Laura S. Walker State Park Plus a Bonus

Wander among the pines at Laura S. Walker, the first state park named for a woman, an oasis that shares many features with the unique Okefenokee Swamp where you can enjoy the serene lake, play rounds on a championship golf course, and stroll along the trails and natural communities in this southeast Georgia haven

Waycross is located in the heart of beautiful Southeast Georgia at the northern tip of the Okefenokee Swamp Wildlife Refuge. Waycross is a nationally-recognized Main Street City filled with Southern hospitality and charm. From the historic downtown district to the swamp lands of the Okefenokee, there is something for everyone.

The city sits on the northern edge of the Okefenokee Swamp, the land of the trembling earth, one of Georgia’s natural wonders. Waycross is home to one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet. The swamp is teeming with wildlife and flora you won’t find anywhere else. Carnivorous pitcher plants, alligators, and a seemingly endless variety of birds make Waycross the perfect place for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But there is so much more to this historic town. Down-home cooking at local restaurants, comfortable accommodations, a thriving downtown business district, and a music scene that continues to draw on the city’s rich musical past make Waycross a great place to visit for everyone in the family.

But Laura S. Walker State Park was the initial reason for driving our RV 55 miles northeast of Kingsland on I-95 to Waycross.

Laura S. Walker seemed quite small when we first arrived compared to the other parks I’ve been to recently but that’s just because I didn’t realize how spread out it was.

The initial entrance gives you two options, going straight into the RV parking and their group summer camp rental or left to the picnic areas, big group shelters, and amenities.

Something this state park offers that none of the others I’ve visited is a dog park. It was fairly large too with a couple benches and a splattering of trees.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two sand volleyball courts were also in the main section of the park as well as a large playground right on the edge of the lake and exercise equipment for a full body workout.

Heading over to where the boat ramp disappears in the water there is a gazebo with a fan.

I was very excited by this and after I explored everywhere went back to it so I could enjoy sitting under it for a while. It gave me the chance to enjoy the fresh air while both having a constant breeze, albeit warm, and not having the sun blasting down on me.

As I sat and ate a snack, I could hear the laughter of the families playing in the park’s small sand beach. It’s even roped off to keep people from swimming out too far and to keep the boats from coming in too close. A disclaimer though, there are no lifeguards at this swimming spot so please make sure you are safe if you choose to swim here.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If swimming doesn’t interest you, there are two main trails at Laura S. Walker State Park, the Lake Trail and the Big Creek Nature Trail with a couple small connecting trails.

Though I didn’t make it this far on the Lake Trail (because I primarily walked the other one and then ran out of time) there is a boardwalk that passes by an egret rookery with a wildlife observation platform. That is something I would like to come back and see and photograph.

Critters and plants that can be found on the trails at Laura S. Walker State Park are snakes, alligators, pitcher plants, gopher tortoise, otters, saw palmettos, and a variety of pine and oak.

The main thing I found unique about this state park is there is one primary entrance but if you know where to go there are other parking lots around the back of the lake with a separate boat ramp, entrance to the lake trail, and more group shelters for parties.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I discovered these hidden gems on the way to take a peek at The Lakes Golf Course at Laura S. Walker State Park.

This 18-hole course features three different lakes and accommodates both junior and adult players.

After noticing the parking lot to the golf course was quite full, I didn’t want to take a parking spot for too long since I wasn’t there to golf and it was off to Okefenokee Swamp Park.

Ownership of the swamp was transferred to the State of Georgia in 1955; however, Okefenokee Association, Inc. still leases the land for the Okefenokee Swamp Park as a private non-profit.

Though the swamp was placed under permanent protection as a National Wilderness area by Congress during President Gerald Ford’s era it is not a Georgia State Park.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What it is, however, is one of Georgia’s Seven Wonders.

Covering roughly 700 square miles, Okefenokee is the largest swamp in North America, spanning across four counties: Ware, Charlton, Brantley, and Clinch.

25 dollars gets an adult one 45-minute train ride through the drier parts of the swamp as well as a 25-minute nature instruction.

For an extra $10 there is the option to also have a 45-minute tour through the swamp via a jon boat.

Not to mention just the landscape itself is so unique to be in. Not many places a person can be in a swamp like that and have a wild alligator only a handful of feet away from you in the water.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Okefenokee also has an adventure camp as well with its own entrance on the other side, but I chose to go to the entrance that was only 10 miles from the park. I wanted to be able to get a taste of the swamp without having to spend all day there.

Maybe another year I’ll go back and explore the swamp further but I’m really glad I decided to spend a day at Laura. S. Walker State Park.

Worth Pondering…

There’s no other place in the world like the Okefenokee.

—Francis Harper

32 Best Christmas Gifts for RV Owners (2023)

The best holiday gifts for RV owners include outdoor gear, interior decor, travel entertainment, kitchen gadgets, and much more. Here’s an ultimate list of gifts in all price ranges.

Whether your RVer likes practical gifts, fun gifts, or unique gifts, there’s something for every RVer on this list.

This article will be your one-stop shop for every RVer you want to buy a gift for!

Here is my ultimate list of the best Christmas gift for RV owners broken into the following categories:

  • Outside the RV: Camping essentials
  • Inside the RV: Home, bath, and storage
  • RV lifestyle tech: Remote workers
  • RV safety essentials
  • Fiction books, movies, and games for RVers
  • RV kitchen supplies

Each category has a range of options, big and small, cheap and luxurious! So be sure to skim the whole list to find the perfect gift for your RVer.

Outside the RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Outside the RV: Camping essentials

1. Outdoor portable propane fire pit

This is a great gift for those RVers who love to enjoy an outdoor fire but do not want to lug or hassle with firewood. It can be turned on and off quickly so you only have to hassle with a fire when you are ready to enjoy it.

2. Wireless backup camera for motorhome

A backup motorhome camera can be the perfect gift to ease the tension of having to back up such a large vehicle. Not only does it cut down on the driver’s stress level but it can be safer for everyone.

If this gift caught your attention, you should check out 7 Pro Tips for Backing up a Motorhome.

3. Tool set

This is one of the best gifts for RV owners who like practical gifts. This toolset can come in handy for many issues an RV owner might face from a loose screen door to a stuck trailer hitch.

This universal tool kit can easily be stored in an outdoor hatch (on the curbside), utility closet, or cabinet. If you’d like to see more tool gifts for RVers, go to What Every RVer Needs in Their Basic Tool Kit.

4. RV state sticker map

One thing that most RVers love to do is track and talk about where they have been. This sticker map lets them track everywhere they’ve been in the United States in a visually appealing way (Canadian maps are also available).

It is weather-resistant so can be mounted outside or inside the RV. It’s a nice, decorative reminder of travels and a great ice-breaker for those wanting to make friends while camping.

Christmas gifts for RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Magnetic hide-a-key case

A magnetic hide-a-key case is a perfect stocking stuffer. This little box can save your RVer from being stranded (it happens way more often than it should).

It’ll also save you from having to frantically express mail or drive their spare RV key to them! Having some kind of hide-a-key is a must-have for every RVer.

6. Folding step stool

A step stool is a super practical gift for an RV owner making it easier to get in and out of the RV and to access the ladder and awnings among lots of other uses. A folding step stool is great because it collapses to easily store in the RV when it’s not being used. Interior folding steps are also available.

7. Hammock

Hammocks would make a fun gift idea for an RV owner to bring some comfiness to their outdoor space when they stop to camp. They can just keep the hammock in the RV and when they get to that epic campsite can set up a cozy reading or napping nook in the trees.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Georgia State Parks passes & Friends membership

Gift a year of the great outdoors with Georgia State Parks passes or annual membership to the Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. The combo pass package grants access to more than 60 attractions across the state and memberships have several perks including complimentary nights at the campsites, discounted lodge rooms, and free picnic shelter rentals. Plan a getaway to a state park.

9. Give the gift of the outdoors

Join the Texas State Parks’ 100-year celebration with the 2023 Texas State Parks ornament. This special ornament is crafted on metal and features a laser-cutting technique used to create a distinct dot for every one of Texas’s 89 State Parks. Each ornament is $19.95 plus tax.

Gift cards can be used for park passes, entry and overnight fees, and in-store purchases. 

Inside the RV: Home, bath, and storage

Throw pillow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Cute and funny RV throw pillows

RVers love multifunctional items and throw pillows offer comfort while beautifying their RV. Plus, they can be easily exchanged when your RV wants to update their interior design.

11 Folding step stool

This practical gift would come in handy for any RVer. It folds flat for easy storage and can easily be stored under the sink or in a closet. It can even be tucked away under a couch or bed if they are elevated above the floor. If your RVer is vertically challenged this is a must-have.

12. Shower bag caddy

If your RVer regularly uses campground showers this is an excellent gift for them. It’ll make trudging to the shower that much easier and keep their items clean and organized.

You can also turn the bag into a gift basket by adding shower shoes and a travel hair dryer. But for those who mostly shower inside their RV…

13. Adhesive shower caddy

For RVers who mostly use their RV shower a caddy set helps make them feel at home.

Life is a beautiful ride in an RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Hanging closet organizer

Maximizing closet space is always a challenge for RVers. A hanging closet organizer is a game-changer.

15. Charcoal air purifier

If you’re spending an extended amount of time in an RV you might start to notice that it starts smelling a little less than fresh. Charcoal air purifiers naturally absorb odors without adding a fake scent. They can be stashed or hung around the RV to keep it smelling nice and it will be a much-appreciated gift for motorhome and trailer owners.

RV lifestyle tech: Remote work and RV office

Remote working (whether full-time or part-time) has seriously grown in popularity in recent years. More and more RVers are trading in their home office for a mobile office in their RV.

Throw pillow © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. HP 2700 All-in-one printer

The wireless HP 2700 series allows you to easily print documents when you are on the go. It is lightweight, compact, and prints high-quality, crisp documents, and photos. 

17. Cell or Wi-Fi booster

Getting away from it all is important but when your family members are on the road for weeks at a time, staying connected is important, too. A Wi-Fi or cell booster will extend and expand any available signal. That could mean taking a campground Wi-Fi signal and making it stronger or improving cellular coverage when they’re out and about.

RV safety essentials

I know the safety of your RVer is of utmost importance to you. That’s why the following safety essentials can make great gifts for RVers.

For one, they bring peace of mind to you. For two, they fill in the void of often overlooked items your RVer sorely needs, an oversight that can leave them in a dangerous situation.

