Georgia’s coast is beautiful and full of history. But it isn’t only the history of wars and changing of ruling countries. Georgia offers a window into a lifestyle experienced by uber wealthy families late in the 1800’s and up to the mid-1900’s. I’m talking about the opulence of the homes and clubs built on several of the islands along the Georgia coast such as Jekyll Island and Cumberland Island.
Our visit to Georgia began when we picked up Frank’s mom, Jackie, from the Savanna airport. We went straight into Savanna and took a 90 minute trolley tour of the city. Even using an hour and a half, the tour was a blur of Savanna and U.S. history. We enjoyed the tour and the information our driver spouted, but the pace was too quick for pictures.
The first full day Jackie was with us, we chose to leave the ICW and head out into the Atlantic Ocean. There was almost no wind and the seas were dead calm. By traveling outside of the ICW, we were able to take a less winding path and cover more miles.
s/v Destiny – a fellow Sail to the Sun Rally boat
The water is so flat, it is hard to believe that the picture above was taken out in the Atlantic Ocean. Being in the ocean for the day was a very nice change from the ICW. We are more accustomed to the wide open ocean and we enjoyed feeling the freedom of plenty of space between boats. Late in the afternoon, we scooted back into the ICW and anchored in Walburg Creek.
Sunset on Walburg Creek
The sunset over the flat marshes was one for the record books, but the next morning we awakened to a very different view….
Fog encased Walburg Creek
The fog was so dense when we awakened we couldn’t even see the other boats. Our departure for Fort Frederica was delayed, but I rather enjoyed being enveloped in this blanket of mist.
At the end of our day, we anchored near Ft. Frederica on St. Simon’s Island and Frank took Captain to shore as she had a ton of pent up energy.
One of the few remaining structures of Ft. Frederica.
Access to shore was difficult so only Captain and Frank had a chance to look around the old fort. Very little of the buildings remained but the grounds were pretty and the trees dwarfed what still stood.
Beautiful greens spaces define the Jekyll Island Club grounds.
Next up was Jekyll Island and the Jekyll Island Club, the playground of some very wealthy families. We toured Jekyll Island Club via a 90 minute tram tour and learned that the Jekyll Island Club was the brainchild of several wealthy American families who were instrumental in the development of industry in the U.S. Think Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Goulds, Morgans and Goodyears to name a few. This remote island was developed as a private club for 53 families.
A portion of the main clubhouse.
The clubhouse was completed on Jekyll in 1888. It was here that these wealthy families would come during January, February and March to escape the northern winters and enjoy the exclusive company of their peers.
One of the “cottages” within Club grounds.
Eventually some families built individual “cottages,” but the club was the main gathering spot. Hunting, tennis, cards, horseback riding, dining and balls were among the activities enjoyed by those allowed on the island.
The Club is now a hotel.
According to our tour guide, the demise of Jekyll Island Club occurred during WWII. Some of the club members had suffered financial setbacks during the depression and when German U boats were off the coast of Jekyll Island, the government ordered the island evacuated for safety purposes.
Today, Jekyll Island is owned by the State of Georgia. It is a beautiful place and I spent one day riding my bike through its’ lush grounds. If you have the opportunity to visit Jekyll, you will surely find the glimpse into this lost, exclusive lifestyle interesting!
Driftwood Beach, on the north end of Jekyll Island, is a hauntingly beautiful place. A graveyard of once vibrant trees that are dying because of the erosion of the beach.
I couldn’t resist climbing on this tree.
We spent an hour or so walking among these former giants, simply admiring their beauty even in death.
Jackie, Frank and Captain
I wonder how long this one will remain standing.
Our next anchorage was Cumberland Island which also has a rich history. It is believed that the first inhabitants of Cumberland date back 4,000 years. The island was named Cumberland in 1933 after the son of King George II, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland.
We didn’t see much evidence of the military history of Cumberland except for the wild horses which are supposedly descendants of horses brought by the Spanish conquistadors.
