Brian and I were only in South Carolina for two weeks, and were about an hour each way from Charleston, Savannah, and Hilton Head Island. But these were on our list of must-sees while we were in the area, which meant we had only three weekend days to explore them all – one for each! It was one of those ‘whirlwind’ tours of the region!
Our first full day in the area was spent in Charleston and we really enjoyed our time there. Check out that article when you have a moment. The next weekend, Mother’s Day weekend, we went to Savannah then to Hilton Head.
We started planning our visit to Savannah a week earlier. Brian wanted to ride a big paddle boat. I’d had the chance to be on one in my 20s for a group casino night. It was pretty cool, so of course I supported Brian’s wish! We found the Savannah Riverboat Cruises company online and bought tickets for the Saturday lunch buffet cruise, their 90-minute cruise with a tour guide talking about the history and industry of Savannah.
My bucket list item for the day was to see Bonaventure Cemetery, which is where they filmed several scenes from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I loved this movie (and the book) and, as many of you know, I also love cemeteries. I so badly wanted to spend the whole day taking photographs there! The whole day wouldn’t work out, but we decided to go after the cruise.
The Riverboat Cruise
Saturday came and we were super excited. We’d both been on cruises in the Seattle area and loved them, so we knew we were in for a treat! We made our way through streets with old colonial style homes and found some street parking. Note: Don’t be fooled by Google! You can’t actually turn left at any of the places it tells you to in order to get down to the waterfront. Just park on the regular street level, then walk down one of the few access areas (stairs or walkways) to get to the water.
We found our way through the cobblestones of Factors Walk to the riverboat dock and checked in (really glad I don’t wear heels anymore!) The line was a bit slow and we finally realized it’s because they actually assign you to a table and the host/hostess walks you to it like any other sit-down restaurant. It was nice that we didn’t have to wade through a crowd and find our own table.
The lunch buffet was a stereotypical southern buffet with lots of breading and carbs. Not the best for those of us eating keto. I recommend eating elsewhere if you want healthy food. That said, the food I did eat was tasty. That seems to be typical for us in much of the South. The healthy choices at restaurants are very slim, but what we did have was good. They spent some time at the dock after everyone was on board to let us all eat and give us the initial spiel. Once most people had eaten, we were on our way into the harbor!
I’d say we were cruising for about an hour and the tour guide was talking most of that time. Brian and I walked to the back so he could see the paddlewheel turning — and it wasn’t! Dang! I thought maybe they stopped using them because of debris in rivers or because it damaged the sea life. Nope. After some research, it seems to be all about maneuverability. It’s just easier to maneuver those huge boats with a couple of big engines. There’s a bit of nostalgia gone. I did find out there is one paddlewheel boat cruise that really uses their paddlewheel. There may be more, but I didn’t see any during my short bit of research.
The tour itself was okay. Neither of us is much into American colonial history or industrial history, but the guide was definitely knowledgeable. It was a bit difficult to hear him over all the passengers talking unless you were near a speaker. At one point, we passed by Fort Jackson where a re-enactment group shot off a cannon. Apparently, they do this every time the cruise ships go by. All I could think of was that they should warn people about it when they purchase tickets because any Veteran with PTSD would have had a difficult time not being triggered. They did give a warning a few seconds before it happened but, again; if you weren’t under a speaker, you probably didn’t know it was coming.
If it sounds like it was a bad experience, that’s not my intention. It was disappointing though, and I certainly wouldn’t spend my money on that particular cruise again. Maybe one of their evening cruises without a meal would have been better for us. I will say our server was excellent and they do have a full bar. 😉
After disembarking, we walked around the waterfront area a little but didn’t find anything very exciting; so made our way to the car.
Yay! I got to go to Bonaventure!! I didn’t realize there were free tours (with a guide or using their app) or I absolutely would have signed up or downloaded the app. I also didn’t realize how big it was. It’s huge – over 100 acres!
Brian and I went there after the boat tour, so it was mid-afternoon and in the low 90s. I didn’t last as long as I’d hoped because of the heat, but what I got to see was beautiful – majestic even. I love these cemeteries that have essentially been made into parks. While I personally don’t believe burial in coffins is good for the planet, I do feel such cemeteries are a lovely way to help reduce some of the fear-based perceptions of death and the dead. How can you not feel at peace in such a beautiful setting?
(Side note. Caitlin Doughty has an amazing YouTube channel – Ask a Mortician – where she provides history and information about death in a quirky, funny way. Her goal is to get people over the fear of talking about death. We highly recommend checking out her channel!)
Rather than go on trying to describe Bonaventure, I’ll just insert some photos here. You can see more of them on our Facebook page and Instagram. Someday, I hope to go back when the weather should be cooler, take a tour, and spend a few hours there shooting gobs of photos!
Hilton Head Island
I’m not sure where or when I’d first heard of Hilton Head, especially having been born and raised on the West Coast; but it must be famous enough for it to have happened. It’s a place I’ve always thought of as stereotypically “East Coast Beach” and I wanted to see it since we were nearby. Plus…it was where I could get my feet into the Atlantic Ocean for the first time ever!
Pontoon Boat Tour
We decided to take a pontoon boat tour of the bay first and while we didn’t get to see much of the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins, we did catch quite a few glimpses of them. The Atlantic is not as clear as the Pacific. I’m sure it has to do with water temperatures, currents, etc. I was surprised, though, at how murky it was. We couldn’t see the dolphins unless there were right at the top of the water. Crazy! It sure was fun being out on a smaller boat though! I forget how much I love being on the water as much as I enjoy being in it. It was a beautiful day with a fun captain and crew. For me, the $35 was totally worth it just to be on the boat. I’ll also note that I chose the tour company carefully. I wanted someone who wouldn’t be literally chasing the dolphins, but would hang back a bit. For the most part, that’s what they did – cutting the engine when they’d get within 75 to 100 feet or so. It was also refreshing to have tour guides who were knowledgeable and wanted to talk about the local marine life and the island.
Coligny Beach Park
Afterward, we drove to a local restaurant for a late lunch and were relieved to be inside for the complete deluge that hit. The storm broke for the moment and we headed out to Coligny Beach Park, so I could get my toes in the water!
Coligny Beach is a lovely park that fully met my expectations of an East Coast Beach. It had a short boardwalk to the outer edge of the beach that was lined with benches, swings under arbors, and private changing rooms with showers. The boardwalk gave way to a sort of mat on the sand, taking you farther onto the beach. Boy did that make it easier to walk all the way out there! Then, of course, the beach had hundreds of Adirondack chairs and umbrellas free for people to use.
We arrived in time to walk up the beach a bit, get my feet in the water, sing a water blessing song, and record a quick video. Then one of the lifeguards came by and said they were packing up all the chairs and umbrellas before the next part of the storm hit. Good thing they did! That was a doozy with massive rain, hail, thunder, and lightning! On the way home, there were a few times we almost pulled over because it was so hard to see. I kept getting alerts on my phone for tornadoes in Georgia (which was about 45 minutes south of us), but South Carolina was okay and we made it home safely. We even still had power!
I love that we can have an awesome day, drive through a big storm like that, and come home to snuggle with our cats, sleep in our own bed, and just be comfy. It’s definitely one of the best things about RV life.
Want to see more of Savannah and Hilton Head? Watch the video!
Thanks for reading, friends! Be groovy and remember to live your journey…