Smoke alarm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

18. Natural gas and propane detector

Carbon monoxide poisoning is an all-too-real threat to RVers’ well-being. Most RVs come standard with CO detectors but some older models do not. Not to mention the ones that need replacement.

19. First alert EZ fire spray

In addition to their standard RV fire extinguisher every RVer should have this quick-and-easy extinguishing aerosol spray. It’s lightweight and as easy as pushing the top to use which is ideal for sudden BBQ or RV kitchen fires. Or even for campfires that jump the fire ring.

20. She’s Birdie personal safety alarm

Originally designed as a personal safety alarm for women, this loud siren is now popular among men, too. It’s a great gift for solo RVers and boondockers who often camp overnight in parking lots.

Many RVers attach it to their dog leashes or hiking backpacks in case they encounter a threat (whether person or animal) on their walks. But for bigger threats, your RVer will need the following…

21. Counter Assault bear spray

Encountering bears is a common occurrence while camping. And, unfortunately these encounters have led to more injuries and deaths than I care to mention.

This bear spray will give you peace of mind and truly help to protect your RVing loved one if they encounter a bear. We consider it a must-have for any RVer who camps in bear country (which covers a LOT of the U.S. and Canada).

Christmas gifts for RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

22. Emergency roadside kit

While you can’t always prevent roadside emergencies you can at least be prepared for them. That’s when a good emergency roadside kit comes in handy.

This post will also take you to 23 Must-Have Items for your RV Roadside Emergency Kit.

You can buy a premade kit, make your own, or buy individual items as stocking stuffers.

23. Emergency first aid kit

RVers are usually good at putting a first aid kit in their RV when they first buy it. However, we are often terrible about checking expiration dates and restocking used supplies.

That’s why an all-purpose first aid kit is great for any RVer. Even if they already have one in their RV, they can easily slide this one into their hiking backpack or bike pack.

Fiction books, movies, and games for RVers

Nature offers plenty of entertainment but RVers still need to entertain themselves on lazy afternoons, in the evenings, or on long road trips.

24. Thelma & Louise

Snuggling up to a movie after a great day on the trail is a perk of camping in an RV rather than a tent. There’s a movie for everyone on these lists that covers every genre including the classic Thelma & Louise.

25. Embroidery starter kit

If your RVer loves crafts or is looking for a new hobby an embroidery start kit is the way to go. It’s everything they need to get started in the world of embroidery.

But there are lots of crafty gifts and activities perfect for RVers!

Christmas gifts for RVers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV kitchen supplies

26. Portable ice maker

Ice is often a luxury while RVing and one that many RVers don’t like going without.

A compact and affordable ice maker is the perfect gift.

27. Instant pot

While it’s not just RVers that adore the Instant Pot, it’s especially useful in an RV kitchen where space is super tight. The smallest Instant Pot (6 quarts) will still take up some space but it packs such a punch with what it can do that it’s totally worth it.

Of course, you can make hearty stews, rice, and grains in it but did you know you can also bake banana bread, make hard-boiled eggs, and even cook dessert in the Instant Pot? This is the gift that will keep on giving delicious meals!

Bonus gift ideas

The following are more of the best gifts for RV owners. From gift cards to national park passes here are more gift ideas to go.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

28. America the Beautiful Pass

One of the greatest things about RV travel is visiting the national parks. The annual America the Beautiful Pass costs $80 and gives your camping loved ones access to more than 2,000 parks and recreation sites across the country. The pass is good for 12 months and covers park admission for everyone in the entire vehicle. It’s a gift that’s appreciated all year long.

29. Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas

Benchmark Road and Recreation Atlas books are available for many states and the information includes backcountry roads, trailheads, campgrounds, points of interest, hunting units, RV parks, golf, and boating locations .

30. Dyrt Pro membership

RVers are always looking for great new places to explore and beautiful campgrounds and RV parks. One of my favorite parts of RV living is all of the beautiful places we get to see while we are camping. A great membership to simplify the process of planning a camping trip and saving money is the Dyrt Pro membership.

31. Harvest Hosts membership

Want to give experiences instead of things to your RVer? A Harvest Hosts membership is the perfect option. It is a unique membership service that lets RVers camp overnight FOR FREE at lovely outdoor venues such as wineries, breweries, museums, farms, orchards, and creameries. There are more than 2,000 such places across North America to choose from.

There is also an upgraded membership where you can also camp overnight at golf courses.

White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

32. Costco

There are many benefits to having a Costco membership especially during the holiday shopping season. Sure, the advent calendars are fun and the variety of small items for stocking stuffers is superb but there’s something else that is a far better bang for your buck.

Buying gift cards from the retailer may save you hundreds.

Whether you’re looking for gift cards for restaurants, movie theaters, stores, or theme parks, Costco has it all. Here the best deals on gift cards are right now:

  • $500 Southwest Airlines gift card for $449.99
  • $100 worth of Fogo de Chao gift cards for $79.99
  • $100 worth of Domino’s gift cards for $79.99
  • $100 worth of Peet’s Coffee gift cards for $79.99
  • $100 worth of California Pizza Kitchen gift cards for $79.99
  • $100 worth of Spafinder gift cards for $79.99
  • $100 worth of Chuck E. Cheese gift cards for $74.99
  • $100 Xbox digital download gift card for $89.99
  • $60 worth of Krispy Kreme gift cards for $44.99
  • $60 worth of Pinkberry gift cards for $47.99
  • $50 Cinemark Theatres gift card for $39.99

Make sure to periodically check the Costco website, especially during different holidays as the selection of gift cards may vary by season and could be temporarily out of stock at certain times.

Worth Pondering…

Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.

—Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide

11 Best Things to do this Summer in Georgia

Road trips to water parks, quirky landmarks, drive-in movies and many more of the hottest ways to explore Georgia this summer

Summertime in the Peach State is unlike anywhere else. Sure, it can be hot but there are plenty of ways to cool down. No matter what part of Georgia you’ll be visiting, you’re sure to have a great time. I have a few suggestions to add to your list.

1. Cool off in the water

What better way to beat the summer heat than by wading into the ocean, jumping in a lake, playing at one of Georgia’s water parks, or taking a dip in an RV park’s swimming pool?

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Georgia Coast

Kayak around a historic lighthouse at Tybee Island, photograph Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, explore historic Sapelo Island, and much more on the Georgia Coast.

Margaritaville at Lanier Islands

The water park at Margaritaville at Lanier Islands opens every May as another way to enjoy the lake with mat racing slides, a zipline, and water activities for little ones.

Georgia’s Lake Country

Head to Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair for watersports, fishing, golf, and cool morning breezes. You’ll love all of the water activities as well as great dining, shopping, and nearby sightseeing in Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, and Milledgeville.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Six Flags White Water

Six Flags White Water in Marietta is a longtime favorite with nearly 70 acres of slides, tube rides, and a wave pool.

SoakYa Water Park at Lake Winnepesaukah

At Lake Winnepesaukah Amusement Park and SoakYa Water Park in Rossville, swimmers can relax at the beach lagoon, race on the slides, and splash in the interactive kids’ area.

Spivey Splash at Clayton County International Park

Cruise along the state’s largest lazy river at Spivey Splash waterpark at the Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro. Kids will love cooling off on the splash pad, flow rider, water slides and pool, and testing their skills on the ropes course.

Splash in the Boro

At Splash in the Boro Family Water Park in Statesboro, swimmers can float on the lazy river, brave the water slides, and bob in the wave pool.

Summer Waves Water Park

On Jekyll Island, swimmers can take a break from the beach at Summer Waves Water Park to brave the Pirates Passage flume, drift down Turtle Creek, and wade into the kiddie pool.

Camping at Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Camping

Georgia is an ideal playground for those who like a variety of camping adventures. Georgia’s state park system allows you to enjoy a variety of camping experiences across the state and many other campgrounds and attractions offer inviting settings for sleeping under the stars.

Park your RV or set up your tent at campsites in the North Georgia mountains to explore miles of hiking and biking trails, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and undisturbed forests. Or go camping on the Georgia coast near beaches, boating, fishing, and more water activities. Throughout the state, rolling hills, lakes, and rivers offer the perfect conditions for camping trips filled with fun.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park

The Okefenokee Swamp is the backdrop for a unique camping experience among the swampy lowlands and wildlife of southern Georgia at Stephen C. Foster State Park near Fargo. A certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association, this park has minimal light pollution so guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the Southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vogel State Park

Camp along Wolf Creek and enjoy the babble of tumbling waters lulling you to sleep at night after exploring North Georgia’s beloved mountain playground at Vogel State Park near Blairsville. With 34 cottages; 90 tents, trailer, and RV campsites; and primitive backpacking sites, visitors have a range of overnight accommodations. Swim, boat, and fish in Lake Trahlyta and explore hiking trails to waterfalls, playing miniature golf, and stepping back into history at the Civilian Conservation Corps museum.

Soar through the trees © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Soar through the trees

Feeling adventurous? Georgia has a number of thrilling ziplines for all experience levels.

Banning Mills Screaming Eagle canopy tours has the largest, continuous zip line canopy tour in the world.

In Columbus, you can zip from Georgia to Alabama with Blue Heron Zipline Adventure Park.

Zipline Canopy Tours of Blue Ridge soar above North Georgia with two towers and three sky bridges.

Farmers market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Hit up the farmers markets

Take advantage of the state’s agricultural bounty by visiting one of the many Georgia Grown farmers markets, like Dublin’s Market on Madison, the Atlanta State Farmers Market, Oconee Farmers Market, and the Cordele State Farmers Market, the major watermelon distribution hub for the Southeast. They’re easy to find in nearly every region. You’ll find fresh produce, meats, seafood, prepared foods, and crafts. It’s a great way to pick up ingredients to cook for friends and family. The Georgia Department of Agriculture is a good place to start looking.

5. Plan a road trip to see quirky landmarks

Georgia has some truly unique attractions that are worth a road trip in their own right. There are quirky artist havens like Pasaquan in Buena Vista and Summerville’s Paradise Garden created by Howard Finster, one of America’s most widely known and prolific self-taught artists.

The Ashburn Peanut is a beloved landmark for those driving south along I-75 while the Plains Peanut has the same smile as President Jimmy Carter. While in Plains, be sure to tour the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park to learn more about America’s 39th president.

