The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

There are so many things to love about a Deep South road trip from Savannah to Charleston

Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina are two of the most popular travel destinations in the southeastern United States and they happen to be neighbors.

With famous historic squares, delicious southern cuisine, and a lively waterfront it’s no wonder Savannah attracts nearly 15 million visitors every year.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head north from Savannah and you’ll soon hit Charleston, another historical city where you can dine, shop, and take in the fresh sea air. After walking around its colorful, cobblestone streets it isn’t hard to understand why this city frequently earns a spot as one of the best places to visit in the US.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah and Charleston are just over 100 miles apart. The Savannah to Charleston drive time takes about two hours if you drive straight through with no detours. Because these two cities are fairly close, they make a great day road trip since you’ll have plenty of time to explore attractions along the way.

Driving from Savannah to Charleston is pretty straightforward. If you’re starting in Savannah, you’ll take I-95 North to US-17 North. But along the way, there are some interesting stops that are worth a visit.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Before beginning the drive, I recommend several days in Savannah beginning the drive to visit attractions like Forsyth Park, the Bonaventure Cemetery, and the River Street waterfront area.

Just a 15-minute drive north of Savannah, you’ll find the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. This 30,000-acre wildlife refuge is home to birds, alligators, and other marsh-dwelling flora and fauna.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You could easily spend an entire day hiking, biking, and kayaking at this nature-lovers paradise but for this itinerary, we’re just going to visit Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive. The Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive is a scenic four-mile road through the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Along this road, you can spot wildlife from your car or one of many lookout points.

Next, you’ll drive about an hour northeast to St. Helena Island, South Carolina. St. Helena Island is the perfect place to immerse yourself in natural beauty and learn about Gullah culture.

St. Helena © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the center of the island, surrounded by Spanish moss-draped oak trees, you’ll find the Penn Center, a 50-acre historic district comprising 25 historic buildings and structures. The Penn Center was one of the first schools in the country where formerly enslaved individuals could receive an education. The center was visited by Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1960s and continues to work toward preserving and celebrating Gullah culture to this day. Visitors can learn about African American history, art, and culture on self-guided tours and group tours.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From St. Helena, continue driving one island further and you’ll arrive at Hunting Island State Park. This State Park is known for having five miles of amazing beaches and a lighthouse that dates back to the 19th century. You can even climb the lighthouse stairs for a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and wetlands. After visiting the lighthouse, you can spend time exploring the beach or head down to Hunting Island State Park Nature Center where you can learn about local wildlife.

Related: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is available at the northern end of the park near the ocean. 102 sites offer water and 20/30/50 amp electric service. Campground roads are paved while the sites are packed soil. Some sites accommodate RVs up to 40 feet; others up to 28 feet. The campground is convenient to hot showers with restroom facilities, beach walkways, and a playground.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Backtrack through Hunting Island and St. Helena Island to the coastal town of Beaufort. Next, we’re heading inland to the Old Sheldon Church Ruins. Sheldon Church dates back to the mid-1700s. It was burned down during the Revolutionary War and rebuilt many years later. It’s believed that the church was burned again during the Civil War but this time it wasn’t rebuilt.

Hunting Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ruins are hauntingly beautiful and surrounded by a lush landscape. The property is located right off Old Sheldon Church Road and has informational markers as well as shaded seating areas to enjoy the view.

From the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, head northeast to Edisto Island. Edisto is a peaceful vacation island south of Charleston that’s perfect for a bit of relaxation.

Related: Spotlight on South Carolina: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Edisto Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Edisto Beach has long been a spectacular place to enjoy all of nature’s beauty while enjoying outdoor activities to keep your heart (and mind!) healthy. You can hike, bike, or run on Edisto whether you’re a seasoned fitness expert or just a fan of the leisurely stroll. There are walking paths, hiking, biking, kayaking, and paddle boarding options. Edisto is sure to offer something that matches exactly what you have in mind. 

Edisto Beach State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Head to Edisto Beach State Park to stretch your legs on one of the many hiking paths or visit the environmental education center to learn more about the island. The park has an impressive array of camping sites in oceanfront and maritime forest habitats and most can accommodate RVs, some up to 40 feet. There are 64 oceanside sites and 33 sites along the salt marsh. Many sites offer easy access to the sea, sand, and sun.

Botany Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want to see the South Carolina coast the way the original settlers did, take a step back in time to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve located adjacent to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the northeast corner of Edisto Island. The 3,363-acre preserve includes almost three miles of undeveloped, breathtaking beachfront. Botany Bay is very accessible; you can tour most of the property in half a day or less. The 6.5-mile route begins along a magnificent avenue of oaks interspersed with loblolly pine and cabbage palmetto.

Related: Edisto Island: History, Pure Bliss & More

Folly Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The last stop on this Savannah to Charleston road trip is Folly Beach.. Folly Beach is just outside of Charleston and is one of the most popular Charleston day trip destinations for locals and visitors alike. Take a stroll along the Folly Beach fishing pier or spend some time meandering through the beachy downtown neighborhoods. If you have time, rent a paddleboard or a kayak for a chance to see ocean life like turtles and dolphins.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After you’ve had your fun in the sun, head north for about 20 minutes and you’ll be in the heart of Charleston. You may have reached your destination, but the adventure isn’t over. Charleston has tons of things to see and it’s a great destination to explore for a few days. You won’t want to miss walking along the waterfront park or strolling past one of Charleston’s most colorful streets, Rainbow Row. Hop aboard a historic harbor cruise for a guided tour of the city or try some of the best local flavors on a guided food tour.

Worth Pondering…

If you lead a good life, go to church, and say your prayers, you’ll go to Charleston when you die.

