The waterways of the ICW in South Carolina and Georgia have a reputation, and it’s not a good one! That’s why we were so grateful for our travel seminar at Southport Marina. Heading into the waterways just north of Savannah was everything that we were promised. We brushed bottom a couple of times, and a big (52′ +?) motor yacht behind us used us as their guide (as they happily shared via VHF!). Great! It was dicey, but we made it through, and the captain of the boat behind us had a good sense of humor on the radio, so we were able to laugh our way through it (somewhat).
Looks beautiful, but it’s “skinny”…aka, narrow and shallow. Very narrow and shallow.
Objectively speaking, there are pro’s and con’s to both Charleston and Savannah, but to be fair, we’ve now spent more time in Savannah, due to our recent rain out in Charleston. Both are loaded with history and charm, beautiful architecture, water, boats (many of which are large and fun to look at), lovely people and amazing food! Here’s what we love about in particular about Savanah…the neighborhoods and squares, the cobbled streets, huge trees that arc over the streets with Spanish Moss dripping from their branches, the lore of the buildings and the people who lived there, the art, food and lighthearted feeling of the city. It’s a really fun, happy place to be.
We were docked along the bulkhead on the waterfront at Market Street Marina, probably the least appealing neighborhood in the city for us…but we did have the advantage of hearing the street music every evening, as there are a lot of street musicians performing, which adds to the flavor. However, at this time of year, it was fairly quiet, and it was an incredibly convenient location, so we embraced it!
Savannah Waterfront Area
Nancy was super excited, as it was her birthday weekend, she LOVES Savannah, we had reservations for the Hearse Ghost Tour, we were meeting Braendon and Kathy for lunch at Bayou Cafe , there was an Impressionist show at the Telfair Museum, and we had dinner reservations at Husk. Plus, a tour of Belvidere Cemetery and Wormsloe Plantation were on the agenda. One of the most important parts of any visit to Savannah is the wandering, and we did a lot of it!
OKAY…Bonaventure Cemetery first. Too many words to describe, but I’ll give it a shot. Spectacular. Weird, I know for a cemetery, but first and foremost, you need to remember that this was originally built as a garden of an old plantation. It just happened to evolve into a cemetery! The Historical Society has recently begun golf cart tours of the property, and we highly recommend it. We learned so much from our incredible docent, Tess.
Do you remember the book and movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”? (Bonaventure was almost a character in the film). That movie and the “Bird Girl” sculpture featured on the cover of the book (now in the Telfair Museum), raised the profile and popularity of the site.
The family plot where “The Bird Girl” originally stood, where the bench now resides
Bonaventure sits on a bluff on the Wilmington River and salt marshes east of Savannah. The property was a private plantation for many years, until its last owner, Commodore Josiah Tattnall, Jr., sold the 600 acre property and its private cemetery to Peter Wiltberger in 1846. Peter’s son, Major William Wiltberger formed the Evergreen Cemetery Company in 1868. The City of Savannah purchased the property in 1907, making the cemetery public and changing the name to Bonaventure Cemetery.
Bonaventure is unique in many ways. A large part of the grounds are cultivated and planted with huge oak trees, draped in Spanish Moss, leftover from the days when the cemetery was a residential property. There are numerous other trees and shrubs throughout the grounds.
Sago Palm seed pods
The gravestones, and their setting are beyond description. You truly feel as if you are in a museum when you examine the intricate sculptures and headstones throughout the cemetery. The walkways through the “lanes” of the cemetery are lined with crushed oyster shells, adding to the unique atmosphere.
One of the most remarkable sculptors represented here is John Walz. Surprisingly, for a man who earned his living creating spectacular grave monuments, and has 70 works at Bonaventure, his grave here when he was interred in 1922 was marked buy a simple wooden sign. Eventually, the Bonaventure Historical Society commissioned a monument for his grave.
A few examples of the remarkable John Walz’ monuments
From Bonaventure, we took an Uber to Wormsloe Historic Site.. The site consists of 822 acres protecting part of what was once the Wormsloe Plantation, a large estate established by one of Georgia’s colonial founders, Nobel Jones (c. 1700 – 1775). After wandering down the 1.5 mile “Oak Avenue”, you will come to a small visitors center, several hiking trails, and the ruins of the plantation home.
Spectacular Oak Avenue, Wormsloe Historic Site
The main trail leads to the ruins of Jones’ fortified house built of tabby, a building material made of lime, sand, water and crushed oyster shells, used when there was no local brick-making.
The Tabby ruins, trails and salt marshes of Wormsloe
Savannah sunset before the Ghost Tour
After dinner on board, we headed over for our Hearse Ghost Tour. During our brief visit to Savannah in the fall, we noticed that the city was crawling with converted hearses, with seating for 8, touring around town after dark. We thought it looked like a hoot, so we made a reservation for this visit. I wish I could tell you that it was good. What I can tell you is that each tour guide tells their own stories in their own style. We didn’t love “Brother William” , as he just wasn’t a good story teller. He was long winded, and stopped the hearse a couple of times to tell his too long story from the street. It was pretty funny though, and we had some lovely people on board with us, who were feeling the same as we were! All in all, it was a fun couple of hours. And Rob was a good sport, as he was the only male in the car!
Hearse Ghost Tour
We had a great day on Saturday, the 17th, celebrating Nancy’s birthday ALL DAY!! First stop was the Telfair Museum. The Telfair is a collection of three museums: Jepson Center, Telfair Academy and the Owens-Thomas & Slave Quarters.
The Jepson Center
We enjoyed a lovely show at the Jepson Center: “Monet to Mattisse”.
Inside The Telfair Museum
There were some other interesting pieces, including these using garbage to create sculpture.
Just around the square is another Telfair property, Telfair Academy.
Sculptures of Phidias, Michelangelo, Ruben, Rembrandt and Raphael grace the front yard of Telfair Academy, in place since the Academy’s grand opening in 1886.
The Telfair Academy is a historic mansion designed by William Jay, and built in 1818. Originally a townhouse for the Telfair family, it became a free art museum in 1886, one of the first 10 museums in the country, and the oldest public art museum in the South. The Academy was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
We wandered the few blocks to the third Telfair Museum, the Owens-Thomas House & Slave Quarters, but it was unfortunately closed due a Community Day Event, so we weren’t able to see it…next visit!
We met our friends Braendon and Kathy at Bayou Cafe, a casual spot nestled above the waterfront. The Bloody Mary’s with pickled Okra were amazing. Kathy loves the pickled Okra so much the waitress kindly gave us some extra to munch on! Yum! The food is plentiful and delicious, and the staff is super friendly.
Braendon, Kathy, Nancy and Rob at Bayou Cafe
After lunch….meandering around town!
The Mercer-Williams House, made famous in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
We have tried a couple of times to get into the restaurant Husk, in both Charleston and Savannah, so we were excited about our dinner reservation. It was a great evening! Husk is housed in the former Elk’s Lodge from 1908 – 1978, and was gutted by fire in 2009. It took nearly three years to renovate the space. It was worth the wait!
The food was outstanding, as was the service, and we were seated between two fun and friendly tables, one of which was trying to convince us that Savannah was the city we wanted to retire in!
A beautiful birthday dinner at Husk, including a personalized birthday menu!
We were grateful for the stroll home to walk off dinner, and enjoy Savannah by night.
Savannah by night
Thanks for a great stay, Savannah! Until we meet again! Tomorrow, we are off for an as of yet finalized anchorage as we continue our journey south.