Roadtrip Stop #4: Savannah – The Jewel of Georgia
After leaving Charleston, I wasn’t sure what to expect regarding our next destination: Savannah, Georgia. Rumors preceded it… “Savannah is a blue-collar Charleston” “It’s the Jewel of Georgia”, “The St. Patty’s Day celebration is one of the best in the South”, and things of the sort. Sometimes I don’t like to know anything about a city until I get there in order to have an unbiased opinion. Some things that I might love, others may not enjoy, and vice versa. It’s always best to learn about things for yourself, and then form an opinion, regardless of the topic or thing in question. But I couldn’t help it – What was stuck in my head was “Blue-collar Charleston.” And I didn’t know how I felt about that. Charleston was so incredibly beautiful. I didn’t think Savannah could top it. I should have taken my own advice, because like many times before on our journey, my preconceived notion was mostly wrong, and a little bit dead on, but not in the way I would have expected.
We approached Savannah from the north, driving over the Little Black and Savannah Rivers, which help form the border between South Carolina and Georgia, and into downtown Savannah, before making a hard left and heading east out to Tybee Island for our first evening in the area.
Tybee is a barrier island, also known as Savannah’s beach.
Before this trip, I had never heard of the place, but we found a fantastic beachside RV campground there called River’s End, and that’s where we spent our first night. It’s a crowded campground, and seems to cater to families, but it had everything we needed for a comfortable night near the beach.
After getting settled into camp, we thought it would be a good idea to check out what the beach had to offer. To our surprise, there was a beautiful historic lighthouse situated right next to the water.
The beach is massive and sandy. The Savannah River meets it’s final destination and pours into the Atlantic Ocean, forming a rocky barrier at the river’s mouth, and offering a good wave or two for you surfers out there (dude).
The next day was spent in the historic district of Savannah, about a 20 minute drive from Tybee Island. I can’t say enough about how beautiful this town is.
So much history, so well maintained, AND (drum roll please) they know how to party. First of all, you can drink in the streets. When you order a drink at a bar, they’ll pour it in a plastic cup so if you choose, you can wander outside the bar and down the street to the next establishment with no worries of law enforcement writing you a ticket for an illegal open container. Secondly, they have a number of good festivals throughout the year: Savannah Film Festival, Savannah Music Festival, and the St. Patrick’s Day Fest. Upon our arrival in the city, we discovered it was the last day for the Music Fest. We had planned to attend, but on our way, we stumbled on the Savannah City Market and didn’t want to leave. More on that shortly. Much of our time was spent in the City Market, on River St, and in the many immaculate Town Squares (there are 22 total).
We visited the City Market on Easter Sunday, and the term ‘market’ doesn’t do this gathering place justice.
It’s a street lined with vendors of all types, from pizza shops, to white table cloth restaurants, to multiple informal watering holes. Most of the shops had moved some of their business out into the market plaza. It’s situated between Franklin and Ellis Squares, and the combination of the 3 courtyards makes for great people watching and plenty of open air seating.
There was live music echoing throughout, and the crowd was enjoying the sweet springtime air as they ate lunch and consumed a few adult beverages. We couldn’t help but smile. This was our type of city without a doubt – laid back, friendly, and of course, that unique southern charm. Morgan and I were not only surprised, but extremely impressed with the area, the people, and the city as a whole. We managed to stop in a handful of establishments and talked to some of the locals, one of which was named Adam M Gazda.
He’s a member of BOSS (Beardsmen of Savannah Society). In case you can’t tell, these guys fancy the face fuzz. They collaborate with other organizations in the Savannah area to raise awareness for good causes, including the Humane Society, all while growing their beards ever longer. They were nice enough to take a picture with us, and give us some local spots to check out in town. One of their favorites, and a local treasure, is Mrs. Wilkes. We decided we would check out Mrs. Wilkes for brunch the next day, but first we needed to have some local Savannah seafood. We heard good things from multiple people about the dining and the views on River St, specifically a place called Fiddlers.
Morgan wanted crab legs, and I was in the mood for a Lowcountry Boil. Luckily, Fiddlers had both. If you’re not familiar with a lowcountry boil, it’s a Carolina and Georgia specialty. It usually consists of some type of local seafood fare, typically shrimp and/or crab mixed with red skin potatoes, corn, and sausage.
The Lowcountry Boil gets it’s name from the ‘low country’ that sits between the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Ocean in the Southeastern U.S. There’s a distinct subculture in the region, and the recipe dates back to the time of the founders of the colonies, and even the slave culture, when they simply gathered what they could grow and was readily available from the sea, boiled it in a pot with seasoning, and served informally on large plates. It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway – So good!!! Definitely try one next time you’re in the area.
After we left Fiddlers full and happy, we hung outside the restaurant on River St. for a bit to take in the sights and sounds. Again, Savannah did it right. Brick and cobblestone walkways. Streets lined with plenty of shopping, bars, and cafes to keep you busy for hours. I wanted to sample them all, but there was only so much room in my belly, especially after filling it with enough shrimp to feed a small army at Fiddlers. The views of the river, surrounding buildings, and industry lining the waterway made for good photo opps.
Speaking of scrumptious food, the next morning I woke up excited, with visions of fried chicken and sausage gravy & biscuits dancing in my head. My mouth was already watering just thinking about Mrs. Wilkes Southern Style Dining Room. As with the city of Savannah before, Mrs. Wilkes reputation preceded itself. Adam Gazda prepped us for what to expect the previous night. Only open from 11am-2pm each day, it’s so famous in the Savannah area that a line gathers starting around 9am just to get a seat at the family style restaurant. Once inside, you sit at group tables with strangers (soon to become your acquaintances), share the bowls of southern style food (the menu changes daily), and bus your own dishes. It’s also a bed & breakfast if you’re looking for unique lodging in the historic area of town.
As we approached Mrs. Wilkes around 11:30am, we were greeted to a line LITERALLY around the block.
Adam was not lying. We stood in the Savannah sun for about 30 minutes before we had to make the tough choice to exit the line. Unfortunately, as with many things on our trip thus far, we didn’t have enough time budgeted to wait 2 hours for fried chicken (Insert sad face and grumbly stomach here)
Slightly disappointed, we walked over to The Savannah Distillery, and we weren’t disappointed for long.
We ordered their delicious Pickled Bloody Mary, and I finally got the southern fried chicken I was craving.
Morgan got the black bean veggie burger. Each dish was fantastic, and was a perfect topper to our time in this ‘Jewel of Georgia.’
Savannah was in fact a little bit like the “Blue-collar Charleston” I mentioned in my opening paragraph. My preconceived notion was close to correct, but completely different than I expected at the same time. And the exact thing I thought might not make us like this town as much as Charleston was what made us love it all the more. In our experience, it’s easy going yet hard working, unassuming yet completely stunning. Does it have the history of Charleston? Probably not, but it definitely has a vibe all its own. Next time you’re looking for a warm getaway, you might want to seriously consider the Jewel of Georgia. I know we will!