—old South Carolina saying

The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

Have you ever done a Georgia Coast road trip? No?! Well now’s your chance and you will love it!

From scenic beaches and wild marshes to quaint coastal towns and historic sites, the Georgia coast is a dreamy stretch of iconic Southern landscapes. Take it all in with this easy detour on your north-to-south I-95 road trip to the Golden Isles.

At the northern end of the Georgia coast, Savannah is a bustling city rich with historic charm, from its majestic antebellum architecture and cobblestoned streets to its mom-and-pop restaurants, and unique shops. Before hitting the road, stop for a bite to eat at one of the many must-try lunch spots. Then, make your way to I-95 and head south.

Sidney Lanier Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exit 49: Scenic US-17 Bypass

Hop off I-95 to enjoy the low-country landscape and off-the-beaten-path towns along coastal highway U.S. Route 17 which winds through serene wetlands and thickets of trees draped in lacey Spanish moss. Along the way, stop in the town of Darien where you can take in sweeping marsh views and spot rows of shrimp boats docked along the waterfront.

Coastal Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue along US-17 for another 5 miles until you reach the sprawling Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation, an antebellum rice plantation dating back to the early 1800s. Ophelia was the last heir to the rich traditions of her ancestors and she left the plantation to the State of Georgia in 1973.

Related: 10 of the Best Places to Visit in Georgia

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A museum features silver from the family collection and a model of Hofwyl-Broadfield during its heyday. A brief film on the plantation’s history is shown before visitors walk a short trail to the antebellum home. A guided tour allows visitors to see the home as Ophelia kept it with family heirlooms, 18th and 19th century furniture, and Cantonese china.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled amongst picturesque marshes along the Altamaha River, this historic estate is a stop along the Colonial Coast Birding Trail so stretch your legs with an easy hike to scout herons, painted buntings, egrets, wood stork, and other coastal birds along the way. More than 300 species of birds (75 percent of the total species of birds seen in Georgia) have been spotted at the 18 sites along the birding trail.

When you’re ready to continue your road trip, drive west on U.S. Hwy 99 and continue south on I-95.

Coastal Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exit 36: Explore Historic Downtown Brunswick

The mainland port city of Brunswick is laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah with city streets and squares still bearing their colonial names. 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. 

Coastal Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After dinner, make your way to Mary Ross Waterfront Park on Bay Street (U.S. Highway 341) at the end of Gloucester Street. This waterfront park features The Liberty Ship Memorial Plaza where you can view a scale model of a Liberty Ship, similar to those built in Brunswick’s shipyards during World War II. Other attractions include an outdoor musical playscape, staged pavilion, amphitheater, and farmers market (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8 am to 5 pm).

Related: The Golden Isles of Georgia

This waterfront park is an enticing spot to view the sunset across the marshes. Huge oceangoing ships from around the world as well as picturesque shrimp boats may be seen along the waterfront docks.

St. Simon Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Afterward, head over to nearby St. Simons Island over the FJ Torras Causeway (about 7 miles away from Mary Ross Waterfront Park) and explore this quaint coastal community. Stop by the Welcome Center and grab a map of the mystifying Tree Spirits so you can participate in the scavenger hunt on St. Simons Island.

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Simons Island is dotted with exceptional historic sites and attractions from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum—a working lighthouse built in 1872—to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site where in July 1742 British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the island’s north end, Cannon’s Point Preserve is not to be missed. This visitor favorite contains middens dating back to 2500 BCE. Fort Frederica National Monument which preserves archeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain and historic Christ Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia with worship held continuously since 1736—are also located on the island’s north end.

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

Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simon Island

When you’re done exploring the area, hop back in the car, head over the FJ Torras Causeway, and meet up with US-17 south. Detour along GA-520 for one last stop along your I-95 road trip.

Sidney Lanier Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As you look south to the foot of Newcastle Street, you will see the Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge which provides easy access to the Golden Isles from Interstate 95 (Exit 29). This beautiful structure is 7,780 feet long and 486 feet tall. It contains 95,283 cubic yards of concrete and 14,810,095 pounds of reinforcing steel. The current bridge was built as a replacement to the original lift bridge which was struck by ships twice. 

Sidney Lanier Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bridge was named for Georgian poet Sidney Lanier who wrote the poem Marshes of Glynn about the beautiful marshes that surround the area. Each year in February, there is the annual 5k Bridge Run (February 17-18, 2022), sponsored by Southeast Georgia Health System when the south side of the bridge is closed to traffic and people register to run (or walk) the bridge.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

GA-520: A Can’t-Miss I-95 Road Trip Detour

Take in the expansive marshes on State Route 520 detours to beautiful Jekyll Island. Just 20 minutes away from St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island was once a private island owned by ultra-rich families such as the Rockefellers, Morgans, Cranes, and Pulitzers. Today, the island is owned by the state of Georgia but remnants of the island’s glamorous past can be seen in its National Historic Landmark District where you’ll find opulent mansions and the Jekyll Island Club Hotel, formerly the Jekyll Island Club House founded in 1886.

Want to stay off the highway a bit longer? Rent a bicycle and explore the island on two wheels by pedaling along with the Jekyll Island Trail System consisting of 25 miles of paved bike trails.

A parking fee of $8/day is required for all vehicles entering Jekyll Island.

Park your RV or camper 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. 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 are free for registered guests.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Loop around the island to take in the views and head back to US-17 which will meet back up with I-95 south of Brunswick.

This is a great place to continue your road trip south to Florida (Jacksonville is only about an hour and a half south) or head north to your starting location (Savannah is only a little over an hour north!).

Get even more ideas on exciting places to explore and things to see along I-95.

Related: Georgia Is On My Mind

Safe travels!

