The Beach Club has been a staple of the sea island experience for generations.
By Linda Domingo
Visit the Beach Club at Sea Island today, and you’ll be among families splashing around in the waves, teens meeting and mingling, and kids enjoying ice cream cones. Flip the calendar back to the 1930s, and you might encounter people enjoying the exact same activities. However, the setting was very different.
The Beach Club started as a brown, barnlike building constructed by the St. Simons-Long Island Company, where people came to swim and picnic. Sea Island Company founder Howard Coffin bought the island in 1926, upgraded the building and officially opened The Casino in the summer of 1928. There were no poker tables to be found; rather, this was a casino in the traditional sense: a recreational building. The humble venue included a pool, dressing rooms and a dance hall, and with its seaside location, it attracted locals and tourists from all over.
“That was one of the major forms of recreation from the very beginning—going to the swimming pool and swimming in the surf,” says Mimi Rogers, archivist at Sea Island. “Then of course sunbathing became so popular.” The Casino also hosted bathing beauty contests and pie-eating competitions. One tradition that began in the 1930s at The Casino was movie nights, which they used to have a few times a week, starring talent such as Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby. “You’d pay 50 cents and go to the movies,” Rogers says. Dances were held weekly, and alfresco dinners were a popular pastime.
After the Beach Club changed locations and underwent many enhancements, the new facility opened in 2007 and remains a hub of activity at Sea Island. Now with an outdoor sports court, a plethora of water activities, three different pool areas, an interactive game room and Wonderland—an ice cream and candy store, the spirit of the Beach Club remains the same, but with much more opportunity for fun. The Southern Tide restaurant keeps the tradition of alfresco dining alive and well. “In the early days, you really went to the Beach Club to socialize,” says Recreation Manager Stan Robinson. “I think that the [motivation] of coming to the Beach Club is still socialization … [but] there’s so much more activity. … If we don’t have you engaged in a watersport … then we have you on the other end … playing basketball or outdoor pingpong.”
Rogers agrees, explaining that guests and members who enjoyed the Beach Club when they were kids are now bringing their own children to partake in the same experiences. “The Casino, the Beach Club—whatever you want to call it—throughout the years has always been a focal point and one of the reasons people enjoy coming to Sea Island.”