The Doll’s Head Trail is a funky Atlanta hike and the faces carved into trees on St. Simons Island make for a mystical treasure hunt.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Catch a drive-in movie

Although there aren’t many drive-in theaters left, summertime is great for catching an outdoor film in Georgia. Gather your friends, chairs, and snacks for a new or second-run movie. Swan Drive In in Blue Ridge, Starlight in Atlanta, Jesup Drive In in Jesup, Tiger Drive In in Tiger, and Wilderness Outdoor Movie Theater in Trenton are ones you can check out around the state. Wilderness has the world’s largest screen!

7. Eat a peach

Nothing says Georgia more than peaches. Summer is the best time to get them from roadside stands and in restaurants. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the state fruit whether in fried pies, milkshakes, peach wine, jams, or straight from the tree.

Laura S, Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Make a run for it

An Atlanta (and Georgia) tradition is the world’s largest 10K race: the AJC Peachtree Road Race. It winds from Buckhead to Midtown every July 4. Runners also can participate virtually by running 6.2 miles wherever they choose. Even if you’re not up for the race itself, make a sign to cheer on the competitors.

9. Go on a farm stay

Get up close with the animals at one of Georgia’s farm stays and guest ranches. In Bluffton, White Oak Pastures is a working cattle farm with guest cabins.

In Madison, Crafdal Farm Alpacas lets you stay in rustic cabins on the same property as alpacas, and Southern Cross Guest Ranch is a dude ranch with horseback riding.

Bavarian village of Helen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Tour a historic home

Choose a part of the state and there’s a historic home you can learn about.

In Atlanta, it might be the Swan House at the Atlanta History Center which film fans will recognize as President Snow’s mansion in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. In Macon, tour the 18,000-square-foot Hay House known as the Palace of the South.

Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange, the Callaway family home, and the Little White House in Warm Springs where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt retreated also can’t be missed.

11. Chow down on ice cream

Cool off with a cool treat! Georgia has some fantastic ice cream establishments.

You’ve likely heard of Leopold’s in Savannah which usually has a line down the street. The parlor has been scooping ice cream since 1919 including its famous Tutti Frutti flavor (rum ice cream with candied fruit and freshly roasted Georgia pecans).

Lane Southern Orchards makes peach ice cream as does Jaemor Farms where you’ll want to add a fresh fried pie to your order.

In Atlanta, Jake’s Ice Cream is a must-stop if you’re walking the Atlanta Beltline and in the Grant Park neighborhood be sure to stop into one of Historic Oakland Cemetery’s newest neighbors, oh-so-sweet Cereal and Cream.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If a Georgia getaway is on your mind this summer you’ll want to check out these posts:

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

10 Amazing Places to RV in April 2023

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in April

April, dressed in all his trim, hath put a spirit of youth in everything.

—William Shakespeare

From time immemorial, spring’s awakening has signaled to humanity the promise of new beginnings. In William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98, a love poem published in 1609, the prolific poet and playwright personifies the glorious month of April as the herald of youth, vitality, and hope. For the Bard, the coming of spring—the twittering birds, ambrosial flowers, and long-awaited sunny skies—brought with it all the delights of a fresh start.

We have made it to the fourth month of the year, the one we kick off by fooling acquaintances for sport. A warning to my readers: Watch out for tricksters in the RV travel realm.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in February and March. Also, check out my recommendations from April 2022 and May 2022.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Earth’s greatest geological showcase

Go into the great wide open. I’m talking about the Grand Canyon. The weather’s warmer, but not too hot, and the bugs—and masses of tourists—have yet to make an appearance. I call that the perfect Grand Canyon weather. Take a trip this spring to one of the seven natural wonders of the world to finally see the famous gaping red rock chasm in person. At 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and one mile deep, it’s bigger than the state of Rhode Island and quite a bit more dramatic.

Grand Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

‘But hey,’ you say, ‘that thing’s pretty big. I wouldn’t know where to begin.’ Fear not, I’ve got a comprehensive guide from how to get around, how to snag the Grand Canyon National Park Pass, where to camp, and much more. Even the best cities to use as base camp. Choose Sedona two hours away and soak in the energy of the vortexes while making it a red rock-themed vacation. But if you’re more inclined to park your RV and ride the rails, I’ve got you covered there too.

All this, plus gorgeous spring weather?

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Visit an often overlooked National Park

From one of the country’s most-visited national parks the Grand Canyon to one often overlooked. You might not even know it’s there: Theodore Roosevelt National Park appears as if out of nowhere where the plains meet the badlands, often inaccessible in the winter due to weather and unpredictable in the summer thanks to rainstorms. So, spring or early fall is your best bet. Broken into three parts: North, South, and Elkhorn Ranch come for the cabin where Roosevelt once lived and stay for the roaming bison and/, the Petrified Forest Loop.

Medora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And make sure you stop by Medora, the small Western town right outside the park which houses the visitor center. Every summer it produces a full-on open-air Broadway-style musical telling the history of Medora and the life of Theodore Roosevelt. But unlike Broadway, this one comes with deep fried things on sticks. This year the play runs from June 8 to September 10; tickets go on sale April 26.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Pick a perfect love at a tulip festival

Did you know tulips mean perfect love? The symbolism is derived from a Persian tale of deep romance. The name tulip is also derived from the Persian word for turban—because they kind of look like turbans. And all around the country there are festivals in their turban-esque honor.

In Washington, the Dutch have been planting tulips for over a century and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival lasts all April with art shows, photo contests, brewery specials, petting zoos, cook-offs, and much more. Nearby in Woodburn, Oregon, the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm runs through May 1 and includes tractor rides, wooden shoemaking demonstrations, hot air balloon rides, and farm wine tours.

Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Throughout the last 92 years, millions of people have gathered to enjoy Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan (Don’t fly to Holland, drive your RV to Holland!). The festival is an eight-day experience like none other with over six million tulips blooming throughout the city and area attractions. Tulip Time has been heralded as the nation’s Best Flower Festival, America’s Best Small Town Festival, and even the 2017 – 2018 Tulip Festival of the Year!

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Red rock radiance in Sedona

Red Rock State Park, a Sedona-adjacent conservation park gives visitors a deeper look into the cultural and natural history of this popular area. Before you set out to explore the Oak Creek riparian zone or chase panoramic views from the trails stop by Red Rock’s Miller Visitor Center to gain a comprehensive understanding of the early human inhabitants of the area and the diverse birds and wildlife that call this park home. Hands-on exhibits are based on the theme of localized plant communities and help visitors understand the area before experiencing it.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You’ll find breathtaking trail experiences here that lead to popular iconic views of Sedona’s famous rust-covered peaks. The family-friendly trail network that meanders through Red Rock State Park will inspire thought and discussion about the world around you. This is a great park for anyone looking to gain first-hand cultural and natural knowledge through beautiful outdoor experiences.

Frog mural in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Frogs love rain, but why does Rayne love frogs?

Out on the prairie in the heart of Acadiana sits the tiny old railroad town of Rayne. The little Cajun town has a population of about 8,000 as well as a big obsession with frogs.

Rayne loves frogs. Murals depicting the little amphibians are scattered throughout town from the interstate to the south side. Frogs grace the city’s official stationary and hang stylistically from the street lamps. Several businesses bear Frog City in their official names and little green figurines adorn coffee tables and bookshelves throughout the town. There is even an annually celebrated Frog Festival (51st annual; May 11-13, 2023).

Frog mural in Rayne © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why does this love affair with the slimy, swamp-dwelling denizens exist?

This Louisiana town was once famous worldwide for supplying frogs to gourmet restaurants across the United States and even to the European continent. That bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana in scientific terms and ouaouaron in Cajun terms) inhabit the area around Rayne is no surprise since the amphibians thrive in bayous, rice fields, swamps, and ponds. What is surprising is that the Louisiana town was once famous worldwide for supplying frogs to gourmet restaurants across the United States and even to the European continent.

It seems natural that this bullfrog trade was initiated by Frenchmen and carried on by Acadians, two groups noted for their fondness for the tasty frog legs.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Born of Fire

Some 23 million years ago multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form what would become Pinnacles National Park. What remains is a unique landscape. Travelers journey through chaparral, oak woodlands, and canyon bottoms.

Rock climbers and the endangered California condor seem to love the spires of Pinnacles National Park, located about two hours south of San Francisco. The cliffs were shaped by multiple volcanic eruptions about 23 million years ago plus wind and water erosion over the millennia. But as old as all that is, Pinnacles is the newest national park in California joining the list in 2013.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A beautiful drive along Highway 101 or California State Route 25 gets you there past Big Sur, the coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the wine region in Monterey County. Once there, canyon bottoms full of piney chaparral and oak woodlands provide over 30 miles of trails. The most popular hike is the High Peaks Loop. For other wildlife fanatics, the easy Balconies Cave loop to the Talus Caves includes sightings of 13 types of bats (including the endangered Townsend’s big-eared bat) and opens up to an incredible vista of pinnacles.

Skagit Valley Tulip Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. A fairytale destination

If walking through fields of blooming tulips isn’t on your bucket list, it certainly should be. Every April, the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival turns the landscape of northwestern Washington into a rainbow. Whether or not you’re a flower fanatic, the region’s brilliant blooms and staggering peaks will make you feel like you’ve found the proverbial pot of gold. The festival hosts numerous fun events all month long from bike tours to barbecues to chili cook-offs. Popular farms to tour include RoozenGaarde and Tulip Town but be prepared for large crowds on the weekend.

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. #VISITCHATT

Nashville may have country music and Memphis is home to Elvis but Chattanooga exudes a natural beauty that makes it a Tennessee gem. Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains on the Tennessee River, Chattanooga effortlessly blends outdoor activities, art, history, and a vibrant restaurant scene guaranteed to indulge your inner foodie.

Ride the Incline Railway up Lookout Mountain to explore Civil War sites, grab a bikeshare to pedal along the 16.1 mile Riverwalk or check out the huge contemporary sculptures in Montague Park. At sunset, stroll the Walnut St. pedestrian bridge (one of the longest in the world) and take in the hip North Shore before settling down at one of Chattanooga’s many microbreweries.

Bryce Canyon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. A great basecamp

If you have been considering a trip to see some of the National Parks of Utah but don’t know where to start, consider Kanab. Located at the southern border of the state, Kanab is just a 35-minute drive to Zion and an hour and 20 minutes to Bryce Canyon. But, the tiny town is a gateway to even more than Utah’s most famous national parks. The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Park is only 30-minutes east where you can explore Utah’s world-renown slot canyons like Buckskin Gulch or scramble up the balanced rock formations at The Toadstools.