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven

Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,

Emerald twilights,

Virginal shy lights,

The wide sea-marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

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)

Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History and Beauty

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

Georgia‘s Atlantic Coastline is only about 100 miles long but along this green corridor, you’ll see some of America’s most breathtaking natural landscapes.

This is a region woven with many cultures, notably the coastal Gullah with origins in West Africa. Their traditions include sweetgrass baskets, quilting, and knitting fishing nets.

Folklore, stories, and songs have also been handed down over the years.

Traditional recipes include seafood dishes and Low Country favorites such as hoppin’ john (brown fried peas cooked with rice; eaten for good luck), sweet potato pie, and benne wafers (cookie made with sesame seeds and eaten for good luck).

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Golden Isles

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah (Georgia) and Jacksonville (Florida) lies the mainland city of Brunswick and a series of barrier islands.

The most visited of the barrier islands are Sapelo, Jekyll, Cumberland, and St. Simons. Sea Island and Little St. Simons Island are exclusive. Little St. Simons, Sapelo, and Cumberland must be reached by boat, while St. Simons, Sea Island, and Jekyll have causeways connecting them to the mainland.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Simons and Jekyll islands straddle the Marshes of Glynn, made familiar by Sidney Lanier’s poem of the same name.

The 5.9-mile causeway that leads to Jekyll is flanked by tidal marshes, home to waterfowl and migrating birds.

Related: Spotlight on Georgia: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These coastal isles have long served as refuges for wildlife, havens for millionaires, and bastions of history.

Voodoo, alligators, wild horses, African culture, and the wealthiest families in the United States are all part of the history of the Golden Isles.

The state has only 100 miles of coastline, but nearly 800 miles of shoreline. Seventeen barrier islands are in this complex.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish explorers seeking gold originally descended upon the territory more than 400 years ago, only to find astonishing beauty, mild weather, and a natural radiance that inspired the area’s name, the Golden Isles.

Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape and create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land reaching out to the barrier islands. These vast marshes turn a beautiful golden color in the fall, especially dramatic when lit by the setting sun.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Golden Isles are also heralded as a destination where the gentleman’s game of golf meets Southern hospitality in a seaside setting with a rich and storied history. The area’s beauty and world-class golf courses, facilities, and instructors have earned the Golden Isles its reputation as a golfer’s paradise.

Sydney Lanier Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island alone boasts four public courses situated along and through a state park—the 18-hole Pine Lakes, Oleander, and Indian Mound courses and 9-hole Great Dunes. Joining the Seaside Course at Sea Island are two other full-length tracks, the Plantation and the Retreat, while Heritage Oaks in Brunswick is known for its conditioning.

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

Not only do the Golden Isles provide a rich golf experience but they also come alive as nature’s playground with acres of undeveloped land, marshes, and rivers along with the vast expanse of ocean.

St. Simons Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Simons Island

The largest of The Golden Isles, St. Simons Island continues to reveal the beauty and fascinating history of what 16th-century Spanish explorers called San Simeon.

Visitors come year round to swim, stroll, and sail along its miles of lovely beaches, to challenge its 99 holes of superb golf and numerous tennis courts, and to explore its countless shops and restaurants.

Marshes of Glenn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Simons Island lies across the immortalized Marshes of Glynn, made famous by English poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the winding island streets, creating a picture-perfect image worthy of a William Faulkner novel.

The island’s villages offer a charming and unique selection of shops, plus a variety of restaurants. Visitors and residents alike enjoy outdoor recreation at Neptune Park and its Fun Zone which includes a public pool, miniature golf, and a fishing pier.

Marshes of Glenn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As I discovered during our visit, St. Simons Island is dotted with historic sites and attractions, from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum—a working lighthouse built in 1872—to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, where, in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions north of Florida. 

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Frederica National Monument which preserves archaeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain and historic Christ Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia with worship held continuously since 1736—are located on the island’s north end.  Fort Frederica, Georgia’s first military outpost was established by British General James Oglethorpe. A visitor’s center and museum are also located on the site.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Live oaks, the same trees that overshadow Frederica Road, were milled for use in Revolutionary warships including Old Ironsides, also known as the USS Constitution. Because the trunks and branches of this tree naturally bend, they were perfect for forming the hulls of boats.

Related: 10 of the Best Places to Visit in Georgia

Toward the southern tip, the Maritime Center, in the restored U.S. Coast Guard Station provides fascinating glimpses of the area’s natural evolution while highlighting some of its maritime and military history.

Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allows visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on East Beach.

Visitors can tour the island’s historic sites on a variety of transportation options.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sea Island

Reached by causeway from St. Simons Island, Sea Island is an internationally acclaimed resort. The Sea Island Company features two of the world’s most-exceptional destinations: the Forbes Five-Star Cloisture on Sea Island and The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond property located on the southern end of St. Simons Island. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Though much of Sea Island is residential, Island life centers round The Cloister, perennially honored as one of the world’s great hotels. Golf club, beach club, gun club, horseback riding, fine dining, and numerous other activities are among the amenities enjoyed by its guests.

Guests of Sea Island who enjoy the game of golf can appreciate the Golf Learning Center and three championship golf courses at Sea Island Golf Club.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Seaside Course, home to the PGA TOUR’s McGladrey Classic, is a links course graced by majestic ocean vistas in the tradition of St. Andrews.

The Plantation Course winds enticingly through marsh and forest while the Retreat Course offers a uniquely dramatic and challenging design cultivated by Davis Love III and Mark Love. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If golfing is not your game, enjoy the Sea Island Beach Club, Tennis Center, Yacht Club, Shooting School, and Forbes Five-Star Cloister Spa.

