EXPLORING SAVANNAH AS A SOLO TRAVELER

While I wasn’t sure if Savannah, Georgia was a great destination for a solo traveler, thanks to a hole in my calendar, I had 48 hours to make a decision.

I decided to go for it.

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Research and Creating an Itinerary

It’s hard not to be enthralled with Savannah with pictures of the old live oaks draped with Spanish moss greeting you on every website you open. 

And, as fans of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” know, Savannah has a quirky history that makes it irresistible. 

Even though my trip was a last-minute decision after returning from Asheville and I had to pull everything together in a hurry, it wasn’t difficult. 

There’s so much information about Savannah available online, it’s easy to create an itinerary.

I was so inspired, I even added a few days in Charleston on the way back home, but that’s another story.

Click to read about traveling solo through Charleston, SC

Arriving in Savannah

Savannah on a Rainy Day

Every traveler knows that you can’t control the weather. While you can hope every trip has beautiful blue skies and sunshine, we all know that’s not the case.

It doesn’t keep us from dreaming though.

I knew there was rain in the forecast, but I had a short amount of time and had packed the itinerary to the brim. 

In desperation, I started watching the weather website like a hawk, thinking things might change if I just stared at it one more time. Shockingly, this didn’t work.

It started as a drizzle, but by the time I pulled into the Visitor Center, the parking lot was starting to flood.

All I could see were my plans for an early start and great photos falling apart. 

Luckily, the knowledgeable staff at the Visitors Center gave me maps and made a few suggestions to get the most out of my visit.

Explaining I was visiting Savannah by myself, they assured me the city was safe and provided the few areas to avoid after dark.

At the very least, I could use the rest of day one to determine the layout of the city and locate some of the famous squares and homes. 

Savannah is actually quite beautiful on a rainy day.

It’s a different beauty than you get on a bright, sunny day, but with its exotic appeal, the rain lends an ominous vibe reminding you of the city’s darker history.

Walking Through Downtown Savannah

Friendly People

From the very beginning, I found Savannah to be a great city for solo travelers. 

Everywhere I went, I encountered friendly people. 

Locals would see me with the map and ask if I needed help.  Even other tourists would turn to me at street corners and point out some incredible place they found that I “just had to see for myself”. 

With all of the friendly advice and such a rich history, you’ll find that visiting Savannah demands flexibility.

To really get the most out of the city, you need to look, listen, and be ready to veer off course.

Navigating Downtown is Easy

On paper, Savannah appears daunting with so many landmarks to see and explore. Surprisingly though, downtown Savannah is small and easy to navigate with many of the historic sites in close proximity. 

The city is designed as a grid and the squares help keep you oriented, as long as you can keep them straight. 

For example, I still can’t figure out why Pulaski’s monument isn’t in Pulaski Square.  Instead, his monument, and interred bones, are in Monterey Square. 

With the easy to follow and detailed map from the Visitor Center, it was easy to find all of the historic landmarks.

In less than 4 hours, I had wandered through the majority of the city, taken a few photographs, made notes of where to return, and found new places to research a bit more. 

River Street is Must See

If you plan to visit Savannah, definitely stop by River Street. The entrances can be a bit hidden which is part of the charm.

When putting together my itinerary, I initially ignored this area since it seemed aimed at tourists.  But after several friendly people told me I had to go, I was intrigued and made a beeline to check it out.

It took me about 10 minutes to figure out how to get down to the street.

There is a building with iron bridges and stairs blocking the way. You need to walk down the rickety metal stairs and follow the cobblestone driveway down.  

I’m glad I figured it out and made the effort.  While River Street is lined with shops and restaurants there is an element of charm that somehow offsets the tourist vibe.

Along the river are the old train tracks which you follow through a dark tunnel.

There are also statues and monuments highlighting historic moments in Savannah.

The inclement weather was a bonus in this area as the overcast sky created an eerie vibe. 

It was hard to see all the boats in the water and I could get a sense of how the soldiers and residents must have felt during all the wars. 

It was starting to get late and what little light I had was dwindling.  Seemed like a good time to head to the Airbnb .  

