At the end of our Coasting adventure, we drove home talking about our best takeaways — from our favorite foodie places to the best beaches along the Atlantic. Mostly we differed when talking about “besties,” but we agreed on one thing: Travel involves choices if you’re going to make the most of the time and money you have. No matter how few the days or the dollars you have, a trip through coasting towns in Georgia and Florida is about as good as it gets. Here are our five ideas to maximize your next trip.
1. Take the trolley first. Then hit the pavement on foot.
We always recommend those hop-on, hop-off trolleys in any city for a first-time, all-around view of the best sites to see. With knowledgeable — sometimes humorous — locals on the microphone (and sometimes at the wheel), you’re sure to get the background on the best spots as well as some insider information. Go early in the day if you can. You’ll not only see more spots but have time to get something from that great ice cream shop the dude on the bus will point out to you.
But don’t limit yourself to motorized transportation. Old-fashioned walking — especially on side streets, in courtyards, and down alleyways — can net you an up-close-and-personal travel experience. Like this one: In getting to the Oldest House in America in St. Augustine, we meandered through a residential section where architectural details brought the Old South to life.
2. Savor the old, but save room for new.
If you like old buildings, old forts, old historical anything, good for you. Read up on it. Dog-ear the page of your tour book. And do it. Like reading markers at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine. Or learning about tabby at Fort Frederica. We love it, too.
But be prepared to revel in new places, new things, new ideas. Like Ice Plant Bar, an upscale venue in St. Augustine housed in a renovated 1927 ice plant. Innovative cities take old places and make ’em new, hip, and packed even on a weeknight. So, look for old if you love history; search out new if you’re interested in something fresh and out of the ordinary. Or do both and find the best along the coast.
3. Spend a little or spend a lot.
But remember that the ocean belongs to everyone, so you can have a great “vacay” even on a budget. Stay in a 50s tourist court at Tybee Island? Why not? Same seagulls. Same seafood down the street. Same shops with seaglass necklaces and shell mirrors no matter where you spend the night. Just check your budget and travel as you can. You can see the best on a budget or luxuriate in the finest — but fall in love with the beach no matter what.
4. Do your homework on restaurants; then eat like a local.
We’re in the habit of checking the Internet frequently for “best” places to eat wherever we’re traveling. Sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Open Table have honored places among our phone apps for the info they share.
But our best tip for finding good food is just ask the locals. Best bet? Ask the folks who run the shops you like — antique dealers, art aficionados, tour guides, or B&B owners. All know the area. All eat out themselves. So where would they go? Just ask.
5. Plan your day down to the minute if you must, but we say,
“Save time for serendipity.”
Yes, we read lots of articles like the ones in the New York Times on what to do if you just have 36 hours in a certain place. They help you maximize your time. And squeeze in all the must-see sites. Like museums, state parks, monuments, and other places to check off your list.
But what fun it can be if you let yourself stumble upon a place that you’ve never heard of! Like Gould’s Inlet on St. Simons Island recommended by fellow blogger, James Vance (Gallivance) where we had a lovely conversation with a local resident about Johnson rocks (Who knew?), making our trip to St. Simons even more delightful. J. R. R. Tolkien was on to something when he said not all who wander are lost. So roam a little. Or a lot. It’s your vacation!
Here’s hoping you plan a Coasting trip soon — East, West, South, or North. Enjoy the old and the new, the scheduled and the not-so-scheduled — at any price. There’s not much in life better than sea, surf, and sand.
Let us know where you like Coasting and what we need to see and do on our next trip. Thanks for traveling with us!
Rusha and Bert Sams
To see all the posts in the Coasting series, click here.
For Twitter feeds on what’s happening in Georgia and Florida, follow these folks: @ExploreGeorgia, @FLHistoricCoast, and @VISITFLORIDA.