The lighthouse on Tybee Island has been guiding mariners since 1732, when Georgia founder Gen. James Oglethorpe ordered the tower's construction. Though the structure was rebuilt several times over the years, it contains many historic features, including a 1916 day mark. Visitors can climb the lighthouse's 178 steps, check out the impressive nine-foot-tall First Order Fresnel lens, and enjoy beautiful views of the island and Atlantic Ocean. The Tybee Island Light Station is located on a five-acre property that once served as a fort during the Spanish-American War. One of the buildings, the former Battery Garland, has been converted into a museum that features artifacts from the past five centuries of Tybee's history.
If you're looking to pick up some Savannah souvenirs during your visit, River Street is the place to shop. But Savannah T-shirts and magnets aren't the only reason to hit up the historic street that overlooks the Savannah River. There's something for collectors (True Grits, a shop that specializes in Civil War artifacts), peanut lovers (The Peanut Shop of Savannah, a store that sells more than 50 varieties of hand-roasted peanuts) and book lovers (Books on Bay, a bookstore that features thousands of books from the 1700s to the late 1900s). There are also lovely galleries, an open-air marketplace, a good selection of restaurants and bars, and not one, but two candy stores. So many great shopping options, plus numerous special events held throughout the year in which vendors sell their arts and crafts, make River Street a one-stop shopping destination that you don't want to miss.
Colonial Park Cemetery, located in Savannah's Historic District, is the oldest intact municipal cemetery in the city. Established in 1750, the cemetery has more than 9,000 graves and is the final resting place for many famous Georgians, including Button Gwinnett, one of the signer's of the Declaration of Independence. Colonial Park served as the city's primary public cemetery from its founding until 1853, when it became closed for interments. Many visitors have claimed ghost sightings at Colonial Park, and the cemetery is a popular stop on many of the city's ghost tours. Colonial Park is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and regularly hosts tour groups.
Without a doubt one of the most visually stunning pieces of architecture in the city, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist was dedicated in 1876 and today serves as Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Savannah. Though it was almost entirely destroyed by a fire in 1898, it was rebuilt the next year and restored to its former glory. The inside of the cathedral features dramatic stained glass windows, renaissance-style murals, a 9,000 pound altar made of carved Carrar marble and a Noack pipe organ with 34 ranks and 2,308 pipes. Visitors are welcome to tour the cathedral daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The public may attend noon mass Monday through Saturday, however, no pictures are allowed during the service. It's always a good idea to call in advance to make sure there are no private events preventing the public from touring the cathedral before making plans to visit.
This 19th-century fort, which was occupied by the Confederate Army during the Civil War, is a must-see for history buffs. Only a 15-minute drive from Downtown Savannah, Fort Pulaski was designed by Napoleon's engineer, and though it fell during the Civil War, it still remains intact, with moats, drawbridges, enormous ramparts and mysterious tunnels. After learning about the Fort's fascinating history, visitors can access one of the historic site's many walking trails, which feature magnificent views of the marsh and Savannah River. Be sure to keep your eyes out for one of the Fort's 11 protected species, including bald eagles, manatees, loggerhead sea turtles and peregrine falcons.
This 30-acre park at the southern edge of the Historic District has a little bit of something for everyone. The park's magnificent two-tiered, white cast-iron fountain, which was made famous in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, is a visual masterpiece and probably the most photographed attraction in all of Savannah. Two large expanses of grass, separated by a walkway, are perfect for throwing a disc, sunbathing or having a picnic. Two playgrounds, one for younger kids and one for older ones, give children an opportunity to burn off steam while adults can relax and keep an eye on them in the nearby shade. The park cafe serves breakfast and lunch items, along with an array of beverages including Starbucks coffee, beer and wine.
Wormsloe Plantation, a haven of natural beauty and rich history, was established in 1737 by Noble Jones, an Englishman and one of Georgia's earliest settlers. The plantation is known for its striking mile-long entryway, which is lined on both sides by majestic live oak trees draped in Spanish moss. Visitors can explore the tabby ruins of Jones' 18th-century estate, along with historic gravesites and a museum housing period artifacts. The historic site, which is maintained by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, also has walking trails that back up to the salt marsh. Wormsloe Plantation hosts several annual events, including the "Colonial Faire and Muster" in February, a festival that features 18th-century music, dancing, crafts and military drills.
This storied 150-year-old cemetery, perched on the bluff overlooking the Wilmington River, is at once beautiful and haunting. The final resting place for may famous Savannahians, among them lyricist Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken, the 160-acre cemetery features striking monuments, elaborate burial vaults and grand live oak trees. Visitors will enjoy exploring the gravesites, many of which date back to the mid-19th century, and taking in the breathtaking view of the nearby river. While visitors will have plenty to keep them occupied in the main section of the cemetery, those who want the full Bonaventure experience should also visit the cemetery's Greenwich section, which requires a drive or hike around neighboring Forest Lawn Cemetery. The journey is well worth it: among the treasures in the Greenwich section are a reflection pond that was used in several early 20th-century silent films and a scenic view of the river and marsh.
Isle of Hope, a historic island located in the Southeastern portion of the city, is a residential community with a storied past. First inhabited in the 1700s by surveyor Noble Jones, the island today features gorgeous homes, many of which were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The island is also home to Bluff Drive, one of the city's most picturesque streets. The long, winding road, which begins at LaRoche Avenue and ends at Noble Glen Drive, boasts stunning views of the Intracoastal Waterway on one side and gorgeous antebellum-style mansions and quaint cottages on the other. Bluff Drive is also home to Isle of Hope Marina, a popular spot for boaters.
When James Edward Oglethorpe founded Savannah in 1733, he planned the city around four open squares. His master plan, based on a series of grids, allowed for the addition of more squares, and today the city's 22 public squares are one of Savannah's defining features. The squares, many of which are surrounded by dramatic 19th-century mansions, feature plenty of green space, benches and oak trees. Some of the city's most famous monuments are found in the squares, among them the magnificent bronze statue of Oglethorpe in Chippewa Square and the grand 55-foot Italian marble monument of General Count Casimir Pulaski in Monterey Square. The squares not only celebrate Savannah's past, but they also play an important role in the future of many brides and grooms, who have made the squares one of the most popular destination wedding spots in the country.