Exploring Outside of Downtown Savannah

My Airbnb host thought my day 2 plan of Bonaventure Cemetery, Wormsloe Historic Site, Fort Pulaski, possibly Tybee Island, and finishing up with the Ghost Tour downtown was a bit ambitious. 

He was right. 

Looking back now, this was a ridiculous schedule.

When planning your trip to Savannah, keep in mind that while everything appears close on the maps, short mileage doesn’t equal short driving times. 

Once again, the original plans went out the window, leading to another great day.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery is a great way to learn about the history of Savannah. Wanting to get the most of my visit, I opted for a tour with Shannon Scott Tours.

Looking back, I think I was expecting a creepy, eerie place full of voodoo and mystique.  Instead, it was a beautiful park with intricate statues and felt peaceful. 

The old live oak trees with Spanish moss hanging from them have a welcome appeal.  Paths wind through the plots encouraging long walks and a feeling of welcome. 

The masons were a major influence in building Savannah and masonic symbolism is everywhere.

My guide showed me the masonic symbols and what they meant as we walked through the cemetery. 

After a bit, I began to notice certain symbols and could make educated guesses about the graves and families. 

One of the best things she showed me was the map of the cemetery at the entrance. 

If you look at it, you can see it’s designed with a skull and the all-seeing eye.  Once you see it, it’s hard to understand how you didn’t notice it before. 

I also learned that the park-like atmosphere was planned. 

In the late 1800s, yellow fever ran through Savannah and took the lives of many people. Death touched everyone, including children.

Bonaventure was built as a place where families could come and visit their dead. The pleasant setting of the cemetery provided comfort.

Unlike a graveyard where all graves face south, in the cemetery the graves face the closest path. 

In addition, the plots all have numbers in front that could be seen as street addresses.  It continues the feel that you’re here to visit. 

After our tour, I spent another two hours wandering and taking photographs. Honestly, I could have spent all day at Bonaventure. 

Wormsloe Historic Site

Wormsloe Historic Site was next on my list.  Here’s where I learned it could take awhile to get somewhere in Savannah.

While it should have been a quick seven miles from Bonaventure Cemetery to Wormsloe Historic Site, it took over 20 minutes to drive. 

Low speed limits, traffic, and multiple stoplights made the trip a bit longer than expected.

Initially, I had planned an hour for Wormsloe thinking I would drive in, see the historic site and head out.

I didn’t know much about it and thought it was just a driveway with some ruins.

When I reached the ticket booth, the gentleman gave me a map and told me all the things Wormsloe had to offer.

This was another of those instances where I realized Savannah was in charge of my trip, not me. 

Besides the historic site, education center, and cemetery, Wormsloe Historic Site contains over 6 miles of hiking trails. Luckily, I keep a pair of hiking boots in the car for such emergencies. 

After purchasing my ticket, I drove down the long, dirt road with many potholes lined by old live oaks forming a beautiful tunnel. 

After visiting the old homestead ruins, I headed to the family cemetery indicated on the map.

What I found was one grave behind a black metal fence, looking like a scene from a vampire movie so I moved along quickly.

With plenty of time, I headed out on the hiking loop, enjoying the well-kept trails and beautiful scenery.  Along the way, I went over a bridge, passed a tree-lined forest, wandered around a swamp, crossed over a dam, and meandered through a grassy field.  

By the time I reached the car it was getting late, but I wanted the quintessential picture of the road framed by the old live oaks you see online and in brochures.    

It took about 30 minutes, but I finally managed to get a photo with no cars, no people and no dogs. 

Heading Back Downtown – the Ghost Tour

Dinner Before the Tour

I drove back to downtown Savannah and found street parking which wasn’t too difficult. 

Overall, parking in Savannah was pretty easy. Street parking was easy to come by on a weekday evening and it’s free after 5 pm. 

Since I had an hour and a half, I headed for dinner at The Public Kitchen and Bar which had captured my attention on day 1. I took a spot at the bar and got a salad to be healthy, and a drink. 

The restaurant seemed to have a focus on specialty drinks so I decided to go with the Cranberry Ginger Mule, which was amazing.  As a matter of fact, I took a photo of it from the menu so I could try to make it at home. 