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With a population of just under 5,000 people, there are a surprisingly large number of accommodations in Kanab including outstanding RV resorts. Consider visiting in the off season when the crowds are low and the experiences are unique compared to the warmer months.

Here’s a tip—Zion and Bryce are both open year round and neither is particularly treacherous in the winter. In fact, according to the U.S. National Parks Service, even after a winter storm, snow usually melts within a few hours at lower elevations in Zion.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Georgia State Parks

Whether you are a first-time camper or an experienced backpacker, Georgia’s state parks have a campsite for you. Forty-one parks offer more than 2,700 campsites including tent-only areas, RV pull-through sites, primitive camping, and group camping areas. Rates average around $30–$35 per night. Most state parks have laundry facilities and sell camping supplies. If you’ve never camped before, don’t let that stop you. Several parks offer glamping yurts (a cross between a tent and a cabin).

The developed sites offer electrical and water hookups, grills or fire rings, and picnic tables. Some are specially designed just for tents while others have curved pull-throughs for large RVs. Modern comfort stations with hot showers, flush toilets, and electrical outlets are conveniently located. All campgrounds have dump stations and several offer cable TV hookups.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My favorite Georgia State Parks include:

  • Vogel (Blairsville): 34 cottages, 90 tent, trailer, and RV campsites, 18 walk-in campsites, and 1 pioneer campground. Plus, there is a general store on-site and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Museum is open seasonally. There are miniature golf and kayak, paddleboard, pedalboat, and aquacycle rentals available depending on the season. Read more from RVing with Rex on Vogel State Park.
  • Laura S. Walker (Waycross): 6 cottages, 44 tent, trailer, and RV campsites (site-specific), 4 group shelters (sleeps 75-165), 1 group camp (sleeps 142), and 1 pioneer campground. Read more from RVing with Rex on Laura S. Walker State Park.
  • Stephen C. Foster (Fargo): 9 cottages, 63 tent, trailer, and RV sites (some seasonal), and 1 pioneer campground. Read more from RVing with Rex on Stephen C. Foster State Park.

Worth Pondering…

Spring is the time of the year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.

—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations 

The Best Things to do this Spring in Georgia

Spring in Georgia is the perfect time to bask in perfect weather at festivals celebrating music, art, food, and local traditions

Spring in Georgia brings blooming flowers, warmer days, and activities of all kinds. Spring is an undeniably beautiful time of year to visit Georgia. From March to May the average low of 65 degrees F and an average high of 80 degrees F is perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, camping, and strolling through the state’s many parks and botanical gardens. Spring break trips offer perfect opportunities to explore new places and attend events throughout the state.

From outdoor adventures that take advantage of the great weather to favorite events that only happen once a year, here are nine of the best things to do around the state this season.

Beach on Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Go to the beach

Georgia’s beaches are among its best resources. Plan a getaway to explore some of Georgia’s 15 barrier islands, including…

Golden Isles

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah and Jacksonville lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four barrier islands―St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island. 

The port city of Brunswick is laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah’s with city streets and squares still bearing their colonial names. Explore the historic area which is enjoying a renaissance and features shops, restaurants, and beautiful homes reflecting a variety of styles dating from 1819.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive to St. Simons Island. Check out Fort Frederica National Monument, the archaeological remnants of the island’s first European settlement or make your way to Neptune Park, an oceanfront park next to the St. Simons Island Lighthouse that offers a playground, picnic area, casino, and pool. Cannon’s Point Preserve features 660 acres of greenery and Late Archaic shell rings dating back to 2500 BCE.

Since 1928, Sea Island has been known as an exceptional destination featuring five miles of private beach, a Beach Club, tennis center, Yacht Club, and Shooting School as well as three championship golf courses including the home of the PGA TOUR’s RSM Classic.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With 10 miles of sandy beaches, four golf courses, a 250-acre Historic Landmark District and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, Jekyll Island has been a family-favorite state park destination for 75 years. 

In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive winter retreat known as the Jekyll Island Club. It soon became recognized as “the richest, most inaccessible club in the world.” Club members included such notable figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall Field. Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic structures. The Jekyll Island Club National Historic Landmark is one of the largest restoration projects in the southeastern United States.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip with these guides to the Golden Isles and Jekyll Island:

Tybee Island

Tybee Island is a family-friendly beach town 20 minutes from downtown Savannah. Rent a cute cottage, go on a dolphin tour, dig into fresh seafood, and much more. Those traveling with RVs and tents can stay at River’s End Campground and RV Park which is a few blocks from North Beach. There are more than 100 sites with full hookups, cozy cabins, and primitive sites. Campground guests will enjoy convenient amenities and comforts of home like a 24-hour laundry room, a fully equipped fitness center, the island’s largest swimming pool, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island

Cumberland Island National Seashore is the largest and southernmost barrier island in Georgia offering visitors more than 17 miles of secluded white, sandy beaches. Wild horses and other island wildlife roam freely throughout the ruins and along the beach. Glimpses of the Carnegie lifestyle can be easily imagined throughout the ruins of Dungeness, Plum Orchard, and Greyfield Inn.

Cumberland Island is accessible by ferry only. Reservations for the 45-minute ferry ride are recommended. Board the ferry to Cumberland Island in St. Marys, a historic small town located on the Georgia coast approximately midway between Jacksonville and Brunswick.

Dungeness Ruins, Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan your trip with these guides to Cumberland Island:

2. Attend a spring arts or sports event

Just as daffodils, dogwoods, and azaleas flourish in the spring in Georgia so do outdoor arts and sports events. Pick any city and you’ll likely find a spring event to enjoy.

Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

International Cherry Blossom Festival

Each March, Macon becomes a pink, cotton-spun paradise as over 350,000 Yoshino cherry trees bloom in all their glory.The International Cherry Blossom Festival is a perennial favorite held March 17-26, 2023 that features art exhibitions, rides, and performances. 

The Creek Indians were the first inhabitants of the area that would later become known as Macon, settled by Europeans in 1809. Celebrate the Native American tribes that called the Macon area home at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park, a site dating back 17,000 years. The site has North America’s only reconstructed Earth Lodge with its original 1,000-year-old floor as well as the Great Temple Mound.

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the 1960s, Macon was ground zero for the music industry thanks to Capricorn Records and artists like the Allman Brothers Band and Otis Redding. Learn about the band that called Macon home at The Allman Brothers Band Museum at The Big House, the Tudor-style home that Berry, Duane, and Gregg lived in with their family and friends. It has a large collection of guitars and band memorabilia.

The Blessing of the Fleet

Each spring, Darien holds The Blessing of the Fleet Festival for the captains of local shrimp boats. The largest event of its kind on the East Coast, it’s also a great time to get some exercise with the 5K run, admire arts and crafts, watch fireworks, and salute seagoing ships during the maritime parade. The 55th Annual Blessing of the Fleet on the beautiful, historic Darien Waterfront is set for April 21-23, 2023.

Savannah Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah Music Festival

The annual 17-day springtime festival (March 23-April 8, 2023) is Georgia’s largest musical arts event featuring up to 100 productions. Established in 1989, Savannah Music Festival features artists from all genres including classical, jazz, folk, country, and rock. 

Savannah’s Historic District is sprinkled with 22 historic squares, stunning period architecture, and beautiful cobblestone streets, each with unique elements and stories. Take a walk down America’s Most Beautiful Street, Jones Street, take photos in front of the iconic Forsyth Fountain, and stop at places like Chippewa Square, best known as the site of the bench scene from the movie Forrest Gump.

Plan your trip with this Guide to Savannah.

Hank Aaron, a Braves legend

Atlanta Braves

Take in an Atlanta Braves game at Truist Park. The Braves open at home on April 6, 2023 against the San Diego Padres. The Braves’ first homestand of the season will continue with three more games against the Padres and a three-game set against the Cincinniti Reds. 

The Braves baseball team was moved to Atlanta in 1966 from stints in Boston and Milwaukee. It’s the longest continuously operating franchise in Major League Baseball. In their years as an organization, the team has won four World Series (most recently in 2021). Legends like Hank Aaron helped make the team what it is today.

In March 2017, the Atlanta Braves officially moved to their new home at Truist Park (formerly SunTrust Park). It’s surrounded by The Battery, an entertainment complex with restaurants, stores, concert venues, and a hotel.

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Masters

Tickets to the legendary golf tournament in Augusta are hard to come by but even if you don’t have tickets there is plenty to do off-course during Masters Week April 3-9, 2023. 

Established along the Savannah River in 1736, Augusta was once home to cotton production which helped it become the state’s second largest city. These days, much of the city’s industry surrounds the medical fields and technology thanks in part to nearby Augusta University. The city is home to Augusta National and the Masters Golf Tournament as well as the birthplace of legends like James Brown. A thriving arts community, plentiful outdoor exploration, and locally owned restaurants only add to its appeal for travelers.

Spring blossoms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Delight in spring blooms

Spring color pops out early in Georgia especially sunny yellow daffodils and cheery pink cherry trees and tulip magnolias. Trace the season’s progression through the rainbow of colorful flowers, trees, and bushes that burst onto the scenery from their winter slumber. From the North Georgia Mountains to the coast you can explore a gorgeous array of gardens expertly created to showcase the season’s best.

See the largest daffodil display in the nation at Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground in early March. More than 200 varieties of early, mid, and late bloomers cover 50 acres of hillsides and valleys.

Experience the beauty of 20,000 azaleas in bloom at Callaway Resort & Gardens in Pine Mountain during Spring FlowerFest March 25-May 7, 2023.

Spring blossoms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Celebrate Mother’s Day weekend at the 16th annual Picnic in the Garden in the Pecan Groove at Hills and Dales Estate in LaGrange on May 13, 2023 featuring a picnic spread contest, live music, pony rides, and yard games. Explore the historic Ferrell Gardens which are one of the best-preserved 19th-century gardens in America.

The Savannah Botanical Garden includes nature trails, a picturesque pond, and an archaeological exhibit among the formal and natural displays. Enjoy the Southern charm of the historic Reinhard House, the sweet sounds of songbirds, and wander along a path that explores camellias, ferns, and a children’s garden. Admission is free.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Take a culinary tour of the state

You can’t say we don’t eat well in Georgia! Go in search of fresh flavors this spring on a culinary trip across the state.

