5 Things I Learned While RVing The American South

The American South has a mixed reputation in U.S. popular culture: it’s home to sweet tea, gravy and biscuits, country music and the blues, barbecue and soul food, friendly and helpful people, and beautiful and diverse landscapes.

Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Historic Downtown Charleston has stood throughout Charleston’s history as the cultural capital of the South and is considered by many to be a living museum, with a wonderful variety of things to do and see. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first time we visited the South was in 1986 on a working road trip across the U.S. We found an incredible region of helpful people, a countryside dotted with rolling hills, farms, and forests, and hearty food rich in flavor. From Charleston to New Orleans and Nashville to Mobile and everything in between, the South was extraordinary.

During the past 10 years we have further explored the region. There is prodigious variety here, a region of many impressions.

The food will make you happy

Food plays a central role in Southern life and is rich in both flavor and diversity. Each region has its own specialties—barbecue in Memphis and North Carolina, Creole and Cajun food in Louisiana, seafood along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, soul food in the Low Country, and fried chicken and gravy most anywhere in the region. And there’s Sweet Potato Pie, Goo Goo Clusters, and pecan pie, all Southern traditions.

Many picture Southern food as greasy, fried, and heavy fare. While much of it is hearty, the richness in flavor and variety is outstanding. There is something for everyone, and if you go hungry while visiting, it is your own fault.

I could spend a lifetime eating my way through the South. (Mental note to future self: Do that.)

Café Des Amis in historic downtown Breaux Bridge, Louisiana,  hosts a world famous Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning and a spectacular Sunday brunch served all day. Fuel up on beignets or Orielle de Cochon, Zydeco or Big Hat omelets, Eggs Des Amis or Eggs Begnaud, sweet potato pancakes or Couche Couche before hitting the dance floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Café Des Amis in historic downtown Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, hosts a world famous Zydeco Breakfast every Saturday morning and a spectacular Sunday brunch served all day. Fuel up on beignets or Orielle de Cochon, Zydeco or Big Hat omelets, Eggs Des Amis or Eggs Begnaud, sweet potato pancakes or Couche Couche before hitting the dance floor. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Music makes the region go ’round

Music is a way of life here. The sound of live music fills the air everywhere. Nashville, Memphis, and New Orleans are famous music haunts, but even the tiniest towns throughout the South have robust live music scenes. From jazz to country to blues to bluegrass, there’s a music soul to this region. One can dance, jam, and sing the night away.

The people really are friendly 

There’s a common belief that the South is home to the friendliest people in the country. And along with Texans and small-town America they probably are. They are cheerful, talkative, and incredibly helpful. Strangers wave hello, inquire about your day, and generally go the extra mile to make visitors feel welcome. The folks here have hospitality down to an art.

Bye, Ya’ll come back now! Ya hear?

The landscape is stunning

The Southern landscape is beautiful and diverse. The Smoky Mountains are a vast, dense forest filled with inviting rivers, lakes, and trails. The Louisiana bayou is haunting with moss-covered trees and eerie calm. The hills of Appalachia stretch for wooded miles and the Mississippi Delta, with its swamps and marshes is gorgeous. And the beaches of the Florida Panhandle the Alabama Gulf Coast are so white they sparkle.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To understand The South, you have to understand its past

As a student of history, I was excited to explore the area’s colonial cities and Civil War sites. Cities like New Orleans, Vicksburg, Savannah, Memphis, Pensacola, St. Augustine, Mobile, and Charleston helped shape the country—and their history and influence are important to the story of America.

It was in these cities that many American cultural and political leaders were born, the Civil War began, battles were won and lost, and the rise and fall of slavery was sown. Voodoo, alligators, wild horses, African culture, and the wealthiest families in the United States are all part of the history of the Golden Isles of Georgia. These cities and their history help explain a lot about Southern pride and culture.

I love the area more with each visit. It’s one of the most culturally rich areas in the country. There’s a reason why its cities are booming.

South Carolina Low Country near Beaufort. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
South Carolina Low Country near Beaufort. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Go visit the region, get out of the cities, travel through the mountains, and find your way into the small towns. You’ll discover friendly people, heavenly food, amazing music, and an appreciation for a slow pace of life.

Worth Pondering…

Y’all Come Back Saloon
She played tambourine with a silver jingle
And she must have known the words to at least a million tunes
But the one most requested by the man she knew as cowboy
Was the late night benediction at the y’all come back saloon

—written by Sharon Vaughn and recorded by The Oak Ridge Boys

Read More

Planning an RV Rental Vacation

Recreational vehicles have become one of the most popular ways for Americans and Canadians to travel.

rent an rv
Considering the RV lifestyle? Try renting before laying down the cash. Camping in a rental Class C motorhome at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is no time wasted rushing through the airport and dealing with delays or cancellations. Even with today’s fuel prices, RV travel is still a more economical way for families to travel than staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.

An RV vacation lets you determine your daily itinerary. Stop and stretch when you’re ready; enjoy drinks and snacks when you choose; use your own bathroom when public facilities are unavailable or unsanitary.

An RV vacation offers you the ultimate freedom to travel and explore at your own pace. You have complete control over your destination plans, including when you depart, where you travel, and what you do during your family vacation.