Sea Island offers cuisine to satisfy any taste with seven exceptional dining venues, including the renowned Forbes Five-Star Georgian Room which offers “Refined Southern” cuisine amidst grand décor.

Related: Holly Jolly Jekyll

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did You Know?

Eugenia Price’s trilogy LighthouseNew Moon Rising, and Beloved Invader chronicle the history of St. Simons Island and Christ Church.

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven

Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,

Emerald twilights,

Virginal shy lights,

The wide sea-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

The Best States for Snowbird Camping

One of the best parts of the RV lifestyle is the ability to simply follow warm weather wherever it may lead

While the pandemic increased the appeal of camping and outdoor recreation in the last 18 months, Google Trends data confirms that interest has in fact been growing rapidly for longer than that. Overall search interest in RVing was flat or on a slight decline for most of the 2000s and early 2010s. In more recent years, interest has grown rapidly, reaching an all-time high in 2020. Now, search interest in RVing during the offseason is comparable to peak season search interest from a decade ago.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This interest is also apparent across different demographic groups. The population of older Americans and Canadians—who have long been a major segment of the RV market—is growing as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. But demand for RVs is also strong among Millennials and Gen Z, 49 percent of whom grew up with RVing and tend to be married, educated, and full-time working parents. Around two in five RV owners are aged 18 to 44, showing that camping and RVing have wide appeal.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While overall interest has increased, camping and outdoor recreational activities still follow seasonal patterns with most campers venturing outdoors during the summer months when temperatures are warmer. However, many states have excellent camping options year-round. Southern states from east to the west offer temperate winter climates, less precipitation, and ample natural attractions and parklands to entice outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, there is considerable variance across the Sunbelt states and within each state. For instance in Arizona expect freezing temperatures and snow in Flagstaff and sunny and warm temperatures in Phoenix, Yuma, and Tucson.

Rockport-Fulton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are many factors to consider when determining the best states for warm winter recreation, I selected average maximum temperature, average minimum temperature, average monthly precipitation, and the total land area allocated to parks and wildlife.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weather statistics are long-term averages for December–February, sourced from NOAA, and land area statistics are from the USDA. In the event of a tie, the state with the higher average winter maximum temperature was ranked above.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

Based on the above model, here are the 10 best states for warm winter camping.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Alabama

Composite index: 62.6

Average maximum temperature: 57.7

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 548,000

Okefenokee, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Georgia

Composite index: 67.5

Average maximum temperature: 58.6

Cumberland Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 4.3

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 747,000

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. North Carolina

Composite index: 67.8

Average maximum temperature: 51.9

Average minimum temperature: 30.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.8

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,575,000

Related: Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

Mainstreet Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. New Mexico

Composite index: 69.9

Average maximum temperature: 49.3

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

Average minimum temperature: 21.2

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 0.7

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 2,720,000

Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Nevada

Composite index: 70.5

Average maximum temperature: 42.8

Above Hoover Dam, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 20.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 6,580,000

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Louisiana

Composite index: 74.5

Average maximum temperature: 61.4

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 40.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,276,000

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

4. California

Composite index: 79.3

Average maximum temperature: 53.5

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 33.6

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 19,623,000

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Texas

Composite index: 83.3

Average maximum temperature: 59.7

Padre Island, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 34.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.6

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,167,000

Ajo, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Arizona

Composite index: 85.7

Average maximum temperature: 54.9

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 29.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 7,704,000

Related: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Florida

Composite index: 87.5

Average maximum temperature: 69.9

Average minimum temperature: 47.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 2.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,920,000

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While this model provided useful fodder for further discussion, it yielded both predictable and surprising results. It is no surprise that Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California ranked 1-4, but I had to wonder how North Carolina made the list while South Carolina and Mississippi did not.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”

Holly Jolly Jekyll

Discover holiday lights and magical sights on Jekyll Island

From twinkling holiday lights to magical visits with Santa, escape to the coastal community of Jekyll Island on Georgia’s Golden Isles for an enchanted holiday season you’ll never forget. You’ll find plenty of fun things to do, exciting celebrations, and hands-on experiences for everyone in the family.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Set among the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island was settled in 1733 as the Georgia Colony and was later known as the playground for the rich and famous. The Federal Reserve System was planned at the Jekyll Island Club which was also the site of the first transcontinental phone call.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Club Members included such prominent figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, Marshall Field, and William Rockefeller. In 1904, Munsey’s Magazine called the Jekyll Island Club “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.” Today, it sits a short drive from Savannah with more than 10 miles of beaches, a historic landmark district, golf courses, and state park-protected land that includes a campground.

Related: The 8 Best Things to Do this Fall in Georgia

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island was named Money Magazine’s #1 Place to Go in the U.S. in 2019. It also houses a sea turtle rescue center and has been the filming location for films like X-Men: First Class, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and The Walking Dead.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island packs a lot of action into its small seven-by-two-mile border. One of the four Barrier Islands that are accessible by car, this tucked-away gem off the coast of Georgia is a favorite vacationing spot. Plus it offers the best of nearby historic Savannah (1½ hours away) and Florida beaches (one hour away).

duBignon Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature lovers will feel right at home with eight miles of beaches, 20 miles of hiking trails, and a flat landscape all well within reach, making the area ideal for casual walking and biking. The Historic District surrounding the Jekyll Island Club—featuring 200 acres of buildings dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the town was developed—helped it join the ranks of the most beautiful small towns in America, according to Architectural Digest.

GoodyearCottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The island is home to more than half a million lights during the Holly Jolly Jekyll season. The Great Tree alone has more than 35,000 which is more per square foot than the New York City Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Purchase tickets online for the guided tram tours that take place on select nights. Trolley riders will enjoy festive holiday beverages, music, and a one-of-a-kind tour souvenir.

