Weekend getaway on the Georgia Coast

Of the eight large barrier islands off the coast of Georgia, only four can be accessed by a bridge. Sapelo Island is one of the islands can only be reached by water and visiting it has been on my bucket list for years.

Sapelo is the fourth largest Georgia barrier island. Most of the island is owned by the state of Georgia. The state owned portion of Sapelo is home to the RJ Reynolds Wildlife Management area on the north end of the island, the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute, and the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The remaining 434 acres is the privately owned community of Hog Hammock. Many of the 70 residents there are descendants of former African-American slaves. Today, some property owners live elsewhere and a few of the houses are managed as vacation rentals.

We spent Friday night in Darien so we wouldn’t have far to go for our early Saturday morning Saturday ferry. We enjoyed a delicious fried shrimp and crab cake dinner Friday night at Skippers Fish Camp on the Darien waterfront. During our after dinner walk beside the water we spied 3 baby alligators on the banks of the river and a manatee behind a shrimp boat.

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Darien Waterfront

On Saturday morning, it didn’t take long to get to  Sapelo Visitors Center from Darien. After purchasing our tickets for the Sapelo Ferry we learned a little about the history of the island from the interpretive displays and enjoyed the views from the deck.

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View from the Visitor’s Center on the mainland with Sapelo Island in the distance.

The ferry departed at 9:00, right on schedule. Pelicans were busy diving for fish as we made our way to the island.

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Ferry Boat on the mainland waiting to take passengers to Sapelo Island
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Georgia salt marsh viewed from the ferry to Sapelo
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Sapelo Lighthouse as seen from the ferry

Our guide Yvonne Grovner took us around the island in a small air conditioned van. Yvonne grew up on Sapelo in the Hog Hammock community and told us many interesting facts about the island. We went from paved roads to narrow dirt trails as we traveled around the island.

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Behavior Cemetery on Sapelo Island
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Tabby ruins on Sapelo Island, Georgia
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Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island, Georgia

We climbed the 77 steps to the top of the Sapelo Lighthouse.

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Sapelo Lighthouse, Georgia

Our last stop before returning to the mainland was Nanny Goat Beach. It was a Saturday and there were a few people enjoying the white sandy beach. Our guide told us sometimes on weekdays there is no one else there.

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Nanny Goat Beach, Sapelo Island, Georgia

If you are planning a visit to Sapelo Island, you must make reservations for the ferry in advance. Reservations are also needed to take the tour. If you would rather explore on your own, golf carts and bicycles are available for rent. A few homes are available for rent and group camping is available. Reynolds Mansion can also be rented by groups.

More information about visiting Sapelo Island can be found at Visitors Center – Sapelo Island

 

A Day in the Scottish Highlands

Our small tour bus with Rabbie’s Tours departed Inverness early on a Saturday morning for a 12 hour tour across the Scottish Highlands. As we rode from place to place our guide Colin filled us in on Scottish history and folklore.

Soon after leaving Inverness we were riding along with views of Loch Ness to our left. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one on the bus who was searching for Nessie, more commonly known as the Loch Ness Monster.  We didn’t stop at Nessieland, a small theme park.

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Nessieland was just up the road, Lock Ness, Scotland

Our only stop on Loch Ness was at historic Urquhart Castle. The castle is undergoing some restoration and we did not tour it. It was our last chance to see Nessie and she wasn’t cooperating.

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Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness, Scotland

We had plenty of time to tour Eilean Donan Castle and enjoy the gorgeous setting.

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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland near Kyle of Lochalsh
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View from the bridge at Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland
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Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland

Most of the day was spent on the spectacular Isle of Skye. There are dramatic mountains and cliffs, charming seaside villages, and gorgeous scenery all around the island.

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Dramatic Cliffs, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Henry was glad he wasn’t driving! Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Curvy roads around the Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Wow! We’re really here! Isle of Skye, Scotland

We stopped in the town of Portree for lunch and a view of the harbor.

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Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland
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Town of Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland

A few people on the bus brought back some beer from the Isle of Skye Brewery.

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Isle of Skye Brewery, Scotland

Our last stop on the Isle of Skye was the town of Kyleakin. It was raining as we walked around the waterfront with a nice view of the the Skye Bridge and the Kyleakin Lighthouse.

