A two-hour drive from Savannah lies the charming town of Charleston, known for its hospitable residents and well-preserved architecture. Sample the local specialty: she-crab soup, a delicious creamy bisque made with Atlantic blue crab meat and crab roe. History and nature lovers alike will relish walking in the downtown area with its historic houses and secret gardens. Admire the pastel-colored houses of Rainbow Row, visit one of the oldest public market in the US – City Market, and finish off with a look at the Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park. There will not be a shortage of activities in the day to keep busy.
Beaufort has served as the location for a number of hit movies such as GI Jane (1997), Platoon (1986), Forces of Nature (1999) and the most famous of all, Forrest Gump (1994). Of course this is not the only reason to visit Beaufort, but film buffs will love it. It is recommended to invest in a guide to tour the many Antebellum homes, of which Verdier House in particular is an excellent example. Amble through the waterfront Henry C Chamber park admiring the sea views, or the Beaufort National Cemetery, one of the first cemeteries established during the Civil War and one of the most beautiful. Beaufort is a 55-minute drive from Savannah.
Interestingly half of this park, established in 1927 on the remains of a rice plantation, actually lies in South Carolina. The refuge is home to a wide array of animals and over 250 species of bird life. With 40m (64km) of trails and a driving loop, a whole day can be spent searching for glimpses of ospreys, owls, bald eagles, deer, bobcats, otters and lots of alligators. It’s a mere 10 minutes from town to the visitor center, which is open from 9am to 4.30pm, Monday through Saturday. Admission is free.
In a channel of the Savannah River lies Cockspur Island, named because of its bent shape. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, landed on the island in 1736 and a monument now marks the spot. The island is also home to Fort Pulaski National Monument, a Civil War landmark, and the Cockspur Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse can be viewed from afar, perched among marshy grassland it makes for some picturesque photographs. Within Fort Pulaski hiking, biking and walking trails are abundant and offer scenic vistas of the mainland. A 20-minute drive from downtown Savannah puts you on the island.
On the banks of the May River, lies quaint Bluffton. Stroll the beautiful Old Town Bluffton, then head over to the Heyward House Museum to tour of the eight Antebellum homes left in the town. Picnic in Oyster Factory Park for lunch and afterwards tour the neoclassical Church of the Cross. End your day at the rustic-chic FARM, the best place to sample small plates of locally sourced seafood. Make sure to book a seat at the chef’s table that enables diners to have a full view into the kitchen. Bluffton is just under an hour’s drive from downtown Savannah.
This leafy residential island is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Savannah. Not only a home to a beautiful neighborhood, it offers a natural escape at Skidaway Island State Park. It’s uniquely located on salt flats, marshland and forest with 6mi (10km) of raised hiking trails, an observation tower and a boardwalk that overlooks the Georgia Intercoastal Waterway. The park is full of wildlife with opportunities to spot deer, egrets and even crabs from platforms throughout the area. Instead of walking the trails there is also the option to rent bicycles at the park’s office. The park is open from 7am to 10pm daily and charges a $5 parking fee.