Related: Find Holiday Spirit on Jekyll Island

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan to attend the light parade on December 4, holiday fireworks on December 11 and 18, and a special drive-in movie presentation of Frosty the Snowman on December 12 and 19, 2021.

See holiday lights from November 26, 2021, through to January 2, 2022.

Moss Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s nothing like dazzling holiday lights to get you in the spirit of the season and Jekyll has nearly a million lights that set the island aglow.  Hop aboard Jekyll’s jolliest trolley with Holly Jolly Light Tours. The whole family can sit back, relax, and view festive displays from Beach Village to the Historic District. Along the way, sip on seasonal beverages and sing along to iconic carols and tunes.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or climb into an old-fashioned, horse-drawn carriage for a Christmas Carriage Light Tour through the Historic District, listening to relaxing music all along the way.

Related: I’m Dreaming of a State Park Christmas…

Mistletoe Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Looking to take in the lights from the comfort of your own vehicle? Follow Jekyll Island’s Self-Guided Light Tour map to see some of the island’s best light displays. (Be sure to follow traffic patterns and tour signs and remain in your vehicle while snapping photos of your favorite twinkling lights.)

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tap into your competitive spirit while celebrating the holiday season at Peppermint Land at Jekyll Island Mini Golf. Take a walk down peppermint lane and enjoy one or both of the 18-hole courses while surrounded by life-size gumdrops, peppermint sticks, gingerbread friends, and more.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

(Pro tip: If you play into the evening, you can also enjoy all the twinkling holiday lights!)  Or round up your group for the free Holly Jolly Drive-in Movie (December 12 and 19) to enjoy a special screening of the original “Frosty the Snowman” movie in the Jekyll Island Convention Center parking lot. Find your spot, wave hello to Santa on his big red fire truck, and tune in to the movie using your car radio. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Still, need to pick up some last-minute gifts? For holiday shopping, stroll through the beautifully decorated historic Goodyear Cottage which transforms into the Merry Artists Holiday Market showcasing one-of-a-kind handcrafted pieces by local artists and makers—perfect for one-of-a-kind presents. Gift certificates are available for purchase.

Mistletoe Cottage © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Or pop into the Holly Jolly Trading Post to pick up your Holly Jolly Jekyll season novelties and collectibles and enjoy Christmas candies and warm holiday beverages while you stroll.

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a joyous parade. During the Holly Jolly Jekyll Light Parade (December 4), find your spot in the beachfront spectator areas to watch as Santa and his friends make their way beachside in a variety of golf carts and vintage vehicles—all lit up in their holiday best. 
For a nighttime celebration, ooh and aah at holiday fireworks (December 11 and 18) launching near Beach Village. Park beachside and watch the free show from your car to stay warm and cozy while taking in the spectacular sights. 

Jekyll Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If adventure is calling your name, infuse some excitement into your holiday vacation with outdoor activities on Jekyll Island’s beaches. 

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Show your daring side during the new Cold-Stunned Plunge (November 27) as you run into the chilly Atlantic Ocean. This fun (and frigid) fundraising event benefits the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on behalf of the Jekyll Island Foundation. Many sea turtles get caught in hypothermic water temperatures during winter months and your support assists cold-stun rehabilitation and recovery. Mascot Scute C. Turtle and friends will cheer on participants and hang around for festive photos. Take the plunge, raise some funds, and receive a commemorative T-shirt for your good deed. 

Related: 10 Cool Buildings for a Cross-country Road Trip

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ride into this holiday season with a one-hour horse ride on the beach (November 26-January 2)! The horses will be decked out for Christmas in Santa hats and jingle bells and ready for their photo-op. Come enjoy some holiday tunes while sharing a candy cane treat with them!

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven

Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,

Emerald twilights,

Virginal shy lights,

The wide sea-marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Fall is Fabulous in Georgia: 7 Perfect Ways to Celebrate the Season

Hike, drive, and bask in the beauty of the changing season

Fall is just around the corner! Explore the BEST of the season in Georgia with this bucket list created just for you.

Georgia apples © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Pick apples                                                                                                                             

John W. Clayton is credited with introducing the first apples to Gilmer County in 1903. Over a hundred years later, this north Georgia area produces more than 250,000 bushels of apples annually in over 30 varieties. The North Georgia Mountains abound with apple orchards, including you-pick, hayrides, petting zoos, and so much more. Fall is the apple picking season in Ellijay, the state’s capital of apple orchards. Visitors can fill up containers with varieties of apples as well as eat apple-accented dishes like apple fritters, apple cider doughnuts, and candy apples. Many orchards also have other things to do like hayrides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and other activities for kids.

Wondering when is the best time to go apple picking? Georgia’s season runs late August through October, however, not all varieties are available at the same time.

Field of sunflowers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Stroll through a sunflower field

A family-owned farm since 1858, Fausett Farms Sunflowers is located just south of Burt’s Pumpkin Farm and Amicalola Falls in the Northeast Georgia Mountains. For 60 years, the farm’s main business was poultry farming which ended in 2011. Now, the farm offers more than 13 acres of beautiful sunflowers for everyone to experience. The farm also offers horse trail riders the opportunity to bring their own horse and enjoy a day of riding on miles and miles of trails.

Autumn in northern Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Watch the leaves change

Rich reds, vibrant oranges, and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful.

Georgia State Parks are fantastic family escapes for watching the leaves change color. Wondering which parks have the best showing? Try Tallulah Gorge, Amicalola, Cloudland Canyon, Fort Mountain, or Black Rock Mountain!

