Darien, Georgia rests at the mouth of the Altamaha River about 80 miles south of Tybee Island. Founded in 1736, it is the second oldest town in the state. Its history, culture, and beautiful marshland views make Darien an excellent day-tripping destination.
Visit: A trip to Darien would be amiss without a stop at the Fort King George Historic Site. In the 1700s, the British, French, and Spanish all contested for Georgia land, and once the British claimed the land they had to fiercely defend it from all sides and foes – thus, Fort King George was built. This reconstruction of the 18th century British fort is startlingly authentic and even holds regular battle reenactments.
Darien is a town with a bittersweet past. Once home to a riverfront commercial district that rivaled Savannah’s sprawling community, most of the town was burned to the ground in 1863 in what would become one of the most controversial acts of the Civil War. Just ten years later, a hurricane swept through Darien and destroyed several buildings that had survived the burning. Visitors can still see tabby ruins along the banks of the Altamaha, standing as a reminder of America’s stormy past.
Today, Darien has an industry rich in seafood, and shrimp boats line the docks. When shrimping season is over, fishermen set up new nets and catch jellyfish to preserve and send to Asia.
The Altamaha River is not only beautiful but perfect for adventuring. Captain Phillips leads tours along the river in his boat all year round, and his wine tasting tours are especially popular. On your ride, expect to see wildlife such as alligators, ospreys, egrets, and maybe even a bald eagle or two. For the more active, explore the Altamaha by kayak or canoe with Altamaha Coastal Tours. Sapelo Island is a 30 minute ferry ride away for those interested in exploring a barrier island with coastal scenery, a restored lighthouse from the 1820s, and Hog Hammock, one of the few surviving Gullah and Geechee communities in the South.
Darien also offers unique shopping activities in town. The Old Jail Art Center exhibits and sells work by local artists and even offers painting and pottery classes. Upstairs is the McIntosh History Museum, a free museum offering a glimpse at Darien life. Wedged among a variety of great antique shops downtown is Waterfront Wine and Gourmet. Grab a drink at the bar in the back or take a bottle of wine home with you.
Eat: Located on the river is Skipper’s Fish Camp, an establishment serving freshly caught and local seafood. While their crab cakes are famous, you can’t go wrong with fried oysters or fresh fish, especially when served with the restaurant’s homemade remoulade sauce. If you’re a fan of grits, be sure to order blackened grouper over a bed of cheese grits. Mudcat Charlie’s is an off-the-beaten path eatery frequented by local fishermen, and Willie’s Wee Nee Wagon in Brunswick is worth the 15 minute drive for their famous pork chop sandwiches.
Stay: When staying the night in Darien, it’s best to book a room at one of the town’s acclaimed bed and breakfasts. Open Gates Bed and Breakfast was recently featured in Southern Living. The B&B is housed in the historic district of town on Vernon Square – for extra privacy, book the Garden Room. Tucked away with picturesque views of the marsh is the Blue Heron Inn.