Food Festivals

Georgia’s spring food festivals offer a huge menu of options. A few choices include:

  • Georgia Strawberry Festival, Reynolds, April 22, 2023
  • Vidalia Onion Festival, Vidalia, April 20-23, 2023
  • Hiawassee Highlands Wine Festival, Hiawassee, May 13, 2023
  • Taste of Alpharetta, Alpharetta, May 11, 2023

Pick-your-own Farms

Grab a bucket and head to one of Georgia’s many pick-your-own farms for a true Southern springtime tradition. The whole family will have fun picking their favorite springtime treats fresh from farms throughout the state.

Springtime in Georgia means warmer temperatures, blooming flowers, and…strawberry season. The official strawberry season can stretch from late April to July 4th in Georgia with the best picking from May to mid June.

Adairsville Historic District © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Food Tours

Eat your heart out in Georgia where restaurant and dining options range from casual to fine dining and you’ll find all types of cuisines—especially Southern. Dig in to the South’s best barbecue smoked to perfection and matched with mouthwatering sides like baked beans and macaroni and cheese. Peel and eat sweet, wild Georgia shrimp served with a basket of warm hush puppies while a sea breeze carries away the cares of the day.

Check out one of the many food tours like Atlanta Food Walks, Taste of Thomasville Food Tours, or Savannah Taste Experience.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Taste of Thomasville is a three-hour progressive lunch though downtown Thomasville that starts in the courtyard of The Gift Shop. Participants and the tour guide walk to award-winning food establishments in the downtown area. Between the food establishments, the participants learn the history, culture and stories that make Thomasville a unique town. 

Take a three-hour walking and tasting tour through the gardens and historic, cultural landmarks of the squares of Savannah, the Hostess City of the South. Savannah Taste Experience food tours will open your palate through bites and tastings at distinctive restaurants, extraordinary specialty food stores, and other notable eateries while providing a local’s perspective on culture, history, and architecture of Savannah. 

Getting out on the water at Stephen S. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Get out on the water

Enjoy the great outdoors around Georgia, especially the lakes, rivers, and ocean.

Lake Life

Georgia’s Lake Country boasts two expansive lakes with more than 15,000 acres of water (Oconee and Sinclair) and more than 10 golf courses nestled in the neighboring communities of Eatonton, Greensboro, Madison, and Milledgeville.

Closer to Atlanta, Lake Lanier welcomes boaters and fishermen. Lakes Burton, Rabun, Hartwell, and Blackshear are also worth exploring.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring the Okefenokee Swamp

Take a walk on the wild side at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. This pristine 680-square-mile wilderness is an ecological wonder. The main entrance to the National Wildlife Refuge is located near Folkston.

Hike the Chesser Island Boardwalk to the Owl’s Roost Tower for an unparalleled view of the swamp prairies and the Okefenokee Wilderness. The Richard S. Bolt Visitor Center is a perfect place to begin your Okefenokee experience―talk to refuge staff and volunteers about recreational opportunities, recent wildlife sightings, and take a guided boat tour with knowledgeable naturalists or rent a canoe or kayak and set out on your own.

Take advantage of the discounts on multi-day, multi-entrance passes to Okefenokee Swamp Park in Waycross and Okefenokee Adventures in Folkston to experience boat tours, train rides, nature shows and the incredible scenery of the fascinating swamp environment.

Brasstown Bald with fall colors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Plan a road trip

What’s a better time to start planning a getaway by car or RV? Decide what you want to see whether it be coast or mountains, cities or small towns. Follow the 41-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway through the mountains, drive along US-17 to coastal communities from Richmond Hill to Darien or taste your way through the state on Georgia Grown Trail 37.

Surrounded by the beauty of Chattahoochee National Forest, the 40.6-mile Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Georgia Grown Trail 37 is Georgia’s first officially branded agritourism highway created to spotlight the agricultural bounty and beauty found in Southern Georgia. Featuring over two dozen agritourism hotspots and out-of-the-way shopping adventures, Georgia Grown Trail 37 takes you on a tasty adventure through small towns and family farms. You will find olive farms, vineyards and wineries, U-Pick berries and produce, unique farm products, and specialty shops. Take I-75, Exit 39, East or West.

Hunt for murals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Hunt for murals

Looking for colorful walls to photograph? You’re in luck. Atlanta has hundreds of murals in every corner of the city especially around Cabbagetown and Old Fourth Ward. Savannah also has its own usually commissioned by art galleries and non-profits to beautify their buildings. Macon also has upped its game in terms of public art, with murals, sculptures, and Little Free Libraries around town. Don’t miss the mural in Dublin which honors the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

8. Tour a brewery, cidery, or distillery

The Peach State has a thriving scene for craft beverages as new breweries and distilleries are opening every year in every corner of the state. No matter where you go, plan on having a designated driver.

A brewery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Breweries

They may be found in old warehouses where the grind of machinery has been replaced with liquid gold and the sound of good times or in new wide-open spaces.

Atlanta has the most craft breweries including big-name ones like Sweetwater and those with multiple locations like Monday Night. But there are many breweries in other cities and towns like Macon Beer Company, Creature Comforts in Athens, and Eagle Creek Brewing in Statesboro. Grab a bite with your pint at a brewpub, like Good Word Brewing and Public House in Duluth.

Located within walking distance of college dive bars, Creature Comforts Brewing Co. hangs out in a former car dealership and auto repair shop on the edge of downtown Athens. Try its Tropicalia and see why it’s considered one of the top IPAs in the country.

Macon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downtown Macon has been making a resurgence thanks in part to breweries like the Macon Beer Company. This spot playfully uses the city’s name in the name of its beers such as Macon Love, Macon Plays and, of course, Macon Money.

Taking its name from the coastal Georgia Island, Jekyll Brewing has paved the way for craft breweries in the northern suburb of Alpharetta. And on the topic of branding you may be amused by the names of their beers such as Hop Dang Diggity, Southern Juice, Cooter Brown, and ‘Merican Amber.

Cideries

The gluten-intolerant can rejoice as there are also cideries around the state. Urban Tree Cidery is located on Atlanta’s Westside with a taproom to sample their varieties. Treehorn in Marietta is another favorite as is Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge. If you’re looking for a low-alcohol option, Cultured South on Atlanta’s West End brews the popular Golda Kombucha.

A distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Distilleries

Distilleries also are open to visitors to offer a glimpse into how your favorite spirits are made. Atlanta has the ASW Distillery, Old Fourth Distillery, and Independent Distilling distilleries. Dalton Distillery and Dawsonville Distillery both specialize in legal white lightning. Richland Rum in Richland and Brunswick crafts the only single-estate rum in the United States made from Georgia-grown sugar cane.

Moonshine and other spirits © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Moonshine

Whether you go all in and tour a moonshine maker’s distillery or you attend a local festival named after the famous drink, Georgia is a great place to start your moonshine journey.

In the summer, classic cars and their owners head to the Georgia mountain town of Hiawassee for the annual Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruiz-In. The three-day event features live mountain music, a real moonshine still, arts and crafts vendors, automotive vendors, and hundreds of classic cars.

Visit Blairsville in September for the Moonshine Market Arts & Crafts Show featuring regional vendors, live music, food, beer and spirits, and distillery tours. 

A winery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wineries

Georgia is more than just craft beer and moonshine. The Peach State has its fair share of wineries especially clustered around the North Georgia Mountains. Muscadine and fruit wines are produced as well as well-known varietals.

Kaya’s Winery and Tasting Room in Dahlonega are built atop a ridge that is 1,600 feet above elevation and offers panoramic mountain views in North Georgia. Enjoy wine made from estate-grown grapes with a view from the covered deck.

On the Helen side of the North Georgia Mountains are a number of wineries but Yonah Mountain Vineyards & Winery is frequently listed as a favorite. The namesake mountain rises into view from the tasting room inspiring the logo that makes the rounded peak look like a bear’s back. Experience their tastings which showcase chardonnay, merlot, malbec, pinot noir, and sauvignon blancs. The wine cave tour is what makes Yonah Mountain completely unique, the only known one in the state.

Georgia Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Bike the trails

Gear up with your helmet and two wheels to explore the state. There are plenty of paved bike paths for beginner or expert riders.

The Silver Comet Trail rails-to-trails path connects Atlanta to the Alabama state line and is accessible from the cities of downtown Rockmart and Cedartown. Bikers, runners, hikers, skaters, and horseback riders use the trail for recreation and commuting. The Silver Comet Trail begins at the intersection of South Cobb Drive and the East-West Connector in Smyrna and runs all the way to the Alabama border. There, it meets the Chief Ladiga trail in Alabama. 

The Carrollton GreenBelt is the largest greenspace and greenway conservation project ever undertaken in the city of Carrollton’s almost 200-year history. The 18-mile long linear city park is the largest paved loop trail system in Georgia and provides residents and visitors a unique escape.

The Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus runs 15 miles alongside the water offering views of the whitewater rapids and a connection to the National Infantry Museum. By foot or on bike, you will skirt the cityscape, examine historic monuments and markers, and take in the wild beauty of the rolling river and native wildlife. Geocachers can take on the RiverWalk GeoTour, the first of its kind in the world with 31 challenging geocaches with collector game pieces including three coins.

Worth Pondering…

Come with me into the woods. Where spring is advancing as it does no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.

—Mary Oliver, Bazougey

It’s Fall Y’all in Georgia State Parks

Cooler temps, cozy blankets, sweet s’mores, campfires and more! Fall is one of the best times to enjoy camping with family and friends in Georgia State Parks.

Crimson reds, rustic oranges, and bright yellows mark the highly anticipated start of fall in Georgia’s State Parks. Nature lovers can opt outside to take in the kaleidoscopic scenery with family and friends from atop overlooks, underneath waterfalls, in kayaks, RVs, or tents. Whatever adventure you seek, there are activities that everyone can fall for at Georgia’s State Parks. Venture out to discover why these parks are a must-visit for autumn.

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the “Leaf Watch 2022” travel planner, visitors can find information on the perfect Georgia State Parks for viewing fall foliage at GaStateParks.org/LeafWatch. The site also includes hiking tips, autumn events, and updates from park rangers. Visitors are encouraged to tag their most Instagram-worthy photos with #GaLeafWatch and #GaStateParks for a chance to be featured on the Leaf Watch website.

