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A Return to The Cloister at Sea Island

Spending a few days in The Golden Isles
Filed Under > Everyday
The Golden Isles via Waiting on Martha

Recently I had the immense pleasure of speaking at my fifth Southern Coterie Conference. And as much as I look forward to those three days all year, I equally look forward to the few days after the conference has ended when the hubs and I disconnect at one of our favorite places, The Cloister at Sea Island.

While we’ve been to The Cloister at Sea Island now more times than I can remember, this time there were so many new surprises in store I felt I needed to update my last travel post from a few years prior.

First things first, for those of you unfamiliar with the magical place called Sea Island, Sea Island is part of an area called The Golden Isles. The Golden Isles is comprised of St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons and Brunswick nestled on the Georgia coast. Its name, The Golden Isles, seems to get its reputation from their rays of warm sunshine and mossy trees envelope you the minute you enter into the low country.

An easy drive from Atlanta, the Golden Isles offers an easy getaway from everyday life in the city, and you’d be hard-pressed to be anything but relaxed along its pristine beaches, award wining golf courses and miles of sprawling marshlands. No matter how many times I’ve driven over that causeway, the minute I cross my whole body seems to relax, and I let out a huge sigh almost as if I was holding my breath. It’s pure heaven.

When staying in The Golden Isles there’s really only two ways to go when it comes to accommodations; The Cloister or The Lodge. The Cloiste at Sea Island, is a legendary luxury hotel renowned for its utmost sophisticated elegance.  Seeped in stunning Mediterranean-inspired architecture, the hotel features grounds full of lush gardens, every amenity one could possibly desire, and the most fantastic fine dining. But perhaps most noteworthy, are The Cloister‘s luxurious suites that offer spectacular views over the marshes, begging guests to bask in the low country in all its glory, all while enveloping them in utmost comfort and privacy. 

The Lodge on St. Simons Island, recognized as a #1 resort in the mainland U.S by. Conde Nast Traveler.  The Lodge is definitely my happy place, especially at sun set when the skies turn pink and we sit sipping a cocktail on the sprawling porch overlooking the 18th hole and causeway, while being serenaded by a set of bagpipes.  Yes bagpipes! It’s nothing short of magical, and the perfect way to start, and end any vacation.

The hubs of course loves The Lodge for a completely different reason…the golf. Not only are the golf courses some of the top rated in the world, Sea Island just unveiled a 17,000 sq. ft. golf performance center. This addition is just one of many enhancements that are part of The Lodge’s $30 million dollar makeover that also includes an enhanced putting green, pool, pool house and new golf course cottages. I took a quick tour of one, and they are completely stunning.

Each time I find myself at The Cloister, I wonder if I’ll ever tire of coming back to Sea Island. Then I look around, smell the salt air, and I’m quickly reminded why I always keep coming back for more. Truly, MKR

Photography: Kathryn McCrary

10 Days Along 30A

Recapping my trip to Destin, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor & Seagrove
Filed Under > Everyday










You may remember back in August I spent 10 magical days exploring all of 30A. The plan, in collaboration with 360 Blue, stay and explore 4 different 30A beach towns. The goal, make what can seem like an endless amount of confusing options a little less confusing.  So with that in mind, Anthony, Addison and I set out for our trip; 10 days split between Destin, Rosemary Beach, Watercolor/Seaside, and Seagrove.

But before we get into the trip itself I feel I need to lay a little groundwork.  First, we stayed the entirety of the 10 days in homes managed by 360 Blue. 360 Blue manages over 550 of the most luxurious vacation rentals located in Destin, WaterColor, WaterSound, Rosemary Beach, Seaside, Seagrove, and more.  Basically, if you want to stay in a home along 30A it’s likely to be managed by 360Blue.

