Sunday, June 25, 2017

Island Resorts

USA: Georgia’s Man of Many Islands

When Captain Andy Hill began exploring the coastal wetlands of Georgia in his boat, he had no intention of purchasing his own island – and certainly not eight of them!

(Image Courtesy of Eagle Island)

Sometimes, life offers the most unexpected opportunities. For boat captain Andy Hill, known locally as Capt. Andy, his came in the form of a vast stretch of 2,000 acres of salt marsh on the coast of Georgia; a wild, scenic parcel of land containing eight small islands, found along the Darien intra-coastal waterway. After discovering this chain of isles for sale in 1994, he spent years pursuing them, finally closing the sale in 1999.

(Image Courtesy of Eagle Island)

He calls it the “Preserve of Privacy” – surrounded by protected wetlands and an unspoiled coastline of barrier islands, human visitors here are few, but in the form of deer, wild boars, seabirds, and a plethora of fish, there is no shortage of wildlife for company. On one of Capt. Andy’s islands, endangered bald eagles perform aerial acrobatics overhead, before returning to their nest in the island’s forest. Known as Eagle Island, his labour of love here has created an elegantly rustic 3,300 sq. ft. lodge, reserved exclusively for each group of visitors and renting for US $400-$600 per night.

Guests speak of the island fondly, filled with memories and an eagerness to return. “Thank you for allowing us to cast off the treadmill-busyness of the world” one couple wrote, ”and share in your Eden–a place of respite, recognition and renewal.” Many described a sense of peace, and appreciation for the island’s natural wonders; “What a perfect spot to connect, relax and bask in the unspoiled, quiet natural beauty of the barrier islands. In this day and age it’s reassuring to know there are still places like this to enjoy and respect.”

(Image Courtesy of Eagle Island)

Virtually all of Eagle Islands spoke of one thing: the care and dedication that has gone into building the retreat, and the enthusiasm that the owner has for sharing it. Communal spaces like a 1,500 sq. ft. deck, complete with a roaring fireplace, hammock, and a hot tub, encourage togetherness; “Guests spend more time with each other when vacationing on the island,” said Capt. Andy, “and the quality of the time together is enjoyed very much.”

An expert guide to the area, he also offers guests boat tours throughout winding rivers and grassy marshes, along with fishing expeditions and trips to other local islands. “My passion is boating and outdoor adventure,” he said, “and the Georgia coast offers the best eco-adventure.” Guests can also kayak, catch blue crabs, or rent a pontoon boat to explore the marshes. After a long day on the water, weary travellers can relax in the lodge’s unique heated outdoor shower before dinner (preferably a feast of something caught themselves!).

His plans for his eight islands go far beyond the lodge at Eagle, however; he dreams of one in particular, Mayhall Island, eventually becoming a retirement paradise for him and his wife. Until then, the island is also available for rental. “It had an abandoned structure from 1969 that resembled a Tuscan abode.  Owning this island became my dream, and over the past 12 years I have slowly transformed the home and grounds into another lodge for guests to visit before the day comes for my wife and I to call Mayhall our permanent getaway.”

(Image Courtesy of Eagle Island)

In contrast to the outdoorsy wooden lodge on Eagle, the residence on Mayhall has a distinctive Mediterranean flavour, with its white stucco walls, curved archways, and a spectacular hedge-walled “secret garden” with a hot tub and fireplace. Now that years of renovations have transformed a second isle into a slice of heaven, his sights are set on a grander vision for the rest of his eight islands; all of whom, he hopes, will bring joy to visitors of their own.

“Each of the islands will be used as a destination getaway.  Mayhall Island’s 20 acres is connected to Little Mayhall Island’s 9 acres by a 500′ boardwalk, as well as to Grassiefield’s 17 acres by a 450′ boardwalk.  This offers guests a very unique nature walk, jogging trail, biking trail or a romantic stroll in a maritime forest,” he described.

Like many private island owners, Capt. Andy began with an inspired vision; in his case, to preserve and share a beautiful patch of Georgia’s coastal wilderness, or as he calls it, “The best backyard in America.” Over time, he turned his dream into a reality, and brought international attention to this laid-back corner of the South with glowing reviews in USA Today, Outside Magazine, and others. However, despite this media acclaim, the most important lauds will always be the countless number he receives each year from his smiling guests, who will never forget their special time spent in the “Preserve of Privacy.”

For more information on renting Eagle or Mayhall islands, please explore: http://www.privateislandsofgeorgia.com/index.php

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