The friendly Savannah vibe continued and other people sitting at the bar just struck up conversations. I have never encountered a city so friendly and welcoming.

Savannah is now at the top of my list for solo traveler friendly destinations.

The Ghost Tour

When it was time to meet up for the ghost tour, I headed off to the meeting location.  Like most ghost tours, it was a fun group of people and we chatted a bit before our guide arrived.  Once we were all checked in, off we went. 

I will say it wasn’t my favorite ghost tour.  The guide was a little corny, but we did learn about the darker history of Savannah which is always interesting. 

Later, I found out that some of the information wasn’t accurate.  However, it was common lure and I would likely have heard similar information from other guides.  

One thing you’ll find is that Savannah is built on speculation repeated frequently enough to become “truth”. 

With archaeologists and historians continuing to uncover new information, long-held truths now mix with new data so you never know which one you’re getting.

As a tourist visiting the area, take it in stride.  It’s part of the fun. 

At the end of the day, the city has a bloody and proud past. 

What is known is that some of the city is built on top of graveyards, leading to its haunted reputation.  The location of these graveyards differs depending on who you ask.

Bloody battles from both the Revolutionary and Civil wars played out in downtown Savannah with many of the dead were buried where they lay.

We wrapped up the tour and I stopped at a local coffee shop for tea since it was pretty cold. The downtown streets were busy with people and I felt safe walking alone at night.

Downtown Savannah, Fort Pulaski, and Tybee Island

For some reason, Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski kept pulling at me.  Yet, I wanted to go back to downtown and explore it more fully in the daylight. 

There just didn’t seem to be time for everything. 

Downtown Savannah – Again

Unlike my first day downtown, the skies were blue and the sun blazing so I was set for a great day.

The benefit of having scoped it out on my first day in the rain, and then taking a ghost tour was that I was able to put together a solid plan.

I hit every single square.  Every square.  All 22 of them.  It actually wasn’t difficult and, without rushing, I finished in less than 3 hours.

If you’re going to try this, remember to take a photo of the sign for the square before or after the photos of the square itself. This will help you keep track of them later.

Savannah looked completely different with the bright sunshine. 

The Sorrel-Weed house was now a bright orange and The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist looked friendly and white instead of creepy and sullen. 

Even the fountain at Forsyth Square was brighter and happier. 

I went back to River Street and could now see the boats and the water.  Unlike the first day with the rain, it didn’t look foggy and hazy.  Instead, it had a bustling pier vibe. 

There was a white riverboat with red trim docked alongside the street. The crew appeared to be getting her ready for the next run.    

As I rounded up the last of downtown, I checked my watch.  Noting it was only 3 pm I had two options.  I could stand in line for over an hour at Leopold’s Ice Cream or scratch the itch that was Fort Pulaski and the Tybee Lighthouse. 

Maybe I’m a bit obsessive, but the more items I could check off from the original itinerary, the happier I would be.

This is one of the advantages of being a solo traveler. I was able to make fast decisions and be completely flexible.

Fort Pulaski

When I pulled into the entrance of Fort Pulaski, the woman at the ticket booth warned me I only had an hour.  Good enough.  At least I was here.

I ran into the Fort and started taking photos.  Then I noticed people walking along the top of it and found my way up to a spectacular view. 

A ranger at the site mentioned I should go to the outside and see the damage from the mortar fire from the Civil War.  It was shocking to see the broken bricks and giant dings, but the building was still standing.

When I think about when it was built and what it has withstood throughout time, the craftsmanship and labor to build these forts is nothing short of amazing. 

This is when I slowed down and really took a look at the Fort. 

It’s a large red square fortress surrounded by a moat.  To enter, you cross what looks like a drawbridge.  While I wished I had more time, I made the most of my hour. 

I don’t recommend doing what I did and tearing into the site with only an hour.  To really see and appreciate the facility, you need 2 to 3 hours at a minimum. 

There are walking trails nearby and the grounds of the entire park are large  It would not be difficult to spend a half-day here.

Tybee Lighthouse

The Tybee Light House is only five minutes from Fort Pulaski.  The last tickets to walk up the lighthouse are sold at 4:30 pm, but that doesn’t stop anyone from standing in the parking lot nearby for amazing sunset photos. 