This was my first experience working with a home management company such and it was glorious. 360 Blue is a well-oiled machine. Pretty much everything is completed in their very user-friendly app that you download before arrival. While I’m someone who loves writing things down, I loved having everything stored via app instead.  Let me give you an example. We were headed to the beach for the day, and because many of these beaches are private with access only for the nearby homes, there’s gates everywhere.  In the app, all of the gate codes are listed so I could easily find the access code quickly. Same with all of the door locks, garage locks, check out times, etc. All in the app.

Aside from the app, 360 Blue’s customer service was above and beyond. Not only that, but they’re not just a management company, but are also an at-your-service concierge setting up all sort of activities for you and your family. We took advantage of this and had 360 Blue schedule a private poolside yoga session, golf, and my personal favorite an at-home 4-course wine dinner with one of the best chefs in the area, Chef Kalli.

Probably most importantly, 360 Blue’s selection of vacation rentals is vast. There’s a rental type, location, price for anyone and everyone. I was very, very impressed with all aspects of 360 Blue and trust me I’m not super easy to impress.

Second, When writing travel recaps it’s hard to sum everything up while providing helpful insight to those who are reading in hopes to travel to the area in the future.  I feel it really comes down to the type of traveler you are.  I especially think it’s extremely important to evaluate that thought when planning any trip, but especially a trip to 30A.  Reason being, each area is different and plays to different strengths and weaknesses, so best to stay in the area that is most like your traveling personality.  Because everything is so close in proximity you’ll be able to easily visit each area, but I highly suggest staying in an area that you’ll feel the most like you.  So with that in mind, here’s what’s most important to me when traveling so you understand where I’m coming from in rehashing my personal experience.

When traveling to the beach I want a relaxed and quiet atmosphere. I don’t want to worry about getting ready or being dressed up, the more no-makeup casual the better. I don’t love crowds in general, but I especially don’t love them during a relaxing beach vacation. I want to be on the ocean or at least be able to see it and smell it from my window because that salt air is the whole reason I’m at the beach rather than in the mountains. I’m a homebody who loves to cook, so a great rental home with a fantastic kitchen is key. Double bonus if there’s an indoor and outdoor kitchen, and private pool because the Florida heat is nothing to play with.  Great non-chain food options is a must. And lastly, I’d prefer to get around via golf cart or walking.

Okay, now that I feel like I’ve laid all the groundwork I can let’s get to the trip itself. I’d been to 30A once before, but it was to speak at The Southern Coterie Conference. It was a brief 3 days full of work, so I barely had any time to explore or gain any insight into the 24 mile stretch of 30A so I was excited to get down there and see it with true vacation eyes.

Our first stop was Destin. While in Destin we had the pleasure of staying at the “Beach House on the Moon.” As far as houses go, this one was definitely the newest, coolest and had the most bells and whistles. The outdoor space was what dreams are made of complete with a huge pool, walk up bar, full outdoor kitchen, and outdoor living. This house would be best if you had a large family or a were planning a fun girls or guys trip.

As far as location goes, Destin isn’t really my jam.  It reminds me a bit of how I typically think of Florida; spring break city.  Not to mention there weren’t a lot of great dining options and vacation for me is always heavily influenced by food.  I did love however the golf cart driving I was able to take advantage of, and Destin was a great way to get our feet wet and prepare for the rest of the week.  

Overall rating: House 9.5 (if this house was oceanside it would be an easy 10+) Location 5 (Destin just isn’t my personal ideal vacation town)

Next up, Rosemary Beach. Out of all the spots, I thought this was going to be my absolute favorite.  It’s definitely one of the most beautiful.  The architecture of the homes and the landscaping is simply breathtaking. Plus it butts right up to Alys beach which is equally stunning in a totally different way. 

The home we stayed in was your typical Rosemary Beach style home and the Rosemary transportation of choice, bicycles, were lined up and ready for exploring.  The best thing about this house (besides the amazing staircase) was its location, just steps from private beach access. And the beaches in Rosemary, and all along 30A for that matter are breathtakingly stunning.  In fact, when I first spied the ocean of 30A I was shocked at how clear and turquoise it was.  This home would be perfect if you were looking for a family vacation home and the guest cottage above the garage would be great for anyone traveling with you like grandparents who wanted some privacy.