One of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks, Vogel is located at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Driving from the south, visitors pass through Neel Gap, a beautiful mountain pass near Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. Vogel is particularly popular during the fall when the Blue Ridge Mountains transform into a rolling blanket of red, yellow, and gold leaves. Hikers can choose from a variety of trails including the popular 4-mile Bear Hair Gap loop, an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls, and the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail. 

Waterfalls © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Chase waterfalls

There is something magical about fallen red and gold leaves on the rocks of a tumbling waterfall. The beauty of Georgia’s waterfalls can lure even the not-so-outdoorsy types off the beaten path and into picture-perfect wilds. Waterfalls dot the landscape throughout North Georgia from Cloudland Canyon in the northwest to Tallulah Gorge in the northeast. Some are easily accessible by following paved paths and others require more advanced navigation skills.

Amicalola which is Cherokee for “tumbling waters” boasts seven cascades at Amicalola Falls State Park. At 729 feet, it is the tallest waterfall in the state. If you’re visiting Vogel State Park, stop at Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville to see these family-friendly falls. The Helton Creek Falls Trail is an easy 0.2-mile hike. Anna Ruby Falls, formed by Curtis and York creeks, are local favorites in Helen. It is one of the most visited waterfalls in North Georgia. Hike the easy-to-moderate half-mile trail from the parking lot to the foot of the falls, and you just might agree!

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

5. Camp or glamp at a state park

Fall is made for camping under the bright stars, and Georgia’s state park system allows you to enjoy comfort and consistency across the state. 

Nestled at the base of Blood Mountain in the Chattahoochee National Forest, popular Vogel State Park offers primitive and backcountry campers a variety of organized activities and events such as fishing rodeos, and festivals. Hiking nature lovers can choose from easy or challenging trails around the park. Rent pedal boats or kayaks to explore and fish the park’s lake. You can also entertain yourself on the seasonal beach, bike rentals, playing a round of mini-golf, or visiting the playground.

A scenic drive through the mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Road trip through the mountains

Slow your pace and travel Georgia’s back roads to fully immerse yourself in the colors and character of the season. North Georgia is literally rolling with peaks and valleys, so finding a good road trip isn’t hard to do. Just get in your car and start driving and likely you’ll stumble into some of the prettiest views in the state.

Follow the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway from Helen through the mountains or travel the Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway from Cohutta to Ellijay. In west Georgia, follow the Meriwether-Pike Scenic Byway and pull off the road in Woodbury for a photo op at the Red Oak Covered Bridge.

Corn maze © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Corn Mazes for Family Fun

Fall is a favorite time of year with cooler weather, the changing leaves, and all the fun fall activities—like corn mazes. Generally, you should plan between 1.5 and 2 hours to complete the maze. Most places have other farm activities too! You’ll find corn mazes, hayrides, bonfires, activities for the kids, and pumpkins.

A haunted house? © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What could be better than combining two of the most popular fall activities, the Corn Maze and the Haunted House? If you like to be scared out in the middle of a cornfield, then consider visiting a haunted corn maze. Georgia has several that will chill your blood, as well as a few that rely more on simple darkness for a gentler spook. Whether you’re looking for a haunted house, spook walk, or other Halloween attractions, there are corn mazes that have it all.

Worth Pondering…

Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love—that makes life and nature harmonize.

—George Eliot

The 8 Best Things to Do this Fall in Georgia

Explore the BEST of the fall season in Georgia

As the air cools and the leaves start to fall, Georgia offers countless experiences to seek out with your family and close friends. From hikes to scenic drives, day trips to weekend getaways, take time to get out and enjoy the season’s best.

Brasstown Bald © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Take a road trip

Georgia has numerous routes with varied landscapes to enjoy. It twists. It turns. It takes you up, over, and around the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Dragon Eyes winds 77 miles, 715 curves, two loops, six gaps, and endless views that stretch over the mountains. There are several different points you can begin Dragon Eyes. Starting the journey at the center of the two loops in Blairsville, head north for a half-mile on 19/129 and turn right on 180, known as Jack’s Gap. As you start to climb, you will soon be at the base of Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. Make a left to wind your way through the canopy-covered road up to the top. At the summit, there’s an observation deck that has a stunning 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you’re staying in the area, Brasstown Bald is the perfect place to catch a sunrise or sunset. 

Along Russell-Brasstown Bald Scenic Byway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When you’re ready to head out, make your way down to the base and turn left on 180 to continue on the backside of Jack’s Gap. Once you get to the dead-end, make a right onto 75 toward the Bavarian village of Helen. The Dragon Eyes pass through Helen and onto state parks near trails and waterfalls.

The Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway also runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald and access points along the Appalachian Trail. Don’t forget about the coastal drives like Coastal Highway 17 which runs along the East Coast including a stretch between Savannah and Brunswick. Along the way, there are small towns and quirky attractions like the Smallest Church in America.

Vogel State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Visit a state park

Rich reds, vibrant oranges, and golden yellows make autumn color in Georgia beautiful. Find a quiet spot to immerse yourself in the beauty of the season at a Georgia State Parks.

The 4-mile Bear Hair Gap Trail at Vogel State Park makes a nice day trip for experienced hikers offering great mountain color and a birds-eye view of the park’s lake. For an easier walk, follow the Lake Loop to a small waterfall. The twisting roads around Vogel in Blairsville, particularly Wolf Pen Gap Road, offer some of north Georgia’s prettiest fall scenery.

You might already know about some of the most popular Georgia State Parks for fall color but there are many more to explore that don’t disappoint with an array of stunning scenes, smaller crowds, and wide-open spaces.

