Add Small Town Day Trips to Tour St. Marys Itinerary

This historic coastal town is the perfect hub for exploring

St. Marys, Georgia | I-95 Exit Guide

On Georgia’s southern coast, the charming city of St. Marys welcomes visitors to enjoy its historic downtown and picturesque waterfront. Local shops and attractions set St. Marys apart and offer hours of enjoyment. And a host of restaurants featuring everything from breakfast specialties to seafood favorites means there is always a tasty meal to be had. But its location less than an hour’s drive north of Jacksonville, Florida off I-95, makes this the perfect spot to explore the surrounding area, as well.

St. Marys Lodging Options

Diverse lodging options here make it easy to find just the right accommodations, whether traveling as a couple, a family or with friends. Vacation rentals include several downtown homes such as the iconic Antebellum home, The Federal Quarters (314 Osborne Street, St. Marys, Georgia; 31558; 912-205-5732) and secluded spots like Sabina’s Cottage on Crooked River, surrounded by natural beauty and wildlife. There are bed and breakfast homes like the 14-room Spencer House Inn (200 Osborne Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-1872), built in 1872 and inns such as the historic Riverview Hotel (105 Osborne Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-3242) verandas overlook the downtown waterfront park.

A Walking Tour

A great way to start the day is with morning fare from Spouses Bakery (901 Dilworth Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-439-3364). For those who choose to sleep in, the lunch specials are a favorite, too.

A walk along the beautiful waterfront sets the stage for any day here. The large St. Marys Waterfront Park (100 West St. Marys Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558) includes places to sit and enjoy the view and also features a pier and fountain, along with paved walkways and pavilions. Nearby, the self-guided St. Marys History Walk (corner of Bartlett Street & West St. Marys Street) guides visitors along a 600-foot walking trail amid 24 interpretive panels which outline the city’s history and culture. For a more detailed tour, Molly’s Old South Walking Tour (7 West St. Marys Street, St Marys, Georgia 31558; 904-735-8243) brings stories from St. Marys’ 250-year-old history to life. 

Downtown Attractions

Downtown attractions include the St. Marys Submarine Museum (102 West St. Marys Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-2782), the largest museum of its kind in the south, filled with a wide variety of exhibits, pictures, models, artifacts and rare historical documents. Another favorite is Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum (129 Osborne Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-4336) welcome guests and tell the stories of the island’s thousands of years of history. Artifacts and accounts from the eras of the American Indian, British explorers and enslaved people are on display.

After a day or two enjoying St. Marys’ attractions and shops, many choose to take a day trip to explore more natural wonders and coastal towns in the surrounding area, while making this their charming coastal home base. Here are some of St. Marys most popular day trips:

Popular Day Trips

Cumberland Island – The downtown waterfront is also the departure point for ferry trips to much-loved Cumberland Island National Seashore, which combines pristine maritime forests, undisturbed beaches and a storied history. After checking in at the Visitor Center (113 St. Marys Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-4336) travelers board the ferry for their trip to the island. Once there, visitors can explore the miles of trails, beautiful beaches and historic sites on their own or reserve a spot on the two-hour Cumberland Island Walking Tour that begins at the Dungeness Dock or the Lands and Legacies Tour, an all-day interpretive tour via passenger van to historic locations around the island.

The 500-acre Crooked River State Park (6222 Charlie Smith Senior Highway, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-5256) has 63 campsites surrounded by moss-draped oaks and can accommodate both tent and RV campers. There are also 11 cottages available for rental at the park.

Folkston – Just 45 minute drive inland, Folkston may be best known as the gateway to the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) (2700 Suwannee Canal Road, Georgia Highway 121/23, Folkston, Georgia 31537-7906; 912-496-7836). The refuge consists of 407 acres and is the largest NWR east of the Mississippi River and provides habitat for threatened and endangered species, such as red-cockaded woodpeckers, wood storks, indigo snakes, and a wide variety of other wildlife species. A visit to Folkston’s charming downtown reveals its connection to the railroad, past and present, at its museum, The Train Depot (3795 Main Street, Folkston, Georgia 31537; 912-496-2536) and the Folston Funnel Viewing Platform. Nearby, the historic Sardis Primitive Baptist Church (Post Road, Folkston Georgia 31537; 912-496-2336), built in 1821, is the oldest church in the county.

Darien – An hour’s drive north is Darien, Georgia’s second oldest city. At the Sapelo Island Visitor Center (1766 Landing Road Southeast, Darien, Georgia 31305; 912-437-3224) visitors can learn about the habitats and ecosystems of the 6,100-acre Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and about the opportunities for exploring the reserve and making the ferry trip (reserved in advance) for a tour of storied Sapelo Island. History buffs will also want to visit Fort King George (302 McIntosh Road SE, Darien, Georgia 31305; 912-437-4770) the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia’s coast. Visitors may also want to schedule a tour of the acclaimed Ashantilly Center (15591 Highway 99, Darien, Georgia, 31305; 912-437-4473). Initially home to one of Georgia’s early prominent landowners and known as “Old Tabby,” the center is now an educational and cultural historic site that includes a garden, home and print shop.

Richmond Hill – Just a bit north of Darian is Richmond Hill. Located on the Great Ogeechee River, this was the winter home of Henry Ford for a nearly a quarter century. The Coastal Bryan Heritage Trail (9930 Ford Avenue, Richmond Hill, Georgia 31324; 912-756-2676) includes 30 stops that highlight the fascinating people and stories that make up the rich heritage of Richmond Hill and Bryan County. Richmond Hill History Museum (11460 Ford Avenue, Richmond Hill, Georgia 31324; 912-756-3697) is a featured stop on the trail. On return to St. Marys, there are plenty spots to enjoy an evening meal. Casual favorites are The Riverside Café (106 West St. Marys Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-3455) with its menu of soups, salads, specialty sandwiches and Greek-style platters and Brackish Beer Company (907 Dilworth Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-322-6743) for local beer and food truck options. Seafood is the specialty at Seagle’s Restaurant & Captain Seagle’s Saloon (105 Osborne Street, St. Marys, Georgia 31558; 912-882-3242), located in the historic Riverview Hotel on the waterfront. And Locals Dockside (307 W. St. Marys Street, St. Marys Georgia 31558; 912-510-8577) is a seafood and steak house with an extensive menu.

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