DARIEN, Ga. — Imagine your own private island, an island that included a luxurious lodge, hot tub, fireplaces, wrap-around porch, outdoor shower and a dock to sit and let the day pass you by.
The state of Georgia includes a number of barrier islands, islands like St. Simons, Jekyll, Tybee and Sea Island. Those islands, people can access by car. But the state has dozens of islands, many of which are private, and one of which offers a unique vacation.
"This is nothing like anything we've ever done before," Sharon Specker said. "This is a private island, just carved out of beautiful Spanish moss and trees."
Specker is talking about Eagle Island, a private island that's a 15-minute boat ride from Darien.
The island paradise is the creation of Andy Hill. Hill moved from Atlanta to the coast in 1984 because he wanted to spend his days on the water, not just dreaming about it. Several years later, he stumbled across a flier advertising a private island for sale, and thus his collection began. Hill owns nine islands in total, collectively known as the Private Islands of Georgia. Eagle Island is one of the collection's crown jewels.
"Eagle Island was a big project," Hill said. "It took two years to complete and about 380 boat trips of materials. We've been running it as a vacation rental for the last 13 years."
Eagle Island is 10 acres, the Eagle Lodge is the only structure on it and it's surrounded by marshland and water. When guests book the lodge, they'll be on the only people on the island.
But a vacation to Eagle Island begins before guests leave the dock. There, Hill has a baited blue crab trap awaiting.
"Blue crabs are very popular, so we provide the bait and the traps for the blue crabs and have a great outdoor kitchen with a steamer," Hill said.
Eagle Island's outdoor kitchen includes a boil pot, oyster steamer, grills, a sink, prep table and commercial ice machine. Grab the blue crabs, toss them in the steamer and 10 minutes later, dinner is served.
There's a multitude of outdoor experiences to enjoy on Eagle Island. Start the day with a sunrise breakfast on the island's dock before jumping aboard the boat.
"We went boating," Specker said. "We saw dolphins, that was my favorite part. That was so amazing, they were right along the boat. We went fishing. We went to the beach. We collected sea shells."
Since Hill owns property on nearby Sapelo Island, guests of Eagle Island are allowed to visit. Ninety-seven percent of Sapelo is owned by the state and it's only accessible by plane or boat. Due to those factors, Hill noted that very rarely will guests ever find anyone else on the beach.
"Sapelo was great," Scott Specker said. "We went on the Atlantic side to check out the beach. It was supposed to be a great place to get shells and it was. So we looked all over for shells and came back with bucket loads. We (found) a more remote place to actually beach up and just hang out for the day."
Returning to Eagle, guests can give the five-moon outdoor shower a try. Why's it called 5-moon?
"We're the first five-moon destination," Hill joked. "We're self-designated. We couldn't be five stars, so we have a lot of fun with it. And we pride ourselves on our guest services. But the double-headed outdoor shower is one of our five-moon nests. We have our little nests of fun, but it's a double-headed outdoor shower, and we have our swinging bed and our hot tub in front of the outdoor fireplace as another nest, places for people to enjoy with their family and friends."
"It is so cool," Sharon Specker said. "We had such a great time. From the hot tub to the outdoor shower to just walking the property and eating out by the waterway. It was idyllic. It was amazing."
Whether it's boating, kayaking or just hanging out, Hill emphasizes that a trip to the Private Islands of Georgia is a chance to spend more time with the people you came with. The lodge has eight beds and can handle two to 12 guests.
"We have guys' getaways, girls' getaways, a lot of family reunions," Hill said.
"It's nice because it's only four hours from Atlanta," Scott Specker said. "It gets us out of the hustle and bustle of Atlanta, the suburbs of Atlanta. It was an easy drive for us. This to me hits with the nature side, the fishing and boating. It just really, for me, it hit on all the areas that I would want."
A trip to any one of Georgia's islands is always an adventure and plenty of fun, but a trip to the Private Islands of Georgia and Eagle Island is a unique experience, unlike any other coastal Georgia vacation.