Whether you want an entire island to yourself, your own private boat captain or something in between, these nearby destinations will tempt you to plan your next getaway.
By Ana Connery
A Private Oasis – Eagle Island, Georgia
Imagine having a 3,300-square-foot cypress wood lodge on a private 10-acre island surrounded by salt marshes and maritime forests, where the only sound is that of birds flapping their wings, all to yourself. This is Eagle Island. Tucked away in the barrier islands sprinkled along the Georgia coast, Eagle Island is accessible only by boat. Meet Capt. Andy Hill at the docks in Darien, a quaint shrimping village with an impressive wine shop — not that you’ll need to stock up. Before you arrive, Capt. Andy ensures your kitchen is supplied with all your favorite foods and drinks. The main house sleeps six spread across two bedrooms and a loft with incredible marsh views. The wrought-iron spiral staircase to the loft gives the spacious living and dining area a romantic touch. A guesthouse below sleeps another six and boasts a pool table and a slew of games — not that you’re likely to stay inside. Stroll the grounds or the 1,500-square-foot wraparound porch and you’ll find myriad places to curl up with a good book — porch swings, rocking chairs, an outdoor fireplace and a hot tub all overlook a pond or forest. Spend your days catching blue crabs off the dock for dinner or take the kayaks provided out for a glide across these peaceful backwaters.
Must eat: At your request, a private chef will cook an authentic low country boil in the expansive outdoor kitchen. If you’re lucky, she’ll whip up a fresh batch of oysters, too. Afterwards, roast s’mores by the fire pit next to the pond and enjoy a laugh as you recall the noisy, crowded vacations you used to take.
Don’t miss: Sunrise on the dock. Each day a new set of watercolors spreads out across the sky, casting soft beams of light on the panoramic view of the coastal marsh. A swing and several gliders underneath a pergola provide shade and a comfy spot to watch the nature show.
Day trip: Should you decide to keep the boat during your stay, Capt. Andy will show you the way to nearby Sapelo Island — then tell you the secret spot where he keeps the keys to his truck there, so you can explore. This tiny community is full of history, right down to the Reynolds Mansion, which is available for tours, and a lighthouse built in 1820. But the star here is the virtually deserted Nannygoat Beach, one of the most beautiful and quiet stretches of coastline you will find anywhere.
Adventure in the Tropics – The Florida Keys
This 125-mile-long archipelago is nothing if not a tropical paradise, complete with swaying palm trees and the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Make your home base Hawks Cay in Duck Key, about halfway between Miami and Key West. The 60-acre resort just unveiled a massive renovation and provides guestrooms as well as villas. A full-service marina is the place for everything from sunset sails to Jet Ski rentals. Five swimming pools, a soothing spa nestled around a tropical courtyard, and a saltwater lagoon perfect for paddle boarding ensure you’ll never run out of things to do. Rent a bike and cruise Duck Key, which is actually a collection of five isles connected by postcard-worthy, Venetian-style bridges. hawkscay.com
Off shore: A day spent at sea is practically a requirement in the Keys. Book a seven-hour charter with Capt. Charlie Filpes of Key Largo Adventures. This former schoolteacher ensures his 25-foot open fisherman, the Tiki Tiki, is stocked with your preferred drinks upon arrival. Once he hands you a pair of polarized sunglasses, climb the tower and take in the astonishing view of the flats and sand bars that have made the Keys famous. Then let Capt. Filpes whisk you to secluded fishing and snorkeling spots, taking amazing pictures as you swim below the surface alongside nurse sharks, moray eels and more. When you’re ready for lunch, he sets up a grill right in the middle of the Keys’ famous sandbar while you paddleboard, kayak or lounge in a floating chair with a cold cocktail in hand. Capt. Filpes’ personalized service, extensive knowledge of the distinct ecosystems in the Keys and friendly demeanor make him a standout in the Keys. keylargoadventures.com
Historic charm – Amelia Island, Florida
Unlike any other Florida beach town, Amelia Island is in a class by itself. Only 18 miles long and 3 miles wide, this northeast Florida isle has 400 years of recorded history under eight flags, which is why it’s referred to as “the place the French visited, the Spanish developed, the English named and the Americans tamed.” A quaint 50-block downtown area known as Fernandina Beach has tons of breathtaking Victorian-, Queen Anne- and Italianate-style homes and inns, many of them listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll in and out of shops and cafes then join a narrated horse-drawn carriage tour for a unique vantage point of the island.
Rest your head: The Omni Amelia Island Plantation is a massive resort spread across 1,350 lush acres of beachfront. Explore the bike and nature trails on your own and discover quiet marshes and lagoons where your footsteps are the only man-made sounds you’ll hear. Three championship golf courses, several pools and restaurants and a spa with its own meditation garden mean you’ll never run out of ways to relax. Take a short walk or hop a golf cart to the Shops at Amelia Island Plantation for a bit of retail therapy. Shops and restaurants are nestled around a pristine pond surrounded by a boardwalk with plenty of rocking chairs and swings that are perfect for lounging.
Must do: The family-owned Kelly Seahorse Ranch will take you along the white sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean inside Amelia Island State Park. The beach at Fort Clinch State Park wraps around the island’s heavily forested northern end and is rarely crowded, giving you plenty of space to enjoy the rolling dunes as you collect shells and driftwood. ameliaisland.com