A completely golden sky sunset with its color on the water as well. A silhouette of a kayaker in the left foreground and a sailboat with the sails down in the background right.

Sunrise at St. Marys.

Exploration has always been in my blood, so even when traveling down a dead-end road, I find it impossible to turn around before I discover the mysteries that might manifest themselves at the end! Therefore, going off of I-95 for 10 miles on Highway 40 into the historic village of St. Marys, Ga., seemed a natural progression … which definitely didn’t disappoint!

I found this tiny picturesque seacoast town to be unique, quite lively, historical and somewhat reminiscent of a smaller version of old Key West, Fla.

To really receive an introduction to the diversity of the St. Marys scene and have a great base of operations for enjoying anything in the area, I would highly recommend the Riverview Hotel (www.riverviewhotelstmarys.com) built in 1916. The property has been the home base to such notable people as John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Admiral Chester Nimitz, Andrew Carnegie, Governor Eugene Talmadge, Senator Richard Russell, and even weatherman Willard Scott to name a few. Just to add a little flair to all of that, if you speak with any of the employees in the hotel, they all have ghost stories to tell!

A view of the left and front sides of the Riverview Hotel. It is an off-white two-story building with columns and outside porch on both levels in the front.

The Riverview Hotel

For 88 years, this historic lodging place was operated by the same family, whose pictures and artifacts are featured throughout the property. The current ownership who are led by Bert Guy have greatly improved the hotel, and will go out of their way to make sure your stay is perfect in every way.

This old hotel is on the waterfront and seems to be a central gathering point for folks headed to Cumberland Island, but it is popular with the local crowd as well. One reason for the success of the Riverview Hotel is Captain Seagle’s Cafe and Saloon which boasts a fabulous eclectic menu that features seasonal specials. After a scrumptious dinner, however, visitors need to saunter through the hotel lobby to Seagle’s Saloon for unforgettable music almost every evening! If you’re really lucky, you’ll be there one of the nights when Hunter Merritt is weaving magic with his guitar and fabulous voice! Even though he has been a Navy submariner for 15 years, sometimes he finds the time when he has shore leave to make music that everyone seems to love!

To get the feel and the local color in a very graphic way, you can’t beat Molly’s Old South Tours (www.mollysoldsouth.com). She offers Cumberland Island and St. Marys highest-rated walking tours. Enjoy interactive tours with exclusive access to historic landmarks with an unforgettable narration by a bubbly, happy lady.

A small, old, white church with a green roof and cross on top.

Very old church in St. Marys.

The sleepy coastal village of St. Marys was founded in 1787 and still displays numerous Victorian and Antebellum homes and some of the most stunning and historic churches in Georgia. Other attractions include the downtown historic district, the St. Marys Submarine Museum and St. Marys Waterfront Park.

Visiting anglers will find quite a few public fishing piers located within several miles of St. Marys. The main catches from these piers are spotted sea trout, redfish, flounder, black drum and sheepshead. Day trips from St. Marys to Cumberland Island are also available from the waterfront right across the street from the Riverview Hotel.

Despite recent changes to this area, St. Marys remains the sleepy fishing village it has been for more than two centuries. It is a place where the stars seem closer, and the nights are quieter. Time appears to move as slowly as the river. Nevertheless, whatever your interests, wonderful memories will be a part of any visit to beautiful St. Marys!

Photos: by Bill Vanderford