Exploring Georgia’s Unforgettable Detours Off I-95 — Part III

Tom & Karla Talleur
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Editor’s Note: This post is written by a member of LTV’s sponsored content team, The Leisure Explorers. Do you own a Leisure Travel Van and enjoy writing? Learn more about joining the team.

Coastal Georgia’s Salt Life and Historic Appeal

When you drive along I-95 from South Carolina into Georgia and bypass the Savannah-Tybee Island area, you’ll skirt 50 miles of the Atlantic coast that spans Richmond Hill just south of Savannah (exit 87) to St. Simons Island (exit 38). Small towns, coastal inlets, public docks, private properties, and islands dot this coastline.

These sites off I-95 places present an active salt life for outdoors enthusiasts. If you tow or carry a watercraft with your LTV, you’ll find public docks to put your craft to sea to enjoy the Atlantic coast and the barrier islands. If you’re a birdwatcher, you’ll find more than 300 bird species available for viewing, and you’ll see rare sea turtle species that breed on the barrier islands. If you’re a photographer, you’ll find endless vistas to embrace with your camera. Kite Surfers, Jet-Skiers, Fishers and other outdoors enthusiasts will provide you with plenty of photo opportunities.

Coastal Georgia, away from Savannah, is also a destination for those who wish to explore the deep, complex history that spans the Native American, Colonial, and Civil War eras in America. Yes, you can even explore your genealogy via the old cemeteries, courthouses, and museums along the coast if the lines of your ancestors are here.

But as with other sights along I-95 in Coastal Georgia, you won’t see any of these spots unless you exit the Interstate to explore this 50-mile span of coastline.

We live on the Georgia Coast. There’s much to say about where and what to do here. In this third part of our series about Coastal Georgia, we’ll begin our journey just south of Savannah to showcase a few tips on how you can experience coastal life with your LTV. You can see part one of this series here and part two here.

Experience Coastal RV Living at Fort McAllister

Do you want to experience a quick taste of what it’s like to live along the Georgia Coast in your LTV? Reserve an RV campsite at Fort McAllister, a Georgia State Park. You’ll find this park at exits 90 or 87 off I-95.

Campsites at the Fort are right on the Atlantic coast. You’ll experience the coastal air, sea, and marsh scrub firsthand. Watch out for the Yucca’s! They’re tough and inflict a painful wound if you run into them. You’ll also see many birds, critters, and insects native to the coast and the salt life.

During fair weather, it can get hot on the coast, and storms can make the locale downright snarly. Take solace in the knowledge that countless pirates, foreign and domestic armies, and Native Americans enjoyed and endured this coastline for generations long before your arrival.

While at the Fort, visiting the park office and store is worth your time. You can watch a video about the fort’s history and its environs and collect informative books and memorabilia about the historic figures central to local history.

Defensive Berms at Fort McAllister State Park
Defensive Berms at Fort McAllister State Park

Walk around and through the forts’ defensive berms that line the Ogeechee River. No invading force has ever breached the Fort with a waterside invasion. This fact contrasts starkly with the collapse of Fort Pulaski, a brick-and-mortar structure near Savannah (see part II of this series), which succumbed to a Union Army siege in April 1862, leading to the closure of the port of Savannah during the American Civil War.

Discover History and Nature at Sunbury, Georgia

18 line of sight miles from Savannah, or a 40-minute drive by road, you’ll discover the Revolutionary War era town of Sunbury, Georgia, just off exit 76 at I-95. The village sits along the Medway River and is the second deepest natural water port on the East Coast of the United States, second only to the Chesapeake Bay.

The passage of the 114’ Elysium through the harbor, as depicted below, suggests the harbor’s capacity to handle deep draft vessels. The harbor at Sunbury was the site for the passage and mooring of deep draft trading vessels in British Colonial America before the American Revolutionary War. Two hundred and fifty years ago, you could stand along the Medway and watch multiple 4-masted vessels flying the Union Jack enter the St. Catherines Sound 8 miles away at the mouth of the Atlantic.

The 114' deep draft Elysium in the Harbor at Sunbury, Georgia
The 114′ deep draft Elysium in the Harbor at Sunbury, Georgia

In pre-revolutionary war times, around 1758, Sunbury was a vibrant trade port between the American Colonists and Britain and the richest colonial-era town in the British Colony of Georgia. However, it was also the first entity in the colony of Georgia to rebel against British rule. Sunbury is seminal to the birth of America’s independence from British rule. It is home to three signers of the U.S. Declaration of Independence 1776.

With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, British warships pounded nearby Fort Morris with cannonballs from St. Catherines Sound. This berm-based revolutionary-era Fort was built to defend the town from invasions by enemy ships during the War. It now stands as a State Park.

The waters are calm these days at Saint Catherine’s Sound, as seen from the port of Sunbury. Fort Morris lies next to the present-day public dock on Fort Morris Road. The dock is a great spot to view the St. Catherine Sound, to put a watercraft to sea, or to cast a line into the water to catch fish from the local waters.

