Reynolds Plantation & Little St. Simon Island -- Divine Getaways Down South



The phenomenon of shorter but more frequent getaways has become a travel trend that definitely appeals to the over-stimulated, multi-tasking crowd that can never take more vacation time. If you fit that description, and are casting about for an outstanding spot for a long weekend, consider two of our favorite Georgia destinations that offer distinctly different doses of refreshment.


The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation is a tony spot in Greensboro, that boasts an assortment of lures for discerning travelers, especially those who love golf, water sports and pampering. Situated 70 easy miles from the Atlanta airport, (rent a car or hire a resort limo) the property sprawls on 10,000 rolling acres around shimmering Lake Oconee. Former playground of the Reynolds tobacco clan, who named their beloved retreat, “Linger Longer,” the pristine 2013 AAA Five Diamond resort offers layers of luxurious service and hedonistic amenities in a pristine, manicured eye-candy setting.


Campfire View at Night

Choose among 251-well appointed bedrooms in the main lodge or two and three bedroom golf cottages. Terraces with custom furniture nestle among the aromatic, towering Georgia pines, and overlook the lake, abundant seasonal gardens or woodlands. Inside, beds dressed in luxurious 400-count Frette linens, fluffy down duvets and pillows of your choice, guarantee blissful sleeping, while a large desk, computer outlets and wireless internet access address contemporary tech needs. Marble and granite bathrooms are spacious and well-equipped.


Guests invariably gravitate to the lake where innumerable fishing and boating opportunities include the use of jet skis, pontoon boats, kayaks, and canoes. Sign up for a guided boat trip around the lake to the Reynolds’ former playhouse, a charming structure called Sandy Creek Barn, filled with family memorabilia, old signs and rustic antiques, where you can host a party or family gathering with panache. There are miles of running and walking paths, and a Ritz Kids program, if you need adult time.


Gabys by the Lake

Golfers have a hard time choosing where to play among the 99 championship holes designed by some of the best known titans of the game, such as Jack Nicklaus, Rees Jones, Tom Fazio and Bob Cupp. The five, par-72 courses include: The Oconee, The Landing, The Plantation, The National and Great Waters. Don’t miss the opportunity to refine your swing at the famous Reynolds Golf Academy presided over by legendary pro, Charlie King, who gave me one of the best, easy-to-comprehend lessons I ever had. Schedules include full and half-day courses, a three-day “Red Zone” Short Game school, three-day Essentials of Golf Total Game Improvement School as well as one-hour clinics.


There are indoor and outdoor pools, so weather never matters here, and the spa is so pampering, many guests choose renewal and restorative programs that happily keep them there all day. And what of the food? Like all Ritz-Carltons, there are many fine options. Gaby’s By The Lake is a super popular waterside bistro with virtually no dress code for tasty casual bites of pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers from 11:00 am to 10 pm daily. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in airy Georgia’s Bistro around a crackling fire, while Linger Longer Steakhouse is a classic American Steakhouse in the Golf Club where meals featuring Certified Black Angus delicacies are concluded with pouffy Signature Soufflees. If you’re celebrating something special you might opt for a romantic, three-course Chiminea Dinner for two, served lakeside in the glow of your private little bonfire.


Little St. Simons Beach Picnic

If you’re not in the mood for heel-clicking service, and are looking for an up-close and personal commune with nature, head to the coast, where the oh-so-private Little St. Simon’s Island is beguiling in a totally different way. The sublime experience begins at the Hampton River Club Marina on St. Simons Island (an hour from Savannah) where guests board a shuttle for the 15-minute voyage up the Hampton River into a winding maze of creeks and coastal marshes.


Appearing as a tangled wilderness embraced by a sea of ebbing marsh grasses, the island looks enchanted or even haunted from a distance. But upon closer scrutiny a cluster of rustic one-story yellow clapboard buildings takes shape beneath a thick canopy of gnarled oaks hung with tattered shreds of Spanish Moss. Porches feature green wooden rocking chairs, and an old-fashioned swing hangs from the obliging arm of a muscular tree.

The 10,000-acre barrier island is the legacy of Eagle Pencil Company mogul Philip Berolzheimer, who snapped it up - sight unseen - for little more than a buck an acre in 1908. PB had plans to fell its sumptuous southern red cedar forest, but after the trees were pronounced too salt-bound and wind-swept to fashion into little yellow pencils, the Berolzheimers came to scan the real estate first-hand, and understandably fell madly in love with the place. And why not? Their fourteen square mile paradise included thirty-one miles of shoreline, seven-miles of beaches, fragile wetlands, dunes, estuaries and twisting salt marshes teeming with wildlife.

Not surprisingly, the wowed family used it for years as their favorite gathering and kick-back destination. Later when their heirs took over, they vowed preservation of this treasure as their mantra and opened it to 30 lucky paying guests - who like Newt Gingrich among many others - rent the whole place or dribble in, two or four at a time.


Little St. Simon's Lodge at dusk

Your best safari, fly-fishing or carelessly chic khaki birding gear will do just fine in this un-haute, but chi-chi hideaway so far in spirit from the proverbial madding crowd, there are no tvs, radios, telephones or room keys.


Accommodations in the Hunting Lodge, River Lodge, Cedar House and Michael Cottage are appropriately rustic, with two to four bedrooms and porches arranged around a sitting room with fireplace. Restored Helen House, built as a wedding present for Berolzheimer’s daughter in 1928 is slightly grander. The Hunting Lodge with its bent-cedar limb fireplace surround and animal trophies serves as a central gathering area; an adjacent room showcases family memorabilia; island flora and fauna.

A sonorous gong signals cocktail hour and family-style meals served in the Hunting Lodge. Southern regional cooking highlights every delectable locally sourced meal of delights that range from biscuits and grits, fresh caught fish and shrimp, and wonderful produce and vegetables from the USDA certified garden on the island. Oyster roasts around a roaring beach fire are always a favorite event in season.


Lone kayaker


If you love unspoiled nature Little St. Simons is synonymous with paradise. There are six naturalists on staff here, and after breakfast and lunch, they explain the day’s options which might include anything from hopping on the back of a truck to observe wildlife, going to the beach to learn about Loggerhead turtle hatching, ( they had 118 babies last year, and if you are super lucky, you might witness a hatching); birdwatching ( over 200 species of birds live or pass through here), or fishing for redfish, flounder or trout, (which the chef will cook up that night.) If you want to strike out on your own, grab a canoe, kayak or small motor boat to float or put-put through the marshes. Take a book and picnic to the beach, then enjoy the evening bonfire with s’mores, star gazing and absorbing the unique rhythm of this enchanted place, where the same bell summoned the Bellzhomeiner family to the table over a hundred years ago.


                                                         -- Marion Laffey Fox

If you GO:
The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation
Rates; $239 per room based on dbl occ Resort View room

LIttle St. Simons Island
888- 733-5774 Rates range from $450 to 755
All-inclusive rates include: transport from the Maria; all meals, beverages (beer wine cocktails), use of fishing gear, bikes, motor boats, kayaks, canoes and naturalists’ services.



Little St. Simons Island Beach

Little St. Simon's Island couple at Michael Cottage

Aerial image of Reynolds Plantation

King bedroom

Spa pool













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