There are many destinations you can go as a family when taking an RV road trip. These types of vacations make it possible for families to enjoy the great outdoors, see historical sites, and spend time together sitting around the campfire. When selecting a destination, it is important to ensure there are ample activities to involve the entire family.

You can tour the continent from the Canadian Rockies to Arizona and from California to Texas, Alabama, and Georgia and everywhere in between.

RV sales continue to be strong. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) reports that RV manufacturers shipped almost 286,000 vehicles in 2012, with a retail value of more than $10.8 billion.

Touring Jasper National with a Fraserway RV rental
Touring Jasper National with a Fraserway RV rental. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to the popularity, RV rentals have also seen a boost.

There’s no better way to try before you buy than by renting an RV. Many people rent RVs simply for a change of pace by taking an RV trip to a special destination or event such as football tailgating or Mardi Gras.

You can rent near home and journey to your destination, or fly and pick up your RV at the other end. More than 460 national chain outlets and local RV dealerships rent RVs, including state-of-the-art, late-model-year units. A growing number of campgrounds offer on-site RV rentals as well.

Selecting the right RV rental company will take considerable research and price comparison. Before choosing a rental company, take time to speak to each company in your area to get a price quote and find out what is included with the rental.

RV rentals are available through both local and national companies. Some of the more popular national RV rental companies include Cruise America, El Monte RV, USA RV Rentals, and Camping World. The major rental companies in Canada include Canadream and Cruise Canada.

Most RV rental companies offer housekeeping packages (dishes, pots, pans, bed linens, etc.) for a nominal fee, or you can bring your own. Even if you’re driving or towing an RV for the first time, features like automatic transmissions, power steering, large external mirrors, and rear view cameras make it easy for experienced drivers to adjust to the difference in length, height, and weight.

Book your RV well in advance, especially if you plan to travel during the summer or on busy holiday weekends such as Memorial Day or Labor Day. These are the busiest times of the year.

Airstream trailer now available as a rental unit at Larimer County’s Horsetooth Reservoir South Bay Campground (Credit: Steve Stoner)
Airstream trailer now available as a rental unit at Larimer County’s Horsetooth Reservoir South Bay Campground (Credit: Steve Stoner)

Pre-select a few destinations and take a look at your budget. Though the cost of parking the RV for the night is less expensive than staying at a hotel, the costs for fuel and mileage can add up quickly.

Have a destination in mind before calling the RV rental company and ask for a total estimate, including rental fee and average mileage charges. Ask for several different destinations to compare rates and finally pick a location for your vacation.

It is important you understand your rights and responsibilities before signing an RV rental agreement.

When taking delivery of your rented RV, allow ample time to ensure everything is in working order and you are familiar with the operation all major systems including utility hookups (electrical, water, and sewer). Make sure you know how to hook these up before you leave on vacation and all required attachments are supplied. Check the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to ensure they are operational.

Check for any manuals that can help answer questions along the way and look for any noticeable damage. Make sure to point out any damage or missing items to the rental agency before leaving. This way you are not responsible for the items.

Make a check list of everything you need for your RV vacation, including what to bring and what to do before leaving.

Renting an RV is a great way to test drive the RV lifestyle experience.

Worth Pondering…

The attraction of recreational vehicle travel is to see the country, visit new places, meet interesting people, and experience the freedom of the open road.

Read More

Cumberland Island: From Camping to the Carnegies

Explore Georgia’s Cumberland Island to witness the beauty of natural wilderness and historical intrigue. A trip to Cumberland Island can satisfy your mind’s curiosity with its historical secrets or relax it with tranquil scenery.

Dungeness Ruins has a very long history
Dungeness Ruins has a very long history to tell. The name came originally from the very first property, which was a hunting lodge named Dungeness, in the area, owned by James Oglethorpe in 1736. In 1803, it was replaced by a mansion built by Nathaniel Greene, which was later on used as a headquarters by the British. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland is one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands along the Georgia coast. The National Park Service protects almost 36,000 acres of the island, including miles of unspoiled beaches.

The most intriguing part about Cumberland is its history. Once a working plantation, followed by a winter retreat for the wealthy Carnegie family, Cumberland Island is now home to the descendants of slaves and aristocrats, as well as approximately 150 feral horses with bloodlines that trace to the royal stables of the King of Arabia. The stories of the people weave a captivating tale of wealth, poverty, privilege, and sacrifice.

Visit Cumberland Island for the day, camp overnight, or be a guest at the upscale Greyfield Inn, made famous by John F. Kennedy Jr.’s wedding. Day visitors and campers reach the island by taking the Cumberland Island Ferry from the Cumberland Island Visitors Center in St. Marys, Georgia, to the Sea Camp Dock. Guests of the Greyfield Inn take the hotel’s private ferry, the Lucy Ferguson. The boat ride itself is wonderful way to see Cumberland’s beauty from the water.

The best way to unlock Cumberland’s secrets, whether historical or natural, is with a guide. You can take a Jeep tour as part of your stay at the Greyfield Inn, or choose the park ranger service, which offers walking or motorized tours that start at the Sea Camp Dock, or cell phone tours that originate at the Dungeness Docks. It’s best to reserve the motorized tour when you book the ferry. You’ll cover several hundred years of history in just a few hours, all while traveling the interior of one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the U.S.

feral horses
Visitors are reminded these are feral horses and should be treated as wild animals. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To truly explore the island further, you need a bike and a good pair of walking shoes. Guests at the Greyfield Inn have bikes at their disposal as part of their rooms. Otherwise, bikes are available for rent at the Sea Camp Dock. Bike rentals are first-come, first-served, though, so do this before anything else, including the tour.

