While activities around the Island have evolved greatly from yesteryear to yesterday, they have always left visitors with lifelong memories.
By Karlee Prazak
An Active Beginning
A cool mist fills the salty, summer morning air as a lone bird calls in the background. It’s 1928, Sea Island is in its infancy, and it’s easy to become acutely aware of how quiet and peaceful this little slice of paradise is. Yet, there is activity happening as well, as a handful of new guests get ready for a day filled with on-site experiences that provide a balance of recreation and relaxation.
Between the fishing, boating, swimming, shooting, tennis, horseback riding, hunting and more, from day one there were already plenty of activities to fill the time while vacationing at Sea Island.
“The foundation was set [more than] 90 … years ago, really. That foundation is to base activity offerings on what we have around us and to leverage what’s around us in different ways,” Director of Recreation Mike Kennedy explains. “The focus has been on truly making a unique experience here in coastal Georgia.”
That is especially true for horseback riding and hunting, as both are heavily influenced by the natural environment. The unique flora and fauna that guests and members encountered decades ago continue to shape the experiences of those who hunt and ride at Sea Island today. Early in the resort’s history, hunting was already taking place around the area where Broadfield, A Sea Island Sporting Club and Lodge, is now located. “There was a sporting club and lodge, and guests hunted quail, deer, pheasant [and] turkey,” says Director of Marketing Communication Merry Tipton.
Kennedy adds that the Shooting School opened in 1929. The locking and loading of shotguns with gunpowder followed by a steady aim and an assertive “pull!” could be heard right near The Cloister, much like it is to this very day. But while modern guests and members could very easily re-enact the skeet shooting experience of yesteryear, they’d be hard-pressed to find a similar experience with golf.
The first folks to tee off at Sea Island, donning cropped pants, V-neck sweaters and ties, and swinging clubs with wooden heads, were facing a mere nine holes. Tipton explains that, although important to the foundation of Sea Island’s activities, golf was not a favorite pastime for founder Howard Coffin. He did, however, land a hole-in-one when he followed his instincts and offered a well-groomed nine-hole course prior to opening.
Today, Sea Island is still a quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life. Yet, over time, the resort began offering twists and updates to many of its classic experiences, as well as new additions for guests and members.
“There is a remarkable similarity, in some ways, between … what the guests could do in the ’20s and ’30s and ’40s to what they can do now,” Tipton explains. “What [the recreation team] has done is remarkable. … Could you go fishing back then? Absolutely, but you can go fishing now in a lot of different ways.”
As angling and boating technology and equipment became more advanced, Sea Island was able to offer a broader range of fishing experiences. What began as groups casting lines from the shoreline has turned into kayak fishing and daylong adventures out on the water, the latter of which has even allowed for marlin fishing.
While some of the early activities have expanded thanks to modern technology, others have also evolved as a result of new supplemental experiences. For example, today, golf-oriented fitness programs facilitate training for the golf courses, which have grown to include three courses with a total of 54 holes.
Like fishing and golf, many of the experiences that have been offered since day one have become much more customizable. Sports can be as advanced and strenuous or relaxed and family-friendly as members and guests desire, and that’s also true for the new offerings at Sea Island.
One key example is falconry, the sport of hunting with falcons. Kennedy points to falconry as the “oldest new activity” at the resort, meaning that while the sport as a whole dates back many years, it has only recently been introduced to Sea Island.
“It can seem intimidating, but we specialize in our Hawk Walk to allow people to familiarize themselves with falconry if they’ve never seen or even thought about it before,” he says.
Similar to the introductory Hawk Walks, the highly popular turtle walks also provide an exciting way to learn about animals firsthand. During the summer, guests and members walk along the coastline, where they can catch glances of sea turtles laying nests or hatching in the sand. There is also a turtle tour that carries participants in a golf cart.
While many of the activities have grown and changed, and new ones are continuously added, the experiences on the Island have always created lifelong memories. “Right from the beginning, people were having a wonderful time here,” Tipton concludes—a trend that is sure to continue for decades
More to Explore
Sea Island holds its roots near and dear, but this doesn’t mean the offerings haven’t evolved since its founding 90 years ago. Today, the resort offers a range of activities that many of the first guests wouldn’t be able to fathom. However, as Director of Recreation Mike Kennedy puts it, “The opportunities are endless. You can find whatever you want, and if you don’t, we are happy to customize to exceed expectations.” The following is a small sampling of newer activities that weren’t originally available back in 1928.
• Stand-Up Paddleboarding
• Kayak Fishing
• Turtle Walk
• Paddleboard Yoga
• Air Rifle Shooting
• 54 Holes of Golf (expanded from the original nine holes)