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“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.” With those profound lyrics, Joni Mitchell perfectly describes my experience growing up on the southern coast of Georgia. To me, brimming tidal marshes, sand bars, weekend adventures on the water catching blue crabs and yes, even that distinctive muddy-marsh smell, were just “normal.” Until, that is, I moved away! What was I thinking? Suddenly, everything I loved about the coast was gone. And I missed it. I REALLY missed it. So…girl finds new job, girl moves home and girl stays home for good. Whew!

That might be the ending of my happy little story but it signals just the beginning of this post where we’re going to uncover the best ways to explore the natural beauty and unforgettable allure that abound here on Southeast Georgia’s Atlantic Coast. (don’t worry, I’m definitely not an outdoorsy pitch-a-tent type – if you are, you have my utmost admiration – if you’re like me, I assure you, there’s something for everyone).

Let’s start with one of the newer ways to experience the Atlantic Coast and that’s kayaking and paddle boarding. Though kayaks have certainly been around for quite some time (as in ‘ancient arctic peoples’ old) they have seen a resurgence in popularity lately by those who want to enjoy the great outdoors and get a little cardio in at the same time. Around the coastal waters of Savannah, Georgia, you can take your pick of companies offering Kayak excursions including Savannah Coastal EcoTours, Moon River Kayak Tours, Savannah Canoe and Kayak, Sea Kayak Georgia and SUPiT and Sea…just to name a few.

As their website says, Savannah Coastal EcoTours (savannahcoastalecotours.com) offers private boat and kayak tours of the Georgia Coast (the slideshow on their site will have you in a coastal state of mind in no time!). You’ll be in expert hands as you explore coastal marshes, Ebenezer Creek, Wassaw and Ossabaw Islands and Isle of Hope – all dependent upon which tour you choose. The length of each tour varies from as little as 2.5 hours up to an overnight stay on Ossabaw. Located just 15 minutes southeast of historic downtown Savannah on beloved Isle of Hope, you can piggyback on your guided tour by exploring nearby Wormsloe State Historic Site, the UGA Marine Education Center Aquarium and the trails at Skidaway Island State Park.

Next up for Kayak fans is Moon River Kayak Tours (moonriverkayak.com). Before we jump into the details, just take a moment and imagine yourself, gently paddling through still salt water, hearing the cry of an Osprey as it glides overhead, then being greeted by a pod of dolphin close enough to touch…sounds like a pretty good way to spend an afternoon, doesn’t it? And that’s what a tour with Moon River Kayak can provide. Offering two-and-a-half hour guided tours, you’ll explore the marshes of Skidaway Narrows and Moon River, take a walk on an uninhabited island, and come away with a newfound appreciation of the delicate ecosystems brimming on Savannah’s coast. As an added bonus, Moon River Kayak Tours is a sister company to Bull River Cruises so if you find yourself in the mood to explore by motor power instead of manpower – you can hop aboard and see experience the many sights and sounds – no cardio required.

Ok, let me take a moment here to ask a very important question: how’s your balance? Why? Because our next three tour companies – Savannah Canoe and Kayak, Sea Kayak Georgia and SUPiT and Sea – invite you to take your tour – standing up – on paddle boards. That is, after all what SUP stands for – Stand Up Paddling (I just learned that by the way). So how ‘fit’ do you need to be if you’re new to SUP? “SUP is a full-body workout but it can easily be adjusted to all levels,” said Cindy and Meg, SUPiT co-owners and adventure advocates. “It can be a nice easy relaxing cruise or we can adjust it to a more challenging workout. That’s the great thing about SUP, it’s so versatile.”

You’re still reading so that must mean you’re ready to SUP! Savannah Canoe and Kayak (savannahcanoeandkayak.com) offers half and full day tours as well as SUP tours, SUP Yoga, camping trips and Kayak fishing. In addition to its tours, Savannah Canoe and Kayak also offers instructional courses and has its own paddlesports retail store. Similarly, Sea Kayak Georgia (seakayakgeorgia.com) offers half and full-day tours, instructional classes and even the ability to customize your tour by combining SUP and Kayaks in one outing. Both companies depart from locations in and around Savannah, but just a few minutes outside of Savannah, in nearby Richmond Hill, SUPiT and Sea (supitandsea.com) offers you a chance to explore even more of the Georgia coast. With excursions lasting one or two hours (you choose) as well as the option for a private tour or even SUP group party, SUPiT and Sea primarily launches in the waters off Richmond Hill including the Tivoli River and the Ogeechee River but as their site says, “where there’s water, there’s a way” and the SUPiT owners are happy to launch from any public boat ramp in the area. “People love it and are surprised that it’s easier than it looks,” explained Cindy and Meg of SUPiT. “We just tell everyone to relax, enjoy the experience and just be ready to have fun. There’s nothing like encountering dolphins and manatees; it’s so amazing to SUP with them! Awesome experience.”

For those of you who want to trade in your paddle for a fishing rod, you have plenty of choices for that, too. Nearly 365 days each year (ok, let’s say 359 to be fair) the weather in the Savanah area and its surrounding coast is ideal for getting out on the water and making the catch of the day your own. Depending on the season, you’ll likely reel in Grouper, Snapper, Sea Bass, Cobia, Mahi Mahi, Redfish and more and it’s all just minutes from historic downtown Savannah.