A favorite destination is the Dungeness Ruins, the remains of Lucy Carnegie’s island mansion. Lucy, whose husband Thomas was the brother and business partner of steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, once owned 90 percent of Cumberland Island and built grand homes for her children, including Greyfield.

Besides the mansion, be sure to explore the out buildings. The laundry is fascinating, not only because of the cleaning machines on display, but the innovations in cooling. It must have been sweltering hot to wash clothes in the summer, yet the height of the ceiling and fans that pulled out the hot air helped keep the building relatively cool. Dungeness is also a favorite spot for the island’s horses, so bring a camera!

A visit to Cumberland Island takes some preparation because visitors are limited and there are no concessions on the island. Start your planning and make reservations through the Cumberland Island National Seashore website (SEE link below). The site offers tips for a great visit and information on tours and activities.

We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach
We walked the raised boardwalk over the dunes to the wide, secluded beach, alive with crabs and shorebirds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exploring the island requires considerable walking, and the island is not stroller friendly, so pack the little ones, leave them home, or wait a few years until they can get around on their own. That said, the Junior Ranger program is a wonderful way for kids 5-12 (and kids at heart) to learn about the island. It’s free, as are the Civil War trading cards available at the Sea Camp Ranger Station.

Details

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Cumberland Island National Seashore, on the Georgia coast, includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world. The park is also home to one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States, one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast, and a herd of feral, free-ranging horses.

Getting to the Island: Accessible by ferry boat from Visitor Center dock in St. Marys. Ferry is walk-on, passenger-only. All trips are round-trip. To make ferry reservation, 912-882-4335 or toll free, 800-860-6787 .

ferry boat returns from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys
It’s the end of a wonderful day as our ferry boat returns from Cumberland Island to the dock in St. Marys. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reservations are required for both the ferry and camping. Visitors must check in 30 minutes before departure at the Cumberland Island Visitor Center or the reservation will be canceled.

Ferry Fees: $20; Senior, $18; Children under 12 years, $14

Entrance Fees: $4/person (valid for 7 days) or Golden Age/Golden Access and America the Beautiful–National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass

Mailing Address: 101 Wheeler Street, St. Marys, GA 31558

Phone: (912) 882-4336

Website: www.nps.gov/cuis

Worth Pondering…

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—Georgia On My Mind, lyrics by Stuart Gorrell, written by Hoagy Carmichael (1930), recorded by Ray Charles (1960), official state song of the State of Georgia (1979)

Read More

Best National Parks To Avoid the Crowds

From snow-capped glacial peaks to meandering coastal shorelines and from white sand deserts to steep gorges and canyons, some of America’s most awe-inspiring natural attractions are found within its extensive national park system.

A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive along the western side of the Waterpocket Fold into the park’s interior. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A highlight for most visitors to Capitol Reef is the scenic drive along the western side of the Waterpocket Fold into the park’s interior. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most people know about the popular and most-visited parks including Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains, and Zion.

Coping with crowds at national parks can get tiresome, especially during the peak summer travel season. America is jam packed with national parks but the problem is that the most popular are just that—popular.

If you want to escape from the herd, or just take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the big name attractions, the US has numerous other, lesser-known parks each with their own unique attractions. And as an added bonus they’re usually much less crowded in the peak travel seasons making the visit more relaxing and enjoyable.

Add an extra element of exploration to your summer travel plans by including a more remote or lesser known national park in your RV travel plans.

Following are two parks that fall into that category.

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Capitol Reef National Park is filled with geological wonders that stagger the imagination.

Somewhat remote, and not as well known as the other parks, Capitol Reef is located on the northern edge of the Grand Circle Tour.

The Navajo call the area the “Land of the Sleeping Rainbow”, an accurate depiction of the many hues of the landscape of Capitol Reef. The “capitol” comes from the white domes of Navajo sandstone that resembles the nation’s capitol building, and the “reef” comes from the rocky cliffs that are a barrier to travel, like coral reefs.

On Cumberland Island, Dungeness burned nearly to the ground in 1959 from a fire suspected as arson, but its ruins are a must-see for visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
On Cumberland Island, Dungeness burned nearly to the ground in 1959 from a fire suspected as arson, but its ruins are a must-see for visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s Utah’s second-largest national park, with slot canyons, arches, cliffs, and 31 miles of well-marked trails—yet only one-fifth the number of Zion’s visitors. Throw in ancient petroglyphs, a river running through a lush valley of 2,000 apple trees, crazy geology like the 100-mile-long natural upheaval in the earth’s crust known as the Waterpocket Fold, and the knockout 8-mile Scenic Drive.

Camping is available at Fruita Campground where you can choose one of the 71 shaded sites ($10/night). All sites are first come, first serve.

2013 visitor count: 663,670

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cumberland Island National Seashore, on the Georgia coast, includes one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the world.