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Skye Bridge, Scotland
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Kyleakin Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, Scotland

It rained most of the way back to Inverness. When we arrived in Inverness that Saturday night the restaurants and pubs were hopping with young people out on the town. We found a restaurant with no wait, had a quick supper and called it a night after a long but fantastic day.

 

Hello Scotland

It was really sad leaving beautiful Ireland but the time had come to move on to Scotland. We boarded the Stena SuperFast VII Ferry in Belfast for our 2 1/2 hour voyage to Cairnryan, Scotland. The ferry was huge with lounges, restaurants, and even free WiFi. The seas were calm and the sky was clear for the entire trip.

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On the Stena Superfast Ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, Scotland

As the ferry was passing by our first sighting of Scotland, we saw the Corsewall Lighthouse.

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We saw the Corsewall Lighthouse from the ferry

We picked up our rental car at the ferry dock and were soon traveling on Scotland’s roads on our way to Glasgow, our first destination.

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Another country, another rental car, more curvy roads. We have arrived in Scotland
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Scenic drive from the ferry to Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow is a huge city, much bigger than I thought it would be and we only had one full day to explore. After a good night’s rest we enjoyed our first Full Scottish Breakfast before starting our sightseeing. Henry tried the haggis with eggs, I passed on the haggis. We set out on foot to explore the area around the hotel. Our wandering took us to the Museum of Modern Art, George Square and the Glasgow City Council Building.

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Wellington Statue at Museum of Modern Art, Glasgow, Scotland
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George Square with Glasgow City Council City Chambers Building in the background, Glasgow, Scotland
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Ceiling in Glasgow City Council Building

We decided the best way to see the highlights of Glasgow would be to take the Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour. The tour was about two hours around the city, making a few stops along the way. If you got off, you could get on another bus to continue the tour. The top deck of the red double decker buses were open and a guide pointed out places of interest as we went. The city is an interesting mix of old and new.

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Mural in Glasgow, Scotland
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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, Scotland
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Italian Shopping District, Glasgow, Scotland
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Glasgow SSE Hydro concert, sporting, and special events arena
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The old and the new in Glasgow, Scotland

The next day our adventure was a ride from Glasgow to Inverness in our rental car. After a few wrong turns and a ride through the Glasgow suburbs the scenery got better and better as the day went on.

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On the road to Inverness, Scotland
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Snow in the Highlands, Scotland

Inverness is a much smaller city with the River Ness running right through the center of town and a castle at the top of a hill. The name Inverness means “mouth of the Ness”. We arrived early enough to take a walk beside the river.

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Inverness Castle, Scotland
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Faith, Hope and Charity statue in Inverness, Scotland
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River Ness, Inverness, Scotland
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River Ness, Inverness

Next up, a full day bus tour through the Scottish Highlands.

 

Wandering around Saint Augustine

It’s been over 40 years since we last camped in Anastasia State Park. We were camping in a tent with our kids and back then you could drive on the beach.

Today there is no more driving on the beach in the state park. Instead, there is a huge parking area with walkways over the dunes and a wheelchair accessible beach mat to the beach.

It was chilly, foggy and raining during most of our stay. On the first sunny day we went exploring. After a drive south on famous highway A1A, we headed to the Saint Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.

Founded in 1893, the Alligator Farm started out with just a few exhibits of Florida reptiles. It has expanded over the years to include not only reptiles but also birds and mammals from all around the world. Today, in addition to the educational shows and exhibits, it is also used for research.

As we wandered through the zoo toward the Native Swamp and Rookery to see the nesting birds (I posted about them here) we stopped to observe the many varieties of animal life.

We took a break for lunch and drove to the nearby Conch House Marina and Guesthouse to eat outside on their waterfront deck.

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Lunch with a view at Conch House Restaurant

After lunch it was back to the Alligator Farm to watch the 3:00 alligator feeding. Can you say feeding frenzy?

Our next stop was the Saint Augustine Lighthouse. Gorgeous views were our reward for climbing all the steps to the top.

When we weren’t exploring St. Augustine we enjoyed being in Anastasia State Park. Our campsite was surrounded on three sides by natural vegetation and the beach was only a 10 minute walk from our campsite. One afternoon we explored the nature trail near the campground.