Top Things To Do Near Sunbury – Start Exploring

Visit Fort Morris

Historic Fort Morris, Sunbury, Georgia
Historic Fort Morris, Sunbury, Georgia

Fort Morris can be a quick stop on your trip. It features flat fairground-like areas and seaside berms built by the Colonists to ward off enemy cannon fire. The park reception building houses historical publications about the location and a video about the area’s history.

Access The Water and Coastal Expanse at the Public Dock

If you have a watercraft, the public dock offers an opportunity to put your craft to sea. Local waterways are chock full of fish, shellfish, shrimp, and maritime coastal artifacts stemming from the sandbars and beaches, sure to satisfy the collector in you. You can fish off the dock or snap photos to your delight.

Eat at the Sunbury Crab Company

The Sunbury Crab Company is a family-run seafood restaurant in Sunbury with a Key West-style ambiance. Many of the seafood offerings come from local waters.

Try the Ossabaw Oysters from nearby Ossabaw Island and the local Blue Crab when they are in season–they are local delicacies. Hours of operation are Wednesday through Sunday. Check out their website for updates. This restaurant is a popular stop for full-time trawlers and landlubbers from I-95. Reservations are helpful, as this place fills up quickly.

Embrace Revolutionary Inspiration at the Midway Museum

You’ll need at least two hours to amble through the Midway Museum about 10 miles west of Sunbury on Route 84. A local host will narrate a tour of the museum and the area’s history. It’s an eye-opening experience for those interested in revolutionary, pre and post-civil war, and colonial history.

Here are a few notable local facts:

  • Sunbury was built as a mini-Savannah with five wharves, five hundred lots, and three public squares.
  • The St. Catherines Sound was a natural protective area against British and Spanish attacks during the Revolutionary War.
  • Sunbury and Savannah were competitive ports during the Colonial era. The Medway River at Sunbury is only 8 miles from the Atlantic, unlike the Savannah River, which traverses 17 miles from Savannah to the Atlantic.
  • The Revolutionary War was the first time the British fought against an enemy waging guerilla warfare. Colonial rebels fired at troops from behind buildings and retreated through swamps where the British would not follow. The British soldiers’ natural enemies were Quicksand, Alligators, Rattlesnakes, Alligator-Snapping Turtles, and predatory insects.
  • The descendants of Revolutionary War-era inhabitants report that their ancestors buried courthouse records in the coastal swamps around Sunbury to prevent the British from seizing them.
  • The British eventually captured the homes of the rebels, burned them to the ground, and turned Sunbury into a prisoner-of-war camp through the end of the war.

Quirky Stopovers Further South

Visit The Smallest Church in America

After Sunbury, you can visit the quaint, Smallest Church in America near Townsend, Georgia (GPS coordinates 31.637975, -81.394409). It’s a quick trip from Sunbury.

The Smallest Church is just one stop south off of I-95 at exit 67. From Sunbury, you can hop back on I-95, head south to exit 67 and turn left after the exit ramp. You’ll cross over a small bridge about 1/2 mile south on Route 17. Shortly, after that, you’ll see signs for the church on your left. If you pass Harris Neck Road, you’ve gone too far. The church is at the intersection of Harris Neck Road and Route 17. Check out the Yelp reviews on this place.

Note: This place isn’t the Smallest Church in America. But it does lay claim to the brand.

Buy Fresh Fish at Nearby Shellman’s Bluff

If you love to cook seafood while on travel and want to avoid restaurant prices, consider a stop at the Shellman Crab Company near Shellmans Bluff, Georgia. It’s a few miles from the Smallest Church in America.

Storefront, Shellmans Crab Company

The Shellman’s Crab Company serves fresh fish and shellfish caught from local waters daily. Offerings are varied, and you will surely find something to satisfy your taste buds. Check out our Yelp review here.

Fresh Shrimp at the Shellmans Crab Company
Fresh Shrimp at the Shellmans Crab Company

Country Food at Country Prices

Further south on Route 17 at the intersection of 17 and Northway Street, you’ll find the inexpensive but not cheap Altman’s Restaurant in Eulonia, Georgia (exit 58 off I-95). This is where the locals go; it is not a fine dining experience. You’ll see entire families queue through the front door to fill several tables or workers in coveralls pile in for a filling meal. This place typifies where the everyday Americans in the Southern countryside eat.

Altman’s offers a superb southern country buffet dining experience, especially on Sunday mornings. The price? Around $10 per person for all-you-can-eat. It’s a great spot to visit if you’re into southern cooking (fried chicken, mashed potatoes with gravy, greens, scrumptious puddings, and much more). They also offer items off the menu, but our experience is their buffets are their core competency offering. Check out the reviews here on Yelp.

A Southern Country Sunday Brunch Buffet Plate at Altmans, Eulonia, Georgia
House Salad

Up Next

In part IV of this series, we’ll travel south on route 17 along the Georgia Coast to focus on Sapelo Island and the historic town of Darien.

If you missed parts one and two of this series, you can find them here and here.

Tom & Karla Talleur

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