After spending two days visiting beautiful Savannah, my partner and I headed south, towards Richmond Hill. We drove along the Ogeechee River and arrived at Fort McAllister State Historic Park, where we would spend the next two days.
Originally, we had planned to camp at Skidaway Island State Park in Savannah. But there were no more campgrounds available at the time we started making our reservations, so we had to change our plans. We finally decided to camp in Fort McAllister State Park instead, as there were some campgrounds available there and it wasn’t too far from Savannah.
And even though Fort McAllister was not our first choice, we really enjoyed our experience! This was our first time camping in Georgia (in fact, it was our first time camping outside of Canada) and the experience couldn’t have been better. It was the perfect mix of nature, tranquility, trails and an interesting history!
So here’s a little overview of what Fort McAllister State Park has to offer.
A bit of history
As its name suggests, Fort McAllister State Park is first and foremost a fort. Built on Genesis Point, a bluff that overlooks the Ogeechee River, Fort McAllister was one of the Confederate forts that were to protect Savannah during the Civil War. Attacked seven times by Union ships, the fort finally fell in 1864, opening the door to the surrender of Savannah.
Henry Ford bought the property in the 1930s with the aim of restoring it. The fort became state property in 1958, and restoration work to give it back its 1863-1864 appearance continued. In the years that followed, the site of the fort was combined with nearby Richmond Hill State Park, and Fort McAllister State Park officially came into being.
Today, Fort McAllister State Park is home to a small museum, campgrounds, docks and a few hiking trails.
Fort McAllister Self-Guided Tour
It is the highlight of the park, so of course we wanted to visit the fort. You have to pay a separate entrance fee to access Fort McAllister (the access fee is not included in the campground fees), but if you are interested in history, it is worth it.
Fort McAllister is one of the best-preserved earthwork fortifications of the Confederacy. You can do a self-guided tour and follow a trail of just over a kilometre (0.6 mile) that allows you to walk around the fort and learn more about its history and the battles that took place there.
The trail first passes near reproductions of huts and barracks to illustrate what daily life at the fort might have been like. Then it winds between the different sections of the fort, allowing you to see the cannons, bastions and parapets up close.
Finally, the tour ends passing through what will have been the final battlefield at Fort McAllister. Although the fort held firm against naval attacks, it finally fell during a land assault by Union troops, ending General Sherman’s famous “March to the Sea”.
Walking on the boardwalk in the lush forest, it is hard to imagine that this peaceful place was a decisive battlefield where many men died.
The Magnolia Trail showcases the nature of Savage Island, the part of the state park where the campgrounds are located. Approximately 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mile) long, the trail loops along the shoreline of the island. It offers some pretty views of the salt marsh and allows you to fully enjoy this coastal vegetation, where you can find palm trees, palmettos, magnolias and, of course, Spanish moss.
Unfortunately for me, the famous magnolias were not yet in bloom. But the trail was still pretty and peaceful. I saw several species of birds (including turkey vultures and herons), deer and many armadillos (it was my first time seeing some on a hike)!
Red Bird Creek Trail
This trail is a bit longer (nearly 5 kilometres – 3.1 miles) and the trailhead is located near the state park entrance. As its name suggests, the trail showcases Red Bird Creek, and offers some viewpoints over the salt marshes. It also has a small observation tower, boardwalks and some primitive campsites.
We didn’t have enough time to hike the entire trail, but the nature of Fort McAllister State Park definitely enchanted us.
As I wrote above, the campgrounds are mainly located on Savage Island. The island has nearly sixty sites, with enough space, vegetation and tall trees for us to feel like we had some privacy and tranquility. There was also something quite special about waking up in the morning under the palmettos and live oak trees covered in Spanish moss.
And since we really enjoyed that first camping experience in Georgia, I decided to buy the official Georgia State Parks Passport while I was there. It might give us some ideas for our future camping and road trips. I definitely want to come back one day, to explore other beautiful places rich in nature and history!