Laura S. Walker State Park

Sleep under the stars: For those looking for the perfect spot to toast s’mores and truly enjoy crisp, cool fall air there is no better time to gather around the campfire than fall. Regardless of equipment whether it be a motorhome or a trailer or the preferred method of getting there—via foot, boat or car—Georgia State Parks have campsites for all tastes.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay in the heart of autumn beauty and the middle of the action at Black Rock Mountain, F. D. Roosevelt, or Tallulah Gorge state parks. A few unique camping spots include Chattahoochee Bend and High Falls where visitors can paddle into their site; lakefront locations at Tugaloo, Elijah Clark, and Seminole; or tent platforms at Victoria Bryant and Fort Mountain. Camp with a steed at equestrian campsites at Hard Labor Creek, A.H. Stephens, General Coffee, and Watson Mill Bridge state parks. 

More on Georgia State Parks: Best Georgia State Parks: Plan Now for a Spring or Summer Getaway

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaf peeping at top overlooks: Track vibrant fall color as it moves across the Peach State at some top parks for leaf peeping. Top overlooks to experience glorious fall foliage await in Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Amicalola Falls, Vogel, Unicoi, F.D. Roosevelt, and Tallulah Gorge state parks. Visit these hot spots to revel in the dazzling display of fall color in late October through November depending on weather and temperatures.

Those who enjoy venturing off the beaten path will particularly enjoy the lesser-known state parks for viewing fall color: Moccasin Creek, James H. Sloppy Floyd, Victoria Bryant, Chattahoochee Bend, and Watson Mill Bridge. 

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go chasing waterfalls: Waterfalls are Georgia’s State Parks’ calling card. Pick and choose from one of Georgia’s many awe-inspiring waterfalls perfectly positioned around the state. Watch from atop an overlook or a bridge below at the whitewater cascading down as the rocks reflect bright reds and oranges of fall.

At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Cloudland Canyon has two waterfalls that tumble over layers of sandstone and shale into pools below. Visitors also can discover these wonders of nature at Fort Mountain, Black Rock Mountain, High Falls, Tallulah Gorge, and Vogel state parks. Best of all, the cooler fall temperatures make the hike to reach these falls even more worth it.

Ocmulgee National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing in Georgia’s State Parks: Reel it in this fall. From trout to spotted bass, striped bass, and crappie, Georgia’s State Parks offer some of the best fly fishing, trout fishing, and bass fishing in the country. Pick from a wide variety of parks to get the adventure started.

More on Georgia State Parks: 4 Best Georgia State & National Parks

Are you new to fishing? The Georgia Department of Natural Resources Fishing Tackle Loaner Program provides a way for budding anglers to try fishing without having to purchase any equipment. Available at 24 Georgia State Parks the program provides rods, reels, and tackle box equipment. Interested visitors can inquire at the park office and check out the equipment for the day.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fall water adventures: At Hard Labor Creek, Stephen C. Foster, George L. Smith, and Indian Springs, water lovers who prefer leaf peeping from a kayak are in for a treat. Paddling tours of lakes let visitors enjoy autumn color from a different perspective, including copper-colored cypress trees reflecting off tannin-tinted ponds. Sign up for a ranger-led paddle or rent a canoe to explore solo. 

Fort Mountain, Vogel, and Unicoi rent equipment for paddling their small mountain lakes. These are good locations for beginners to practice paddling skills. Visitors at Fort McAllister can rent canoes to explore Redbird Creek with its sawgrass, fiddler crabs, and occasional dolphins. Paddlers who bring their boats to Crooked River can enjoy the abundant wildlife and the shortest route to Cumberland Island National Seashore (across the Intracoastal Waterway).

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster is the western entrance to the famed Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. It features more “open” water than the grassy plains of the eastern entrance. Rent canoes or kayaks to explore Minnie’s Lake, Billy’s Island, or “the narrows.” Alligators, deer, ibis, herons, and egrets are commonly seen within the swamp. Reed Bingham, George L. Smith, Magnolia Springs, Laura S. Walker, and Little Ocmulgee also have pretty lakes where Spanish moss, cypress trees, and lily pads reflect off the dark water.

Cumberland Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Horseback riding at F.D. Roosevelt State Park: Trot through the Georgia countryside on guided rides surrounded by brilliant fall foliage and breathtaking views of Georgia hardwoods, mossy rock gardens, and Pine Mountain valley.

Some Georgia State Parks welcome horseback riders offering miles of horseback riding trails, equestrian campsites, horse stalls, or riding rings. Guided rides are available at Don Carter and F.D. Roosevelt State Parks. Most horseback riding trails are loop rides with links to other trails allowing you to customize your adventure. A.H. Stephens, Cloudland Canyon, F.D. Roosevelt, Fort Mountain, General Coffee, Hard Labor Creek, Don Carter, and Watson Mill Bridge offer horseback riding trails.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore on two wheels: Bicycles are welcome at most state parks and some parks rent bikes. State law requires that riders 15 and younger must wear a helmet.

More on Georgia State Parks: Laura S. Walker State Park: A Place to Reconnect With Nature

Bikers will get their fill of fall thrills as they speed down invigorating hills and breeze past colorful overlooks at Fort Mountain and Cloudland Canyon state parks. Race past bright fall colors and scenic views in the forests of Panola Mountain and Red Top Mountain. These parks belong to Georgia’s Muddy Spokes Club, a series of mountain biking trails created to challenge experienced and casual cyclists alike to tackle 68 miles of trails in 11 state parks. 

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Find paved trails at Panola Mountain and Tallulah Gorge state parks. Hard-surfaced trails are located at Red Top Mountain, Skidaway Island, Smithgall Woods, and Magnolia Springs state parks and Hart State Park.

Mountain bikers may test their endurance at Cloudland Canyon, Hard Labor Creek, Fort Mountain, Tallulah Gorge, Unicoi, Richard B. Russell, Mistletoe, Fort Yargo, Watson Mill Bridge, and Victoria Bryant state parks.

More on Georgia State Parks: Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

It’s fall in Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bike rentals are available at A.H. Stephens, Black Rock Mountain, Cloudland Canyon, Crooked River, Florence Marina, Fort McAllister, General Coffee, Georgia Veterans, Laura S. Walker, Little Ocmulgee, Magnolia Springs, Panola Mountain, Reed Bingham, Richard B. Russell, Skidaway Island, and Vogel state parks. Contact the park for pricing.

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Exploring a State Park or National Park this Summer! How to Choose?

In state parks and national parks alike you’ll find things like caves and waterfalls, mountains and valleys, wide-open fields, and pristine lakes and seashores

There’s one thing you know for certain: you’re looking to get away, get outdoors, and go exploring. But where are you going? Chances are you want to visit a place where the natural world is front and center which means state parks and national parks are two of your best options. These special, protected environments are available for public use and offer plenty of opportunities for exploration, recreation, and adventure. Whatever outdoor activities you’re enthusiastic about it’s guaranteed that both national and state parks afford plenty of access to a variety of great places to pursue them.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in any case, you have no bad options! No matter which type of park you choose to visit, you’ll be able to explore endless trails, campsites, and outdoor adventure opportunities. So make your choice and get out there!

In the southeastern corner of Georgia lies the Okefenokee Swamp, a 438,000-acre wetland. The cypress-filled wilderness—with its labyrinth of black canals inhabited by some 12,000 gators—is a long drive from anywhere. The Native Americans aptly called the swamp the “land of trembling earth” because the unstable peat deposits covering much of the swamp floor tremble when stepped on.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish moss-laced trees sway in the breeze. A carpet of yellow bonnet lilies floats on top of the glossy dark waters of this refuge, home not only to alligators but also to turtles, black bears, herons, and many other creatures. At night, you hear the barred owls hooting deep within the forest.

More on state parks: 16 of the Best State Parks in America

One noise missing is the beep-beep of mobile devices. Cell phone service is spotty at best and honestly, you’ll be delighted by a break from the digital world. 

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors have three main entry points to choose from, each about two hours from the next. Stephen C. Foster State Park is the western entrance to the Okefenokee. It’s nestled within the much larger Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge but it offers much that the bigger reserve does not include campsites with electrical hookups, running water, and access until 10 p.m.—a plus for the stargazers attracted by its International Dark Sky designation in 2016. The park is 18 miles from the closest town of Fargo, Georgia.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park staff removed 13 streetlights and switched many bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LED). They worked with a local power company to install state-of-the-art lighting which casts downward rather than outward. The staff even retrofitted outdoor lighting on park cabins to be motion-activated.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These days, Okefenokee’s 120 acres of state park have more fans than ever. Since the pandemic started, they’ve seen an uptick in visitation even in the summer when numbers are normally low. That’s no anomaly. As travelers seek new options for enjoying the outdoors, state parks across the country have reported rising attendance.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Surprisingly, as of 2019, they were already welcoming about 2.5 times more visitors than their higher-profile, federally funded counterparts despite having only 16 percent of the acreage. While many state campgrounds do book up fast, a relatively local audience means that visitors at this southern George park tend to be more evenly distributed throughout the year which preserves the low-key, less crowded atmosphere. People can be out relaxing in nature without encountering the Instagram swarms angling for photo ops in the more famous parks.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crowd volume is also helped by the simple fact that there are more state-run options for travelers to choose from. America’s State Parks alliance tallied nearly 6,800 reserves while the National Park System manages just 423.

More on state parks: 12 of the Best State Parks for Summer Camping

As national parks introduce timed entry tickets and day-use reservations in an attempt to tackle overtourism these laid-back siblings feel all the more inviting. Of course, 50 states mean 50 different systems for camping permits, and from park to park amenities are even more variable. Some sites are tricked out with golf courses, zip lining, and RV hookups; others, such as Maine’s Baxter and California’s Sonoma Coast state parks don’t even have running water.

McKinney Falls State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As demand grows, so, too, do the choices. Texas’s first new state park in 25 years, Palo Pinto Mountains will open next year on nearly 5,000 acres halfway between Abilene and Fort Worth. Visitors will be able to hike, bike, and ride horses over the hills. There will be fishing and canoeing on Tucker Lake and campsites where you can stargaze. Once the park opens, one of the first things visitors will see is a sweeping view of the hills from a road built along a ridge. That was on purpose—to awe people on their way in and out.

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And Michigan just announced $250 million in funding for state parks including $26.2 million to create one in Flint—a key investment in the community as it continues to move past its water crisis.

Older sites are getting new energy, too. Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee opened a $40.4 million, 85-room lodge this past January.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In five Minnesota parks, all-terrain electric wheelchairs with continuous-track treads for navigating rugged ground will be bookable as of this summer.

