Georgia’s Golden Isles

Here on the southeast Georgia coast there’s a way of life that was new to us and utterly enchanting. We spent the week based at Blythe Island Regional Park in Brunswick, which is the gateway to the fabled Golden Isles. Consisting of barrier islands, pristine marshland, miles of beaches, and historic landmarks, the Golden Isles provided us plenty to explore.

The campground was conveniently located and had everything we needed to explore the area. Not only can you access the intercostal waterway from the park, but you can play with bunnies which are everywhere! Apparently the park is also a refuge for domestic-looking rabbits of all colors. 

We met our RV-ing friends Bill and Sandy on Jekyll Island and hit the over 20 miles of bike trails to explore the historic isle on two wheels. Bill and Sandy just happened to be staying nearby so it was a perfect opportunity to reunite after meeting at the Tampa RV Show in January. And they like to bike too!

Jekyll Island’s history goes back over 3500 years.  Most notably the Jekyll Island Club, built in the late 1890s, had membership which included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Pulitzers, Goodyears, and Vanderbilts. Jekyll Island was purchased by the State of Georgia in 1947 and is now a popular area for vacationers.

Of course we visited a number of other historic sites on the island, including the historic Jekyll Island Club. We just pedaled past but it was fun to see the “other half” playing croquet in their traditional whites. 

Driftwood Beach, on the north side of Jekyll, is a highlight for many. We marveled at the gnarled and weathered trees that have been sculpted by the sea. Not surprisingly, it’s a popular place for photo shoots.

We also checked out the 1740s Horton House, one of the original structures built by the British out of tabby. Amazingly it’s still standing. 

We loved Jekyll so much that we’ve booked a week at the Jekyll Island Campground for next spring. One day was just not enough time to soak this place in.

We also visited St. Simon Island while in the Brunswick area. The largest of the barrier islands, St. Simon features beautiful live oak lanes, Spanish moss, plenty of shopping, dining, and more history. When you visit you have to search for the 20 tree spirits, carved trees located around the island.

After a stroll along the waterfront, we drove out to Fort Frederica National Monument. Here lies the ruins of the 1733 town built to defend the Georiga, a fledgling colony, against Spanish attack from Florida.  They are still excavating the site, finding artifacts beneath the soil that tell the story of the fort’s history. 

Georgia’s Golden Isles hold a fascination for many, us included. We can’t wait to return. In the meantime, we are finally heading west, after five months on the road. We’ve got some fun stops ahead of us before we land back in Arizona in late April. 

Savannah – The Hostess City

Everyone said Savannah was great, but we needed to see it for ourselves. Now we can say from first-hand experience that Savannah is indeed one of America’s great cities, welcoming visitors like the hostess she is.  Our week in the area was filled with history, architecture, and natural beauty that surprised us at every turn.

We based ourselves at the relatively new CreekFire Motor Ranch, which put us about 20 minutes from historic downtown Savannah. Creekfire is truly a resort with a heated pool, kids pool, lazy river, gym, lake, on-site bar and restaurant and more.

We even enjoyed a live band one night while sitting out by the lake. It was so nice that we’ve already booked a return visit next year!

In Savannah, we decided to get oriented with a tour. This time we chose a bike tour, which took us from one side of the city to the other in about two hours. Our guide was well versed in the history of the city, its 22 squares, historic homes, and churches. Many of the places we visited were featured in the popular book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Berendt, and my book club friends will likely recognize a few of these pictures.

The bike tour gave us a good foundation for exploring the city on other days too. The American Prohibition Museum opened our eyes to the social, economic, and political impacts of restricting people’s choice to imbibe. Of course, Savannah was a mecca for moonshine and bootleggers. 

A stunning place to stroll is the Savannah Riverfront. Originally a bustling port for the cotton industry, now the old port buildings, roads, and ramps are now a focal point for shops, restaurants, and hotels. Even Bob and Mia enjoyed our riverfront walk.

Another must-see stop in Savannah is the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, where Savannah’s history is buried. We joined noted guide and historian Shannon Scott on a two hour exploration of the cemetery which was first established in 1846.

Originally designed as a Victorian cemetery with winding pathways, lots of trees and grass areas, Bonaventure has been a gathering place for family picnics as well as a place of comfort for the bereaved. Probably the most famous residents are songwriter Johnny Mercer and writer Conrad Aiken.

