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.