More on state parks: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

Still, state parks grapple with the same challenges national ones do—and then some. One big concern is having enough help to manage maintenance, ticketing, and other operations.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania recently announced the creation of three new state parks. The state’s 2022-23 spending plan includes $56 million to add the new state parks to what is currently a 121-park system. The three will be the first new state parks in Pennsylvania since 2005 not counting Washington Crossing which was transferred from the state Historical and Museum Commission. The money will also help develop the state’s first park for the use of all-terrain vehicles and similar motorized recreational vehicles.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delaware State Parks which have been filled with a growing number of visitors in the past few years is getting $3.2 million to upgrade some facilities. The goal is to increase the number of attractions in the popular state parks drawing even more tourists to the state. A record-breaking 8 million people visited state parks in 2021 exceeding previous attendance numbers. State officials say this year’s numbers are on track to top that total. Since 2011, reservations and occupancy for camping nights in the parks have grown 124 percent. In 2011, 67,000 nights were reserved, while last year, total reservations approached 150,000.

More on state parks: 7 of the Best State Parks in Texas to Take Your RV

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

The Golden Isles of Georgia

Warm Atlantic waters, miles of winding marshland, and magnificent beaches

The mainland city of Brunswick and a series of barrier islands are nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah (Georgia) and Jacksonville (Florida). In an earlier post, I detailed St. Simons and Sea Islands.

Jekyll and Little St. Simons along with Historic Brunswick offer the visitor numerous unique experiences.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island, the southernmost island of the Golden Isles, was purchased in 1886 by a group of wealthy families for a private retreat. The Jekyll Island Club was formed and members built a clubhouse and a neighborhood of “cottages” to be used for a few months during the winter.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By 1900, The Jekyll Island Club membership included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Goodyears, Pulitzers, Goulds, and Cranes and represented over one-sixth of the world’s wealth (Mr. Crane’s cottage boasted 17 bathrooms).

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These vacationers came by train to Brunswick and crossed the river to Jekyll or arrived in their yachts with family members, servants, and supplies aboard.

Related: Best Georgia State Parks: Plan Now for a Spring or Summer Getaway

The men relaxed and hunted while the ladies had tea, planned parties, and went to the beach.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By 1942 most of these elite vacationers departed the island, never to return. World War II and the economy had taken its toll. Some of the wealthy families left their homes fully furnished and the buildings fell into disrepair.

In 1947 the state of Georgia bought the island for $650,000 and set a provision that 65 percent of it must always remain undeveloped. Some of the wealthy families’ cottages have been restored and are open for tours.

duBignon Cottage, Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, this era of Jekyll Island’s history can be dramatically revisited with a tram tour of the National Historic Landmark District including many of the opulent mansions their millionaire owners called “cottages”.

Goodyear Cottage, Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island offers an abundance of recreational activities that are sure to please visitors of all ages. A variety of amenities include ten miles of white sand beaches, 63 holes of golf, an outdoor tennis complex, a waterpark, fishing pier, nature centers, 20 miles of bike trails, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center.

To see more of the island’s eco system, the Jekyll Island Authority offers guided tours routing through beaches, maritime forests, and salt marshes.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accommodations are varied and include a grand historic hotel and oceanfront properties. RV camping is available at the Jekyll Island Campground which offers 206 campsites on the Island’s north end.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Twenty miles of flat, mostly paved bike paths encircle the island. You can spend a whole day riding beneath canopies of live oaks, along the beach, and through the historic district.

Related: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History and Beauty

Bikes can be rented at Jekyll Island Campground, the shopping mall, and various hotels around the island. Tram tours, Victorian carriage history tours, and nature and landscape walks are available from the visitor’s center, located on the Jekyll Causeway.

Mistletoe Cottage, Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A fishing pier is located across from Jekyll Island Campground and fishing is available along the beaches.

Jekyll Island, once a haven for America’s elite, now beckons to all.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island (though not so little at 10,000 acres) lies only a 15-minute boat ride from its bigger, better-known sister, St. Simons Island.

In terms of development, however, the two islands couldn’t be further apart. Whereas St. Simons offers residents and the visiting public a variety of condominiums, shopping centers, golf courses, and mini-mansions, Little St. Simons is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands—a privately owned sanctuary devoted to preserving and protecting its ample wildlife.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Accessible only by boat from Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island’s north end, Little St. Simons Island is a privately owned resort offering a limited number of guests the rare opportunity to experience isolated beaches and marshlands.

Known for its privacy, The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island features six cottages, several of which date back to the early 1900s, that can host a total of 32 guests at one time.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An ideal destination for family reunions and small gatherings, Little St. Simons Island offers guest activities ranging from guided nature walks through the ancient maritime forest to canoeing, kayaking, fishing, shell collecting, bicycling, and birding.

Related: Holly Jolly Jekyll

Guests may also choose to pass the day relaxing on the porch or enjoying the tranquility of the island’s seven-mile, undeveloped beach.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Brunswick

The mainland, port city of Brunswick is named for Braunschweig, Germany, the ancestral home of King George II, grantor of Georgia’s original land charter.

The streets and squares of this quiet port city were laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah’s and still bear their colonial names—Newcastle, Norwich, Prince, and Gloucester—giving Brunswick a decidedly English flavor.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The unmistakable flavor of the south, too, can be sampled here, home of the original Brunswick Stew.

Docked at the wharf, the array of shrimp boats are ready to trawl the local waters—evidence of the area’s rich seafood industry. Watch the ocean vessels come into port, see the shrimpers unload at the docks along Bay Street, and then sample the catch of the day at one of the fine restaurants. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic Downtown Brunswick, also known as the Old Town Brunswick, is enjoying a renaissance, with the ongoing renovation and restoration of historic buildings and public squares. Old Town Brunswick is centered at the intersection of Newcastle and Gloucester Streets, the traditional commercial corridors of the city.

Newcastle Street is anchored on the south end by Old City Hall (1888) with its distinctive clock tower.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the north end of Newcastle Street is the Historic Ritz Theatre. Built in 1898 as the Grand Opera House, the Ritz Theatre is Brunswick’s center for quality exhibits and performances by local, regional, national, and international artists.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Homes in Old Town reflect a variety of styles dating from 1819, including Queen Anne, Jacobean, Eastlake, Mansard, Gothic, and Italianate architecture. The Brunswick Landmarks Foundation works to educate the public and protect and enhance the special historic character and charm of Old Town.  

The downtown district features a growing mix of antique shops, specialty shops, art galleries, theaters, and restaurants.

With ideal weather conditions throughout the year, Brunswick also supports an active and healthy outdoor life.

Sidney Lanier Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The beautiful natural scenic landscape invites jogging and walking, from the challenging Sidney Lanier Bridge to the Old Town Brunswick National Historic District and from Mary Ross Waterfront Park to the Howard Coffin Park.

Read Next: Historic St. Marys: Gem of the Georgia Coast

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep

Roll in on the souls of men,

But who will reveal to our waking ken

The forms that swim and the shapes that creep

Under the waters of sleep?

And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in

On the length and the breadth of the marvelous marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Celebrating 75 Years of Jekyll Island State Park: 1947-2022

Boundless discovery

Get away to new adventures and wide-open beaches. It’s the perfect time to discover why this coastal haven is an escape unlike any other.

Jekyll Island Visitor Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When the State of Georgia bought Jekyll Island and the exclusive Jekyll Island Club for use as a state park 75 years ago, Governor M.E. Thompson declared the island “a playground that now belongs to every Georgian.” For the first time in its history, a sizeable portion of Georgia’s coastline became available for public use. Plans were quickly implemented to “transform Jekyll into the finest seashore park in America,” from a fading millionaire’s retreat to a public treasure.

A century ago, Jekyll Island provided a winter escape for a handful of America’s wealthiest families who valued its natural beauty, mild climate, and seclusion.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

They built magnificent “cottages” and a grand, turreted clubhouse on a sliver of the island’s 5,700 acres, preserving the remainder for hunting, fishing, and outdoor pursuits. Today, a bike ride across Jekyll reveals remnants of that grandeur, some of it vividly restored, some in ruins—along with modest campgrounds, facilities devoted to public education, pristine new hotels and shops, and, still, vast swaths of untamed landscape.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A Jekyll Timeline

Pre-Colonial era: Believed to be called Ospo by Native Americans, the island is fertile ground for hunting, fishing, and shellfish gathering.

1562: French explorers first arrive in the region.

Related: 10 of the Best Places to Visit in Georgia

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1734: General James Edward Oglethorpe named “Jekyl Island” in honor of Sir Joseph Jekyll, a politician and financial supporter of the Georgia colony.

1735: British colonial trustees grant 500 acres on Jekyll to William Horton who establishes the South’s first brewery on the island.

1792: Privateer Christophe DuBignon buys the property. For close to a century, the DuBignon family lives on the island growing cotton and promoting it as a hunting getaway.

Jekyll Island cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1861: Confederates occupy the island during the Civil War abandoning it to Union forces in 1862.

1886: A consortium of northern businessmen, among them J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, and William Vanderbilt, buys the island from the DuBignons and creates the Jekyll Island Club, used mainly during winter.

1947: The Georgia State Department of Parks acquires the island for $675,000.

Goodyear Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1948: Jekyll Island opens as a state park. Visitors can rent its cottages and facilities for the same cost as at other state parks.

1950: The Jekyll Island Authority is created with a mandate to operate the island at no cost to the state while protecting it from overdevelopment.

1954: The drawbridge to the island is completed. (Prior to this, visitors could only reach it by boat or plane.)

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1964: Jekyll is integrated through a court order.

1978: The historic district, once home to the Jekyll Island Club, gains National Historic Landmark District status.

1984–1986: The Club’s centerpiece clubhouse is renovated and reopens as a historic hotel.

Related: Find Holiday Spirit on Jekyll Island

Moss Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2007: The Georgia Sea Turtle Center opens.

2010: The Hampton Inn opens, the first new hotel built on Jekyll in more than thirty years.

2012: The new convention center opens.

2015: Beach Village, Westin, and Holiday Inn Resort open as part of an island-wide redevelopment effort while additional historic structures are restored.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Landmark Trolley Tour

The Jekyll Island Club members created an exclusive Gilded Age island retreat for family and friends on this barrier island. Those empire builders shaped America’s future, now step into their past. This guided trolley tour of the 240-acre historic district includes entry into Indian Mound Cottage and admission into the Mosaic Gallery and Faith Chapel at your leisure. The tour lasts 60 minutes and begins at Mosaic, Jekyll Island Museum.

