Coastal Georgia Awaits Birdwatchers
Georgia. The mere utterance of the name invokes images of the Deep South and Savannah, with its antebellum homes, wrought iron gates, cobblestone streets, Spanish moss and lush green scenery. However, there’s more — much more.
If you’re like many of us, chances are you’ve traversed the 110-some odd miles of I-95 spanning the South Carolina and Florida borders at one time or another without ever gaining a glimpse of the Georgia coast. Yet the curious venturing only minutes down a coastal road less traveled off the interstate will discover historic sites, folksy rural restaurants presenting a good dose of delicious down-home southern country cooking, and birds —lot’s of ‘em — more than 300 species in all making up 75% of all birds seen in the State.
The public dock at Sunbury
Just minutes due east of I-95 at exit 76 the expanse of the Georgia coast presents itself. At Sunbury, a 400-year old pre-revolutionary war era town on deep water rivaled in depth only by the Chesapeake Bay, a public dock awaits nature watchers or fishers with boats in tow. A 180-degree view of water spans the horizon as far as the eye can see.
At high tide, silver, gold, and red slivers of light sheen the surface from the marsh weeds that occupy this vast aqua world, confounding your senses to believe there’s an endless expanse. But you need wait only six hours for an entirely new experience. A nine-foot difference at low tide reveals oyster-laden black mud banks brandishing grand shards of golden brown-green marsh stalks 10-feet tall.
The St. Catherine’s Sound (by boat)
Eight miles straight away to the ocean from the public dock is the St. Catherine’s sound, the gateway to the Atlantic between St. Catherine’s and Ossabaw islands. It is through this portal, fishers gun their boats to catch the blue waters of the Gulfstream 35-miles out that offer up the inhabitants like the Sailfish.
The sound is also a weekend refuge for jet skiers, fishing enthusiasts, pleasure boaters and wildlife enthusiasts. And for bird-watchers in a boat or on the shore, it’s part of the barrier island chain along the Georgia coast forming the last major ecosystem on the East Coast of the United States.
From the public dock at Sunbury all the way out to the St. Catherines sound, you can see massive brown pelicans, black-crested cormorants, seagulls, bald eagles, osprey, marsh hawks, storks, vultures, woodpeckers, wood ducks, swallows, owls, hummingbirds and songbirds daily.
Reptiles like the Okefenokee alligator, snakes poisonous or not, manatees that few have ever seen, endangered sea turtles, and gopher tortoises choke the waters and surrounding islands. Redfish, mackerel, blue crab, shrimp, blue catfish, and trout await those with a fishing bent and boat in tow. Fishers abound in these waters, especially on weekends starting on Friday afternoon.
Where to go and what to do at Sunbury
During the Revolutionary War, Sunbury was an active commercial trading port featuring the arrival several four-masted trading vessels daily. Today it is an active recreational port.
Every Friday afternoon, roads to the area bulge with pickup trucks hauling boat trailers to the public dock, a gateway to the Atlantic and local waters for nature watchers, fishers, sailors and weekend water warriors. It’s a great place for sightseeing, beachcombing and snapping photos.
But if you don’t have a boat, you’re not out of luck. Sunbury is also home to the Sunbury Crab Company, a family-run seafood restaurant of critical acclaim and a great place to sit, relax and enjoy the panoramic view in a Key West style atmosphere.
If you’re not hungry, there’s plenty of history see, hear and touch in the area. Revolutionary Fort Morris offers tours and historic references. Some residents from the old days are buried in the Sunbury cemetery, where the oldest marker dates from 1788. And the Midway Museum, about a 15-minute drive from Sunbury, offers daily tours and lectures about area history.
And then, there’s 400-year old, Old Sunbury Road. It’s the same road traders used before the Revolutionary War to ferry goods from the port out to the Georgia colony and across into neighboring lands. If you’re driving or walking, turn down this road from Brigantine Dunmore Rd. Walk about ¼ of a mile. On your right you’ll see pond chock full of egrets, reptiles and other wildlife.
Walk a little bit further up the road and you’ll face a tunnel of oak trees. Take a look around. You won’t see many displays of oaks like this in this area. That’s because the shipbuilders in the Georgia colony during the pre-Revolutionary War period, chopped them all down to build ships.
To head back to I-95 you’ll need a car. Drive due west on Old Sunbury Road and you’ll pass the local industrial park entrance near the I-95.
And there’s more on the Georgia coast
Tootle on down I-95 South to Exit 38, and you’ll find St Simons Island, home to year-round occupants and the same species of wildlife you’ll find at Sunbury. If you stop here for sightseeing, plan to spend at least four hours. There’s just too much to see and do.
Nearby, off exit 29 from I-95, you’ll find Jekyll Island, also home to the same species you’ll see at Sunbury and on St. Simons Island. Bring your bathing suit and plan to spend some time at the beach watching the Pelican’s, Eagles, seagulls, Osprey, and other species as you bask in the sun.
Today, it’s difficult to grasp the notion this entire area and the name America were once the dominion of a foreign power during the days of the Revolutionary War. But the history, beauty, active seafaring, and wildlife remain. And it’s something you can see, touch and hear only a few minutes away from I-95.
Coastal Georgia has some great restaurants. We live here. We know. Check these places out the next time you're in the area.
Skippers Fish Camp, Darien, GA (Exit 49 off of I-95)
The Sunbury Crab Company, Sunbury GA (Exit 76 off of I-95)
The Millhouse Steak House, Brunswick, GA (Exit 38 off of I-95)
Sal's Neighborhood (New York) Pizza, St Simons Island, GA (Exit 38 off of I-95)
Fox's Pizza Den, Brunswick, GA
Another Fascinating Place to See:
The American Prohibition Museum: The History of our Love-Hate Relationship with Alcohol, Savannah, GA (Exit 16 off of I-95 to Savannah)
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