Overall rating: House 8 (there wasn’t a lot of indoor sitting/relaxing space, nor was there any outdoor cooking space, but there was outdoor dining and a pool. Stairwell was insane, and while not oceanside the location was fantastic). Location 7.5 (everything is so tight, and it definitely doesn’t have the relaxed atmosphere I crave. Not to mention, no golf carts allowed.  Great food and shopping though!)

Our third stop was WaterColor, the location I was most familiar with.  While many love the architecture and vibe of Rosemary/Alys I actually think I prefer WaterColor. I’m not sure why, maybe because it feels a bit more relaxed? Maybe because golf carts are welcome? Or maybe it’s because I knew one of my favorite doughnut trucks was eagerly awaiting my arrival. Whatever it was, I was anxious to get back to WaterColor.

Sadly, the house we stayed in has sold and is no longer an available rental. And I’ve got to say it’s really sad because the house was a show stopper. I went through some available rentals and feel this one and this one are the closest to the one we stayed in.

Overall rating: House 8.5 (if this house was closer to the ocean, which very few in WaterColor are, it would be an easy 10) Location 8 (WaterColor is super adorable but it’s not a 10 because it’s a little too busy and too many kids for my current taste.)

Our last stop was Seagrove and this was the perfect place to end our journey.  Located halfway between Rosemary/Alys Beach and WaterColor,  Seagrove is my perfect idea of quiet. Not to mention our home was the closest we got to true oceanside living.  

I loved this location so much that we didn’t really leave. Each day we’d walk on the beach and each night we’d pick up fresh seafood from GoatFeather’s and I’d cook in the open air kitchen, and we’d end our evening cozied up with a movie.  I cannot stress how “me” of a spot this was. 

The home itself struck a perfect balance between oceanside casual and high-end. I loved the balconies off each level and the overall feel made me feel like it was my actual home more than a place I was visiting. Also, there was plenty of space to get cozy and watch a movie which as I stated is basically what we did each night. We in fact loved everything about this space and place so much we extended our vacation by one day just to soak up one more day.

The only place that I feel would be a tad more me would possibly be Grayton Beach which is where we’ll stay next time. Grayton happens to also be home to our two favorite 30A restaurants; Red Bar and Chiringo.

Overall rating: House 8 (would have been an 8.5, but unfortunately construction is making those ocean views a bit more limited. Also wish it had more of an outdoor living/kitchen space. Access to the beach though was fantastic.) Location 9.5 (I told you I like quiet, and Seagrove is quiet but its location makes it easily accessible to everything.)

And that’s it. That was our 10 (actually 11) days in a nutshell.  To make things a tad easier I’ve listed below each location and rated them in a few different categories to help you decide just where you want to stay.  The where is the hard part, the renting a house through 360 Blue is the no brainer/easy part. 

Please do remember these ratings/ranks are based on my personal experience and opinion.  Also, because food is so important to me, I’ve listed out my personal restaurant recommendations below as well as other’s recommendations that I can’t vouch for because I didn’t get a chance to experience them, but felt they were worth mentioning.  Happy travels friends! Truly, MKR

Destin – Food: 6    Beaches: 7    Kid Friendly: 8    Crowds/Busyness: busy    Shopping: 5   Transportation: Car & Golfcart 

Rosemary Beach  – Food: 8.5 (if you count Alys 9.5)  Beaches: 9     Kid Friendly: 7    Crowds/Busyness: busy    Shopping: 8.5   Transportation: Car & Bicycle 

WaterColor  – Food: 7.5 (if you count Grayton Beach 10 then)  Beaches: 8   Kid Friendly: 10    Crowds/Busyness: busy   Shopping: 7   Transportation: Car, Golfcart & Bicycle

Seagrove – Food: n/a (restaurants are close, but not really in Seagrove)  Beaches: 9  Kid Friendly: 7   Crowds/Busyness: quiet   Shopping: n/a   Transportation: Car & Golfcart 