The park is also home to one of the largest maritime forests remaining in the United States, one of the largest wilderness areas in a National Seashore on the east coast, and a herd of feral, free-ranging horses.

Cumberland Island National Seashore includes a designated wilderness area, undeveloped beaches, historic sites, cultural ruins, critical wildlife habitat, and nesting areas, as well as numerous plant and animal communities.

Most visitors come to Cumberland for the natural glories, serenity, and fascinating history.

Cumberland Island’s past is a tantalizing story of the Timucuan Indians, the French, the Spanish, pirates, wars, steel magnates, and cotton plantations. Her present is an extraordinary portrait of natural beauty, so much so that the Travel Channel named her “America’s Most Beautiful Wilderness Beach.”

The island is accessible by passenger ferry from Visitor Center dock in the historic community of St. Marys, Georgia. Ferry is walk-on, passenger-only. All trips are round-trip. Ferry does not transport pets, bikes, kayaks or cars.

2013 visitor count: 51,435

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia

The surrender site at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, the McLean House, a three-story structure is furnished with mid-nineteenth century furnishings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The surrender site at Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, the McLean House, a three-story structure is furnished with mid-nineteenth century furnishings. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk the old country lanes where Robert E. Lee, Commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia, surrendered his men to Ulysses Grant, General-in-Chief of all United States forces, on April 9, 1865.

Imagine the events that signaled the end of the Southern States’ attempt to create a separate nation. You cannot stand there and not be moved.

The National Park encompasses approximately 1,700 acres of rolling hills in rural central Virginia. The site includes the McLean home (surrender site) and the village of Appomattox Court House, the former county seat for Appomattox County. The site also has the home and burial place of Joel Sweeney—the popularizer of the modern five string banjo. There are twenty seven original 19th century structures on the site.

The park is located 2 miles northeast of the town of Appomattox on SR 24.

2013 visitor count: 317,660

Worth Pondering…

The nation behaves well when it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value.

—Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Read More

RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Nestled along Georgia coast, midway between Savannah, Georgia, and Jacksonville, Florida, lies the mainland city of Brunswick and its four beautiful barrier islands: St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Little St. Simons Island, and Jekyll Island.

The Sidney Lanier Bridge was named for the English poet who penned the poem Marshes of Glynn, about the beautiful marshes that surround the area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Sidney Lanier Bridge was named for the English poet who penned the poem Marshes of Glynn, about the beautiful marshes that surround the area. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interstate 95, the main Interstate Highway on the east coast of the United States, serves the coast of Georgia.

Within Georgia, it begins from the south at the St. Marys River and the Florida state line and continues north past the border of South Carolina at the Savannah River. Exits 29, 36, 38, and 42 serve the Golden Isles of Georgia.

At mile marker 41 between Exits 42 and 38 (southbound only), Glynn County Rest Area houses one of the Golden Isles’ Visitor Centers and is the only visitors center for the Golden Isles located on Interstate 95.

From northern Florida to west of Savannah, Interstate 95 travels alongside the U.S. 17 corridor, passing near or through marshlands, and is close to the Atlantic coastline.

In Brunswick, the route traverses the south Brunswick River over the Sidney Lanier Bridge and then crosses the Altamaha River Bridge, between Glynn County and McIntosh County. This section of U.S. 17 is known as the Gateway to Historic Brunswick and the Golden Isles because it provides access to Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, Sea Island, and boat access to Little St. Simons Island.

Driving along U.S. 17 is an opportunity to slow down and take in the beautiful marshes, natural surroundings, and to step back in time.

Along the way visit the Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation—located between Brunswick and Darien on U.S. 17 (1 mile east of I-95, exit 42). This beautiful plantation represents the history and culture of Georgia’s rice coast. Walk through the preserved antebellum home, tour the grounds, or hike along the Colonial Coast Birding Trail—an excellent spot to look for herons, egrets, ibis, and painted buntings.

RV camping is available at the following campgrounds, RV parks, and resorts:

Coastal Georgia RV Resort

Coastal Georgia RV Resort was our home while touring Brunswick and the Golden Isles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Coastal Georgia RV Resort was our home while touring Brunswick and the Golden Isles. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coastal Georgia RV Resort is big-rig friendly with spacious all-concrete pull-through full hook-

up sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi at site park wide, picnic tables, grills, paved interior roads, pool, recreation hall, pavilion, and laundry facilities.

A resort style RV Park situated on a lake, Coastal Georgia RV Resort is conveniently located off I-95 (Exit 29).

Address: 287 South Port Parkway, Brunswick, GA 31523

Phone: (912) 264-3869

Website: coastalgarvresort.com

Golden Isles RV Park

Golden Isles RV Park is big-rig friendly with pull-through full hook-up sites including 20/30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi at site park wide, picnic tables, pool, pavilion, and laundry facilities.

Golden Isles RV Park is located 1 mile off I-95 (Exit 29).

Address: 7445 Blythe Island Highway, Brunswick, GA 31523

Phone: (912) 261-1025

Website: goldenislesrvpark.com

Blythe Island Regional Park Campground

Blythe Island Regional Park Campground offers pull-through full hook-up sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi at site, picnic tables, fire rings, and laundry facilities.

Blythe Island Regional Park Campground is located 3½ miles off I-95 (Exit 29).

