Your full travel guide to Savannah, Georgia

Draped in Spanish moss, a fine art scene and historic architecture all hugged together by cosy charm, Savannah is a splash of the Old South you’ve always dream

Team Wanderlust
19 December 2023

Hospitable Savannah is known for its storied charm. Bursting at the seams with cobblestone streets and shaded squares and with world-class beaches on its doorstep, make this delightful city your next stateside escape.

Getting there

Getting from London to Savannah/Hilton Head Airport is straightforward thanks to a selection of daily connecting flights. Routes include Delta via New York or Atlanta, American via Charlotte or Philadelphia and United via Chicago or Newark. Alternatively, complete some of the journey by land. Savannah’s only a four-hour drive from Atlanta, while rail enthusiasts should check out Amtrak’s Palmetto service.

If you only do three things…

A traditional riverboat cruise is a fine way to cruise the Savannah River (Visit Savannah)

1. Take a traditional riverboat cruise

Savannah Riverboat Cruises offers a range of themed paddle-wheel riverboat trips. Chug sedately along the Savannah River as you admire local landmarks including Old Fort Jackson, the Port of Savannah and Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge, named for the state’s 67th governor. You’ll also see the statue of Florence Martus who, more than a century ago, waved a cloth from Cockspur Island at passing ships in the hope of finding her lost love. Trips are themed. Alongside the usual dinner and sunset excursions, lift your spirits with a Gospel singalong or learn about the area on a narrated harbour cruise.

2. Wander Forsyth Park

The fountain in Forsyth Park (Visit Savannah)

Take a stroll under the shade of moss-draped live oaks through Savannah’s most famous park, spread over 12 verdant hectares. At its heart is an impressive fountain; installed in 1858, it was modelled on the fountains that grace the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Step through a pair of iron gates rescued from Old Union Station into the Garden of Fragrance. There, the scent of cape jasmine, ginger lilies, Florida anise and lemon trees hangs in the air. Throughout the year the park hosts many events, including the Sidewalk Arts Festival in April and the Savannah Jazz Festival in September.

3. Explore the Downtown Design District

Indulge in a spot of retail therapy in Savannah’s Downtown Design District, centred on the section of Whitaker Street bounded by West Charlton Lane and West Taylor Street. Join discerning shoppers and browse for stylish interior pieces at One Fish Two Fish and Asher & Rye or on-trend fashion at boutiques such as StoneLords and The Printed Peach. When you start to flag, refuel at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, serving Southern comfort food just around the corner. The area’s also home to the Green-Meldrim House, Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War, and the lavishly-decorated, Italianate Mercer Williams House; guided tours of both are available.

Three districts to wander

Sunset over Savannah’s Historic District (Visit Savannah)

1. Historic Landmark District

Savannah is famous for its squares, laid out in the 18th and 19th centuries. They form the cornerstone of the Historic Landmark District. 22 of the original 24 squares look pretty much as they did back then, each with its own distinct identity. A statue of General James Oglethorpe graces Chippewa Square; he founded the city in 1733. You may recognise it from the movie Forrest Gump – the park bench scenes were shot here. Wander along tree-lined streets flanked by Colonial and Georgian-era mansions such as Eliza Thompson House on Jones Street. Be sure to eat at Clary’s Café, a Southern-style diner that’s become a Savannah institution.

2. Victorian District

The Victorian District was Savannah’s first suburb, a development facilitated by horse-drawn streetcars. Today, spread over fifty glorious blocks, you’ll find a slew of independent coffee shops, bars and restaurants. But it’s best-known for its architecture. Take a walk to fully appreciate its two-storey frame homes, which are adorned with turrets, towers, bay windows, wraparound porches and no end of fancy fretwork. Notable landmarks include the Queen Anne Revival-style Eckburg Hall and Anderson Hall built in the Classical and Colonial Revival styles; both date from the 1890s. Don’t miss Carnegie Library overlooking Dixon Park, once reserved for the city’s African-American population.

