveloped Cumberland Island is only accessible by ferry from St. Marys. Book a stay at the exquisite Greyfield Inn where old-world charm abounds (and JFK, Jr. was wed), and ride over on the Lucy Ferguson, the hotel’s private ferry. The Inn retains its original design and is appointed with antique furnishings—and gourmet dinner is served by candlelight. Get a glimpse of how the Carnegies lived while exploring Plum Orchard Mansion, a magnificent Classical Revival mansion built by Lucy Carnegie in 1898, and the Dungeness Ruins, complete with abandoned luxury vehicles and wild horses roaming freely throughout. A private Jeep tour will ensure you cover the full range of sites on this dreamy island, one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the U.S. It’s just one of many next-level experiences that will leave you wanting more of this coastal wonderland of the South.