A trip to Savannah is not complete without a visit to Wormsloe Historic Site, the colonial-era estate of Noble Jones, one of the area’s first settlers. The former plantation is the site of the oldest standing structure in Savannah. The ruins of Jones’ 1745 tabby house still overlook the Savannah River and the property was held by his descendants until the state acquired the land in 1973. Most striking is the mile-long archway of live oaks that usher you into the plantation. It’s what you picture a southern plantation should be. 

One reason we put Savannah on our itinerary was so that Steve could run his first live marathon since the start of the pandemic. On Saturday morning he rose early, drove out to nearby Skidaway Island and ran 26.2 miles in about four hours. He was rewarded with a medal, new sunglasses, a t-shirt, and claim to running a marathon in Georgia. He’s now marathoned in 19 states and counting…

Our time in the Savannah area coincided with the annual St. Patricks Day festivities. While the annual parade was cancelled due to COVID-19, there was still plenty of Irish spirit, especially out on Tybee Island.

On Tybee we learned about the island’s early military history, including the American Revolution, War of 1812, Spanish American War, WWI, and WWII. The Tybee Island Light Station, originally built in 1773, provided guidance to mariners in the past and now gives tourists sweeping views of the Atlantic and Savannah River. We enjoyed the 178 step climb to the top, as well as our tour of the Keeper’s Cottage. 

On our way out of Tybee we also stopped in to take a peak at Fort Pulaski. One of a series of forts along the Georgia coastline, the fort was built after the War of 1812 and was, for a time, under Confederate control. Once taken by the Union army, the fort eventually became a prison for Confederate officers. So much history…

Full exploration of Savannah and the surrounding area takes much more time than we allotted. Next time, we’ll spend more time sitting in the peaceful squares, enjoying the world-famous restaurants, and learning more about this fascinating part of America.

St. Augustine

We found a new favorite place in Florida. Well. . . another favorite place 🙂 We were told St. Augustine was a great city and now we know why. In fact, we ended up spending a few extra days than originally planned.

Our first stay was at the Bryn Mawr Ocean Resort, just south of St. Augustine and right on Butler Beach. The park was not our favorite, but it didn’t matter because we were right on the beach and were able to take advantage of some beautiful weather. The beaches were wide and uncrowded and perfect for running and biking.

In between beach time, we went into St. Augustine and wandered the nation’s oldest city. Founded in 1565 by Spanish explorers, the city went from Spanish to British and back to Spanish control until it was ceded to the United States in 1819. The history here is deeper than we could have ever explored during our time. The Old Town Trolley tour we took gave us a good overview.

We also enjoyed wandering the old, narrow streets, one day in the sunshine and another day in the rain. Even Bob and Mia enjoyed window shopping and Bob got a new shirt!

After a few days at Bryn Mawr we moved up the beach to the incredible Anastasia State Park. We were lucky to score three days here, where people book campsites up to a year in advance. With a robust turtle habitat and the occasional snake next to the campsite, we settled in for a fun weekend. The park’s beach goes on forever and we got lucky with three gloriously sunny days which we spent on the beach, in the park, and at the campsite.

On Saturday mornings, adjacent to the park, the Old City Farmers Market is held. We walked to the market without thinking that if we bought fresh stuff we’d have to carry it back. It was only about a mile walk, and Steve just added it to his workout records!

The centerpiece of St. Augustine is the impressive Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The oldest masonry fort in the United States dates back to 1672 when it was first constructed by the Spanish out of the local coquina quarried from the land that is now Anastasia State Park. The seashell-based stone has stood the test of time.

We wandered the grounds from bottom to top and absorbed the history as best we could. Through two Spanish periods, a British occupation, the Civil War, and now hoards of tourists, the fort has protected St. Augustine from invaders, served as a military prison for members of various Native American tribes, and been a popular tourist destination. 

Just when we thought our time in St. Augustine was coming to an end, we learned of a vacancy at the North Beach Camp Resort where we could stay for two more days. The site, the premier site in the campground, put us facing the Intercoastal Waterway with views of fishing boats, dolphins, and great sunsets. It was only two days, but we enjoyed a little extra time in this beautiful area.

We’re now heading north and have more adventures planned. Stay tuned!