Over at Loyalty Traveler, Ric Garrido is documenting his drive up the coast from Jacksonville to Virginia via Savannah, Charleston, and the Outer Banks. So far he’s written up Jacksonville and St. Augustine, and he’s doing all this with a $15 per day car rental. He checked and yes, you could drive it cross country if you wanted to for $15 per day. His early verdict: “Day one of this road trip was all I could hope for.”
Toward Ric’s point, I think this part of the country is a gem and worth seeing if you’ve never been before. Just as there’s a lot to be said for driving up Route 1 from Los Angeles to San Francisco, there’s also a lot to be said for a trip up the southeast coast along I-95 (or Highway 17, or A1A, etc). I’m glad Ric is taking his own advice and taking advantage of that amazing car rental deal.
I lived in Jacksonville for a couple of years a while back and I’ve lived in North Carolina ever since then, so I’m somewhat familiar with this area. Savannah, Charleston, and Myrtle Beach of course get plenty of publicity and visitors, but there’s more than that to see. My take on what’s worthwhile on a trip like this:
Jacksonville: If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a stop at St. Augustine. Founded in 1565, it’s the nation’s oldest city and it’s got a compact, walkable downtown plus a lot of history. The Castillo de San Marcos is pretty neat, as is the St. Augustine Gator Farm. In the Jacksonville area itself, the St. John’s River is pretty neat to see up close from the Riverwalk and/or the Cummer Museum. I’d also recommend Little Talbot Island State Park if you want to have a stretch of Florida beach pretty much to yourself (unless it’s gotten a lot more popular since I lived there, anyway).
I like the sleepy nearby town of Fernadina Beach as well. For the Maldives crowd, there’s a Ritz-Carlton close by on Amelia Island which you can stay at for a few days with a Marriott / Ritz-Carlton sign-up bonus or two.
Savannah: On your way to Savannah, don’t miss the Golden Isles of Georgia. I like the bike trails on Jekyll Island, plus it’s neat to stop at the Jekyll Island Club (currently a hotel–you can book rooms here), which once boasted J.P. Morgan, William Vanderbilt, and Joseph Pulitzer as members.
You might enjoy the lighthouse at nearby St. Simons Island as well. The gorgeous marshland in southeast Georgia makes this one of the more scenic parts of I-95 (a backhanded compliment, but still). In Savannah itself, you should of course visit the famous downtown, with its parks, river frontage, and of course The Place Where They Filmed That Scene In “Forrest Gump”.
Charleston: By all means enjoy all the history and attractions of Charleston, but on your way there give a thought to stopping in the quiet, scenic, also somewhat historic town of Beaufort, SC. (Trivia: Beaufort, SC is pronounced “Byew-furt”, while Beaufort, NC is pronounced “Bo-furt”.) Beaufort was founded in 1711 and is the second-oldest city in the state after Charleston.
With that said, I’m tentatively planning on a family trip to the Savannah area for a week this summer and I look forward to exploring the area more, as much as you can do with four young ‘uns anyway.
So do any of you live near underrated travel destinations? I’m always adding places to my “I’ll get there someday” list, so speak up now.