Our Road Trip From Florida to Savannah
A road trip from Florida to Savannah, Georgia has been on our radar for years. Friends who have visited there always come back with glowing reports about this southern gem. Somehow, through thousands of miles of Florida travel, we never quite made it to Savannah despite it being just an hour and a half from Florida.
We will go back to Savannah, Georgia! We say that with emphasis justifiably after our impressive road trip from Florida.
On the Road to Savannah Georgia
We started our trip from Clearwater Beach, Florida. According to Google Maps the trip to Savannah was a little over 5 and a half hours. We knew it would take us more time with stops for food, fuel and detours. The decision was made to break the trip up.
Our first night on our road trip from Florida to Savannah was spent on Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville. We were glad to revisit this historical island.
This island is a special place, not just for the multitude of things to do on Amelia Island, but also the significance to the history of Florida. It was fought over for centuries before it became part of the United States.
We hadn’t been to Amelia Island for a year or more. We added a couple of new additions to our Florida Travel Blog that we encountered on this visit.
We added two things to our previous post. One was a new restaurant by the name of The Boat House. This new seafood-oriented restaurant is a welcome addition to the restaurant scene on Amelia.
The food and service were excellent at the Boat House. They also have entertainment most evenings in their open-air section.
The second addition to our blog was an addition to the best dive bars in Florida.
We stumbled upon a birthday party at the Green Turtle just off Center Steet, the main thoroughfare in Fernandina Beach. The locals were hospitable, fun and welcoming.
The band at the Green Turtle was made up of entertainers from around the area who got together for a jam session to help celebrate a lady’s 67th birthday.
We added the Green Turtle as one of our honorable mentions for the best dive bar in Florida.
Amelia Island to Savannah Georgia
Our trip turned into a mini road trip from Amelia Island to Savannah Georgia. The two-hour easy drive was mostly on I-95. The road was in good condition and our exit from I-95 to I-16 into Savannah was easy.
We must admit our very first impressions of Savannah, unjustly made, were the depressed-looking industrial area in the first few blocks off the freeway until we got to West Bay Street.
As we turned on West Bay, the narrow street became a commercial hotel and retail strip that had character. The character came from buildings renovated from structures that were over 100 years old.
You immediately realize Savannah Georgia has a historical foundation.
Savannah Georgia and History
Prior to the Civil War, Savannah had become one of the busiest ports along the eastern seaboard. Shipping cotton, produce and tobacco, Savannah was key to the success of many plantations in south Georgia.
After the Civil War and the end of slavery, Savannah entered a period of economic decline. Freed former slaves became the majority of the population. It took many years for the economy to rebound.
One notable event in history is a reflection on today’s Savannah. When northern General William Tecumseh Sherman was marching through southern towns burning everything in sight, Sherman spared Savannah from destruction.
Legend says Sherman found Savannah too beautiful to burn. We do know Sherman sent a message to President Lincoln stating,
“I beg to present you, as a Christmas gift, the city of Savannah, with 150 heavy guns and plenty of ammunition, and also about 25,000 bales of cotton.”
Privately, it was stated that General Sherman found Savannah so beautiful he could not burn the town down.
If that is correct, we would agree with Sherman.
The Stately Homes of Savannah
In our travels, we have seen many towns that have historical homes and buildings throughout Florida and other parts of the country. We can easily state that nothing we have seen comes close to the Historic District of Savannah.
Savannah was established in 1733. Many of the buildings, homes, and parks date back to the 18th century.
It is amazing that the town’s founders had the foresight to create 24 squares that are tree-lined manicured parks of various sizes. Around these squares reside some of the most famous homes, mansions, and buildings in the country.
Many of these historic structures have been turned into museums, schools, and exclusive restaurants. To list all the homes you can see around the beautiful squares would take an entire post.
If you consider that almost three decades have passed since the founding of Savannah, you can imagine the preservation possibilities when the city carefully restricts the demolition of any relevant structures.
Savannah’s River Street
Savannah’s planners must be given an A+ for taking a depressed area and making it into a tourist attraction.
As we mentioned, Savannah was once a major port for the export of Georgia products and produce. During the 18th and 19th centuries, brick buildings were constructed to handle many of the shipping and warehouse functions.
Today these same buildings are used for unique restaurants, quaint shops, hotels and some unusual residences. In some areas, the riverfront buildings occupy three distinct levels. One on River Street, one level on Williamson Street, and one on West Bay Street.
All three of these levels are accessible from cobblestone-lined walkways along River Street. There are stairways to the three levels, but being constructed a century ago, they are not simple stairs. Each step is steeper than today’s staircases.
Collectively, the river district runs about 1.6 miles. Most of this distance is along the Savannah River. There are parks, seating, walkways and various access points up to the West Bay Street level.
A word of warning. While River Street is an absolute must-see for a road trip from Florida to Savannah, River Street is made of old cobblestones in many areas. Most of the restaurants and stores are not easily accessible for people in wheelchairs or others who may have difficulty walking on rough pavement.
Despite limited access for people with impaired walking, it is reported that 50 million people visit Savannah annually. Many come here as a road trip from Florida to Savannah. Based on our observation, almost all visitors head to River Street for a day of fun.
JW Marriott Plant Riverside District Hotel
Florida Travel Blog is free of advertiser influence, but when we see a truly unique hotel we give it a shout-out.
The JW Marriott Plant District Hotel was inducted into the Historic Hotels of America. There are only about 300 hotels that are given that award for preserving historical buildings.
JW Marriott Plant is part of their Kessler Collection of luxurious hotels. The Plant Marriott took a 1912 power plant and turned it into a very special location while maintaining the integrity of the original structure.
The Marriott Plant even saved two smokestacks that add a little unique highlight to the hotel. The hotel is right on the river with three buildings, each with different features preserved from its historic past.
If your plans include a different hotel, we highly recommend you visit the JW Marriott Plant as part of your road trip from Florida to Savannah.
The Best Things To Do in Savannah Georgia
There are many possibilities to fill your days in Savannah. Some of the best things to do in Savannah include:
- Take a Hop-on Hop-off Trolley Trip. You can spend a day or two trying to find the most popular attractions or take one of the trolley tours that take you to all the major attractions. You can get off the trolley and reboard anytime during the day.
- Take a stroll on River Street. You can find all types of restaurants that fit all palates. Pick up souvenirs at one of the many different shops.
- On the north end of Savannah’s Riverwalk is a view of Ocean Terminal for the Georgia Port Authority. It is fun to watch the ships, bigger than a cruise ship, loading and unloading containers and cars at the port. They run up and down the river all day long.
- Take a walking tour of Savannah’s historical mansions.
- Eat at one of the unique or famous restaurants in Savannah. There is Lady and Son’s owned by former Food Network star Paula Dean. Then there is the Olde Pink House. The Pink House may be the most famous in the Historic District. Reservations are made weeks in advance to eat some of the best southern cuisine in Savannah. Our favorite for dinner was the River House on the Savannah River. The seafood is fresh and exceptional.
- Can’t wait to get to a beach? Just about 20 minutes away from downtown Savannah is Tybee Island. With 5 miles of sandy beaches and plenty of restaurants, you can get your fill of sunshine.
Road Trip From Florida to Savannah Georgia
Occasionally, you visit places that you know that someday you will return. We knew when leaving we hadn’t seen everything. Two days were not enough, but we had plans in Jacksonville we couldn’t change.
If you go, we suggest you schedule the trolley tour early in your stay. You will get an overview of the city. You can go back to visit the areas that interest you. Your road trip from Florida to Savannah Georgia is guaranteed to be one of the most beautiful road trips, plus the southern hospitality of the Georgia town.