Address: 6616 Blythe Island Highway, Brunswick, GA  31523

Phone: (912) 279-2812 or (800) 343-7855 (toll free)

Website: glynncounty.org

Jekyll Island Campground

Jekyll Island Campground offers pull-through full hook-up sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi, picnic tables, and laundry facilities. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Jekyll Island Campground offers pull-through full hook-up sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi, picnic tables, and laundry facilities. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Campground offers pull-through full hook-up sites including 30/50-amp electric service, cable TV, Wi-Fi, picnic tables, and laundry facilities. Tenting sites are available.

Jekyll Island Campground is located on 18 wooded acres on Jekyll Island’s north end.

Phone: (912) 635-3021

Website: jekyllisland.com

Please Note: This is Part 5 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 1: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Part 2: Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Part 3: Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

Part 4: Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

And now from the Vast of the Lord will the waters of sleep

Roll in on the souls of men,

But who will reveal to our waking ken

The forms that swim and the shapes that creep

Under the waters of sleep?

And I would I could know what swimmeth below when the tide comes in

On the length and the breadth of the marvelous marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Read More

Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Little St. Simons Island

Little St. Simons Island (though not so little at 10,000 acres) lies only a 15-minute boat ride from its bigger, better-known sister, St. Simons Island.

In terms of development, however, the two islands couldn’t be further apart.

Whereas St. Simons offers residents and the visiting public a variety of condominiums, shopping centers, golf courses, and mini-mansions, Little St. Simons is one of the least developed of Georgia’s barrier islands—a privately owned sanctuary devoted to preserving and protecting its ample wildlife.

Accessible only by boat from Hampton River Marina on St. Simons Island’s north end, Little St. Simons Island is a privately owned barrier island resort offering a limited number of guests the rare opportunity to experience the enchantment and solitude of the isolated beaches and marshlands that bound its10,000 acres of pristine woodlands.

Known for its privacy, The Lodge on Little St. Simons Island features six charming cottages, several of which date back to the early 1900s, that can host a total of 32 guests at one time.

An ideal destination for family reunions and small gatherings, Little St. Simons Island offers guest activities ranging from guided nature walks through the ancient maritime forest (led by a staff naturalist) to canoeing, kayaking, fishing, shell collecting, bicycling, and birding.

Guests may also choose to pass the day relaxing on the porch or enjoying the tranquility of the island’s seven-mile, undeveloped beach.

Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allows visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on the beach. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allows visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on the beach. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Little St. Simons Island also provides day trips which include round-trip private vessel transportation, a guided island tour led by an experienced naturalist, a hearty lunch of low country specialties, and an afternoon on seven miles of private beach.

Historic Brunswick

The mainland, port city of Brunswick is named for Braunschweig, Germany, the ancestral home of King George II, grantor of Georgia’s original land charter.

The streets and squares of this quiet port city were laid out in a formal grid similar to Savannah’s and still bear their colonial names—Newcastle, Norwich, Prince, and Gloucester—giving Brunswick a decidedly English flavor.

The unmistakable flavor of the south, too, can be sampled here, home of the original Brunswick Stew.

Docked at the wharf, the array of shrimp boats are ready to trawl the local waters—evidence of the area’s rich seafood industry. Watch the ocean vessels come into port, see the shrimpers unload at the docks along Bay Street, and then sample the catch of the day at one of the fine restaurants.

Historic Downtown Brunswick, also known as the Old Town Brunswick, is enjoying a renaissance, with the ongoing renovation and restoration of historic buildings and public squares. Old Town Brunswick is centered at the intersection of Newcastle and Gloucester Streets, the traditional commercial corridors of the city.

Newcastle Street is anchored on the south end by Old City Hall (1888) with its distinctive clock tower.

At the north end of Newcastle Street is the Historic Ritz Theatre. Built in 1898 as the Grand Opera House, the Ritz Theatre is Brunswick’s center for quality exhibits and performances by local, regional, national, and international artists.

Homes in Old Town reflect a variety of styles dating from 1819, including Queen Anne, Jacobean, Eastlake, Mansard, Gothic, and Italianate architecture. The Brunswick Landmarks Foundation works to educate the public and protect and enhance the special historic character and charm of Old Town.

The downtown district features a growing mix of antique shops, specialty shops, art galleries, theaters, and restaurants.

The Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge  provides easy access to the Golden Isles from Interstate 95 (Exit 29). This beautiful structure is 7,780 feet long and 486 feet tall.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Sidney Lanier Bridge, Georgia’s tallest cable-stayed suspension bridge provides easy access to the Golden Isles from Interstate 95 (Exit 29). This beautiful structure is 7,780 feet long and 486 feet tall. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With ideal weather conditions throughout the year, Brunswick also supports an active and healthy outdoor life.

The beautiful natural scenic landscape invites jogging and walking, from the challenging Sidney Lanier Bridge to the Old Town Brunswick National Historic District and from Mary Ross Waterfront Park to the Howard Coffin Park.

By day, you can try your hand at shrimpin’ aboard the Lady Jane, the only shrimp vessel on the entire east coast that has been certified by the USCG to carry 49 passengers offshore, or fish with any of Brunswick’s local charters.

