Children and adults delight in The Cloister's Yuletide offerings.

By Vicki J. Weathers
November 06, 2008
Rick McKee

A confectionary castle looms high above the gingerbread village. Children watch as the lone grown-up in the room squeezes a plastic bag full of icing, applying a thin strip of white to the rooftop. The Cloister’s executive chef Todd Rogers then carefully places candy-covered chocolates on the frosting. He grabs more candy, only this time he casually throws a piece in the air and pops it in his mouth. The kids are astonished as Todd tells them, “You can’t build a house unless you eat some candy!” Everyone giggles and grabs a treat.

Gingerbread-house making is just one of the many activities that take place during December at Sea Island Resorts on Georgia’s southeastern shore. Elf tuck-ins, complete with cookies, milk, and a bedtime reading of The Night Before Christmas send tots off to dreams of sleighs on rooftops and stockings overflowing with goodies. On Christmas Eve, Santa and Mrs. Claus show up with gifts for every child.

Not to be missed is the Sea Island Stables Christmas Parade of Horses. Manes are brushed, braided, and adorned with bright red and green ribbons. Stalls sport holiday wreaths. Children join the fun with supervised rides around the grounds, then reward their favorite steed with carrots and candy canes.
Many adult guests discovered The Cloister’s timeless charm during their first visit here as kids, and now return with their own brood. Bell doorman Bruce Dunham feels as though he’s watched some of the guests grow up. “They began coming when they were young, and now it’s third and fourth generations,” he says.

Over time, Sea Island Resorts evolved from a simple 46-room summer destination into a rambling complex that includes 220 rooms in The Cloister and The Lodge, plus 150 guesthouses and a 65,000-square-foot world-class spa.

The idea is to spoil guests of all ages at Christmastime. Poinsettias, lights, and wreaths lavishly dress the grounds. Twenty-one trees, each uniquely decorated, light up the property. Last year, influenced by natural elements found along the shoreline, Sea Island’s landscape director chose sand dollars, sea stars, and shells for the tree in The Beach Club lobby.

In the solarium, the children pause in decorating their gingerbread houses to watch the miniature train make its way around the enormous castle and wind along the tracks through the village. They beam with pride as they apply the last gumdrops and peppermints to their creations, surely tucking away pleasant memories of this special holiday experience.

• The Twelve Days of Christmas, December 19–30. Families enjoy luxury accommodations at The Cloister for four, one casual dinner, daily breakfast, and one elf tuck-in for children up to age 11. Rates start at $3,860 for a four-night package.

• In addition to family packages, Sea Island offers memorable getaways for couples, including luxury accommodations for two at The Cloister or The Lodge, daily breakfast, and one dinner. Rates start at$1,500 for a two-night minimum stay.

• For an additional fee, guests can enjoy golf, skeet shooting, boating, fishing, horseback riding on the beach, nature excursions, bingo, and supervised activities for children at the Beach Club children’s center. Massages and other spa services are available by appointment.