I’ve been in a quandary about travel suggestions during this time of “social distancing.” I think we are all becoming weary of the phrase but, unfortunately, I believe it will be around for a few years to come. With this in mind and the slow process of entering into social interaction, I decided to look back at locations I’ve suggested in the past. Most museums and public spaces remain closed, however, there is much we can still do outdoors. This is the time to utilize our forests, parks, trails, and water. There are still many activities to do and stay safe.
State parks and national forests
The state parks and national forests are feeling an influx of people. If you plan to camp, you must plan ahead. Even primitive campsites with no reservations needed are full. If you can’t camp during the week, get there early on Friday to find a spot. Many parks are starting to take reservations with the prospect of being open in June. Programs such as tours remain canceled until further notice. Wherever you choose to go, call ahead if you have specific questions.
Georgia state parks have some specific restrictions such as no boat rentals, closed playgrounds, and picnic areas are a max amount of 10 people. Hike, bike, and fish are all still on the agenda! Many historic sites, such as Wormsloe in Savannah (https://gastateparks.org/Wormsloe) have shut the gates temporarily to ensure social distancing.
George L. Smith (https://gastateparks.org/GeorgeLSmith) and Magnolia state parks (https://gastateparks.org/MagnoliaSprings) are the closest to Statesboro and are excellent choices for an easy day trip.
South Carolina state parks are providing some more detailed information on their website with actual dates visitors centers and playgrounds will be open. Visitor centers were set to reopen May 11, and retail stores on May 15. Playgrounds reopened June 1.
Until further notice, state parks will not conduct park programs or tours of historic homes or other historic structures such as the Hunting Island Lighthouse or Atalaya Castle at Huntington Beach State Park. Meanwhile, they do continue to provide programming through Facebook Live.
I have written about Lake Jocassee in the past and it is one of my favorite hidden gems. Devils State Park is located there. They began taking reservations for camping May 11 and the day use areas have continued to be available. Jocassee Lake Tours is open for business, providing boat and kayak tours and rentals ( https://jocasseelaketours.com). Eclectic Sun is also a private rental company for kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and pontoon boats. They reopened May 15 (https://eclecticsun.com/).
At press time, all national forest-developed campgrounds, group recreation sites, and picnic pavilions are still shut down. You can visit and hike in the forests. With phases being implemented throughout the country, Georgia and South Carolina may open these areas sooner than other locations.
Plan a day and a picnic in a nearby small town. Without knowing what will be open for business, pack a lunch, cooler, hammock and chairs, and maybe a blanket as well. Be ready to set up for your breaks. Bluffton is one of those options. With rivers and walkways, it still can be a relaxing day getaway.
Victoria Bluff Heritage Preserve/Wildlife Management Area just outside of Bluffton is open and provides 1,100 acres of trails and fishing.
Not far from downtown Bluffton you can schedule a paddle boarding tour. Keep your eyes open for dolphins and unique birds in the distance. Although there are numerous companies to choose from, my children and I had a great experience with Stand and Paddle. Stand up Paddle Boarding: http://www.standandpaddle.com/.
Slowly we will be able to get back to our vacation spots, water parks, and museums. Although travel will look different in the future, we will have opportunities to explore and experience within the new normal. With the weather warm, we can take this time to be outside and enjoy rainy days with family around a board game or movie. Mother Nature adapts and creates new situations. So can we.