Leaf peeping near Blairsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Watch the leaves change

Admire the changing colors shifting from green to shades of orange. Blairsville is a good place to start, especially the viewpoint at Brasstown Bald. Similarly, the top of Yonah Mountain offers stunning vistas of the surrounding valley.

Georgia’s state parks are also ideal for “leaf peeping.” Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville has views from the state’s highest waterfall. Black Rock Mountain State Park near Clayton is also great as it’s Georgia’s highest elevation state park.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Visit a small town

Hit the back roads of the state, visiting the charming small towns with something different to offer. Families love the parks and zoo in Athens as well as the restaurants with outdoor dining. Nestled just below the foothills of the Smokies of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Athens is home to the University of Georgia, America’s first state-chartered university.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Greensboro is the gateway to Lake Oconee with a café known for its buttermilk pie—The Yesterday Café. Founded in 1786, Greensboro is steeped in Southern history and tradition and rich with elegant antebellum homes and churches.

Perhaps best known as the gateway city to pristine Cum­berland Island, the coastal town of St. Marys draws visitors with a host of natural attractions. Three rivers—St. Marys, the Crooked, and the North—and the Cumberland Sound come together here, making it a popu­lar destination for fishing and boating.

Apple picking season © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Pick apples

Fall is the apple picking season in Ellijay, the state’s capital of apple orchards. Visitors can fill up containers with varieties of apples as well as eat apple-accented dishes like apple fritters, apple cider doughnuts, and candy apples. Many orchards also have other things to do like hayrides, petting zoos, corn mazes, and other activities for kids.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Go camping

Experience the great outdoors with a fall camping trip. Georgia State Parks offer sites for both RVs and tents. But if you aren’t outdoorsy, you can take advantage of “glamping” like in a tiny cabin in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest in Suches, a yurt in Tugaloo State Park offering spectacular views of 55,590-acre Lake Hartwell, a geodesic dome in Ellijay with all the comforts of home, and a luxury canvas tent off on a private island (Little Raccoon Key) off Jekyll Island.

Pumpkin patch © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Visit a pumpkin patch

There’s nothing that signals fall quite like a trip to the pumpkin patch. Sometimes you need just the right type of patch for your family. Is that an intimate u-pick or an adventure-packed occasion with pumpkins, rides, games, and more?

During the fall pumpkin harvest, choose from thousands of pumpkins, Indian corn, gourds, and fall decorations. Scenic hayrides, popcorn processing, gift shop, talking pumpkins, boiled peanuts. Shop for jams, jellies, relishes, fritters, freshly baked pumpkin bread, pumpkin pies, honey, and apple ciders.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Go hiking

Explore Georgia among the miles of trails in every corner of the state.

The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses 14 states on its journey up the East Coast but it begins (or ends, depending on your direction) in Georgia. Springer Mountain has served as the starting point for countless adventures and as a celebratory finale for those completing the 2,180-mile hike from Mount Katahdin in Maine. In Georgia alone, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail covers 76 miles and crosses seven counties.

Hiking the Georgia mountains © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are shorter scenic trails for day hikers and backpackers to enjoy the best of fall colors along trails of varying lengths throughout Georgia. The Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area lies within four counties, north and northeast of Atlanta. It consists of the Chattahoochee River and 15 land units along a 48-mile stretch of the river.

Unpack your hiking shoes for a trek around one of Georgia’s most beautiful and notable natural wonders! At Providence Canyon, known as Georgia’s “Little Grand Canyon,” visitors can enjoy views of the canyons from the rim trail. Located near historic Savannah, Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah offers trails that wind through maritime forest and past salt marsh, leading to a boardwalk and an observation tower.

Worth Pondering…

Autumn . . . the year’s last loveliest smile.

—William Cullen Bryant

Savannah: Sweetheart of the South

There’s no shortage of things to see and do during your visit to Savannah

Savannah is the South’s sweetheart—from her cobblestone streets underfoot to her thin veils of Spanish moss-draped on the live oaks from above. She’s been sweeping folks off their feet since 1733 when General James Oglethorpe and his 120 passengers aboard the Anne first anchored along the Savannah River.

Madison Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As America’s first planned city, Savannah was designed to be pedestrian-friendly, laid out in grids with wide streets blended with public squares and parks; 22 of the 24 original squares still exist today.

During the Civil War, Savannah was one of the few towns left standing in wake of Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” and was given as a Christmas present to Abraham Lincoln in 1864.

Lafayette Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historic preservation saved many of the iconic buildings that the city is known for today. Savannah also has thrived from connections with literature and film, namely Forrest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Today, Savannah is a charming city that combines history, art, architecture, dining, and boutiques. There’s truly something here for everyone.

Life has always played out on the streets and in the squares in Savannah. Temperate year-round and walkable with cobblestones and oak-lined squares is a rarity in the US. Gas-lit paths line Savannah’s river of the same name which empties after 15 miles into wide, sandy beaches around Tybee Island. Gracious neoclassical mansions along the herringbone pavements provide an open-air gallery that’s free to admire.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walkthrough the 22 park-like historic squares in downtown Savannah, each with unique elements and stories. Don’t miss Chippewa Square, best known as the site of the bench scene from the movie Forrest Gump.

Start your Savannah adventure at an award-winning, much-lauded Southern bakery. Back in the Day Bakery makes things the old-fashioned way and owners Cheryl and Griffith Day include lots of love baked in their time-tested Southern recipes. They have received many awards throughout the years including being nominated in 2015 for a James Beard Award in the category of Outstanding Bakers. Cheryl and Griffith currently have several best-selling cookbooks including The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, Back in the Day Bakery Made with Love, and The Artisan Kitchen. Located at 2409 Bull Street, Back in the Day Bakery is best known for its down-home biscuits, jams, and cobblers along with their famous chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and lavender shortbread cookies.

