Written and Photographed by Chloe Dascoli
Savannah is a city known for her Southern charm, live oaks and, of course, her historic squares. While these charms breathe life into Savannah, everyone, at one point or another, feels the need to escape the city and immerse themselves in nature. That can be hard to find in Savannah so we did the hard work for you. Here are five places around Savannah that are perfect for a day (or a few hours) away.
Next time you head to Tybee stop at the Oatland Island Wildlife Center located right off the Islands Expressway. Sponsored by the public school system, this center is home to over 150 animals including wolves, bison, flying squirrels, bobcats, bald eagles and reptiles. A two-mile trail, through marsh and brush, loops around the area leading from one exhibit to another. Since the center is so close to Savannah and right on the way to Tybee this is the perfect stop for a quick wilderness fix. The area, well worth the $5 entrance fee, is open from 10:00 am to 4:45 pm and the last admission is at 3:45 pm.
Immerse yourself in marshes, forests and salt flats with day excursions or a weekend getaway at Skidaway Island. This state park, a 30-minute drive from downtown Savannah, offers over 500 acres and six miles of trails to explore.
With bird-watching stations, bikes to rent, campsites, hiking and workshops on feeding reptiles and campfire cooking there is something for everyone. Finding the park can be tricky, though. Road signs to the park are hard to spot and if you miss the turn you will end up at the gated private residential area of the island. Be sure your directions are to Skidaway Island State Park. There is a $5 parking fee but once you are inside the park is yours to explore.
Just across the Talmadge Bridge, on the other side of the state line in South Carolina, is this expansive wildlife refuge. The refuge, established on the remains of an 18–century rice plantation, is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. Walking the 40 plus miles of trails in the open, exposed land (sunscreen recommended) is not for the faint of heart. Alligators lounge along the trails in the cooling water; snakes hide in the overgrowth on the trails; and stinging mosquitos and other bugs pester any hiker who forgets their bug spray. But don’t let that get in the way of your adventures. Here—where there is no entrance fee and you will likely be the only person on the trail—feel the breeze, breathe in the fresh air, and you will feel worlds away from the buzz of city life.
Tybee may seem like the obvious choice for a nearby beach to spend the day but that’s only if you haven’t been to Jekyll Island. Drive an hour and a half down I-95 and you will reach this coastal haven. A $6 fee grants you access to the island, parking included. Once you’re in the options are endless.
Take your dog for a run along the pristine shoreline of South Dunes or Glory Beaches; tie a hammock to the branches and roots of the fallen trees on Driftwood Beach; rent a bike and cycle the 20 plus miles of trails; stroll through Beach Village and shop at the local boutiques. This is a true resort island for the ultimate relaxation vacation.
Another 20 minutes down the interstate from Jekyll Island and a short ferry ride (reservations recommended) will get you to Cumberland Island. This National Park is for those in need of a wilderness adventure. The $35 entrance to this island is a fee well spent. As a protected park, development on the island is prohibited. Exceptions to this rule are a few historic homes, such as Plum Orchard Mansion that served as a seasonal home for the Carnegie’s built before the island became a National Park. The rest of the 19,000 acres is free from any sign of civilization. This includes 18 beaches, 5 campgrounds, and a dense forest with narrow trails for exploration and an abundance of wild animals.