Just returning from St. Simons Island, I realize the beaches of Georgia's Golden Isles are an acquired taste for many (think gray sand, murky water and a sulfury, stickiness to the air). But while the shore is a bit lacking, The Cloister resort on neighboring Sea Island has managed to transform swampy land into a first-class destination. Racking up every top-notch hotel honor to be had, The Cloister has become the shining star in Georgia's travel trade.
First built in 1928, the mediterranean-style hotel was recently reconstructed in 2006 to incorporate 21st centrury luxury with the original Addison Mizner design (as well as to satisfy modern-day hurricane codes).
Edward Coffin, founder of the Sea Island Company, was fascinated with "the gloom of live oaks, braided, woven and beautiful" on nearby Sapelo Island, which inspired him to buy Sea Island and commision a hotel. His hope was to encourage guests to stay on the island long enough to sell real estate along the five-mile stretch of beach.
Much of the hotel has been completely reimagined, like the award-winning spa.
Other details have been painstakingly rebuilt from the original structure, such as the famed Spanish Lounge with it's coffered ceilings.
Many current and future presidents have vacationed at the hotel, including Barbara and George Bush on their honeymoon in 1945.
Beacause the island is private, the best way to visit the Cloister is to book a room at the hotel.