Forsyth Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With breakfast in hand take a leisurely walk up Bull Street to Forsyth Park for a selfie at the most iconic (and most photographed) fountain in Savannah. The largest park in the historic district of Savannah, Forsyth Park covers 30 acres of land just south of Gaston Street and north of Park Avenue. For locals and tourists, Forsyth Park is a hub of social interaction. Concerts, recreation sports, people watching, sunbathing, reading, and relaxing can all be seen in Forsyth Park depending on when you visit. Be sure to plan an hour to check out Forsyth Park.

Old Town Trolley Tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It may sound somewhat touristy, but the best way to see Savannah’s historic district, especially for first-timers, is aboard a trolley tour. Two favorites are Old Savannah Tours and Old Town Trolley Tours of Savannah. These tours are hop-on, hop-off, allowing you to see most of the historic area in a short amount of time.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’d like to explore while eating, and who wouldn’t consider a food tour. The Savannah Taste Experience offers a variety of tours including one through the historic downtown area (First Squares Food Tour) and another off-the-beaten-path tour through Savannah’s east side (Famous & Secret East Side Food Tour) including a stop at Cha Bella, a Farm to Table restaurant, and Leopold’s Ice Cream. Both tours provide tastings at multiple establishments with enough food to satisfy your lunch cravings.

City Market © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter what you do for lunch, afterward, head to Leopold’s named one of the top 10 ice cream parlors in the world. Leopold’s Ice Cream was founded in 1919 by three brothers from Greece. They learned the art of candy and dessert from an uncle who had already settled in America. The brothers perfected their secret formulas and created the now world-famous Leopold’s VeriBest ice cream. Their ice cream is made one batch at a time using local ingredients like Savannah Bee Company honey. With a full soda fountain menu and more than 28 flavors available at any given time, they have a scoop of premium handmade ice cream just for you. Leopold’s is located at 212 E. Broughton Street.

Historic River Street © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The next stop is the uneven cobblestone streets of the Savannah Riverfront for a little shopping and sightseeing. A must-see is the new Plant Riverside District with jaw-dropping shops, restaurants, and hotels. The site’s original 1912 power plant has been restored with the preservation of historic characteristics such as the iconic twin smokestacks and brick exterior and redeveloped with hotel rooms and mixed-use space. Flanking on either side are two new buildings also featuring hotel rooms, restaurants, lounges, and meeting space. Along its shoreline, over a quarter-mile of riverwalk has been created.

Fresh pralines at River Street Sweets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The aroma of fresh pralines greets you at the door of the original River Street Sweets along with a free sample rolled out on a giant marble slab. Located on East River Street, the nostalgically decorated candy shop’s gourmet Southern treats—like hand-stretched peanut brittle, glazed pecans, and saltwater taffy—are made in-store and shipped all over the world. Alternately visit the Savannah Candy Kitchen with a location at City Market and River Street.

Waving Girl statue © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah was and still is a port town; a Savannah Riverboat Cruise is a great way to learn about the history and enjoy the water during a leisurely ride. The riverboat tours leave the dock next to the exact location where General Oglethrope first landed on the riverfront and head upriver to the Port of Savanna and then turn back under the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge and past the historic riverfront. The tours continue downriver passing the world-famous Waving Girl through the shipyards and just past the tip of Hutchinson Island and Old Fort Jackson (If you take the 3:30 p.m. tour you can also see them shoot the cannon at Old Fort Jackson). The boat then circles back upriver to arrive gently back at the dock.

Chippewa Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Prominent in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Bonaventure (which means “good fortune”) is the final resting place for several of Savannah’s most famous residents including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Conrad Aiken and lyricist Johnny Mercer. This large cemetery on the banks of the placid Wilmington River is home to massive moss-draped oaks that stand guard over rows of elegant statuary and headstones. Spanish moss-draped trees make it a favorite spot of photographers. Free self-guided tours and free guided tours by Bonaventure Historical Society volunteers, every second Sunday, at 2 pm, 2:30 pm, and 3 pm.

Lafayette Square © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tybee Island, often referred to as Savannah’s Beach offers visitors a place for all seasons with sandy beaches, great fishing, and rich history at every turn. River’s End Campground is a fantastic home base for exploring it all. River’s End offers full hook-up sites including water, 30 or 50 amp electrical service, standard cable, and sewer. The length and width of the sites vary. Not all sites can accommodate large rigs. The campground is approximately one-half mile from the beach and 15 miles from historic downtown Savannah.

Creek Fire RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

About 20 minutes west of Historic Savannah, Creek Fire is a new RV resort conveniently located ½ mile west of Interstate 95 at Exit 94. The park offers 105 RV sites, all suitable for big rigs. Site options include back-in and pull-through, gravel, and concrete. Interior roads are asphalt. Each site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located. The park is adding 100+ new sites, two new pool features, a rally building, a pool bar, and restaurant, a market, and a gym. Resort amenities include canoe, kayak, and boat rentals; a 1-mile nature trail around the lake, a tennis/pickleball court, a bocce ball, and a full shower and laundry facilities. CreekFire RV Resort opened in October 2017 with 105 sites, two park models, and seven cabins. Two years after opening, CreekFire was already expanding with another 100 RV sites planned.

Forrest Gump © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so much to see and do in and around Savannah, one visit simply isn’t enough. Fortunately, that same Southern hospitality is ready to welcome visitors back again and again.

Worth Pondering…

Savannah is a lovely pastel dream of tight cobbled streets. There are legendary scenes to rival any dreamed up by Tennessee Williams.

—Rosemary Daniell