By night, catch a show at the historic Ritz Theatre or enjoy a unique dinner experience on the Emerald Princess II casino cruise ship sailing seven days a week from Gisco Point near the entrance of Jekyll Island.

Please Note: This is Part 4 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 1: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Part 2: Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Part 3: Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

Part 5: RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

The range of the marshes, the liberal marshes of Glynn.

And the sea lends large, as the marsh: lo, out of his plenty the sea

Pours fast: full soon the time of the flood-tide must be:

Look how the grace of the sea doth go

About and about through the intricate channels that flow

Here and there,

Everywhere.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Read More

Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

The southernmost island of the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island was inhabited by Indians several hundred years ago; in subsequent years it has been used as a place for settlers and for a Civil War encampment.

By 1900, The Jekyll Island Club membership included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Cranes and Goulds and represented over one-sixth of the world’s wealth.  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
By 1900, The Jekyll Island Club membership included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Cranes and Goulds and represented over one-sixth of the world’s wealth. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island was purchased in 1886 by a group of wealthy families as a private retreat. The Jekyll Island Club was formed and members built a fine clubhouse and a neighborhood of “cottages” to be used for a few months in the winter.

By 1900, The Jekyll Island Club membership included the Rockefellers, Morgans, Vanderbilts, Goodyears, Pulitzers, Cranes, and Goulds and represented over one-sixth of the world’s wealth. (Mr. Crane’s cottage boasted 17 bathrooms.)

These vacationers came by train to Brunswick and crossed the river to Jekyll, or arrived in their yachts with family members, servants, and supplies aboard.

The men relaxed and hunted while the ladies had tea, planned parties, and went to the beach.

By 1942 most of these elite vacationers departed the island, never to return. World War II and the economy had taken their toll. Some of the wealthy families left their homes fully furnished, and the buildings fell into disrepair.

In 1947 the state of Georgia bought the island for $650,000 and set a provision that 65 percent of it must always remain undeveloped. Some of the wealthy families’ cottages have been restored and are open for tours.

Today, this era of Jekyll Island’s history can be dramatically revisited with a tram tour of the National Historic Landmark District, including many of the opulent mansions their millionaire owners called “cottages”.

Jekyll Island offers an abundance of recreational activities that are sure to please visitors of all ages.

The duBignon Cottage built in 1884. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The duBignon Cottage built in 1884. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A variety of amenities include ten miles of white sand beaches, 63 holes of golf, an outdoor tennis complex, a waterpark, fishing pier, nature centers, 20 miles of bike trails, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, which boasts a small interactive museum as well as access to a fully-functional rehabilitative center where visitors can see live sea turtles in the recovery tanks being treated for their injuries before returning to the wild.

To see more of the island’s eco system, the Jekyll Island Authority offers guided tours that last for 90 minutes, routing through beaches, maritime forests, and salt marshes.

Accommodations are varied and include a grand historic hotel, oceanfront properties, and RV camping at the Jekyll Island Campground which offers 18 wooded acres on the Island’s north end with 206 campsites.

Amenities include tent sites to full hook-up, pull through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewerage. Wi-Fi and DSL Internet is free for registered guests.

Rates range from $23 for a primitive tent site to $37 for a fully-serviced RV lot.

The island will boast three new hotels, an all-new beachfront convention center with more than 78,000 square feet of function space, a beautifully redesigned  gateway corridor to the island, a beach village shopping and dining district, and many more enhancements.

Twenty miles of flat, mostly paved bike paths encircle the island. You can spend a whole day riding beneath canopies of live oaks, along the beach, and through the historic district.

Bikes can be rented at Jekyll Island Campground, the shopping mall, and various hotels around the island. Restaurants are at these stops, or you may want to tote your own meal and enjoy it at any of the many picnic grounds situated along the way. Tram tours, Victorian carriage history tours, and nature and landscape walks are available from the visitors center, located on the Jekyll Causeway.

A fishing pier is located across from Jekyll Island Campground, and fishing is available along the beaches.

Owned by the State of Georgia and managed by the Jekyll Island Authority, the island’s development is limited to just 35 percent of the available land area to preserve the critical barrier island ecosystem. Great lengths have been taken to honor this ratio while the revitalization of Jekyll Island moves forward.

Indian Mound, 1892 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Indian Mound, 1892 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island, once a haven for America’s elite, now beckons to all.

Please Note: This is Part 3 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 1: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Part 2: Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Part 4: Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Part 5: RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

And what if behind me to westward the wall of the woods stands high?

The world lies east: how ample, the marsh and the sea and the sky!

A league and a league of marsh-grass, waist-high, broad in the blade,

Green, and all of a height, and unflecked with a light or a shade,

Stretch leisurely off, in a pleasant plain,

To the terminal blue of the main.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Read More

Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Four beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.

St. Simons Island

In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica to protect his southern boundary. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
In 1736, three years after the founding of Savannah, James Oglethorpe established Fort Frederica to protect his southern boundary. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The largest of The Golden Isles, St. Simons Island continues to reveal the remarkable beauty and fascinating history of what 16th-century Spanish explorers called San Simeon.

Visitors come year round to swim, stroll, and sail along its miles of lovely beaches, to challenge its 99 holes of superb golf and numerous tennis courts, and to explore its countless shops and restaurants.

