Best of the Barrier Islands

Whether you’re looking for a great meal or a killer campsite, we’ve found the barrier islands that deliver

Photo: Photograph courtesy of the Sanderling Resort & Spa

Sunrise on Duck Island

Amelia Island, Florida

Amelia Island lies just off the coast of northeastern Florida and is home to the seaside Ritz-Carlton, which in 2008 achieved AAA Five Diamond status for both the resort and its restaurant, Salt. Chef Richard Gras offers a seasonal menu with the freshest local ingredients and forty-two types of salt harvested from around the world. Try his daily five-course tasting meal known as the Chef’s Adventure Menu, or book a Seat in the Kitchen for private customized menus. Better yet, roll up your sleeves and join the cooking school June 11-12, 2008, for personalized culinary instruction.

The Cloister
Sea Island, Georgia

There is much to celebrate at this legendary coastal resort, but for a true taste of luxury treat yourself to its 65,000-square-foot spa with its twenty-three customized treatment rooms, lap pool, koi pond, labyrinth garden, and relaxation room with babbling brook.

Photo: Photograph courtesy of Sea Island

The spa at the Cloister

Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Just twenty miles from Charleston, the Sanctuary has raked in top accolades on many fronts since it opened in 2004, but golf remains its calling card. The five championship courses on the island are consistently ranked in the Top 100 by major golf publications. In particular, the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course, with its shifting winds and Atlantic views, is often called the most challenging course in America and has hosted the Ryder Cup, the World Cup, and the Senior PGA Championship.

Photo: Photograph courtesy of Kiawah Island Golf Resort

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island

Siesta Key

Florida may be overly developed as a whole, but you can’t beat the quality of its sand. Siesta Key in particular, an island in southwest Florida, boasts the softest, cleanest, purest white sand, finer in texture than most refined sugar. Unlike most beaches that are composed of crushed shells, rocks, or lava, the sand of Siesta Key’s beaches was found by Harvard University’s geology department to be 99 percent pure quartz. The effect is dazzling and never feels hot. Siesta Beach is consistently rated among the top ten beaches in the world.

Hotel Galvez
Galveston Island, Texas

Before the infamous hurricane of 1900, Galveston was a bustling port city and the center of Texas high society. Now fortified with a seventeen-foot-high seawall, Galveston is a top resort destination. Kids will enjoy the water park, space center, dolphin sightseeing trips, IMAX theater, and aquarium. Adults can choose between fourteen museums, twenty art galleries, golf, Broadway shows, water sports, saltwater fishing, horseback riding on the beach, surfing, and historic house tours. Century-old Hotel Galvez, a 4-Diamond Wyndham Victorian Hotel on the beach, is by far the most elegant resort in Galveston, known as the Queen of the Gulf.

Gasparilla Inn & Club
Gasparilla Island, Florida

Come May, the only thing outnumbering the anglers on Boca Grande are the countless tarpon swimming past its shores. The annual migration — of fish and fishermen — is world renowned. But not everyone chooses to do battle with the Silver King. Redfish and snook offer year-round sport, and offshore fishing yields grouper, snapper, mackerel, and kingfish. The most elegant, quietly luxurious place to stay is the historic Gasparilla Inn Club, a national historic landmark. Its elite Old Florida appeal makes it a favorite of hard-core sportsmen and past presidents. Check out the glass reading tables decorated in rows of tarpon scales.

St. Armand’s Circle
Lido Key, Florida

John Ringling of circus fame planned a circular shopping center in 1917 now known as St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key. With more than one hundred and thirty upscale stores, boutiques, and art galleries, this shopping destination has been compared to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Spend an evening enjoying the sidewalk cafés, restaurants, and ice cream parlors. For a truly refined experience, treat yourself to a stay at the Ritz-Carlton resort in nearby Sarasota Bay, which offers exclusive use of its posh Members Beach Club on the beautiful white sand beaches of Lido Key.

The Sanderling Resort & Spa
Duck Island, North Carolina

The Sanderling Resort & Spa is uniquely situated on one of the narrowest strips of land on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, sandwiched by two bodies of water. Early risers can catch sunup over the Atlantic, spend a day relaxing on unspoiled beaches or hiking through the adjacent Pine Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary, and settle in for a romantic dinner as the sun settles over the wide Currituck Sound. The low-rise cedar-shingled architecture of the Sanderling has a comfortable Nantucket feel: shabby chic on the outside, luxurious and spacious on the inside.

Photo: Photograph courtesy of the Sanderling Resort & Spa

Sunrise on Duck Island

Pioneer Campground
Sapelo Island, Georgia

Sapelo Island was once an island playground for multimillionaire R.J. Reynolds (of R. J. Reynolds Tobacco fame). Ninety-seven percent of its 16,500 acres is now owned by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, teeming with deer, turkey, and the occasional wild cow. You can experience this pristine wilderness for yourself by camping at the highly popular Pioneer Campground in the R.J. Reynolds Wildlife Refuge. There you’ll find three Adirondack Shelters, including a comfort station with flush toilets and hot showers, beneath a canopy of ancient live oaks, all just one hundred yards away from a 13-mile pristine beach. For rates and reservations, call the Reynolds Mansion at (912) 485-2299.

Po’ Pigs Bo-BQ
Edisto Island, South Carolina

The owner’s name is Robert E. Lee, but everyone knows him as BoBo. He also happens to be the brother of one of the world’s most famous living artists: Jasper Johns. Some people drive a hundred miles to stuff their bellies with his smoked pork, liver hash, and massive Saturday buffet. (2410 Highway 174, Edisto Island, SC; phone 843-869-9003)