After a detour introduces Joe and Becky Gibbons to a new part of the Southeast Coast, they're determined to explore. Part 2 of their country road trip continues through pristine salt marsh, beaches and historic attractions.
Story and photography by Joe and Becky Gibbons
Lake Mary, Florida
After a detour introduces Joe and Becky Gibbons to a new part of the Southeast Coast, they’re determined to explore. This country road trip continues through pristine salt marsh, beaches, historic attractions and more.
Home Away from Home
Just across the state line, our road trip brought us to the quaint coastal town of St. Marys, Georgia. We felt at home from the moment we arrived. The cute shops and old homes of the historic district brought us back to a time when this was a bustling seaport, and families sat drinking lemonade on their front porches to beat the heat.
As we strolled the streets of the historic district, we stopped to admire First Presbyterian Church. Built in 1808, it’s the second-oldest church in the state. Then we visited nearby Oak Grove Cemetery, where Spanish moss drips from the live oaks that shade the fascinating stone grave markers of St. Marys’ founders.
We toured the Orange Hall and the National Seashore Museums, as well as the St. Marys Submarine Museum and Kings Bay Naval Base. Then we relaxed alongside the St. Marys River as commercial shrimp boats returned to port, casting mesmerizing reflections in the dark, glassy waters.
The town also hosts a number of unique seasonal celebrations such as the Rock Shrimp Festival, the Crawfish Festival, the Catfish Festival and the Christmas White Lighting ceremony. St. Marys is also known as the gateway to Cumberland Island, where you can ferry over to see wild horses, undeveloped beaches and nature at its purest.
History Comes Alive
Our next stop on the road trip brought us to South Carolina’s legendary low country, and a town named Beaufort. This Southern gem is the second-oldest city in South Carolina, and home to some of the first successful plantations in the New World. (They grew rice and indigo.)
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union, giving birth to the American Civil War. You can still witness evidence of the war’s carnage at Sheldon Church. The skeletal remains of this once-beautiful brick building still lie in ruins after being burned in General Sherman’s march to the sea.
As shown in the movie Forrest Gump, Beaufort’s Sea Islands are its most treasured assets, offering endless fishing and shrimping opportunities.
A Sense of Community
Our last road trip discovery of the southeastern coastal region was the town of Wilmington, North Carolina. We weren’t surprised to find beautiful beaches like Wrightsville Beach, where we fished from a graceful pier. But we were surprised at the historical and cultural depth of the area.
We toured the Burgwin-Wright Museum, which was Lord Cornwallis’ last headquarters before the British Army surrendered to U.S. troops in the Revolutionary War.
Retired WWII battleship North Carolina serves as a floating memorial to the 10,000 North Carolina soldiers who have lost their lives in service to their country. The massive ship fought in the Pacific, and survived a dangerous torpedo hit.
Another find in Wilmington was Screen Gems Studios, where more than 400 movies and television shows have been filmed. Cape Fear, Firestarter, Matlock and Dawson’s Creek were all shot on location right here in town.
Looking back at our coastal road trip, we were enriched by agriculture, history and a warm sense of community. The friendly people we met along the miles seemed to share one uniting sentiment: The salty breeze, warm sun and deep roots make the Southeast Coast an ideal place to visit or call home. Becky and I will be forever grateful for the traffic jam on 1-95. We discovered a wonderful region, and realized that even life’s most trying moments can reveal peace and beauty.
Click here to return to part 1 of Joe and Becky Gibbons’ Southeast Coast Road Trip.