Locate It: Darien

Heaping Servings of History, Outdoors and Shrimp in Darien

One of the longest settled areas in the state, Darien, Georgia has heaping servings of history, outdoor activities and fresh seafood as you’d expect along Georgia’s Coast

One of the longest settled areas in the state, Darien, Georgia has heaping servings of history, outdoor activities and fresh seafood as you’d expect along Georgia’s Coast

Established as a port on the Altamaha River by Gen. James Oglethorpe’s Scottish Highlanders in 1736, Darien is the second-oldest planned town in Georgia. The waterfront still bustles with activity as shrimpers bring in their treasured catch. It doesn’t take long for the local seafood restaurants to cook up the delectable coastal treats.

The historic areas along the waterfront can be best uncovered with the Historic Darien Walking Tour. The Darien Walking Tour includes churches, tabby structures and ruins, historical squares, and more. The tour begins with the First Presbyterian Church of Darien, which is the first congregation of that denomination to be established in Georgia. To get started, stop by the Visitor Center to pick up a walking tour brochure and follow along to go back in time.

Just east of downtown lies Fort King George State Historic Site, the oldest English fort remaining on Georgia’s coast. From 1721 until 1736, Fort King George was the southern outpost of the British Empire in North America. The reconstructed fort anchors present day visitors to a rich history where Native American and European cultures met, colonial empires collided, soldiers toiled and perished, and industry boomed on the shores of the Altamaha River.

More recent history is tangible at two other nearby sites, The Ashantilly Center and Reynolds Mansion. The Ashantilly Center, known as “Old Tabby,” was the mainland home of Thomas Spalding, an early Georgia planter, legislator, and McIntosh County landowner. The original home, circa 1820, burned in 1937, and the current house was an ongoing project of the Haynes family. Today, the Ashantilly Center is a non-profit that hosts cultural and historic events and workshops.

Located on Sapelo Island, the R.J. Reynolds Mansion is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Built by Thomas Spalding in 1810 and restored by automotive pioneer Howard Coffin in 1925 and tobacco heir Richard J. Reynolds in the 1940s, the Mansion provides overnight accommodations for groups and operates a public beach campground at Cabretta.

Sapelo Island is a state-managed barrier island, the fourth largest in the chain of coastal Georgia islands between the Savannah and St. Marys rivers. Accessible only by passenger ferry, Sapelo provides several public access recreational, educational and lodging opportunities.

The DNR manages the island, operating the ferry service and serving as state liaison for the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve, the University of Georgia Marine Institute, and the civilian Hog Hammock community, the permanent home to about 70 full-time residents, many of whom are descended from the antebellum slaves of Sapelo’s plantations.

Sapelo Island also has a Wildlife Management Area totaling almost 9,000 acres. It offers hunting opportunities for deer, small game and feral hog. All reservations for transportation on state boats for check-in hunts must be made through the Visitor Center (912) 437-3224.

Other nearby hunting includes the Altamaha Waterfowl Management Area at Altamaha WMA, consisting of 3,154 acres of managed waterfowl impoundments and some 27,000 acres of bottomland hardwoods and cypress-tupelo swamps. The property offers hunting opportunities for deer, turkey, small game, waterfowl, and dove.

The waterfowl impoundments are in three units. Each unit provides a different type of hunting opportunity: Butler Island provides quota hunting; Champney Island is a walk-in hunting area; Rhett’s Island is reachable only by boat.

Darien is easily accessed off Exit 49 on I -95 or the science coastal byway, US Highway 17.

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