Ramblin’ ’round coastal Georgia – Skidaway, Tybee and Cumberland Islands
Skidaway Island was a good place to pause so Steve could fly to Tucson, AZ for his quarterly oncology checkup. Happily, the doctor once again gave him two thumbs up!
We camped at Skidaway Island State Park, a scenic campground nestled under live oaks and Spanish moss. Little did we know that Steve’s driving skills would be tested to the max as we approached our site. The road was narrow and bumpy, with many sites located between dense pine trees. We loved the forest atmosphere, but it was quite a challenge backing Betsy into site #68 without damaging anything. Once parked, we loved our huge site that had more space than we knew what to do with 🙂
The trails we followed within the large campground led through coastal forest, salt flats and historic and archaeological features like shell middens. There were even remains from an old liquor still along the remote trail:
Moon River District
With Steve away for a couple of days, I explored the Moon River District located near our campground. It’s steeped in all things history, nature, and education, and made up of six sites including our campground. I visited Pin Point Heritage Museum and drove through Bethesda Academy, then visited Wormsloe Historic Site and the Isle of Hope.
I learned that the song “Moon River,” composed by Johnny Mercer, is an actual spot where his home overlooked the river. It immortalized the tidal river that flows by Pin Point. But I digress…
Pin Point Heritage Museum tells the history of Pin Point, home to one of the few surviving Gullah-Geechee cultures of the Sea Islands region. The isolated community has celebrated the Gullah-Geechee heritage, which is a creole culture and language forged by African slaves from a mix of African and European components. It’s been carried on by their descendants to the present day.
The museum, which is housed at the former A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory, also explores the old seafood and fishing industries upon which many coastal communities have depended for their livelihoods:
About 300 people are direct descendants of the first residents. A well-known native son, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was born here.
After about an hour of touring I’d say it was the most unique and culturally-rich heritage site I’ve ever visited – I’d recommend it to anyone coming to this area!
While driving around the Moon River District I was captivated by the arching live oaks swathed with picturesquely gothic drapes of Spanish moss. I learned that Southern Live Oak trees were planted in the 19th century to provide shade in the summer and beauty year-round. And of course they’ve become an iconic and classic sight in and around Savannah.
When Steve returned we drove to Tybee Island, considered Savannah’s beach. Upon arrival I did my “touch the water” ritual, and this was the first time I’d worn boots and a jacket for a beach walk in a long time – it was chilly!
After a sumptuous low-country boil we burned up the calories by climbing 178 steps to the top of historic Tybee Island Light. It’s the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia, and one of the most intact historic lighthouses remaining in the country.
While reading an exhibit at the lighthouse, I heard someone call my name and was amazed when bloggers Ed and Sharon introduced themselves and informed us they recognized us from our blog! AND we all have friends in common from Washington state, Bob and Dee Dee! Talk about a small world!
Fort Pulaski National Monument
Steve visited Fort Pulaski National Monument on a sunny day. This huge fort took 18 years to build and contained 25 million bricks. Robert E. Lee designed and oversaw early construction of the five-sided fort beginning in 1829. Part of a system of coastal fortifications, its purpose was to protect the mouth of the Savannah River against foreign invasion.
We had two main reasons for revisiting Savannah – awesome southern food and Leopold’s Ice Cream. Click here to see what we did during our first visit in 2013. Even heavy rain couldn’t ruin this return visit!
The weather continued to create havoc during our 10-day stay in Savannah, and Steve complained again about his “RV fever”:
Crooked River State Park
Our final Georgia stop was further south at Crooked River State Park, yet another spacious forested campground. We didn’t do much during our week here, mostly due to a power steering issue with the car that we had to get fixed. But I was content to watch a large variety of feathered friends on the feeders right outside my window:
Cumberland Island National Seashore
The highlight of this stop was a 45-minute ferry ride to Cumberland Island, Georgia’s largest (at 18 miles in length) and southern-most barrier island. It’s accessible only by boat and largely undeveloped, with over half of its land administered by the National Park Service as protected wilderness. No more than 300 visitors are allowed on the island at one time.
Thomas and Lucy Carnegie owned most of the island in the 1880’s, and they built mansions on it for themselves and their children. Today, the ruins of Dungeness (the main mansion) and two other mansions remain as legacies to America’s Gilded Age.
The NPS acquired the island from the Carnegie family in 1972, and established the Cumberland Island National Seashore. The remaining two mansions – Plum Orchard and Greyfield Inn – sit on the north and west side of the island and are accessible via guided tours only.
We took the 11:30am ferry over from the port at St. Mary’s, and returned on the last ferry at 4:30pm. That gave us plenty of time for a 5-mile walk, which included a maritime forest, a 1.5-mile stretch of isolated and pristine beach, and an area of “tunnels” created by Spanish moss-draped 300-year-old live oaks. It was a walk full of diversity, and we were happy to encounter an abundance of wildlife virtually untouched by the outside world:
The peaceful, isolated, unspoiled natural surroundings here made it the site of a top-secret wedding in 1996. The marriage of John Kennedy, Jr. and Carolyn Bessette made the world aware of Cumberland Island.
We experienced so much of Georgia’s natural beauty during our half month of ramblin’ ’round; from wide sandy beaches and vast salt marshes, to maritime forest thick with Spanish moss and centuries-old southern live oaks. We love this beautiful place – even in inclement weather!