Our Top 10 Destination Recommendations
Here are our favorite things to see and do in St. Mary’s and the surrounding coastal Georgia area.
Some are well known, some not so well known. No particular order.
1: Howard Gilman Waterfront Park
On the waterfront in St. Marys
Even before you unpack, take the short stroll from the Captain Morse House to the Howard Gilman park on the waterfront.
Buy some boiled peanuts and find a seat in one of the swings overlooking the water.
Most likely, you will see a few dolphins or sea otters playing near by in the water. Watch the shrimp boats come in. (That’s your dinner!)
Take a few deep breathes and breathe in the honeysuckle-scented air.
Listen to the water lap on the docks.
2: Festivals and Parades
For a small town, St. Marys always has something happening!
Friday night Music in the Park. Mardi Gras parade. Fourth of July celebration and fireworks. First Fridays. Scarecrow stroll. Haunted House tours. Holiday lights tours. Seafood Festival. Rustapalooza. White lighting. Santa in the Park. Wine tasting. Cupcake wars.
There is always something going on at St. Marys, so be sure to check with the local visitor’s center before you arrive.
3. Historic Downtown Fernandina
Right across the river in Florida.
Take a road-trip to downtown historic Fernandina for a few hours, walk around, window shop, pose w/ pirates here and there, view the harbor, and grab something to eat at one of the many interesting restaurants.
4: Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum
Literally right across the street from us. Get up from the rocking chair on our porch and walk over.
The museum houses a collection of artifacts from Cumberland Island, so visit before you go! The lives of Native Americans, African Americans, the Carnegie family as well as others who lived on the island in the 19th and 20th centuries are seen in the island environment. A new exhibit is now open in the Museum, the “Forgotten Invasion”, (War of 1812).
5. Sugar Mill Tabby Ruins
Located off Charlie Smith Highway in St. Marys, just pass the Stimpson gate to Kingsbay Naval Base.
One of the the largest and best preserved of all tabby remains in the Southeast. It has picnic areas, so a great place to have a bag lunch.
Built in 1826, John Houstoun McIntosh constructed the mill on the site of his New Canaan Plantation, where he grew sugar cane. New Canaan was sold after McIntosh’s death, and the mill burned in the mid-1800s and was not rebuilt.
6. Oak Grove Cemetary
Take a stroll through this tranquil and historic cemetery, located 3 blocks away from our home.
The Historic Oak Grove Cemetery was laid out in 1788. Soldiers from all of our country’s wars rest in peace under moss-wrapped oaks, azaleas and camellias. The tragedies and triumphs of life are represented in the beautiful inscriptions engraved on the stones of yellow fever victims and those of the French Arcadians who were driven out of Nova Scotia in a horrendous fashion and have finally found a home here on the banks of the St. Marys River. Statesmen and craftsmen, plantation owners and slaves, now all together, draw a picture of an earlier time when life was simpler and everyone knew their neighbors and considered them friends.
7. Orange Hall
One of the finest and earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the South. Three blocks away.
The home takes its name Orange Hall from the “extensive hedges and the large sour orange grove at the rear of the house.” This is a showcase of antebellum life in the Greek Revival style. With its Doric columns on the front veranda and the wide steps leading from the ground up to the second floor main entrance, it is a wonderful example of Greek revival architecture. It was refurbished to its original grandeur by caring St. Marys citizens.
Orange Hall was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Right on the corner of the river. (That’s our house in the top left.)
Home-made ice cream. Home-made candy (try the pralines.) It’s no wonder we end up here every visit. An adorable old-fashioned candy and gift store, the Market on the Square will have something for everyone. Be sure to check out the toy section in the back. Marbles and spinning tops and kazoos. Get a cup of coffee here in the morning and walk to the park to watch the sunrise.
Sure, you can take the Cumberland Island ferry and see the beaches and wild horses. But there is more beautiful Georgia nature to experience . . . 10 minutes away.
Surrounded by palmettos and Spanish moss-draped oaks, it’s the perfect spot for enjoying the Intracoastal Waterway and Georgia’s maritime forest. A boat ramp is popular with anglers who often take to the water before sunrise.
The park’s nature trail winds through forest and salt marsh, and hikers may see gopher tortoises, fiddler crabs, herons and other birds. A nature center features fish, turtles and other animals native to coastal Georgia.
10. Seagles Saloon
For a bit of local flavor, come have a drink at Seagles Saloon across the street on the riverfront. Meet the “meanest bartender east of the Missippi.” (We love us some Cindy Dean.)
True story. My husband and I came here to eat on our first visit to St. Marys. The famous Cindy Dean was our bartender. He ordered the crab soup (yummy, by the way) and asked her if she had any crackers. She reached down into her cleavage and pulled out a few packs and threw them down on the table. He looked at me and said “Oh, we are so moving here.” And that’s how we ended up falling in love with St. Marys.
Her language may be saltier than the crackers, but she is a true character and not to be missed. But she is a sweetheart. And makes a killer Long-Island Iced Tea. Tell her Mike and Karen said hi.