I’ve been to the lighthouse at the North Carolina Outer Banks and this is very similar so I didn’t feel the need to get a ticket and climb the stairs. 

I’m glad I got the chance to see it at sunset and I don’t feel I needed more time.  However, if you’ve never climbed the spiral steps to the top of a lighthouse, then I would recommend getting a ticket and giving it a try. 

I grabbed dinner at Tybee and headed back. 

My Last Day in Savannah

Technically there wasn’t supposed to be a day four.  I was supposed to “finish up” and head out to Charleston by 11 am.  But I was learning to embrace Savannah time and not rush through things.

My Airbnb host had mentioned Ogeechee Canal Trail for hiking.  I also wanted to visit Old Fort Jackson. 

Ogeechee Canal Trail

The Ogeechee Canal Museum and Nature Center was closed, but the trail system was open.  There’s a $3 entrance fee that you place in a locked box.

The area was nice and well-marked with a series of trails, one of which takes you along the old canal.  If you opt to stop here, be prepared for a swamp-like setting. 

It isn’t difficult to imagine alligators in the water just feet from you.

In full honesty, I actually called my mom to tell her where I was so someone would know how to find my body if an alligator got me.

Luckily I didn’t encounter any, but it was still fun and creepy. 

Old Fort Jackson

With some time left, I went to see Old Fort Jackson on the way out of town.  Actually, I rerouted to go past it, but I’m glad I did. 

One of the attractions at Old Fort Jackson is the firing of the cannon at 11 am and 3 pm. 

Don’t worry if you’re running a bit late. The cannon firing is part of a tour that starts at 11 am and 3 pm. The cannon firing portion occurs around 30 to 40 minutes after the start of the tour.  

I met up with one of the tours in progress and found guides, dressed in soldier uniform, entertaining a group. 

The rangers really take to heart the purpose of the fort and what the soldiers at the time went through. 

When they fire the cannon, it’s a multi-step process, just like it was done in the war. 

They warn you ahead of time that when they say “ready”, you need to cover your ears and open your mouth.  Right before they fire the cannon, they warn you again.

When the cannon fires, there’s a huge pop, but the bigger experience is what you feel.  The ground and your body seem to vibrate. 

There are much larger cannons on the roof of the fort that you can see close up.  When you stand next to them, it’s hard not to be awed by their size.  

If you’re visiting the Fort on certain holidays, you can experience the firing of one of these larger cannons.

Feeling good that I experienced everything Savannah had to offer, I finally headed out of town.

Final Thoughts Exploring Savannah as a Solo Traveler

I found Savannah to be a great destination for a solo traveler.  The city and surrounding area are beautiful and everyone seemed friendly. 

Locals and other visiting tourists alike would strike up conversations in restaurants, in lines, and if you appeared lost would offer to help. 

I have a lot of non-selfie photos because so many people simply offered to take my picture. 

If you head to Savannah, take a lesson from me and slow down your pace. 

Don’t attempt to cram what I did into 3.5 days.  While I did see a lot, I would have liked more time downtown to explore the museums and eat in more restaurants. 

Shorter Trip Recommendations for Savannah

There’s a lot to do in Savannah, but if you’re short on time check out our top 12 things to do in Savannah.

If you only have time for a 2 day trip, spend one day downtown and another at Bonaventure Cemetery and Wormsloe Historic Site. 

Longer Trip Recommendations for Savannah

If you have three to four days, spend 2 days downtown visiting museums, restaurants, and stores.  Plan a full day to visit Bonaventure and Wormsloe. If you have the fourth day, enjoy Fort Pulaski and the Tybee Light House. 

A Week or More Recommendations for Savannah

With a week or more, I would plan the visit for spring and add in Tybee Island. 

There’s a lot to do on Tybee. In cooler weather, the bugs aren’t quite as bad, and it’s not as crowded.  You can rent bikes and explore local trails on the island, or hike. 

Overall, there’s so much to do that a week would be a good amount of time to experience Savannah, Georgia. 

When I have the chance, I’ll be coming back for a 6 to 7-day solo adventure in Savannah.

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