If there is one place that exemplifies Savannah’s unique atmosphere and beauty, it is its magnificent Bonaventure Cemetery. This sprawling 160-acre cemetery, the largest in the city, is often described as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. As I love history and green spaces, I absolutely wanted to visit it during my trip to Savannah.
Bonaventure Cemetery is located east of the city, on the banks of the Wilmington River. As it is a bit far from the city centre, we had to drive to get there. As soon as we drove through the entrance gate of the cemetery, we quickly understood why it is so famous. Its wide paths lined with live oaks and Spanish moss give the cemetery an air that is both gloomy and otherworldly.
The cemetery is located on the former site of the Bonaventure plantation. In 1846, the plantation and its private cemetery were sold, and a few years later Evergreen Cemetery was established there. Evergreen was a private cemetery designed in the traditional Victorian style, with winding paths, lots of trees and grassy areas.
The cemetery was purchased by the city of Savannah in 1907, making it a public cemetery. It was renamed Bonaventure and expanded over the following decades. Today, the cemetery is open to the public free of charge and is a highlight of any tour of Savannah.
Like Savannah, the cemetery was made famous by John Berendt’s novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. So I was happy to finally be able to visit it, after having read a lot about it. And even though I had seen photos of it, I was completely stunned by the enchanting beauty of the cemetery.
It is possible to take guided tours of the cemetery, but we opted to visit it at our own pace, walking along its long shaded paths. We tried to find some of its most famous graves, like those of singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer and poet Conrad Aiken.
We also passed Gracie Watson’s grave, another known grave in the cemetery. Little Gracie was 6 years old when she died suddenly of pneumonia in 1889. The sculpture on her grave is based on a photo of Gracie taken a few days before she passed away. Even more than 100 years after her death, passers-by still lay toys, coins and flowers in front of her grave. It is said that the ghost of Gracie still haunts the site of a former hotel in Savannah where she lived.
There is no shortage of urban legends, tragic stories and mysterious symbols at Bonaventure Cemetery. This is what makes the visit fascinating. This feeling of walking in a strange place, somewhere between the world of the living and that of the dead. This atmosphere was further accentuated by the fact that we arrived at the cemetery as soon as the gates opened, at 8 a.m., and at times we were completely alone on its paths.
In all, we walked for almost an hour in the cemetery, trying to cover as many of its different sections as possible. We ended our walk along the pretty Wilmington River, on which the cemetery offers many viewpoints.
This is undoubtedly one of the places I visited in Savannah that marked me the most. It is a curious mix of history, art and nature, with trees and vegetation so beautiful that it seems almost unreal. Bonaventure Cemetery definitely lived up to its reputation as the most beautiful cemetery in the world.
This is a fabulous post, Vanessa. I’ve always heard how beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery is, but your photos really brought it to life (no pun intended) for me. Thank you for sharing Savannah with us. We can’t wait to visit there someday.
Thank you for your kind comment! I hope you get to visit Savannah one day and if you do, definitely make sure to also visit Bonaventure Cemetery!
One of the three great southern cemeteries. Bonaventure, New Orleans, and Magnolia, Charleston. Nicely done.
Thank you! I followed your advice and visited early (as soon as the gates opened), and we had the cemetery almost all to ourselves. I definitely want to visit the ones in New Orleans and Charleston now too!
Great shots, recognized a few spots. Glad you enjoyed it.
What a beautiful cemetery. I’m such a fan of those mossy live oak trees.
Same here! They create such a unique scenery!
Oh wow, I find cemeteries fascinating and enjoy them for a walk.
Me too! They are a really interesting mix of nature and history!
I’ve never heard of this place, thank you for the tour, Vanessa. ❤️
It’s really worth a visit. I’ve never seen a cemetery like this. Thanks for reading John! 🙂
Oh, this place would be really creepy to walk through on a dark moonlit night, with all that Spanish Moss. I am not sure what it is about cemeteries, but we like to explore in them as well. Happy Saturday Vanessa. Allan
Yes, I’m not sure I would have the courage to walk there alone at night 🙂 Cemeteries are always full of stories, and they are a great windows on our past, which might be why they are so interesting. Thanks for reading Allan!