Photo: James Schwabel / Alamy

Photo: James Schwabel / Alamy

You may remember the “America’s Favorite Towns” survey where St. Simons Island, Georgia ranked #3 for our beautiful natural setting, miles of sandy beaches, sprawling oaks, golf and historic sites.

As part of the “America’s Favorite Towns” poll, Travel + Leisure readers also scored towns on their romantic appeal for the “America’s Most Romantic Towns” list. To calculate the most romantic towns, Travel + Leisure looked at brunch spots, bakeries, wine scenes, scenic picnic-friendly parks and romantic hotels.

Based on these categories, we are pleased to report that St. Simons Island ranked as the #1 Most Romantic Town! We’ll just quote T+L directly:

“America’s top town for romance strikes the right balance between seclusion and accessibility. Located on one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, this southern-style beach town has both white sands and live oaks, and was a hit with readers in romance-friendly categories such as picnicking and charming cafés. You can rent bicycles, browse antique shops, and check out another undeniable marker of romantic destinations: the local lighthouse.”

As a bonus to those who are considering a romantic getaway, another top romantic town is just across the bridge—a quick 12-minute drive from St. Simons Island. Neighboring Brunswick, Georgia ranked #20 among Travel + Leisure readers:

“Established by the British in 1771, this romantic coastal spot is one of the few American towns that kept its colonial street names—a nod to longevity any couple can appreciate. Aside from quirky appeal to history buffs, Brunswick was ranked highly for its festivals, such as autumn’s Brunswick Rockin’ Stewbilee, where competitors cook up tomatoey pots of stew. Come December, a plethora of twinkly lights is a seasonal enchantment (even on the water, during the Christmas Boat Parade of Lights).”

Turns out, Coastal Georgia is for lovers! Take a look at the Hodnett Cooper St. Simons Island and Brunswick Area Guide for all sorts of activity ideas. For the romantic, a horseback ride on the beach, picnic at oceanfront Neptune Park, a long walk on the beach or a Tree Spirit treasure hunt.

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(Photo: Golden Isles CVB)

Allison Entrekin, an award-winning travel writer and editor living in Atlanta wrote a piece on St. Simons Island for USA Today. The three-part piece features an overview of the island, what to do and where to stay.

Entrekin conveys the natural beauty of St. Simons, the unique shops and restaurants in the village area and the sensible development along the beaches. She also touches on some of the distinctive features of the Island—the roped off areas of the dunes protecting loggerhead sea turtles during nesting season and the abundance of bicycles parked on the paths leading to the beach.

In the “What to do” section, St. Simons Island is deemed a “cyclist’s paradise” because of the miles and miles of picturesque bike paths all over the Island. Biking, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing and of course, golf, are among the favored activities.

And “Where to stay,” Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals is named best choice for family, budget and luxury travelers.

For the complete articles, click the links below:

USA Today: Experience St. Simons Island, Georgia

USA Today: What do to on St. Simons Island, Georgia

USA Today: Where to stay on St. Simons Island, Georgia

 

St. Simons Island is once again proving to be a traveler favorite. In a recent poll, Travel + Leisure fans and followers nominated their favorite towns for consideration. Among the 744 towns nominated and after the final votes were cast, St. Simons Island ranked #3 in overall popularity. Below is the complete article. And click here for a link to other national accolades St. Simons Island has amassed.

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America’s Favorite Towns

October 2013, by Sarah L. Stewart

The votes are in for T+L readers’ best-loved small towns, from Vermont to Utah.

As you watch the sun dip below 14,000-foot peaks from Allred’s restaurant, toast your craft beers to a vacation well spent in Telluride, CO, a historic ski town hip enough to host film and bluegrass festivals.

Telluride, rated No. 7, is just one of the small towns with outsize personalities that proved irresistible to the T+L community. For our first America’s Favorite Towns survey, we asked our fans and followers to nominate their favorites on social media with the hashtag #TLTowns—and then to vote for the 744 towns in 55 categories, including farmers’ markets, museums, adventure travel, and family-friendly hotels.

To determine the overall popularity results, we calculated each town’s average score. The results reveal that T+L readers have a soft spot for small towns in the Rockies, with the No. 1 title going to Aspen, CO, which scored highly for its attractive locals, beer scene, and Victorian-era Main Street.

What most winning towns have in common is a history dating back at least a century. Charlottesville, VA, for instance, still bears the imprint of Thomas Jefferson, who masterminded Monticello and the University of Virginia and also appreciated fine wine. The area makes a scenic wine-country getaway, with the Blue Ridge Mountains for a backdrop.

No. 3 St. Simons, GA

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The ebb and flow of the Atlantic dictates life in this resort town on an 18-square-mile island off the Georgia coast. T+L readers gave St. Simons high marks for the caliber of its residents, scoring ninth place for most active and sixth for their intelligence. They’re lucky to live in a beautiful natural setting, with miles of sandy beaches and sprawling oaks. Attractions include golf courses and an 1872 lighthouse with sweeping views.

Photo: Georgia Tourism

Recently, travel writer Marcia Briggs visited St. Simons Island for the Tampa Bay Times. Her article, “St. Simons Island, Ga., Full of Southern Comforts” appeared in the June 27,m 2013 issue. At Hodnett Cooper, we so loved her observations—not only about the activities, but also about the people—we wanted to share some of her key insights:

“Forrest Gump would love it here, where shrimp is king and Southern hospitality is alive and well.”

“There’s not a lot to do on St. Simons other than relax, explore and eat — and that’s just fine with me. The stress level begins to drop once I exit Interstate 95…”

“There are 20 miles of paved bicycle trails throughout the island. Locals who live and work here seem downright happy to chat, give you directions to Southern Soul Barbeque (‘They were on the Food Network, you know’) and profess their undying love for their island home.”

In her weekend visit, we think she got a good taste of what makes St. Simons Island so special. And her article describes the food, the history, the beauty and the people perfectly. See the full Tampa Bay Times Article here.

 

Rankings Powered by 1 Million Annual Guest Reviews

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The Sea Gate Inn, managed by Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals, announced today that it has been named to the Expedia Insiders’ Select™ list for 2013, an annual ranking of the best-reviewed hotels as determined by Expedia, the world’s leading full-service online travel agency. The Insiders’ Select list recognizes the top-ranked hotels available in the Expedia global marketplace, as judged by more than 1 million annual guest reviews. As the largest full-service online travel agency in the world, Expedia, Inc. has unmatched traveler insight and local market destination expertise.

The exclusive 2013 list designates only 650 hotels as Insiders’ Select hotels, from among more than 150,000 properties available on Expedia-branded sites worldwide. Insiders’ Select helps travelers make confident decisions by identifying the hotels in their destination that have been recognized by other travelers as delivering an excellent overall experience.

“We at The Sea Gate Inn are consistently focused on delivering superior customer service and ensuring our guests have an enjoyable travel experience,” said Kris Maichle, General Manager at Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals. “We appreciate the value that a positive experience has on online travel reviews and the impact this has to our business. We are delighted to earn placement on the Expedia Insiders’ Select list.”

“Expedia strives to provide value to our travelers,” said John Morrey, vice president and general manager, Expedia.com. “Value reflects an everyday commitment to excellence on the part of the hotel. For these hotels, customer satisfaction is paramount. And when we publish the list, we reward those hotels by lifting them up and increasing their visibility through every stage of the booking process. We are focused on empowering travelers with the information and tools they need to make confident travel decisions and to book the trips that are right for them.”

 

About Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals

Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals, Inc is the largest vacation rental management company on St. Simons Island, Georgia with over 400 homes, condominiums and hotel suites in inventory. Properties include The Beach Club at St. Simons, St. Simons Grand, North Breakers, Shipwatch, The Sea Gate Inn, as well as private homes. Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals, Inc employs a team of professional vacation planners who find guests the perfect accommodations and is a member of the Vacation Rentals Management Association (VRMA). For more information, please visit http://www.hodnettcooper.com or call toll free 888-638-4750.

 

About The Sea Gate Inn

Located on St. Simons Island, Georgia, The Sea Gate Inn features 24 luxurious suites. Each suite features one bedroom, spacious bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining area and private balcony. The Sea Gate Inn overlooks a green space and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Built in 2008 and managed by Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals, the Sea Gate Inn is a favorite St. Simons Island destination. For more information, please visit http://www.hodnettcooper.com/bre/complexes/sea-gate-inn/ or call toll-free 888-638-4750.

 

About Expedia.com

Expedia.com is the world’s leading online travel site, helping millions of travelers per month easily plan and book travel. Expedia.com (http://www.expedia.com/, 1-800-EXPEDIA) aims to provide the latest technology and the widest selection of vacationscheap flightshotelscar rentalcruises and in-destination activities, attractions, and services. With the Expedia Best Price Guarantee, Expedia.com customers can get the best rates available online for all types of travel.

In the 25th annual Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, St. Simons Island ranked #5 among the Top 10 Islands in the United States. A record 46,476 readers participated in the survey. These distinguished travelers are known for their “vigorous curiosity to go where so few follow.” As a destination, Hodnett Cooper Vacation Rentals and Hodnett Cooper Real Estate, Inc. are pleased St. Simons Island was recognized among The Best in the World.