3. Moon River District

Largely rural, Savannah’s Moon River District encompasses Skidaway Island, the Isle of Hope, Ossabaw Island and the Sandfly area; yet, it remains within easy reach of the city. Don’t miss the excellent Pin Point Heritage Museum in the former A.S. Varn & Son Oyster and Crab Factory. There, get a local’s perspective on the relationship between the Gullah-Geechee community and the river as you explore its importance to their culture. At the Wormsloe Historic Site, one of the area’s historic plantations, travel down the world’s longest road of live oaks, a mile and a half long, which was planted in 1891.

Three ways to get outdoors in Savannah

The Avian Loop in Skidaway Island State Park (Visit Savannah)

1. Take to the trails of Skidaway Island State Park

Peaceful Skidaway Island State Park is located a stone’s throw from downtown Savannah. Hike or bike along the park’s trails which unlock a soothing landscape of salt flats, meandering tidal creeks and maritime forest. Combining the Sandpiper and Avian Loops is a popular option. Their boardwalks and sandy paths lead to some of the park’s most scenic spots. Dolphins sometimes make their way up Skidaway River, while at low tide you’ll most likely see fiddler crabs scuttling across the mudflats. Shore birds like egrets, herons and ibises are commonly sighted; you might also glimpse other wildlife such as deer or raccoons.

2. Kayak or canoe its rivers

Book a kayak or canoe tour of Savannah’s waterways. Abundant wildlife awaits those who paddle in the Savannah River estuary, the backwaters of the Skidaway Narrows or the winding creeks of Little Tybee Island. In this serene, unspoilt environment, the hum of city traffic will be forgotten as you slip through the water at a leisurely pace. Instead, eagles and ospreys soar overhead as you keep watch for dolphins, alligators and otters beside you. As the sun beats down, cypress and tupelo trees provide welcome shade. And no matter if you lack experience: the area’s calm water makes this a safe place for beginners.

3. Head to Tybee Island

The pier on Tybee Island (Visit Savannah)

Tybee Island is a barrier island just 20 irresistible minutes by car from Savannah. In summer, this family-friendly place throngs with visitors seeking out its broad, sandy beaches and charming pier. For a more secret slice of the island look to explore Fort Pulaski, which played a crucial role in the Civil War, and to visit Tybee Island Museum at Fort Screven’s Battery Garland. With more time on your hands, climb the 178 steps to the top of the centuries-old lighthouse or rent a bicycle to explore the island’s tucked away corners. After a dazzling sunset, stuff your face with steamed crab, heaps of boiled shrimp and freshly-shucked oysters.

Three foods to try

Fried green tomatoes

Since the movie release of Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991, the eponymous dish has become a Southern summer staple. Sliced unripe tomatoes breaded in cornmeal are fried until golden and crispy.

Fried green tomatoes (Shutterstock)

Shrimp and grits

This cheese-laden Southern classic makes the ideal accompaniment to plump, juicy shrimp. The word grits is misleading; this ground corn dish has a porridge-like consistency and a rich, buttery taste.

Shrimp and grits (Shutterstock)

Peach cobbler

Georgia’s nickname is the Peach State; in summer this fruit is abundant, sweet and full of flavour. Eat yours in a cobbler, served hot under biscuity dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar.

Peach cobbler (Shutterstock)

Three places to stay

The pool area at Bardo (Hotel Bardo)

Bardo

Effortlessly chic Bardo opens in February 2024 and promises a modern twist on the grand old hotels of yesteryear. This 149-room resort repurposes a historic 19th century mansion overlooking Forsyth Park and boasts a spa, gym, indoor pool, cookery school and Italian restaurant.

River Street Inn

River Street Inn occupies a lovingly restored 200 year old cotton warehouse. Guests highly rate the convenient location on lively River Street, the hub of Savannah’s nightlife. Characterful rooms, some looking out across the Savannah River, feature exposed brickwork and wooden floors.

JW Marriott – Plant Riverside District

JW Marriott – Plant Riverside District comprises accommodation in three stylish, individual properties. Power Plant preserves the iconic twin chimneys of the original industrial building. It’s flanked by the traditional brick of Three Muses, while The Atlantic evokes the city’s maritime heritage.

Feeling inspired?

For more information, visit the official Visit Savannah website.

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