We saw about a dozen horses grazing on Cumberland.
In 1880, Thomas Carnegie bought land on Cumberland as a winter retreat. The Carnegie Family built a modest 59 room structure designed after a Scottish Castle. They also built a swimming pool, stables, a golf course and several other buildings.
The remains of Dungeness
In addition to these, the Carnegies built 40 smaller structures to house the 200 servants who worked in the mansion they named Dungeness after a hunting lodge built on Cumberland by the English General, George Oglethorpe. Dungeness was last used by the Carnegie Family in 1929 for a family wedding. It fell into disrepair after the depression and in 1959 it was destroyed by fire believed to have been started by a poacher.
Remnants of Dungeness.
Eventually, Cumberland was designated a national seashore, bought by the US Government and dedicated as a national park.
The Thanksgiving holiday was fast approaching and we were scheduled to spent it in St. Mary’s, a small but friendly town that has hosted a cruiser’s Thanksgiving dinner for 16 years.
Local townspeople of St. Mary’s go out of their way to help cruisers who stop in the area by offering rides to the grocery or other needed stores. In addition, each year the locals provide ham and turkey for a Thanksgiving feast held at a hotel. Each boat contributes a dish for the dinner and locals and boaters share the meal.
I would guess that about 100 people participated in the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving and the buffet tables were overflowing with dishes of every variety. We had a fabulous time and I think Jackie enjoyed socializing with the others as much as we did.
The boarder between Georgia and Florida is right in the middle of the St. Mary’s River and. interestingly, our anchor was actually in Florida, but we had Thanksgiving in Georgia.
Evening in St. Mary’s
Our friends, Ron and Mindy, from s/v Follow Me, rafted up with us for two nights in St. Mary’s and we all had a great time preparing decorations for our table at the Thanksgiving feast.
Martha Steward watch out!
We didn’t win any awards for “best table” but we sure had a lot of laughs creating these beauties.
Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island was the next stop and marked our first entry into Florida. What a darling town! The anchorage is nothing to brag about and was actually off putting with an industrial plant on either side of the town. However, once you entered the town of Fernandina, the story was COMPLETELY different.
The fact that the town was having it’s annual “Pajama Day” added to the charm of this quaint place. Families embraced the opportunity to dress up, or rather down, and groups of matching ensembles walked the streets. Near the information center a woman was performing Christmas carols using hand bells. And later in the week there was a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. How fun is that?!
So cute with their carrot noses.
Fernandina was overlooked as a stop during the railroad age and as a result, the town didn’t go through a post-railway development phase. Today there are more than 450 historic buildings in Fernandina and 50 of this small city’s blocks are listed in the National Register of Historic Places!
Snowmen were a popular choice.
We rented a car one day and three rally members joined us for a drive around Amelia Island and a stop at Ft. Clinch.
This site was first fortified by the Spanish in 1736 and has been used by several countries as strong holds since then. Today the Florida Parks oversee the maintenance of Ft. Clinch. They have “Union Soldiers” on site to talk about life in 1864 during the Civil War.
Jackie and Frank exploring Ft. Clinch.
Fort Clinch is very well restored and allows entry into many of the buildings, so it is easy to imagine what life was like on these grounds.
Solitary confinement cell ~ no thank you!
The lighting gives a church-like feel.
It was interesting to walk down the tunnels and looks through the windows that were so important to defense of the St. Mary’s River and the Cumberland Sound. The sunlight and beauty contradicted the violence seen from these walls.
Fernandina was Jackie’s last stop with us along the ICW. We are so happy she is willing to visit us in our floating home and share our adventures. I’m truly blessed to have such a capable, caring and kind mother-in-law.
All of us were sad to see Jackie leave. Captain really misses the extra love Jackie gave her as we motored along.
Photos you might like:
Stylin’ poodle in Fernandina Beach
Of course there is a sunset!
Biggest mooring ball award!!