USA & Canada: Savannah & Charleston | Enchanting Homes & Sexy Southern Charm

by Carol Godwin

Looking for a relaxed honeymoon steeped in lusty mystique? You can't go wrong with Savannah, Georgia, or Charleston, South Carolina. These two charming and historic walking cities are only about 100 miles away from each other, with gorgeous coastline and countryside in between. If Savannah is racy, Charleston is refined, and both are wonderful destinations in which to while away the romantic days right after you get married.

In a Word: Seduction

The allure of these proud cities is rooted in the unspoken mystery and magic inherent in the pristinely restored, pre-war homes that line historic districts -- if only their walls could talk! -- and the shade of moss-draped oaks in parks, city squares, and intimate courtyards. Civil War drama and the myth of behind-closed-door mischief is palpable here, encouraged no doubt by the filming of John Berendt's runaway bestseller Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in Savannah.

Don't Miss

  • Walking tours: Strolling the sidewalks, exploring by bike, or nuzzling up in a cuddly, clip-clop horse-drawn carriage is a great way to soak up ambience, but to get the real dirt on what happened where, join one of dozens of walking or bus tours snaking through either city on any given day. The themes are endless: ghosts, gardens, pirates, city squares (Savannah has 21), Civil War sights, marshes and, of course, a Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil tour. Two to try: In Charleston, call Tour Charleston, (800) 854-1670; in Savannah, call Plantation Carriage Co., (912) 233-0119.
  • Architecture: Both cities are chock full of pristinely restored Georgian and antebellum gems gracing their expansive historic districts. For an inside view, tour the Isiah Davenport House and Green-Meldrim House in Savannah, America's first planned city in 1733. In Charleston, explore the Aiken-Rhett House and Nathaniel Russell House or head about 10 miles out of town to the magnificent Drayton Hall or Magnolia Plantation and Gardens (where you can also canoe, hike, and gaze at one of the largest collection of azaleas and camellias in America).
  • History: The pretty port city of Charleston was founded in 1670 and claims more than 2,000 noteworthy structures, including churches, prerevolutionary homes, and military legends. The area called "South of Broad" embraces the Battery, a waterfront park with Civil-War cannons and statues that survey Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in 1861. Catch a boat there from the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center and Ferry Boat Facility). War buffs should also visit the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum (five miles out of town, in neearby Mount Pleasant), where you can marvel at fighter planes and tour an aircraft carrier and submarine.
  • Good Eats: The wedding's over, so get ready to loosen your cummerbund. This is comfort-food country, where black-eyed peas, country ham, succulent seafood, fried green tomatoes, biscuits, and grits are the gut busters du jour. Charleston is renowned for Low Country palate pleasers such as she-crab soup and pecan pie. Book a table at Magnolias, (843) 577-7771, located in a circa-1823 warehouse, or Cypress Lowcountry Grille, (843) 727-0111. And no Savannah stay is complete without breakfast or lunch at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room, (912) 232-5997 (closed weekends). Formerly a boarding house for railroad workers, world-renowned Mrs. Wilkes now serves up some of the best Southern cookin' around (family-style, of course). When you recover, reserve a spot at Elizabeth on 37th, (912) 236-5547, a former sugar baron's mansion, or Bistro Savannah, (912) 233-6266, for regional and coastal Southern specialties.
  • Romance on the Water: In Charleston, help raise the sails on the 84-foot, three-masted Schooner Pride, (843) 559-9686, for a spin around historic Charleston Harbor. Want to just look, listen, and learn? Hop aboard the Nautical Queen, (843) 722-1112, for a historical harbor tour. In Savannah, eat Sunday brunch on the River Street Riverboat, (800) 786-6404, as you tour the harbor, or head out of town for a pontoon boat ride in Bull River with Low Country River Excursions, (912) 898-9222. Not active enough? Drive to Tybee Island for a spin in a kayak with Sea Kayak Georgia, (888) KAYAK-GA.
  • Road Trip Heaven: You'll find a plethora of places to stop in between the two cities, for just the day or a couple of nights, including the resort island areas of Kiawah, Seabrook, Edisto, Hilton Head, and Myrtle Beach (think golf, sailing, tennis, and shopping). Also in the mix are Murrells Inlet (a fishing village south of Myrtle Beach), Brookgreen Gardens, Pawleys Island, and Beaufort, South Carolina, a charming waterfront town established in 1710. Full of history, homes, and ruins dating from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, it's also the site where the Ordinance for Secession (the South's official document saying it wanted out of the Union) was drawn up in 1813.

Best Place to Kiss

No Charleston honeymoon is complete without a jiggle on the Joggling Boards, the city's alternative to swings since the 1830s. Located in piazzas and in the gardens of historic homes, Joggling Boards are a favorite with couples, with one person balancing on each end and then bouncing to the center for a quick kiss.

When to Go

  • Best Weather: Spring or fall, when temperatures are moderate and the flowers (azaleas and dogwood trees) are in full bloom or foliage at its peak color
  • Best Prices: July and August or December to February
  • Festival Highlights: In Savannah, enjoy one of the oldest celebrations of St. Patrick's Day in America and feast on succulent white Georgia shrimp at the Riverfront Seafood Festivals in May. In Charleston, the world-renowned Spoleto Festival USA showcases performers and artists in late May or early June -- be sure to buy tickets in advance.
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