It is February, yet golden sunlight warms my shoulders as my boat glides over the glass-smooth brown water. A snowy egret takes startled flight as my kayak approaches. I paddle on through peaceful marshes, making my way to my final destination-a fresh seafood lunch on the shady open deck of a nearby restaurant. Are you jealous yet?
Warm sunshine, delicious local seafood, and salty air, combined with lots of water, put Savannah, Georgia, high on the list of great southern paddling destinations. This historic city sits on the coast of southeastern Georgia, where the silt-brown waters of the Savannah River meet the gray-green salt of the Atlantic Ocean.
As one of the few Georgia cities not burned during the Civil War-Union general William Tecumseh Sherman, spellbound by Savannah’s beauty, spared the city at the end of his infamous march to the sea and presented it to President Lincoln as a Christmas gift-it has retained much of its original architecture and old-world ambience. Today, downtown Savannah has a bustling historic district filled with intriguing antique shops, delightful restaurants, stunningly restored homes, and long avenues studded with palm trees and shaded by stately live oaks. Savannah continually ranks among the top five destinations for European travelers, mostly because of its friendliness.
Ebenezer Creek: A half-hour drive from the bustle of downtown Savannah, Ebenezer Creek winds through an enchanted world of swamp-like cypress forests. Easily navigated by novice paddlers, this serene watercourse is a place of singular and primordial beauty more than worthy of a day’s exploration. Put in at the bridge on County Road 307 and paddle seven miles to the creek’s confluence with the Savannah River, or avoid setting up a shuttle by doing an out-and-back run starting at the private take-out in Ebenezer ($5 a day parking). If the water is very low, the latter is the better option, as it avoids the possibility of portages or more difficult route finding. And don’t be alarmed if the creek appears to be flowing in the wrong direction. The ocean produces tides of up to eight feet, and although they won’t create a strong current here, they still have an effect even this far upstream.
Tybee Island: Approximately 20 miles east of downtown Savannah, at the end of Highway 80, you’ll find Tybee Island. Sometimes still referred to as Savannah Beach on maps and charts, the island now goes by its Native American name, which means “salt.” Tybee is a popular yet quaint summer resort town connected to the mainland by a series of bridges and causeways. This small island offers easy access to a variety of paddling destinations.