Having visited Louisville and Charleston, Savannah was our third and last stop on our road trip through the Southern USA. I have fond memories of Savannah having visited often when I was a kid. Savannah was the closet city to my grandparent’s house in rural Georgia.
I remember the old historic homes and the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. The Spanish Moss (which isn’t Spanish and isn’t moss) drapes romantically from the live oak trees giving everything a dreaming sort of quality. It hung from the trees leading up the driveway to my grandparents.
I hadn’t been to Savannah in a long time, and was looking forward to seeing it both as a grown-up and with Mark, my husband. Would it look anything like my childhood memories?
The Savannah River
You can stroll down River Street, full of shops, bar and restaurants, but if you really want to get a feel for the life blood of modern day Savannah, take a trip with Savannah Riverboat Cruises and explore the Port of Savannah and the Savannah River.
I have a fascination with ports. I can remember reading about 10 of the greatest innovations that changed the world in the year 2000 when such lists were common. Guess what one of them was- containerization. Yes, transporting goods internationally in standardized shipping containers has revolutionized modern day trade.
The largest ships in the world were once known as Panamax- the maximum size of a ship able to pass through the Panama Canal. With the completion of the Suez Canal, larger ships could be transited through the Middle East. Last year, Panama completed their expansion of the Panama Canal and these New Panamax ships can know pass through the Panama Canal. We had seen the Panamax ships several years ago in our partial crossing of the Panama Canal (if you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend the experience!) and they are massive. Well on our riverboat cruise in Savannah we saw the New Panamax ships! Unbelievable!
The New Panamax ships are absolutely amazing. It is hard to believe they can float! The ships are “escorted” from behind by a tug boat which pulls in the opposite direction. Without the tug, even at very slow speeds the boats create a drag which pulls in other smaller boats from the harbor.
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These very large boats can only enter the port at high tide when the water is deep enough to accommodate them. As they pass under the bridge which spans the Savannah River it creates the illusion the boats will never fit! If the ships get any bigger they will have to build a new bridge.
In addition to seeing the New Panamax ships, I was surprised to learn the Port of Savannah is the fourth busiest port in the USA. Any guesses what the top three in the USA are? (Check the bottom of this post to find the answer.) The Port is responsible for a lot of revenue to the city and jobs.
The cruise continues past the port down to Old Fort Jackson. The narration was fantastic and we really enjoyed the 2 hour journey.
Exploring Savannah’s Historic District
The best way to explore Savannah’s historic district is on foot. A series of squares provides both green space and a very genteel atmosphere to the city. Many of Savannah’s old historic mansions line the squares.
Founded in 1733, Savannah was the last colonial city established by Britain in America. General James Edward Oglethorpe created the original city layout based on a pattern of squares.
Unlike a lot of cities that have had urban renewal, many of these old historic homes are still single family homes. (And many are reputed to be haunted, as we found out on our ghost tour of Savannah.)
Broughton Street is the heart of the original city shopping district. It contains shops, cafes, bars and restaurants all of which have been beautifully restored and maintained and it is worth a leisurely stroll.
The City Market is a lively outdoor area with shops, restaurants and open air entertainment. All combined, you can see why Savannah rates very highly as a city to visit.
Where to Eat and Drink in Savannah
We found a couple of great places to eat, drink and just enjoy a great cup of coffee. So in no particular order:
The Old Pink House
One of Savannah’s finest restaurants,The Old Pink House is in you guessed it, an old pink house. The food and service were both excellent. The wine list was not too extensive (or overwhelming) and we were very pleased with our choice. The service and ambiance were both top notch. If you want a nice romantic dinner or to celebrate a special occasion, this is a great choice.
The Artillery Bar is a a relative newcomer on the Savannah scene and we think it will be around for a longtime! It reminded us of home (Melbourne, Australia). All of the cocktails are handmade, including hand making the mixers and garnishes as well.
The tables feature a small discreet buzzer which you can press should you be in need of service from the bar or staff.
Think sophisticated elegance. There was not a shot or Budweiser beer anywhere to be found. Just beautiful handmade cocktails,
A great place for a before or after dinner drink.
The Flying Monk
Casual and authentic Asian food is served at the Flying Monk. Complete with Asian barbecue ducks hanging just waiting for your order. This is a great place for a casual meal and a break from Low Country Cuisine.
The Collins Quarter
Our tip for the best coffee in town is the Collins Quarter. Owned by an Australian, (and we love the Melbourne coffee scene) this is a great place for a coffee break. It has no relationship to the Melbourne restaurant on Collins St with the same name.
It was the best coffee we found in Savannah. We also checked out the menu and it looks like a great place for lunch or dinner (we needed to stay longer to eat more).
The Spanish Moss
Just as I remembered it. The live oak trees are draped with Spanish moss. As you stroll through the historic district you find some great examples.
Not having had our fill of Spanish moss we headed out to the Wormsloe State Historic Site to see the avenue of live oaks- over 400 trees planted in the early 1890’s.
Wormsloe is the 1730’s home of Noble Jones, a prominent early settler who worked with James Oglethorpe to survey and layout the city of Savannah. The original home is made of tabby a building material that is equal parts oyster shell, lime, sand, ash and water (which we also saw on some of the old sidewalks in town). While the original house is just the remains there is a visitor center where you can learn the history of the estate and a network of trails to walk around and explore the area. And the drive down the avenue of live oaks is spectacular.
P.S. The Port of Savannah is the 4th busiest in the USA behind New York City, Long Beach and Los Angeles.