Last April, we went on our very first long road trip with our newly converted camping van. This trip had two purposes: first, to visit Savannah, a city that I had dreamed of seeing for a long time; and then get a taste of the vanlife by traveling in our van for more than a few days.
Indeed, although we used the van for a few camping weekends last fall, it was the first time that we were going to use it for a longer stretch of time, and cover that much distance with it. So I spent a lot of time doing some research to put together an itinerary that would allow us both to spend some time in Savannah, but also to go camping, visit state parks, and spend some overnight stays in different places.
And although not everything was perfect (after all, this trip was also about learning and improving a few things in our van), we very, very much enjoyed our experience, so much so that we are already preparing the next long road trip!
So here’s our nine-day road trip itinerary from Ontario to Georgia.
Day 1 – Ottawa, ON to Fredericksburg, VA
We decided to split the drive to Savannah in two days by spending the night in Fredericksburg, Virginia (about a 10-hour drive from home). So we left home early, leaving the snow behind us, heading south. I was a little nervous about crossing the US border (it was our first time with the van), but in the end, it was easier and faster than I expected (we did make sure to have all our papers in order).
We crossed the states of New York and Pennsylvania following I-81, a route we were already familiar with as we drove to Washington D.C. a few years ago. Severe squalls made our driving a little tricky during the day, then we had to navigate heavy traffic in suburban Washington D.C., so we were pretty relieved when we finally reached Virginia and Fredericksburg.
We spent the night in a Walmart parking lot (a RV trip classic!). It was pretty quiet, and we were able to sleep well once the wind died down overnight.
Day 2 – Fredericksburg, VA to Savannah, GA
The wind was less intense for this second day on the road, but the traffic on I-95 was still quite heavy. Since we only had about 7 hours to drive before arriving to Savannah, we decided that we would take a break en route.
We went through Virginia and North Carolina, then when we crossed the border into South Carolina, we decided to stop at the famous South of the Border. This somewhat kitsch roadside attraction includes a few shops, restaurants and an observation tower. We didn’t want to stay too long, so after taking a few photos, we hit the road again.
A few miles further, we stopped at a place that was a little more up our alley: the Santee National Wildlife Refuge. I took the opportunity to visit the Indigenous mound there, and do some hiking.
Then we continued through South Carolina and finally reached the Georgia border and, shortly after, the city of Savannah.
Day 3 – Savannah, GA
This day was entirely devoted to visiting Savannah. We parked at the city’s visitor center (where there are a few RV parking spaces), then we started our day with a guided tour of the historic center of Savannah.
We spent the rest of the day visiting a few attractions that interested us: the American Prohibition Museum, Mercer-Williams House, Colonial Park Cemetery, the many squares, Forsyth Park, Jones Street… We also lined up to taste the famous ice cream at Leopold’s, a ice cream parlour that’s been around for over 100 years (and the wait was worth it)!
Day 4 – Savannah, GA to Fort McAllister State Park, GA
In the morning, we continued to explore Savannah, but this time moving away from its historic center. We started by visiting Bonaventure Cemetery, a cemetery reputed to be one of the most beautiful in the world. Then we visited another place with an interesting history, the Wormsloe State Historic Site.
In the afternoon, we drove to Richmond Hill, a small town located about twenty minutes south of Savannah. We did some grocery shopping there (we had to get ready for camping!), then followed the Ogeechee River towards the coast, and arrived at Fort McAllister State Park, where we would spend the next two nights.
Day 5 – Fort McAllister State Park, GA
This day was devoted to exploring the historic fort and the varied trails of Fort McAllister State Park. We also took the opportunity to relax under the palm trees and Spanish moss-covered trees of our campground.
We really enjoyed this camping experience in Georgia and promised ourselves that we absolutely had to spend more time camping in other such parks on our future road trips.
Day 6 – Fort McAllister State Park to Walterboro, SC
Reluctantly, we left Fort McAllister State Park and beautiful Georgia to start heading back north. But once in South Carolina, we took a detour from I-95 and headed towards Beaufort and the coast to stop at Hunting Island State Park. We spent the whole morning hiking there.
Then we got back on the road heading north again. We drove to the village of Walterboro, described as the Front Porch of the Lowcountry. We had originally planned to do a bit of hiking at Walterboro Wildlife Sanctuary, but when we arrived, we sadly realized that the main boardwalk of the wildlife sanctuary was closed for repairs… This will therefore be a visit for another time!
Day 7 – Walterboro, SC to Fuquay-Varina, NC
After a night at the hotel in Walterboro along I-95, we continued driving north. For the first time since the beginning of our road trip, it was pouring rain. So that gave us the perfect excuse to stop in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to spend a few hours in a museum. And luckily, the Airborne and Special Operations Military Museum ended up being more interesting than we expected and was the perfect activity for a rainy morning.
We then explored downtown Fayetteville a bit and had lunch there, then, as the rain took a break, we decided to go explore another state park, about twenty minutes north of Fayetteville. The forest at Carvers Creek State Park was a little gloomy under the gray skies, but I enjoyed its tall pine trees and sandy trails.
Then the rain started again and we decided we would call it a day. We headed for Fuquay-Varina, a small town on the outskirts of Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. Fuquay-Varina was our stop for the night, as we were going to park at a craft brewery, via Harvest Hosts.
This was our first Harvest Hosts experience, a membership program that allows overnight stays at farms, vineyards, or breweries. We really enjoyed the experience; we thought it was an amazing way to discover local businesses!
Day 8 – Fuquay-Varina, NC to Fredericksburg, VA
Fortunately, the rain had stopped when we got up. We continue on our way up north. After bypassing Raleigh, we eventually reached Virginia and got on I-95 again.
We were going to spend the night in Fredericksburg again, but this time no Walmart parking for us! We were staying at another Harvest Hosts site, a country store just outside the city.
Before heading there, we took the opportunity to visit the Fredericksburg National Historic Battlefield to learn more about the history of the city and this Civil War battle. We then did a short hike at another battlefield near Chancellorsville.
Then we headed to the Battlefield Country Store, where we enjoyed excellent milkshakes and sandwiches and spent a very quiet night in the parking lot!
Day 9 – Fredericksburg, VA to Ottawa, ON
We only had ten more hours to drive before getting back home. We left Fredericksburg very early to avoid the usual Washington D.C. traffic. The whole drive went smoothly and we arrived home in the afternoon, already looking forward to getting back on the road with our van!