Savannah - Georgia's First City
As Betsy and I were planning our northern trek up the East Coast of the US, we knew we wanted to visit both Charleston and Savannah. They were in close enough proximity to each other that we decided we could visit them both from one campground somewhere in between. We chose to park our house closer to Charleston, and make a trip to Savannah a day trip. Betsy’s parents decided to skip the excursion to Savannah, so Betsy and I were on our own for this one.
Savannah is the oldest and fifth-largest city in Georgia and the third-largest metropolitan area. Established in 1733 on the Savannah River, the city of Savannah was a strategic port city in the American Revolution and during the American Civil War. Each year Savannah attracts millions of visitors to its cobblestone streets, parks, and notable historic buildings. Savannah’s downtown area, which includes the Savannah Historic District, the Savannah Victorian Historic District, and 22 park-like squares, is one of the largest National Historic Landmark Districts in the United States. Downtown Savannah largely retains the original town plan prescribed by founder James Oglethorpe (a design now known as the Oglethorpe Plan).
Our drive from Oak Plantation Campground outside of Charleston to Savannah took about an hour and forty minutes. Further than we had originally anticipated and we may have been closer during our stay in Jacksonville. None the less, it was a pleasant drive and I had good company! We parked a couple of blocks from the Historic Waterfront near Ellis Square, one of the 22 squares mentioned earlier. With a map in hand from the Visitors Center on Ellis Square, we headed towards the waterfront on foot. After getting past some building construction, we were down on the waterfront, known as River St., where there were a wide variety of shops, bars and restaurants. It was a bright sunny day so the walk was pleasant and we had a great view of the river and the Convention Center across the Savannah River on Hutchinson Island. At the eastern end of the River Walk we noticed a bronze statue that resembled the Olympic Torch. It was at this point we were reminded that Savannah was the host city for the sailing competitions during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta.
Our walk then went away from the river and we ventured towards the many squares the city has to offer. 22 in all, these squares create unique neighborhoods within the city of Savannah. We didn’t get to see all of them, but the ones we saw all appeared to be a little different and had lovely homes surrounding them. As we passed through the center of the city we strolled through the Colonial Park Cemetery. It is interesting to wander through cemeteries in places like Savannah and Charleston due to the age of some of the headstones. It is cool when you realize some of them had been there since before our country was even created. We decided we had to make a stop at Chippewa Square. I was not aware of the significance of this Square before Betsy educated me. All of you Forest Gump fans would recognize it and probably recite something like, “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’ “ His famous bench is no longer in the Square, and it doesn’t look exactly like it did in the movie, but it was still a good photo opportunity.
After we felt we had gotten a good sense of the city of Savannah, we hopped into the car for the short 20 minute ride to Tybee Island. Tybee Island, formerly known as "Savannah Beach", is the site of the Tybee Island Light Station, the first lighthouse on the southern Atlantic coast. A quick ride through Tybee gave us the feel of a small beach town with no building over four stories tall and the majority of structures being single-family homes. We parked for a quick walk out the Tybee Pier & Pavilion, which allowed us our obligatory look at the Atlantic Ocean from another point on the East Coast.
This finished our trifecta of historic southeastern cities. We enjoyed all of the beauty and history they all offered. When back in this “neck of the woods”, we would give any of them another look.