published Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Upton: A 'real' vacation renews the soul

I had never been to South Georgia for vacation, so when my adventure-loving, freelancing friend invited me to accompany her on a press trip, I all but jumped at the chance.

We flew to Jacksonville, Fla., and drove to Darien, Ga., where the trip would officially begin. We soon entered the sleepy town, parked in front of a quietly lovely vacation house with moss draping from the trees surrounding it. There we met our host, "Capt. Andy" Hill, owner of The Private Islands of Georgia, a string of resort-style rentals.

Andy told us about "glamping" (glamorous camping), his gorgeous and eco-friendly vacation rentals on the island and the mainland, and the wonder and beauty of South Georgia.

The house was decorated in ocean themes. He showed off his artist friend's metallic creations of sea turtles, ocean plants and fishes, their burned ocean colors startlingly vibrant on the walls of the house we toured.

A chandelier made from an anchor hung in the entryway, and hand-carved chairs surrounded the table. Natural shells decorated more than one table, as well as driftwood. Tree stumps were used as flower pots, along with brick, stone and wood from castoff parts of buildings. "Nothing is wasted," said Andy, who loves to collect historic and local pieces for his vacation homes. He also enjoys incorporating the community in his venture, shown in his many friendships with artists, outdoorsmen, chefs, wine connoisseurs and various other business people.

We drove to the docks to prepare for our next part of the trip, a boat ride to Eagle Island, where we'd be staying. Drunk from the sun, we dozed while the boat passed high grasses jutting out from the marshes, wind and water drops whizzing by us. We docked on the island, walked a tilted plank up to a deck built right over the water, complete with a table, grill and beautiful arbor. The walk to the house was lined with colorful flowers.

The house was a two-story affair with a wraparound deck, a whirlpool and outside fireplace. A surprise shower built beneath the stairwell was completely hidden from the waterway by trees. Inside, there was an open kitchen and stylish living area, two bedrooms on one level and a loft above both. Downstairs was a great room with several more beds and a game area.

There is an actual eagle's nest on the island, and we spotted several eagles flying as we came in. The next day dolphins surrounded our boat, coming up for air and a look at us as we sailed toward Sapelo Island for a kayaking expedition through the narrow channels that flowed into the ocean.

Collecting shells along the way, we discussed the teeming marine life around us, one of the richest in the world, checked out the remains of an ancient boat that had washed up on shore and enjoyed the sun and the startling beauty of a Georgia I'd never known.

Back on Eagle Island that night, chef Nick Bell, owner of the Yum-Yum Shop on St. Simons Island and a friend of Andy's, came by boat to make us a scrumptious meal. We began with cucumber sandwiches and fried oysters, then came the delicate mahi mahi with sauce, tantalizing sautéed vegetables and warm Southern cornbread. He topped it off with pecan pie and ice cream.

I retired to my room with dreams of South Georgia on my mind, thinking, So this is what a real vacation actually feels like. Ahhh ...

Would you like to escape to Eagle Island, too? Visit the

Tabi Upton, is a licensed professional counselor at Richmont/CBI Counseling Center and founder of, a self-help resource site. E-mail her at

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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