[dropcap size=big]A[/dropcap]ffectionately known as “the Hostess City of the South”, Savannah, GA, was the site of the last British colony in the New World. Just a short drive from the shores of the state’s Golden Isles (which form part of the Atlantic Flyway), Savannah is the perfect base for bird-watchers and ornithologists who are keen on catching sight of feathered fowl migrating north and south.
Planning to visit the best wildlife reserves near Savannah, GA? Here’s our guide.
Once inhabited by Guale Indians who collected shellfish and hunted game from 1500 to 1715, Harris Neck Wildlife Refuge serves as a premier nesting, foraging, and wintering habitat for many species of wildlife. The perfect destination for an island escape from Savannah, the six man-made freshwater ponds, extensive salt marshes, and forested wetlands play host to a diversity of colorful migratory birds that can be seen within the refuge.
Keep an eye out for American alligators, vibrant painted bunting birds, and wood stork (the only species of stork that breeds on US soil) as you explore the many hiking trails.
An important link in the network of wildlife refuges that line the Atlantic Flyway, the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge provides vital nesting habitats for a wealth of bird species, including wood ducks, purple gallinules, bald eagles, anhingas, and swallow-tailed kites. Located just upriver from the city of Savannah the combined 28,168 acres of the refuge comprises bottomland hardwoods and tidal freshwater marsh.
Visitors can drive the 4-mile loop that encircles the refuge, accessible via the Laurel Hill Wildlife Drive, off S.C. 170, or explore the many hiking and biking trails that wend their way across the earthen dikes, through managed freshwater pools, and under the canopy of hardwood forest.
If you’re looking for an immersive wildlife retreat, you’ll not be disappointed with Wassaw. Unlike the remainder of Georgia’s barrier islands, Wassaw has never had its forests cleared for timber, cotton, or cattle and is considered the only remaining representation of what the region would have looked like when European settlers first arrived in the 1500s.
Accessible only by boat (which can be arranged at Skidway Island Marina), both Wassaw and neighboring Pine Island are open to the public during daylight hours and offer superb wilderness hiking, birdwatching, and beach combing.
Uninhabited, unspoiled, and visible from the south end of neighboring Tybee Island, there’s nothing little about this unique wilderness with its communities of roseate spoonbills, bald eagles, and the endangered woodstork. Since Little Tybee is accessible only by boat, a kayak tour is the most popular way to experience the abundant coastal beauty, salt marshes, pristine beaches, natural dunes, and subtropical forests that blanket this untouched island on Georgia’s coast.
For the more adventurous and outdoorsy visitors, multi-day camping permits offer a truly immersive way to experience the island.
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With many cheap hotels in Savannah, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to visit the neighboring islands and spend a few days twitching to your heart’s content.
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Have you spent time Savannah? Share your top tips with me below!