St. Simons Island lies across the immortalized Marshes of Glynn, made famous by English poet Sidney Lanier. Moss-draped oaks line the winding island streets, creating a picture-perfect image worthy of a William Faulkner novel.

The island’s villages offer a charming and unique selection of shops, plus a variety of restaurants ranging from fine dining to casual outdoor fare. Visitors and residents alike enjoy outdoor recreation at Neptune Park and its Fun Zone, which includes a public pool, miniature golf, and a fishing pier.

As we discovered during a recent visit, St. Simons Island is dotted with historic sites and attractions, from the St. Simons Lighthouse Museum—a working lighthouse built in 1872—to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, where, in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions north of Florida.

44 men and 72 women and children arrived to build the fort and town, and by the 1740s Frederica was a thriving village of about 500 citizens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
44 men and 72 women and children arrived to build the fort and town, and by the 1740s Frederica was a thriving village of about 500 citizens. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Frederica National Monument, which preserves archaeological remnants of the local British colony and its defense against Spain, and historic Christ Church, Frederica—one of the oldest churches in Georgia, with worship held continuously since 1736—are located on the island’s north end.  Fort Frederica, Georgia’s first military outpost, was established by British General James Oglethorpe. A visitors center and museum are also located on the site.

Live oaks, the same trees that overshadow Frederica Road, were milled for use in Revolutionary warships, including Old Ironsides, also known as the USS Constitution. Because the trunks and branches of this tree naturally bend, they were perfect for forming the hulls of boats.

Toward the southern tip, the Maritime Center, in the restored U.S. Coast Guard Station, provides fascinating glimpses of the area’s natural evolution, while highlighting some of its maritime and military history.

Year round warm weather in the Golden Isles allow

Moss-draped oaks create a picture-perfect image worthy of a Faulkner tale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Moss-draped oaks create a picture-perfect image worthy of a Faulkner tale. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

s visitors to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking, fishing, biking, golfing, or relaxing on East Beach.

Visitors can tour the island’s historic sites on a variety of transportation options.

Sea Island

Reached by causeway from St. Simons Island, Sea Island is an internationally acclaimed resort. The Sea Island Company features two of the world’s most-exceptional destinations: the Forbes Five-Star Cloisture on Sea Island and The Lodge at Sea Island Golf Club, a Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five-Diamond property located on the southern end of St. Simons Island.

Though much of Sea Island is residential, Island life centers around The Cloister, perennially honored as one of the world’s great hotels. Golf club, beach club, gun club, horseback riding, fine dining, and numerous other activities are among the amenities enjoyed by its guests.

Guests of Sea Island who enjoy the game of golf can appreciate the Golf Learning Center and three championship golf courses at Sea Island Golf Club.

The Seaside Course, home to the PGA TOUR’s McGladrey Classic, is a links course graced by majestic ocean vistas in the tradition of St. Andrews.

The Plantation Course winds enticingly through marsh and forest, while the Retreat Course offers a uniquely dramatic and challenging design cultivated by Davis Love III and Mark Love.

If golfing is not your game, enjoy the Sea Island Beach Club, Tennis Center, Yacht Club, Shooting School, and Forbes Five-Star Cloister Spa.

Sea Island offers cuisine to satisfy any taste with seven exceptional dining venues, including the renowned Forbes Five-Star Georgian Room, which offers “Refined Southern” cuisine amidst grand décor. The Georgian Room is open to the public with reservation required.

Did You Know?

Eugenia Price’s trilogy LighthouseNew Moon Rising, and Beloved Invader chronicle the history of St. Simons Island and Christ Church.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 1: Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Part 3: Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

Part 4: Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Part 5: RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

By a world of marsh that borders a world of sea.

Sinuous southward and sinuous northward the shimmering band

Of the sand-beach fastens the fringe of the marsh to the folds of the land.

Inward and outward to northward and southward the beach-lines linger and curl

As a silver-wrought garment that clings to and follows the firm sweet limbs of a girl.

Vanishing, swerving, evermore curving again into sight,

Softly the sand-beach wavers away to a dim gray looping of light.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Read More

Discover the Golden Isles: Rich in History & Beauty

Georgia’s Atlantic Coastline is only about 100 miles long, but along this green corridor you’ll see some of America’s most breathtaking natural landscapes.

The state of Georgia has only about 90 miles of coastline yet holds approximately one-third of the entire marshland of the Atlantic seaboard. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The state of Georgia has only about 90 miles of coastline yet holds approximately one-third of the entire marshland of the Atlantic seaboard. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a region woven with many cultures, notably the coastal Gullah with origins in West Africa. Their traditions include making sweetgrass baskets, quilting, and knitting fishing nets.

Folklore, stories, and songs have also been handed down over the years.

Traditional recipes include seafood dishes and Low Country favorites such as hoppin’ john (brown fried peas cooked with rice; eaten for good luck), sweet potato pie, and benne wafers (cookie made with sesame seeds and eaten for good luck).

Golden Isles

Nestled on the Georgia coast, midway between Savannah (Georgia) and Jacksonville (Florida) lies the mainland city of Brunswick and a series of barrier islands.

The most visited of the barrier islands are Sapelo, Jekyll, Cumberland, and St. Simons. Sea Island and Little St. Simons Island are very exclusive. Little St. Simons, Sapelo, and Cumberland must be reached by boat, while St. Simons, Sea Island, and Jekyll have causeways connecting them to the mainland.

