ST MARYS, GEORGIA
By Glenn Arnette, lll
“It’s All About Charm!”
There is this small community located very close to the Florida line and Jacksonville in a storybook setting that will rival the Carolina coast and it is
St. Marys, Georgia. With its white picket fences, charming Victorian Inns, stately live oaks and of course majestic magnolias, this marvelous community steps out of the yesteryear and beckons guest and visitors from all over the world. Step into history and discover legends of forgotten battles, stories of pirates accented with antebellum. mansions and historic museums. It is also the gateway to the famous Cumberland Island, the largest of the Georgia Coast’s Barrier Islands.
On arrival I was completely surprised by the history nestled in the small loving community. The people are so friendly and they even welcome you and offer “golf car” rides around the town as a free service with guided tours from some of the local people. The waterfront is dotted with fishing boats, tour boats, kayaks and “people”. That really surprised me as I thought this to be a “sleepy” town and certainly did not expect to see hundreds of people preparing for a few days or a week of camping over on Cumberland Island or in town for tours and lunch. St. Mary has a wonderful Visitor’s Center and many brochures of the area telling the local stories. My personal thanks to Susie Cooper at the Visitor’s Center who was so helpful when we arrived in town. Their calendar of annual events will rival those of any throughout the state of Georgia.
The excitement of St. Mary to me is how is just steps out of history into the present. From the early 1800’s you have the beautiful stately homes and churches and they are in excellent condition and well kept. Why it’s like “Tara” and there is still lots of Southern left in Georgia. From pecan trees to the Southern dialect you have a gracious community speckled with lots of pride.
Just 45 minutes by boat you can travel to Cumberland Island National Seashore. One might remember it for its camping or its 16 miles of white sand beaches undisturbed over time. From sand dunes, some as high as 40 feet dotted with sea oats, to sea birds you can completely relax in the beauty where there are no high rise complexes, cars or City noise. It is Paradise! There is lots of fishing, amazing wild horses roaming the beaches and probably the most relaxed camping in the United States. Years ago there was Dungeness, (Castle) a home built by Thomas and Lucy Carnegie that is now in massive ruins, but at one time brought together some of the most famous names in history; i.e, General James Oglethorpe, Nathaniel Greene and more. Something not really talked about too much is the fact the Cumberland Island is where John Kennedy, Jr. was married is a little church on the Island.
Ferry boats to the Island run daily on limited schedules and you can read all about it when you google : Cumberland Island National Seashore. By the way there will be ferry boats running from Fernandina Beach in Florida over to the Island. What a great way to see two states for the price of one. Just wait until you see the Greyfield Inn on the Island. It is a turn of the century mansion and is located on over 1300 acres for use by the guests. Next time I want to stay is this exquisite place!
It never ceases to amaze me when I discover a hidden treasure. St. Marys and Cumberland Island are really something off the beaten path that is worth the adventure. They have quaint restaurants, some of the best Bed and Breakfast Inn’s in the country and a small hotel near the water with a Key West feeling. Try the crispy chicken wings at Trolley’s on the main drag near the water. Ask for the “butt sauce”! Hot? It is a town to snap favorite photographs and dream of the days gone by. Why they even have a “Submarine Museum”! Then you have the Grand Dame, circa 1838, Orange Hall!
Last but not least, if you are an antique or shopping buff, this town is loaded with hidden treasures. It is the place you must eat “rock shrimp”! And finally, it is the village to experience the outdoors, experience the thrill, experience the fun, experience the mystery and most of all experience the history! Thank God there is something left for our children to experience that is real! You can’t buy beauty, but you can enjoy a very reasonable visit or vacation in St. Marys, Georgia. Visit their website at www.stmaryswelcome.com