The Readers’ Choice Ratings:

Overall: 85.7

Scenery: 87.3

Friendliness: 92.1

Ambience: 87.3

Beaches: 77.6

Activities: 80.0

Lodging: 85.7

Restaurants: 87.9

Photo: Atlantide Phototravel/Corbis

 

When the Outside Magazine’s online Adventure Adviser was asked, “Where are the best fall beach escapes?” by the Editors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, they answered with St. Simons Island, Georgia! Citing uncrowded beaches, moderate temperatures and great adventure activities, we couldn’t agree more that St. Simons Island is an ideal fall beach escape!

Heres’s how the Adventure Adviser described the Island:

St. Simons is the largest of Georgia’s four idyllic Golden Isles, and also typically the most touristy. But in the fall, when the taffy eaters have largely vanished and the air temperature still lingers in the 70s, you’ll barely have to share the soft, grass-crowned sand with anyone. The prime adventure activities are fishing from the shore or St. Simons Island Pier, surfing (you’ll need a wetsuit), and road biking through St. Simons and other barrier islands.

Photo: Evangelio Gonzalez

 

On September 22, The New York Times ran an article crowning St. Simons Island, Georgia “A New Capital for U.S. Golf.” The article ponders how an island with a population of 13,000 can be home to four members of the 2012 Ryder Cup team along with several other PGA TOUR professionals. Read the entire article below to learn more about how our incredible island community has become the New US Golf Capital.

A New Capital for U.S. Golf (Pop. 13,000)

Article by Karen Crouse

Photos by Stephen Morton for the New York Times

Published: September 22, 2012

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ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — The golfer Davis Love III is like the Spanish moss draped over the stately trees on the Avenue of Oaks. He has been hanging around this barrier island for so long that he has become part of the scenery, a low-maintenance presence invisible to the local residents.

Love, 48, who has lived here since he was a teenager, holds dear his ability to blend into his surroundings. “He grew up as Davis Love III the guy,” said Brannen H. Veal, the director of golf for the Sea Island Golf Club. “He didn’t grow up as Davis Love III the superstar.”

Love’s appointment as the United States captain for the 39th Ryder Cup has blown his cover. Here in his hometown, it is as if the curtain has been pulled back to reveal Love operating the wheels and levers that made the place hum.

Three of the 12 players on the United States squad live in St. Simons: Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker, who is one of Love’s four captain’s picks. It seems crazy to consider that an island with a population under 13,000 has four residents participating in the Ryder Cup, and crazier still to contemplate what might have been.

“I was hoping we’d have half our team living on St. Simons Island, myself included,” said Love, the don of what has been called the Sea Island mafia, a growing group of St. Simons-based touring pros that includes Jonathan Byrd, Lucas Glover, Brian Harman and Harris English.

The players were drawn to St. Simons, part of the Golden Isles chain of barrier islands along Georgia’s southeast coast, at least in part by Love, a 20-time PGA Tour winner whom they affectionately refer to as Uncle Davis.

“He’s everything from a plumber to an electrician to a hunting guide to a fishing expert, not to mention a pretty good chef when we grill out,” Snedeker said. “He’s kind of like everybody’s safety net.”

Kuchar, whose wife, Sybi, grew up on the island, said he and the other players were able to live like everyday people because of the precedent set by the easygoing Love, whose temperament suits an island that is the size of Manhattan and has the feel of Mayberry.

It is a sportsman’s paradise, with shrimp, oysters and crabs inhabiting the salt marshes, and dolphins and sea turtles sharing the waters just offshore with windsurfers, kayakers and paddlers. “It’s got a lot going for it in golf and other things,” Love said.

The island has several championship courses, including the Seaside layout at the Sea Island resort, site of next month’s McGladrey Classic. Its tournament chairman is Love, who plays in it. The resort also is home to the Sea Island Golf Learning Center, a multidimensional training program that features some of Golf Digest’s top 50 instructors, who work with Love and the other touring pros.

The practice sites they use offer picturesque views of sailboats skimming along St. Simons Sound on their way to and from the Atlantic Ocean. Jekyll Island is visible to the south, and if you squint you can almost see Cumberland Island.

“It has beautiful low-country scenery with the reeds, the marshes and the oceanfront property as well,” said Kuchar, who moved his family here two years ago. “I think one of the things that I may enjoy the most is seeing these big oak trees. Something about going down a drive with just big old oak trees canopying a place puts me at peace. And then having the ocean; something about the natural ebb and flow of an ocean adds an unreal, peaceful rhythm to the place.”

On Friday morning, Love’s gray pickup truck was parked outside the building at Sea Island resort where the corn barn stood on the original 1800s plantation. The oval Ford insignia on the tailgate had been replaced by a custom-made one that read, “Ryder Cup Captain.”

In 1996, said Veal, the club golf director, he met Love inside that building during one of his first days as an assistant pro.

“Davis had just won a tournament, and he comes in here with seven buddies, they’re going to play golf, and he introduces himself like nobody knows who he is,” he said. “That kind of set the tone for me.”

With his quiet clout, Love is able to turn back the calendar on the island so it is like the Fourth of July once more. More than three dozen residents are assembling wardrobes in the colors of the Stars and Stripes for their trip this week to the Ryder Cup matches at Medinah Country Club outside Chicago.

At Paddle and Putt, a Redfern Village shop owned by Love, red-white-and-blue T-shirts celebrating Love’s captaincy are a brisk seller. A putting green covers part of the floor, but the store caters primarily to paddle boarders, with a few putters sticking out of golf bags scattered about like potted plants as if for ambience. The only piece of sports memorabilia adorning the place is an autographed poster of the professional paddler Packet Casey on the storeroom door.

On the wall next to the door, all but obscured by a rack of paddles, is a matted and framed article from the suburban Chicago Daily Herald on Jan. 21, 2011, announcing Love’s appointment as the Ryder Cup captain. “I guarantee you he didn’t hang that up,” Veal said.

Down the street at Southern Soul Barbeque, housed in an old gas station, the lunch line stretched outside. Love and the other golfers are among the regular customers, said Griffin Bufkin, who with his co-owner Harrison Sapp, a pit master, was discussing their Ryder Cup itinerary.

Sapp planned to drive to Chicago on Sunday and meet Bufkin, who was flying there. After attending the practice rounds, they will return home before Friday’s start of the matches, which they will watch on the restaurant’s flat-screen television above a shelf of barbecue sauces.

As they went about their business, the TV was tuned to the Golf Channel’s second-round coverage of the Tour Championship, taking place 310 miles away at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. Kuchar, Johnson and Snedeker were high on the leader board.

“I think what I’ve tried to do with those guys is let them tag along,” Love said. “They’ve certainly done a lot more for me, motivating me to keep playing and play hard, than I’ve done for them.”

A version of this article appeared in print on September 23, 2012, on page SP4 of the New York edition with the headline: A New Capital For U.S. Golf (Pop. 13,000).

On June 5, New York Times Bestselling Author, Karen White, released her 15th published novel, Sea Change. The novel is set on St. Simons Island and as White tells readers on her blog, “…yes, St. Simons Island, Georgia is a real place and yes, you really should vacation there.” For the record, we agree!

Below is a synopsis of Sea Change.

For as long as she can remember, Ava Whalen has struggled with a sense of not belonging, and now, at thirty-five, she still feels stymied by her family. Then she meets child psychologist Matthew Frazier and thinks her days of loneliness are behind her. After a whirlwind romance, they impulsively elope, and Ava moves to Matthew’s ancestral home on St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia.

But after the initial excitement, Ava is surprised to discover that true happiness continues to elude her. There is much she doesn’t know about Matthew, including the mysterious circumstances surrounding his first wife’s death. And her new home seems to hold as many mysteries and secrets as her new husband. Feeling adrift, Ava throws herself into uncovering Matthew’s family history and that of the island, not realizing that she has a connection of her own to this place–or that her obsession with the past could very well destroy her future.

Here on St. Simons Island, we are looking forward to two upcoming Karen White appearances on Monday, June 25.

Monday, June 25th

10:30 AM to 12:30 PM
LITERARY GUILD OF ST. SIMONS ISLAND
The St. Simons Island Casino
503 Beachview Drive, Room 108

4:00 PM to 6:00 PM
G.J. FORD BOOKSHOP
600 Sea Island Rd # 6
GJ Ford will sell copies of SEA CHANGE. Karen will speak for 20 minutes, answer questions and sign copies.

To learn more about Karen White, her novels and other upcoming appearances, visit www.karen-white.com

We really enjoyed this two-part article in the Florida Times Union written by Bill Besser. After six years of investigative travel and countless discussions, he and his wife have narrowed their retirement location to two island spots: St. Simons Island, Georgia and Sanibel Island, Florida. With his wife leaning toward St. Simons and Bill leaning toward Sanibel, the articles detail their consideration process. They agree to decide after a tie-breaking visit to each island. With a love for both destinations, they consider housing costs, healthcare, the community, activities for the grandchildren, opportunities to get involved, restaurants and fishing.

Clearly struggling with the decision, read through their process to see which of two islands they’ve chosen to call home.

Part 1:  St. Simons Island, Georgia

Part 2: Sanibel Island, Florida