[This is part of my vanlife series. I've spent 7 months and 25kmiles on the road in 2 years, exploring and rock climbing around the US]
We spent a few days in the land of spanish moss, southern food, and honey bees. That's Charleston, SC and Savannah, GA! Both are amazing cute cities to walk around with excellent food and drink. We've had them on the must-see list for a long time and they didn't disappoint at all!
Charleston was a blistering 70 degrees in the middle of November and 80 percent humidity. We started off using Yelp to find 167 Raw for oysters, where we asked the bartenders for drink recommendations, which led us to The Belmont for cocktails, where we asked the bartenders for more food options, which got us a double-sided hand-printed list of restaurants. As a city, it's surprisingly very hipster like the Bay area.
- 167 Raw. Oyster bar and good drinks. It's a bit hefty on the wallet, but their oyster selection is great. We got a sampling of all east coast oysters.
- The Belmont. Cocktails.
- The Craftsmen. Beer.
- City Market. Open-air market with local artists and vendors.
- James Island County Park camping. Pricey but we hit it when their Christmas lights went up. It's a HUGE 2+mi loop with a lake, dogpark, climbing wall, and they put up a giant light show around the park funded by local businesses. It's the most impressive Christmas light show I've ever seen, and even more awesome that we stumbled upon it!
- Plantation tour. There's 10+ plantations right near Charleston, each with their own focus. We went to Magnolia, which has a large garden and arboretum. Others focus more on history, or have more authentic era buildings.
The drive into Magnolia Plantation:
Spanish moss is actually a bromeliad, not moss, and shares a commensalism relationship with the oak tree. The moss uses the tree for structural support but gets its own food from moisture in the air, while the oak doesn't benefit and isn't harmed.
Magnolia used to have a rice field, which you can take a boat tour through in the summer:
Imagine 2 miles of lights like this at James Island Park:
Plus lights in a walking-only forested area:
Full list of Charleston suggestions from our bartender:
Savannah is a smaller more quaint version of Charleston, is America's most haunted city, and is where Forrest Gump was filmed. I found this awesome blog (reminding me to keep blogging!) on the bucket list of things to do in Savannah and we started down that list.
- Walk. Savannah's main downtown area is only about 1mi x 2mi, with 22 green squares every 2 blocks or so in each direction. The streets are lined with heavenly spanish moss covered oak trees that you see on magazine covers. Don't miss the Colonial Park Cemetery, which you can walk right through, and which has tombstones dating back to the 1800s (not counting the tombstones that have worn off completely). Each square and historic site has a sign for your education.
- Savannah Bee Company. This was truly one of the best finds in Savannah. There's a couple storefronts where you can taste their whole selection of honey (single flower vs mixed wildflower, whipped honey, spiced honey, honeycomb...). They also have a full offering of bath and body products, shirts, and awesome trinkets like woodcut keychains. Everyone in the store is energetic and passionate about bees. If you call a week ahead, you can schedule a tour of their bee garden in their Wilmington Island location.
- Take a historic carriage tour. We did this after getting 2 recommendations, even though it seems touristy, but I'd do it again. The tour guides educate you on the history and ghost lore of the city. We saw the first girl scout house, learned how to date buildings based on the brick laying, and saw filming locations from Forrest Gump.
- Jen's and Friends. Hole-in-the-wall bar that serves 300 martinis, including rice krispy, pecan pie, fruity pebbles, and more. They're really a work of art--think glass rim dipped in caramel and then coated with pecans (or a whole piece of rice krispy treat).
- Alligator Soul. Pricey restaurant, but the to-go place for exotic meat like elk, bison, yak, pheasant, alligator.
- Mata Hari. This is one of those not-on-google-maps, no sign, entrance in alleyway, secret key joint that you find in San Francisco. We had our server at Alligator Soul draw us a map of where it was--literally down an alley. We didn't make it in, but it's supposed to be a throwback to the 1920s with singers and absinthe.
- Camping. Can't forget this. Red Gate RV, 6mi from town, was great.
Cemetary on left:
Typical green city square:
Typical residential street in downtown area:
Bridge between South Carolina and Georgia:
Locating Mata Hari. First find historic district:
Then find dark alley at night:
Then find door with lightswitch and doorbell and present your key: