Jump-start the touring season with a superb sample of Southern riding. From Charleston, South Carolina, to St. Augustine, Florida, following Sections 5 and 6 of Adventure Cycling’s Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route, our Southern Sampler is half coastal riding and half visits to inland locations, featuring a mix of historic cities, natural areas, and farm country.
The Southern hospitality begins in Charleston, a city founded in 1670 that’s so beautiful and welcoming, we’ve scheduled a full day there before we hit the road. Midway through the trip, we’ll layover in another famous city of the South — Savannah, Georgia — where the historic district features cobblestone streets, mansions with exquisitely manicured grounds, and parks amply shaded with giant oaks draped in Spanish moss.
We’ll visit Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge then finish our tour of the cities and countryside of the Southeast in St. Augustine, Florida. A century older than Charleston, St. Augustine was founded in 1565 by the Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés; it is the oldest continuously occupied, European-established city in the U.S.
|Start Date:||May 09, 2014||End Date:||May 20, 2014|
|Start Location:||Charleston, SC||End Location:||St Augustine, FL|
|Total Days:||12||Riding Days:||10|
|Average Daily Mileage:||57.8||Surface:||Paved|
|Riders:||14||Airport:||Charleston (CHS)/Jacksonville (JAX)|
|Tour Leader:||Jerry Hughes||Meals:||Shared cooking|
|Physical Difficulty:||Intermediate||Level of Support:||Self Contained|
Charleston. We’ll meet late in the day at Charleston’s NotSo Hostel, a converted 150-year-old home (with an annex located about five blocks away). The hostel is well positioned for exploring the historic downtown and taking advantage of its many shops, bars, dining options, and museums. We may visit the Battery, which is the point of the peninsula formed by the Ashley and Cooper rivers, where traditionally Charlestonians of the highest social order have resided. The numerous handsome Charleston-style mansions here are evocative of the West Indies, for it was via Barbados and other islands of the Caribbean that many of the city's first British settlers came in the late 1700s.
Charleston, supported loop of city, 30 miles. A string of publications (Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, and others) have lent Charleston more than its share of superlatives over the years, including “best-mannered,” “sexiest,” “friendliest,” “most polite,” and “best-dressed” city in the United States. Its dining has earned praise, as well: Bon Appetit magazine named Husk, located at 76 Queen Street, the “Best New Restaurant in America” in 2011. You’ll have the opportunity to judge for yourself as you explore the city on this pre-tour layover day.
Charleston to Yamassee, 67 miles. From Charleston we’ll head inland through forests and farmland through the Low Country of South Carolina. Geologically the state is divided into the Low Country and Up Country by the Fall Line, the former shoreline of an ancient Atlantic Ocean and the border between the harder rocks of the piedmont region and the softer sedimentary rocks of the tidewater plain. The night’s destination is a private campground known as The Oaks at Point South.
Yamassee to Hunting Island State Park, 40 miles. We’ll head back to the coast, passed road side stands with fresh fruit or seafood. We’ll camp tonight that the beautiful Hunting Island State Park. Enjoy the pristine beach, explore the light house, or wander one of the nature trails. There’s so much to see and do, it’s easy to see why this State Park is one of the most popular in the state!
Hunting Island State Park to Savannah, 60 miles. The 60-mile Savannah Spur of the Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route will lead us into this alluring city that contains one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the United States. We’ll stay tonight and tomorrow indoors, close to the many attractions. With a history that runs deep, Savannah is perhaps best known as the terminus of General William T. Sherman’s “March to the Sea,” which began in Atlanta on November 15, 1864. It was the Union Army’s way of demonstrating to Confederate citizens that their government was incapable of protecting them from aggressors. The campaign ended on December 21, when Mayor Richard Arnold surrendered on behalf of Savannah. Sherman wired President Abraham Lincoln the next day, offering the city and its many thousands of cotton bales to Lincoln as a Christmas gift.
Layover day, Savannah. Fun off-bike activities readily at hand in Savannah include wandering the streets to view the breathtaking Victorian structures, “boutiqueing,” visiting the city’s abundance of museums and galleries, or just doing some people watching by pulling up a chair at a microbrewery or sidewalk café. City Market, nicknamed “the Art and Soul of Savannah,” has since the early 1700s served as the commercial and social center of the city. Today it comprises four square blocks blending the old and the new, filled with renovated warehouses and storefronts bordering Ellis Square. It’s all there: dining, entertainment, art galleries, and retail shopping.
Savannah to Statesboro, 70 miles. Today we’ll retrace our tracks back to Statesboro, where we’ll overnight once again at the Parkwood RV Park before resuming our southward ride.
Statesboro to Reidsville, 35 miles. We’ll camp tonight in the Georgia coastal plain city of Reidsville, at Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park. It’s a regional family favorite for boating and fishing, golf (and mini-golf), picnicking, and geocaching. The park’s name derives from the rare Gordonia tree, a member of the bay family that no longer grows in the park, and the original spelling of the nearby Altamaha River.
Reidsville to Nahunta, 83 miles. As is usual in this part of Georgia, we’ll find today’s roads have two-lanes, skinny shoulders, and sometimes lack clear signage. Watch your map carefully! We’ll end the day’s ride at Nahunta, a small inland community.
Nahunta to Folkston, 36 miles. Today we land in Folkston, headquarters for the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, a place to sit back and reflect on nature. The refuge was designated in 1937 for the preservation of the swamp and its mix of habitats and the wildlife they support. The Okefenokee, which formed millions of years ago, is basically an immense bog lying approximately a hundred feet above sea level, serving as the headwaters for two major southeastern rivers: the Suwannee and the St. Marys. The refuge-bird checklist contains well over 200 species, ranging from the rarely seen blackbilled cuckoo, glossy ibis, and yellow-throated vireo, to the more commonly spotted black-crowned night heron and pileated woodpecker. Black bears and bobcats are two common mammal species, and a host of amphibians, fish, and reptiles (including plenty of snakes and ’gators) are at home in the refuge’s waters, islands, mixed forests of pine and hardwood, wet prairies, and cypress swamps.
Folkston to Yulee, 52 miles. Having begun our north-to-east skirting of Jacksonville — zipping past waterfront retiree homes and enjoying some beautiful beachside riding — tonight we’ll stay a few miles north of the bustling city at Lofton Creek Campground, winner of a local “Best of the Best Campground” award.
Yulee to St. Augustine, 67 miles. On April 2, 1513, Ponce de Leon put ashore at a site near present-day St. Augustine, and here his party made their famous search for the Fountain of Youth. The group had landed during Spain’s Feast of Flowers (the Easter season), so the new land was named Florida, meaning “flowery.” Extensive restoration has taken place in sections of St. Augustine, and costumed docents ply their trades as silversmiths, candle dippers, and cigar makers in the manner of their colonial predecessors. As you may notice if you’ve previously visited Miami or the Orlando area, this region of northern Florida feels more like the Old South. It also has pirates — in fact, we’ll hole up on the last night of our tour, at the Pirate Haus Inn, a budget accommodation that claims to be “arrrghably the best in St. Augustine!”
"The group was excellent. Really enjoyed the stopover in Savannah and the campsite in Hunting Island."
2013 Tour Participant
"I enjoy the fitness aspect of the tour, as well as having a group to ride with."
2013 Tour Participant