When I was living in Savannah, I was constantly searching for places to take my children. They were little during that time, around 3 and 5 years old. They were getting a little old for soft play and really, how many times can we go to bouncy house places?
I enjoyed getting them outside as much as possible. Winter in South Georgia is the best time to get outside and visit places that are almost unbearable in the summer. Only a little over an hour from Statesboro and Savannah’s backyard, the Savannah Wildlife Refuge is a perfect day outing for anybody. With 40 miles worth of hiking and biking trails, it is an excellent resource for outdoor activity close to home.
Situated right on the border of South Carolina and Georgia along the Savannah River, the 31,551-acre refuge is home for a wide range of wildlife and vegetation. Thousands of migratory birds move through the area annually and many love this marshland for their nesting habitat. With the large amount of wetlands, it is also home to the American Alligator, however, they aren’t moving much during the winter. The best time for viewing alligators around the wildlife drive is during spring and fall when temperatures are mild. This is when they are most likely to spend the day sunning themselves on mud flats and the banks of impoundments. I didn’t worry about my kids or our dog when it’s chilly out!
It has an interesting history as well. The 3,000 acres of freshwater impoundments were formerly plantation rice fields dating back to the 1700s. The dikes surrounding these pools were originally built for the rice production. Since the establishment in April of 1927, the refuge has transitioned these dikes to bike and foot trails. They provide wonderful year-round bird watching. Visitors who may not be able to walk long distances can still have the experience from their vehicles. Motorists are welcome on Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive and roads throughout.
Make sure you begin at the NWR Visitor Center to learn everything you may want to know about the refuge and the possible activities. Allocate some time at the visitor center where there are a number of fun exhibits and gardens to explore. Other activities provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service including hunting and fishing with special permits. Fishing is permitted during daylight hours on the impounded waters, tidal creeks, and canals. Common species found in the impoundments and canals are bluegill, crappie, large-mouth bass, channel and blue catfish, bowfin, and mullet.
Visit the website for these details if you are interested in more information.
My children had a lot of laughs with the Geocache Trail. Geocache is always a fun scavenger type hunt and it teaches children to read maps and use technology outside! As part of the Savannah Coastal Refuges GeoTrail, there are different geocaching opportunities in the complex. A Savannah Coastal Refuge GeoTrail Passport can be obtained at the NWR Visitor Center or can be downloaded from the website.
Are your children a little young for fishing or geocache trails? Check out the Young Explorers Club for 3- and 4-year-olds held at the visitors center. Every first Tuesday of the month from 10-11 a.m. your little ones can have their own special wildlife learning experience.
Definitely give yourself a half day at the least. Plan ahead with fishing poles and a packed lunch. Don’t forget your camera to capture some wildlife images and memories! You never know how many types of birds you will spot or possibly even a bobcat lurking in the hardwoods.
There are two primary public use areas of the refuge that visitors can drive to. The visitors center, located on U.S. Highway 17, approximately 7 miles north of downtown Savannah and 7 miles south of Hardeeville, South Carolina, and the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, located on GA-25/SC-170, approximately one mile east of Port Wentworth, Georgia.
Hours are Monday - Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Savannah National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center
694 Beech Hill Lane
Hardeeville, SC 29927
For further Geocaching information: