Home Road Trips A Coastal Adventure from St. Augustine to Savannah

A Coastal Adventure from St. Augustine to Savannah


Most readers will be familiar with Florida’s famed coastal drives running through popular destinations such as Miami and Tampa. In this space, we’re going to focus on one of our favorite routes that ought to be talked about a whole lot more: St. Augustine to Savannah, a three-hour driving tour full of beaches, history, and spectacular outdoor activities—with the added bonus of getting to experience Georgia too!

If traveling by air, you’ll want to fly into Jacksonville (or Savannah, if you want to do this route in reverse) and rent a car. From Jacksonville, it’s a short one-hour drive to St. Augustine.

St. Augustine is one of the most historic spots in the United States, but you don’t hear its name nearly as often as Jamestown or Plymouth. St. Augustine predates both of those places, as it was founded as far back as 1585 and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than two centuries. It’s the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the modern-day U.S.

No need to rent a time machine on this trip because Castillo de San Marcos, a Spanish fortress dating back to 1695, is actually still standing in the heart of St. Augustine. Set aside a few hours to walk the ground and walls, while checking out various rooms that held both soldiers and prisoners. The fort sits right on the water, so you also can enjoy breathtaking views of ocean and city.

Sunrise at St. Augustine Pier on February 9, 2017.

Sunrise at St. Augustine Pier on February 9, 2017. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America.

Once you’ve finished your self-guided tour of Castillo de San Marcos, head on over to the Bridge of Lions, a mere five minutes away. You’ve likely seen photos on Instagram of the two white marble lion sculptures that guard the bridge. It’s well worth a stop to snap a few selfies and take in the gorgeous vistas.

Bridge of Lions

Bridge of Lions in St. Augustine, Florida. Photo by Scott Tribble.

If you’re feeling ambitious, walk a mile up to the Nombre de Dios Mission, home of the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. This wonderfully serene site was built in 1609 in honor of Our Lady of La Leche. It’s one of the oldest Catholic worship sites in the Americas, and the grounds feature beautiful gardens, sculptures, and more spectacular ocean views.

Finish off your day with a jaunt to St. George Street, a pedestrian-only stretch packed with restaurants, bars, and local artisan shops. It’s worth planning to spend a few hours here, as you’ll want to leave time to check out the various stores, while also just people-watching and letting the world go by.

Next up, we’re going to drive an hour and a half north to Amelia Island, part of the Sea Islands chain of barrier islands. Amelia Island is a luxury vacation getaway that’s a very popular business conference destination.

Sunrise at the Omni Amelia Island Resort in Amelia Island, Florida.

Sunrise at the Omni Amelia Island Resort in Amelia Island, Florida on February 13, 2017. Photo by Peter Stringer for Amazing America.

Amelia Island isn’t jam-packed with sights to see, but, if you love the beach, there’s nothing wrong with spending a day taking in the sun on Main Beach Park. If you’re a photographer or simply enjoy taking in a sunrise, it’s a great spot for waking up early and drinking in the early-morning colors over the ocean.

On the other side of Amelia Island, you’ll want to check out the Fernandina Historic District. There’s a bunch of boutique stores and quirky local shops that are well worth perusing before you grab dinner and take in the sunset at a restaurant along the Amelia River.

We’re now going to head up to Georgia, driving an hour to reach our next destination: Jekyll Island. The island is a longtime underrated jewel that is quickly becoming more and more popular in the age of Instagram.

The signature attraction on Jekyll Island is Driftwood Beach. It’s a spot that has to be seen to be believed. The north end of the beach eroded over time, leaving the soil unsuitable to support tree life. After the massive trees dried out, they remained in place, becoming sun-bleached over time. The overall effect is like a graveyard for trees. Whether you check out the beach at sunrise, sunset, or in-between, it’s a truly unique and breathtaking experience. No wonder it’s a popular spot for weddings and other special events.

Driftwood Beach

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island. Photo by Scott Tribble.

The other major attraction on the island is the Jekyll Island Club Resort, founded in 1887 and a vacation spot for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and Morgans, among other luminaries. The hotel rates are quite reasonable, but, if you aren’t inclined to stay in this lap of luxury, there are plenty of quaint B&Bs on the island. During your stay, it’s definitely worth renting a bike to get around the island. There’s more than 25 miles of paved trails, many of which run through woods and under Spanish moss canopies.

Once you’re ready to move onto the next part of our adventure, you’ll drive an hour and a half north to Savannah. Savannah is one of the few major cities in the U.S. that remains truly unique, not only for its enduring history but also its unique personality. Start your day in the Savannah Historic District and take a long leisurely walk from square to square (22 in total), basking in the historic homes and perfectly manicured gardens. It’s only a mile and half stretch, but you’ll definitely want to take it slow and allow yourself to be transported back to the early 1800s.

At the southern end of the Historic District, you’ll find Forsyth Park, a glorious 30-acre city park punctuated by its famous fountain, installed in 1848. While in the park, you’ll likely witness a wedding or a proposal, as the picturesque scene draws couples from all over Georgia—and beyond.

Next, head over to Bonaventure Cemetery, roughly five miles from the city center. You’ve undoubtedly seen this historic cemetery in Hollywood films such as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Now and Then. The cemetery features spectacularly ornate graves, framed beneath giant trees and Spanish moss. The overall feel is quite haunting, no doubt the fuel behind the many ghost stories associated with the cemetery.

If you’re feeling adventurous, it’s also worth a trip out to Tybee Island, about a half an hour from the city. There’s plenty to do on this family-friendly island, including climbing the historic lighthouse (which dates back to 1736), kayaking along the coast, looking out for dolphins, and even camping on the Little Tybee Island nature preserve.

In a mere three hours total driving time between St. Augustine and Savannah, those two cities—and everything in between—really pack a punch. No matter whether you’re a history buff, photographer, outdoorsperson, or professional beach bum, this road trip route has something for everyone.

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