Speaking of reeling in, Reel Em’ N Deep Sea Fishing Charters (reelemn.com) offers excursions that last as little as four hours up to 14 hours with two boats that hold up to 20 anglers each. With more than 15 years of experience fishing area waters, Captain Derek of Reel ‘Em N knows just where to take you so you’ll have more than a day of ‘fishing’ but a day of ‘catching’. The company supplies fishing gear, tackle, bait, ice and all necessary licensing.

Tybee Island Charters (fishtybee.com) also gives you a chance to test out your line aboard its 6-passenger Elizabeth II vessel. A half-day inshore tour and a full-day offshore tour are sure to give you enough fish stories to last a lifetime. Beyond fishing, Tybee Island Charters also offers a Dolphin Nature Tour, Ossabaw Island Tour, Fossil Hunting, Sunset Dinner Cruises and even Overnight Cruising.

And then there’s Sundial Charters (sundialcharters.com) that offers a little of this, a little of that, and a whole lotta exploring the Georgia coast. Choose from throwing out a cast net, to inshore fishing, dolphin tours, fossil hunting and even touring the coast under sail power aboard a fully custom Bristol 47.7 ketch rig (which not only sounds impressive but looks it as well). Similarly, Crab Creek Charters (crabcreekcharters.com) offers a mix of touring options including a trip to Little Tybee, an adventure to Cockspur Lighthouse complete with dolphin sightings, a Savannah River tour and fossil hunt and a trip to Daufuskie Island.

I’m going to hit ‘pause’ on the tour companies for a minute to give a brief overview of a few of the islands that have been mentioned – including Little Tybee Island, Daufuskie, Wassaw and Ossabaw (since you will likely hear about them all as you weigh your coastal-tour options).

Tybee Island, located about 18 miles outside of downtown Savannah, is known as Georgia’s authentic beach town. You’ll find ample beach space and no highrises on this charming coastal expanse that will make you feel worlds away as soon as your toes touch the sand. You can reach Tybee Island by land but you can only reach Little Tybee by boat (interesting tid bit, even though it’s called ‘Little Tybee’ it’s more than twice the size of Tybee Island). With its uninhabited landscape and preserved ecosystems, Little Tybee is the perfect spot to truly get back to nature and escape from it all.

Daufuskie Island is the southernmost Sea Island in South Carolina and encompasses about 5,000 acres of total land space and three miles of beachfront. Like Little Tybee, Daufuskie is only accessible by boat but unlike Little Tybee, you’ll find artisan shops, restaurants and historic points of exploration dotted across the island, which is often best toured via golf cart for a day that’s equal parts laidback and adventurous.

Fun to say and even more fun to discover, Ossabaw and Wassaw Islands are two barrier islands along the Georgia coastline, which makes up the least-developed stretch of the east coast from Florida to Maine. The Georgia coast is only 100 miles long but the islands that dot it form a series of serpentine twists and turns that add up to 800 miles of nooks and crannies prime for exploration. The Ossabaw Island Foundation oversees the island today and hosts a number of educational and scientific programs, fundraising events and even population-control hunts throughout the year. A trip to Ossabaw includes surveying sites where plantations once stood, stepping in to former slave cabins and standing in awe of the sites and sounds of wildlife all around.

Wassaw offers visitors the chance to explore six miles of flawless beach, 1,900 acres of maritime forest and wildlife that is incredibly diverse. It is considered the most pristine of the barrier islands by many and is federally protected by the Fish and Wildlife Service to ensure it always stays that way.

Though remote, there are multiple boat and ferry options available to reach these and other coastal island gems – and to me, the boat trip is definitely part of the fun! So whether you want to go ‘au naturel’ or need a little civilization in your day, you are in for a true coastal treat at these island escapes.

Now let’s press ‘play’ on the tours again and wrap things up with one of the more popular Savannah-coast excursions – a dolphin tour! There are many to choose from (some of the above companies offer them as well) but Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours (tybeedolphins.com) has been voted Best Adventure Tour on Tybee Island by the readers of Tybee Breeze for nine straight years so you gotta believe they’re doing something right! “Captain Mike’s dolphin adventure was the first dolphin tour in the Savannah/ Tybee area,” stated Iris Scarbrough of Captain Mike’s, “we take pride in protecting the dolphins and respecting where they live.” Dolphin tours range from one to one-and-a-half hours, ticket prices are definitely budget and family friendly, and the experienced guides know exactly where the bottle-nosed dolphins like to play giving you plenty of pictures and memories to take home with you. Captain Mike’s also offers sunset cruises, narrated tours of Lazaretto Creek, deep-sea fishing charters and more to ensure you experience the best of the Georgia Coast most any way you please.

Growing up in Savannah, I have been blessed to make the Georgia coast my personal playground but even I have SO much more to learn and explore! Thanks to the experience, dedication, and love of all things coastal, these and other local tour companies, can help us all expand our coastal horizons, while viewing the horizon, and have an amazing time while we’re at it. All that’s left to do is make your reservation, grab your suit and sunscreen and dive in ‘cause in Savannah, the water’s always fine!

We encourage you to contact each of these companies prior to your arrival to ensure availability!

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