Savannah is a city known for her Southern charm, quaint squares and deep-rooted history. Sometimes, though, it’s nice to escape the urban setting and reconnect with the outdoors. Nature spots may seem few and far between here, but there a plenty of hidden gems where you can unplug.
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge
Immerse yourself in the fauna of the lowcountry at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge. Established on the remains of an 18th Century rice plantation, the refuge is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year. There are over 40 miles of trails and a driving loop where you can spot alligators lounging in the cool water and snakes hiding in the overgrowth on the trails. See more at www.fws.gov.
Oatland Island Wildlife Center
Oatland Island Wildlife Center, sponsored by the public school system, is home to over 150 animals including wolves, bison, flying squirrels, bobcats, bald eagles and reptiles. There’s a two-mile trail that loops around the area, taking you through the marshes and brush of the area, leading from one exhibit to another. Oatland Island is open 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; last admission is at 3:45 p.m. See more at their website.
Skidaway Island State Park
Skidaway Island covers over 500 acres and has six miles of trails through marshes, forests and salt flats. There’s plenty to do here, from bird watching to bike rentals, camping, hiking and an array of workshops. A $5 parking fee gets you inside and then the park is yours to explore. See more at gastateparks.org.
Cumberland Island is a national park for those in need of a serious wilderness adventure. The island’s 19,000 acres—which include 18 beaches, 5 campsites and a forest full of trails—are mostly free from any sign of civilization. The only exceptions are a few historic homes built before the island became a national park, such as Plum Orchard Mansion that served as a seasonal home for the Carnegie family. See more at cumberlandisland.com.
St. Simon’s Island
St. Simon’s Island has history going back almost as far as Savannah’s. Today, people come to the island not only for the historical sites, but for the kayaking, fishing, trail system, horseback riding and beaches. As you explore the island look out for the Tree Spirits—faces carved into the live oaks by artist Keith Jennings in the ’80s. See more at stsimonsisland.com.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Harris Neck has been a haven for people as far back as the year 1500 when the Guale Indians lived in the area. In 1962, Harris Neck was designated a protected wildlife refuge. Now the area preserves over 350 bird species, including endangered wood storks, alligators, salt marshes, coastal hammocks and more. See more at fws.gov.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge
Pinckney Island covers over 4,000 acres salt marsh, forest, brush land, fallow fields and freshwater ponds. This area is home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the area. Bobcats, alligators, white-tailed deer, raptors, ibis, herons and egrets all find refuge here. Naturalists guide tour groups through interpretive programs and exhibits. For sportsmen, licensed hunting and fishing are allowed. See more at fws.gov.
Jekyll Island offers some of the best beaches on the East coast. Here you can 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, and stroll through Beach Village and shop at local boutiques. See more at jekyllisland.com.