Nothing beats kicking back after a long day of meetings with a panorama of sand and breaking waves in the distance. When you hold a meeting on one of America’s islands, you get the benefit of beautiful, relaxing scenery, strong destination appeal for attendees and first-rate facilities and venues.
With so many coastal locations to consider, here are five spectacular islands from which to choose for your next conference or meeting destination.
When people think of Texas, islands are usually not the first things that come to mind. Yet less than an hour from Houston, travelers will find one of the country’s most charming island towns — Galveston — characterized by temperate weather, rich architectural history and 32 miles of pristine beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.
The Galveston Island Convention Center sits along the island’s iconic seawall, which was constructed following a devastating hurricane in 1900. Overlooking the crystal-clear waters of the Gulf, this 140,000-square-foot meeting space is a premier destination for events and conferences.
Planners can consider the Moody Gardens Convention Center for accommodations as well, which is conveniently located under the same roof of the Moody Gardens Hotel, making it a one-stop shop for meeting groups.
One of the island’s most recent additions is the Bryan Museum, which holds the world’s largest collection of Southwest arts and artifacts. The museum’s conservatory provides a stunning outdoor venue for receptions and other gatherings, paneled with walls of emerald-colored glass that look out into surrounding gardens.
Galveston is also home to Sea Star Base, formerly known as Sea Scout Base. Traditionally used by scout troops, Star Base offers educational marine programs for all ages, including sailing excursions.
“They took us on a schooner, and we actually participated in raising the sails and steering the boat,” said Mary Beth Bassett, public relations coordinator at the Galveston Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Festivals and events take place nearly every weekend, among them the Galveston Island Food and Wine Festival, the Wild Texas Shrimp Festival and the third-largest Mardi Gras celebration in the nation. Every six weeks, the city hosts an art walk through historic downtown, where visitors can enjoy hors d’oeuvres at local art galleries and mingle in the streets with drinks.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
As one of Georgia’s lush barrier islands, Jekyll Island enhances the meeting experience with miles of live oaks trees, marshland and intimate beaches. Its convention center is the only oceanfront conference building south of New Jersey on the East Coast and can hold up to 2,000 people.
“The Jekyll Island Convention Center sits right on the beach, so you can actually take breaks along the shore,” said Tomee Sellars, sales and service manager at the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
One of the most distinctive areas of the island is the Jekyll Island Club Historic District, a 240-acre site with 34 historic buildings where visitors can shop, dine and stroll across the grounds. The castlelike structure at the center of the property was once home to the famous Jekyll Island Club, which claimed members like J.P Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer and William Vanderbilt. Today, it functions as a hotel.
For an afternoon excursion, meeting attendees can explore the winding network of paths across the island, particularly down to Driftwood Beach, where many live oaks wash up on shore to create a graveyard of bonelike branches. They can also pay a visit to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, where sea turtles are rescued, rehabilitated and later returned to the wild.
Less than five minutes from the convention center, groups will find all kinds of delicious food at the Jekyll Market, including some great souvenirs like peach salsa and praline honey butter. For dinner, make sure to add the island’s special variety of shrimp to the menu.
“We are known for our Georgia white shrimp,” said Sellars. “They have a sweeter flavor because they’re bred in the marshes, which are cleaned out by tides twice a day.”