I've traveled quite a bit around the world in my life but whenever asked my favorite spot, I always come back to Little St. Simons Island, off the southern coast of Georgia. It is routinely voted best resort in Condé Nast Traveler and if you're able to visit, you'll know why. I first visited the island in 2007 for a TBS shoot. Since then, I've returned multiple times to do various work and truth be told, to just return to my happy place.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of returning to LSSI. The island is 10,000 acres with 7 miles of pristine beach- all of it untouched. This island has never been harvested or disturbed, which, for a nature girl like me, brings me deep peace and satisfaction. The island has been privately owned since 1908 and every night the owners allow no more than 32 guests to stay in the ever charming six cottages. If you love the South, nature and solitude, you'll really dig this place.
After just a ten minute boat ride from the north end of St. Simons Island, you'll arrive at your destination. My talented friend and photographer, Kathryn Kolb joined me on this trip as she was tasked to take pictures. The handful of dirt roads on the island lead deep into the maritime forest that is rich with live oaks, southern magnolias, cedar, pines, American holly, saw and sable palmettos. Permanent inhabitants on the island include alligators, rabbits, armadillos, deer and hundreds of species of birds. In fact, LSSI is a birdwatching destination for enthusiasts worldwide and there are some incredible rookeries to enjoy here. Within the first couple minutes of our initial outing on foot, we spotted a half dozen different birds, found a yellow shafted flicker feather and with the recent hurricane, happened upon dozens of downed red cedar trees. The colors of the wood are so rich and beautiful- Kathryn counted over 100 rings on this cedar. These downed trees will be repurposed into furniture for the island.
Every day on the island there are 2-3 excursions offered that are guided by a resident naturalist. Island guests hop on the back of the trucks which are the only vehicles on the island and it gives everyone a chance to learn about the fascinating ecology of the ancient maritime forest.
On this excursion, a small group of us trekked to the highest point on the island (all of 33' in elevation) and learned about the varied, ever changing plant life that surrounded us at every turn. Like the broom sedge in our naturalist's hand (Kialey) which provides cover for ground animals and tasty seeds for many of the birds in the winter. I especially like edible plants so I loved learning about the saltwort (middle, bottom pic). They are crunchy and salty and incredibly addictive. If I had a beach house, I'd make salads topped with saltwort and be quite content.
The live oaks in the salt marsh are much shorter and thinner than the ones you'll find in the maritime forest. That's because they don't need to fight the pines and surrounding trees for sunlight and nutrients in the maritime forest. They have this sunny, salty spot all to themselves.
As the sun sets, I sit under my favorite tree- the mature, majestic live oak just steps from the Hunting Lodge. There is a wooden swing at the lowest branch to sway and watch the colors change across the still marsh. The night bugs and birds offer lots of chatter...
Every night at 6pm, it's Happy Hour at the Hunting Lodge. You'll find a naturalist behind the bar and a tray or two of tasty appetizers. It's a good time to get to know your fellow island dwellers and relax after your tough day of living in paradise.
At 7pm each night, the bell is rung and dinner is served...family style of course. It's always incredibly delicious, as this night an herbed chicken dish is served with the tastiest vegetables I ever did have. As they grow many of their own vegetables on the island, you can't beat the freshness.
On this night, about 45 minutes after dinner, Kathryn offered a presentation on nature photography in the Stable House. For about an hour, Kathryn, assisted with a power point presentation, shared the importance of math in both photography and nature. I especially loved learning about Fibonacci numbers and The Golden Angle. All of this is what makes this island so special for a nature lover. You're immersed in it and you're endlessly inspired and learning about it- if you so desire.
Next week, I'll post Part 2 of My Favorite Place on Earth, which will include the 7 mile beach, another island excursion and many more pretty pics that showcase this magical isle's flora and fauna. Until then, learn more about life on LSSI, here.