St. Simons and Jekyll islands straddle the Marshes of Glynn, made familiar by Sidney Lanier’s poem of the same name.

The 6-mile causeway that leads to Jekyll is flanked by tidal marshes, home to waterfowl and migrating birds.

The temperate climate and beautiful scenic backdrop provide ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The temperate climate and beautiful scenic backdrop provide ample opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively as Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia.

These coastal isles have long served as refuges for wildlife, havens for millionaires, and bastions of history.

Voodoo, alligators, wild horses, African culture, and the wealthiest families in the United States are all part of the history of the Golden Isles.

They’re also still a part of the islands’ modern-day heritage. At dawn, the mist rises on the marshes that skirt the coast of Georgia.

The state has only 100 miles of coastline, but nearly 800 miles of shoreline. Seventeen barrier islands are in this complex.

Spanish explorers seeking gold originally descended upon the territory more than 400 years ago, only to find astonishing beauty, mild weather, and a natural radiance that inspired the area’s name, the Golden Isles.

Pristine stretches of marshland, punctuated by small islands known as hammocks, define the breathtaking landscape and create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land reaching out to the barrier islands. These vast marshes turn a beautiful golden color in the fall, especially dramatic when lit by the setting sun.

Sparkling rivers teeming with birds, fish, and other marine life flow calmly around the islands on their way to the Atlantic Ocean.

The Golden Isles are also heralded as a destination where the gentleman’s game of golf meets Southern hospitality in a seaside setting with a rich and storied history. The area’s beauty and world-class golf courses, facilities, and instructors have earned the Golden Isles its reputation as a golfer’s paradise.

Jekyll Island alone boasts four public courses situated along and through a state park—the 18-hole Pine Lakes, Oleander, and Indian Mound courses and 9-hole Great Dunes. Joining the Seaside Course at Sea Island are two other full-length tracks, the Plantation and the Retreat, while Heritage Oaks in Brunswick is known for its conditioning.

The natural beauty of the Golden Isles is sure to captivate visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The natural beauty of the Golden Isles is sure to captivate visitors. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Not only do the Golden Isles provide a rich golf experience, but they also come alive as nature’s playground with acres of undeveloped land, marshes, and rivers along with the vast expanse of ocean.

Did You Know?

Robert E. Lee ordered residents to evacuate the Georgia coast in 1861 at the beginning of the War Between the States.

Please Note: This is Part 1 of a 5-part series on Brunswick and the Golden Isles of Georgia

Part 2: Discover the Golden Isles: St. Simons & Sea Island

Part 3: Discover the Golden Isles: Jekyll Island

Part 4: Discover the Golden Isles: Little St. Simons Island & Historic Brunswick

Part 5: RV Camping in Brunswick and the Golden Isles

Worth Pondering…

The Marshes of Glynn

Glooms of the live-oaks, beautiful-braided and woven

With intricate shades of the vines that myriad-cloven

Clamber the forks of the multiform boughs,

Emerald twilights,

Virginal shy lights,

The wide sea-marshes of Glynn.

—Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

Read More

Georgia DNR Launches Interactive Recreation Map

From the majestic ridges and valleys of northwest Georgia to the marshes of Glynn County on the coast, the state of Georgia is fortunate to have a diversity of natural and cultural resources for residents and visitors to enjoy.

GaOutdoorMap_0The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is charged with the conservation and protection of these resources for current and future generations. Their web site (SEE link below) provides visitors with information on how DNR manages the state’s natural and cultural resources and how the public can enjoy the great outdoors and the state’s rich history.

The DNR unveiled an interactive map that identifies DNR-managed lands and outdoor recreation opportunities.

The Georgia Outdoor Map (SEE link below) includes state parks, wildlife management areas, public fishing areas, boat ramps, and historic sites. Users are able to search by category to find locations where they can camp, hunt, hike, fish or explore history.

“We are proud to offer this new resource to Georgia’s citizens and visitors,” said Governor Nathan Deal.

“We are blessed here in Georgia with a state that is rich in both natural and cultural resources. I want to encourage Georgians to use this interactive tool to find new places to explore.”

Ossabaw Island
Ossabaw Island

The “Georgia Outdoor Map” can be visited using any device with a web browser including desktops, phones, and tablets.

By checking criteria fields, users can find recreational opportunities, directions, handicap accessibility, telephone numbers, and website links for more details.

The tool also offers a “near me” function to help users determine which recreational opportunities are closest to them.

“With this web-based tool, users can easily see what types of outdoor recreation are available in all parts of the state,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Williams.

“The map includes all DNR properties open for public use, from the smallest historic site to the largest wildlife management area. It’s a quick way to find boat ramps, campgrounds, archery ranges and other places for enjoying the great outdoors.”

Details

Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County
Georgia Centennial Farm, Terrell County

Address: 2 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, SE Suite 1252, Atlanta, GA 30334

Website: www.gadnr.org

Georgia Outdoor Map website: www.georgiaoutdoormap.com

Worth Pondering…

Georgia On My Mind

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through

Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind.

Georgia, Georgia, a song of you

Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines

—words by Stuart Gorrell and music by Hoagy Carmichael

Read More