An Eagle Island State of Mind
An Eagle Island State of Mind
By Will McGough
I think it was when Eagle Island Owner Andy Hill was demonstrating how to kill
and clean a crab that it hit me: For as luxurious as the place was, I felt far from pampered.
I had recently hauled the crab pots from the water down by our dock on the Darien River, avoiding the claws and tossing them into a bucket. When I set them down by the pond and turned on the hose, Andy told me that he’s planning on putting in a crab-cleaning station.
“For now,” he said, “We can do it right here,” and he cracked and cleaned the crab in what seemed like one motion – truly a clean death – and he tossed the shell into the pond. The two young alligators were nowhere to be seen, but a group of small fish engulfed the discarded shell.
He set me up with a pair of gloves and went off to prepare the rest of the low-country seafood boil, leaving myself and another with the deadly duty. I could hear the crabs rub against the side of the bucket, and I looked carefully for a safe way to reach in and grab one.
No time to be squeamish – we were on a private island off the coast of Georgia that’s only accessible by boat, and the crab was a big part of the meal.
A trip to the grocery store was a bit out of the question. “Five Moon” Mountain Cabin Feel in the Georgia Wilderness. I mentioned the lodge on Eagle Island is luxurious, and I meant that very seriously. Andy calls it a “Five-Moon” property, and I found that to be pretty spot-on. It’s subtly spectacular and something you have to experience in order to appreciate the full beauty. The pictures say a lot – but it’s the state of mind and lifestyle that define Eagle Island.
I can best describe it as a mountain/ski cabin in the middle of the Georgia wilderness – no mountains but plenty of swampland and water to explore. Wood-burning fireplaces, pre-cut firewood, high ceilings, large screened-in porches, hammocks, hot tub, horseshoes, outdoor kitchen, man-made lake, walking trail, kayaks, fishing poles – they set you up for the simple life.
Those are the basics – the relaxed lifestyle of Southeast Georgia – yet if you feel like taking it one step further, Andy’s got you covered with meal preparation options, seafood delivery, boat rentals, and kayak excursions (not included in rental rate, fyi). Andy and his staff prepared me a low-country seafood boil (the aforementioned crabs, Georgia shrimp, potatoes, onions, carrots, corn) and an oyster bake (half raw, half with cheese, bacon, scallions, jalapenos).
Other than by request, guests are self-sustaining while on the island – you bring all your food and beverages for the length of your stay (firewood, cookware, sheets, linens, first-aid kit, kitchen spices are provided, among other conveniences).
That’s why living off the land and the locals is recommended to cut down on the amount of things guests have to bring: You can catch crabs/fish right off the dock, or order Georgia shrimp and oysters from the small fishing town of Darien (Andy will drop them off on your dock).
Furthering Your Experience: Rent the Damn Boat!
Look, you may know nothing about boating – and I understand –but get your tail on that water, whatever it takes.
Bring Your Own Boat
Good news for boat owners:Bring your own– it will actually save you $100 on your lodge rental. Otherwise, rent one from Andy ($100/day, two-day minimum).
Without the boat, you are essentially landlocked (minus how far you can paddle in a kayak).
Access to a boat gives you the run of the Intracoastal Waterway andSapelo Island – an old plantation island now owned by the State of Georgia. Andy stages a truck there for guests to use to roam around (and he’ll give you directions to a private beach, as well as the historical sites on the island).
I had the privilege of cruising the Darien River/IntraCoastal Waterway and visiting Sapelo on my final day in Georgia. It’s an amazing place to explore – the Spanish Moss is incredible – and the private beach is indeed very private. I saw one other person the entire day on the two-mile stretch I wandered, and I was able to skinny dip in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time (check that one off the list).
Sapelo is great, yet it is the rivers in the area that have really stayed with me. You can get a private beach and a boat ride anywhere, but navigating the waters and seeing the tall sea grass and the river snaking through it – the dolphins and the gators and the birds – it was these sights that made me feel like I was in the Southeast. We were more likely to see a shrimping boat than a sailboat, and that’s the feeling of culture I seek in any trip I take.
A Simple Life, Yet Far from Plain
The night we ate oysters, Andy and I took shots of bourbon from a conch shell, and I must say hearing his story and seeing his resourcefulness come to fruition all around me was inspiring (definitely invite him over for dinner when you go).
Introverts only need to look around to see what the man values. He makes planters out of driftwood, walkways out of oyster shells, and knows damn well how to set up a spot for romance: There’s a fireplace in front of the hot tub, two shower heads in both the main and outdoor facilities, large hammocks, an industrial ice maker (is it me or does beer taste better when you remove it from a cooler full of ice rather than the fridge?), and even a bunk-bed basement/gameroom to stash the kids.
I’ve got to be honest: This place provides togetherness, whether it’s the two of you, a group of friends/couples, a mini-family reunion (The place sleeps 9-10 people, but you could theoretically bring tents and camp by the pond).
During my stay I spent time on the water, wandering the walking trail, eating, drinking, reading, writing, conversing. I’m always itching for activity during the day, but the best part may have been when the sun was on its way down and I could sit with my feet up and look out at the trees and the river behind them, the smell of a fire in the air, the pond off to the right and the two baby alligators sunbathing on its banks.
Throw in good company and plans to cook up some fresh seafood when hunger strikes, and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a good old Southern escape.
Will McGough is a regular contributor to GoNOMAD. He writes a daily travel blog called Wake and Wander, part of our blog network.
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