My Restaurants Recommendations that I can personally vouch for: Beach Walk Cafe (this oceanside spot in Destin located inside the Henderson Inn was a great surprise, loved it!) Red Bar (one of my most memorable dinners ever), Chiringho (tacos were amazing, definitely suggest it for lunch), Georges (lunched here twice, and dog friendly), La Crema (amazing tapas, amazing!), Bud & Alleys (fun, casual place for dinner), seven daughters (give me all their doughnuts, all day everyday), green juice, strawberry cake at Modica Market (not the absolute best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth the slice), Fonville press (yay coffee). Neat (great spot for drinks & to pick up wine & some interesting bottles to take with), and Goatfeather’s Seafood Market (this is where I picked up fresh seafood to cook almost every day).

Other’s Restaurant Recommendations that I can’t personally vouch for: The Great Southern, Stinky’s Fish Camp, The Hub at 30A (I went, but didn’t eat there), 45 Central, Paradis, The Meltdown, Cafe 30A, The Shrimp Shack, Pescados, Edwards, Elm’s Grill, Blue Mountail Creamery, Local Catch, Cowgirl Kitchen, The Wine Bar, Pescado, Paradis, Cuvee Beach, Caliza, Fish Out of Water, Black Bear Bread Co., Borago, Basmatis.

**A side note about the Pearl in Rosemary Beach. It’s absolutely beautiful, but I’ve had drinks and dined there on 3 different occasions and the service was so terrible (like shockingly so) I cannot personally recommend it. I can recommend the pool for an amazing Instagram worthy shot. It pains me to even write this, but because I know people will bring it up since it’s such a landmark of Rosemary Beach, but I have to be honest.**

Yeah That Greenville

A Trip To South Carolina with Garden & Gun Magazine
Filed Under > Everyday

 

Recently I had the opportunity to head back to one of my favorite cities, Greenville, with one of my favorite magazines, Garden and Gun. On our agenda; eat, drink, and see my way through the city in two short days.  Which proved to be harder than I had anticipated.

If you’ve never been to Greenville, South Carolina you’re missing out.  Located a short drive from Atlanta; Greenville is a small but mighty city.  Mighty in the sense of activities, culture, shopping, food and drinks.  While Greenville is a place I escape to a few times each year I’m always shocked by how it’s constantly changing and evolving.  I swear I was just there a few months ago and half of the restaurants that I went to this go-round weren’t even there last time.  Case in point, Husk.

I’d been to Husk in Charleston and loved it, so I couldn’t wait to see what spin Husk brought to Greenville. And Husk did not disappoint. Led by James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock, Husk’s Greenville location reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Greenville. The menu was completely unique and true to it’s location and I foresee it having a long life in this highly food-driven city.

I also had an opportunity to hit up other parts of town that I hadn’t seen last time. I spent an entire day in West Greenville where I checked out The Village Grind, Anchorage, GBD, and Kuka.  All three are places I highly recommend next time you’re in town.  At the Village Grind try a Methodical coffee with lavender. At GB&D you must get the flat iron steak and mac and cheese. The entire menu is order worthy at Anchorage. And definitely pick up a few juices at Kuka. I loved the Cocoa Loca and the Green with Envy. 

I also spent some time over in Traveler’s Rest where I devoured crepes for breakfast at Tandem Creperie & Coffeehouse and pizza from Sidewall Pizza for lunch.

Lastly, I spent some quality time downtown taking advantage of the views with drinks at Up On The Roof, and grabbed a great cheese plate, salad and a few bottles of wine at Caviar & Bananas.

All in all, Greenville did not disappoint, as it never does. And I’m already planning a trip back there this summer.  Make sure to check out the story over on Garden & Gun Magazine, and let me know in the comments what you love about Greenville!  Truly, MKR

Photography, Kathryn McCrary | This post is sponsored by Garden & Gun Magazine and the city of Greenville.  Opinions and images are 100% my own.

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