Mistletoe Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ranger Walks

Jekyll Island is home to more than a thousand acres of maritime forest, 10 miles of shoreline, and marshes filled with many wonders. Learn more about the island’s natural resources from Jekyll’s park ranger during these unique eco-experiences. Public and private tours are available.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biking

Bicycling has long been a favorite activity on Jekyll Island. With more than 22 miles of picturesque paths and trails, biking offers a scenic way to see all of the island’s hallmark points of interest. Paths wind around sand dunes, beaches, and historic sites while ancient oaks offer ample shade. Bikes can be rented from Jekyll Island Bike Barn, Beachside Bike Rentals, and Jekyll Wheels.

Related: Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Sea turtle display © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia Sea Turtle Center

Since 2007, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center has treated hundreds of sick and injured turtles with most of the animals returning home to the ocean. Georgia’s only sea turtle education and rehabilitation facility is open 9 am-5 pm daily. The Center offers the public a chance to learn about sea turtles and see rehabilitation in action with a host of interactive exhibits and experiences. Year-round indoor and outdoor programs are also available for guests of all ages.

Indian Mound Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Golf Club

The history, the challenges, the serenity, and the courses—these are the things that go into making golf “the greatest game there is.” Jekyll Island has a tradition of inspiring some of golf’s greatest stories and living up to expectations.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1898, members of the Jekyll Island Club created the island’s first golf course. The island has been a heralded golf destination ever since attracting such acclaimed designers as Donald Ross, Walter Travis, and Joe Lee—as well as players from around the world.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each course is a masterpiece. Imagine playing through some of Jekyll Island’s most pristine lakes, marshes, and forests. There are very few man-made obstructions here. But you will have to navigate the island’s alligators, osprey and deer.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Campground

Park your RV under the magnificent oaks on the northern tip of Jekyll Island. Located opposite the Clam Creek Picnic Area, you are near Driftwood Beach, the fishing pier, and fascinating historic ruins. For your convenience, there are camping supplies and a General Store for those pick-up items, and bike rentals, so you can explore all that Jekyll Island has to offer.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jekyll Island Campground offers 18 wooded acres on the Island’s north end with 206 campsites from tent sites to full hook-up, pull through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewerage. Wi-Fi and DSL Internet is free for registered guests.

Read Next: Historic St. Marys: Gem of the Georgia Coast

Worth Pondering…

A playground that now belongs to every Georgian.

—Governor Melvin Thompson, 1948

Take a First Day Hike on New Year’s Day

First Day Hikes are a healthy way to start 2022 and a chance to get outside, exercise, enjoy nature, and connect with friends

Usher in 2022 with other outdoor lovers at one of the many First Day Hikes offered on January 1 at state parks and forests across America.

On New Year’s Day, park rangers across the country are inviting Americans to start 2022 with inspiring First Day Hikes. First Day Hikes are part of a nationwide initiative led by America’s State Parks to encourage people to get outdoors.

Babcock State Park, West Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On New Year’s Day, hundreds of free, guided hikes will be organized in all 50 states. Families across America will participate in First Day Hikes, getting their hearts pumping and enjoying the beauty of a state park. Last year nearly 55,000 people rang in the New Year, collectively hiking over 133,000 miles throughout the country.

America’s State Parks will help capture the collective strength and importance of the great park systems developed in the 50 states. With 10,234 units and more than 759 million visits, America’s State Parks works to enhance the quality of life.

Deadhorse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

First Day Hikes originated more than 20 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation, a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. The program was launched to foster healthy lifestyles and promote year-round recreation at state parks.

Related: Elevate Your Hiking with Mindfulness

First Day Hikes are led by knowledgeable state park staff and volunteers. The distance and rigor vary from park to park but all hikes aim to create a fun experience for the whole family. People are invited to savor the beauty of the state park’s natural resources with the comfort of an experienced guide so they may be inspired to take advantage of these local treasures throughout the year.

Catalina State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona State Parks

Spend the first day of the year in a state park and kick off the year on a healthy note. There are fun activities for all including hikes, tours, boat rides, and even s’mores! Remember to wear the appropriate shoes, bring plenty of water, a camera, and your sense of adventure.

Dead Horse Ranch State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dead Horse Ranch State Park: Meet at the West Lagoon parking lot. The guided 3-mile birding and nature hike will go along the riparian area of the Verde River and around the edges of the lagoons to look for evidence of beaver, otter, waterfowl, and other wildlife found in the park. Enjoy cookies prior to the hike.

Lost Dutchman State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lost Dutchman State Park: Start the year off right with a moderate hike on Treasure Loop Trail. Be ready for rocky terrain with a 500-foot elevation gain over 2.4 miles. Bring your water bottle, sturdy shoes, and cameras. A guiding ranger will answer questions you’ve always wanted to ask about the landscape around you.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Picacho Peak State Park: Hike the Calloway trail up to an overlook below the face of Picacho Peak. This trail is moderately difficult. Wear sturdy hiking shoes and bring water. Elevation gain will be 300 feet, 1.5 miles round-trip, and roughly 1.5 hours. Meet at Harrington Loop.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Red Rock State Park: Learn about Sedona’s diverse and beautiful bird species while taking a stroll through this gorgeous park with a veteran bird enthusiast. Bring binoculars to get the most out of the experience. The hike lasts approximately two hours. Meet at the Visitor Center rooftop.

Related: Hiking Arizona

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California State Parks

More than 40 state parks and over 50 guided hikes will take place across the state in this National-led effort by the First Day Hikes program which encourages individuals and families to experience the beautiful natural and cultural resources found in the outdoors so that they may be inspired to take advantage of these treasures throughout the year.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park: Starting at the Visitor Center, explore desert plants, crypto-biotic crust, and signs of animals as you walk cross-country to the ½-mile Panorama Overlook Trail. Ascend by switch-backs about 200 feet up the moderate-strenuous trail to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point. At the viewpoint, reflect on your new year with a lighthearted introspection guided by a Park Interpretive Specialist. Walk down the mountain as the sun sets on your first day of 2022.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgia State Parks

In Georgia’s state parks and historic sites, more than 40 guided treks will encourage friends and families to connect with nature and each other. Outings range from a kid-friendly stroll through Mistletoe State Park’s campground, a hike along the banks of the Suwanee River in Stephen C. Foster State Park, a 3-mile hike through Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, and even a night hike at Reed Bingham State Park.

Related: Best Hikes for National Hiking Month

Laura S. Walker State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During winter, hikers will notice interesting tree shapes, small streams, and rock outcrops that are normally hidden by summer’s foliage. Many guided hikes are dog-friendly and visitors are welcome to bring picnics to enjoy before or after their adventure. First Day Hikes are listed on GaStateParks.org.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina State Parks

Kick-off the New Year with fresh air and family-friendly fun on a First Day Hike in South Carolina State Parks. More than 40 ranger-led hikes are scheduled across the state with most parks offering half-mile to 3-mile guided adventures for all ages and skill levels.

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All participating hikers will receive an official First Day Hike sticker.

First Day Hikes will also jumpstart a new initiative in South Carolina State Parks. Beginning January 1, use #StepsInSCStateParks to share your walking, hiking, or other active adventures any time you’re visiting a park. The year-long promotion aims to encourage more visitors to get moving in South Carolina State Parks.

Related: Best Places to Plan a Hiking Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the park enthusiasts who want to visit as many parks as they can on January 1, you can squeeze in four hikes by following the First Day Dash schedule:  

  • Start the day at 9:00 a.m. with a hike on the 1.25-mile Interpretive Trail at Lake Warren State Park
  • Head north to the Battle of Rivers Bridge State Historic Site for an easy 1-mile hike on the Battlefield Trail at 11
  • Cruise over to Barnwell State Park for a 1.5-mile hike along the Dogwood Nature Trail at 1:00 pm
  • Finally, finish your day on the 1.5-mile Jungle Trail at Aiken State Park at 3:00 pm
Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other First Day Hikes include a wildflower walk at Oconee Station State Historic Site, stepping into Revolutionary War history on a walk at the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, and hunting for fossils and shells during low tide at Edisto Beach State Park.

Other events happening at parks around the state on January 1 include a ranger-guided walk on the beach at Edisto Beach State Park and an easy 1.5-mile ranger-guided hike before along the lagoon at Hunting Island State Park.

Blanco State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas State Parks

As New Year’s Eve merriment gives way to New Year’s Day, start 2022 in the great outdoors. Over the years, First Day Hikes have become a tradition at Texas State Parks and across the country.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area: Enchanted Rock hosts three guided summit hikes at 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4:45 p.m. The park is located at 16710 RR 965 between Llano and Fredericksburg. The two-hour hikes will be led by a park ranger or knowledgeable volunteer. Meet at the gazebo at the start of the Summit Trail.

Guadalupe River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reservedts

Pedernales Falls State Park: Located east of Johnson City at 2585 Park Road 6026, Pedernales Falls offers two guided hike options. The first is the Pedernales Falls and Beyond hike which starts at 9 a.m. in the Falls Parking Lot. It’s a 2-mile, moderate hike. The half-mile, moderate Twin Falls Nature Trail hike starts at noon from the Twin Falls trailhead. The park is also hosting a First Day Campfire at 3 p.m. at Campsite 68.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virginia State Parks

Set the tone for a fantastic 2022 with a New Year’s Day hike in one of Virginia’s State Parks. First Day Hikes are a great opportunity to improve one’s physical, mental, and social health, and what better way to start the New Year than by connecting with nature. State parks offer iconic and beautiful outdoor places that support healthy, affordable, physical, and social activities.

Related: How Much Time Should You Spend in Nature?

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park: Join the Friends of Shenandoah River for a hike celebrating the New Year. Bring your family and leashed pets to Shenandoah River State Park for a hike on the Cottonwood Trail. The Cottonwood trail is about 1.5 miles long with little change in elevation. The loop at the end of the trail is a raised boardwalk but the rest can be muddy in wet weather. The Friends Group will lead the hike and provide light refreshments in the Massanutten Building. The parking fee is waived on January 1.

Conquering a challenging trail on the first day of the year will keep you motivated towards tackling even the toughest goals throughout the year.

Worth Pondering…

In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.

—John Muir, Steep Trails, 1918