SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - The Savannah Bridge is a great starting point for this trip on old Highway 17. Just off the route is the Thunderbird Inn, one of the few old motels that still thrives, as most of them died out after the completion of I-95 in 1977.
“I-95, when it opened in the 70s, it increased the amount of traffic riding through coastal Georgia, but not through what you might call real Georgia, the small coastal towns south of Savannah to the Florida line,” said Dr. Stan Deaton, Senior Historian for the Georgia Historical Society.
Taking the old route on Ogeechee Road, you’ll pass Laurel Grove Cemetery before headed south to cross the Ogeechee River. You’ll cross the three main rivers that carry Georgia’s waters to the Atlantic.
Continuing south, you’ll pass some of the old signs now eaten away by rust and covered with weeds. Then 32-miles into the trip, you’ll arrive in Midway.
“You are in what I like to think of as the oldest part of Georgia. It was known as Oglethorpe’s Highway for a reason. Highway 17 was built over the road that came out of Savannah and connected Savannah with Darien 200 years ago. It follows an old route, so you are literally seeing parts of Georgia that have been seen for a couple of hundred years, but it makes you slow down,” Deaton said. “The people we think of as the Revolutionary leaders came out of Saint John’s Parish, came out of Midway. Button Gwinnett, Dr. Lyman Hall, a lot of the more radical patriots if you came right out of that area where the Midway Church is. And incidentally, Midway Church had to be moved so Highway 17 could go between the church and the cemetery.”
Then it’s on through Riceboro and the Geechee Kunda Center, you’ll get to Townsend and the Smallest Church in America. Built in 1949, with stained glass windows imported from England, it was meant for road-weary travelers to stop, rest and meditate. From there, it’s on to the small town of Darien, settled by the Highland Scots in 1736.
“A hardy group as you can imagine. If you’ve been to Darien in the middle of summer, those folks didn’t have screens on the windows, the mosquitos and the bugs and the insects almost did these people in and Highland Scots are not soft people,” explained Deaton.
After Darien, you might want to hit Mudcat Charlie’s that sits on the river they call the Amazon of the South, or the Altamaha. South from there, it starts widening up where you do start getting some marsh views near Brunswick. And as you approach the end is the Sidney Lanier Bridge.
The total distance of the trip is 82.2 miles, according to Google Maps.