When John Drayton broke ground on Drayton Hall in 1738, he had no idea that his estate would survive the American Revolution, the Civil War, an earthquake, and numerous hurricanes. The stories contained in the building’s walls span seven generations of history tied to the Draytons and the Bowens family, an African American family that lived and worked at Drayton Hall before and after emancipation. Since 1974, when Charles and Frank Drayton sold their ancestral home to the National Trust, visitors have been able to transport themselves into the past with more ease than rubbing the beard at the Lincoln Memorial.
The main house, a sweeping example of Georgian Palladian architecture, is the oldest near-original, unrestored colonial home in the United States. Like a helpful ghost, the grand rooms and original fireplaces whisper history into the ears of all visitors, telling tales of British and colonial soldiers who occupied the house during the American Revolution. Views from the portico are filled with drooping trees, spanish moss, and a grand driveway. Surrounding the estate, an undisturbed historic landscape backs up to the Ashley River, and also encompasses A Sacred Place, the oldest African American cemetery in the country still in use.
With more than three decades as a marine biologist tucked under his waders, Dr. Joe Richardson has studied beaches from Nova Scotia to the Bahamas, but he still never ceases to marvel at the diversity of Tybee Island’s shores. The widely published professor emeritus of marine sciences at Savannah State University delights in sharing his knowledge about these lively shores, and to that end hosts walking tours for groups of all ages that incorporate conversation and hands-on activities. As his followers comb their fingers and toes through the sand of the beaches and inlets, they search for fossilized shark teeth and animals that Dr. Joe helps identify. He also discusses the tides, sand layers, local marine life, and which creatures eat with salad forks or soup spoons. Along the rock jetty, groups splash into tide pools to learn about the intertidal zone and the ways animals adapt to this habitat, then help Dr. Joe collect live specimens for a field aquarium by pulling in a 50-foot beach seine net and examining the fish and crabs caught in its weave. Lucky guests can glimpse the sleek fins of dolphins, and curious ones can ask Dr. Joe about his research projects, current ecological concerns, and how mermaids keep their fingers from getting pruny.
Since 1905, the Gibbes Museum of Art has stimulated corneas and cortexes with its exhibitions, educational programs, and its collection of more than 10,000 art objects. Their collection includes Southern and Charleston-based works from the Colonial period through present day. Steer brainwaves on a creative course with a family membership, which grants two listed adults and all listed children and grandchildren under 18 unlimited admission for one year. Membership also includes a subscription to Signature, the Gibbes tri-annual magazine; free or reduced educational programs and special events; a 10% discount at the Museum Store, with special member shopping days; and reciprocal admissions to museums throughout North America. Indulge an art-based dream without the hassle of wearing nothing but black turtlenecks and constantly snapping your paint-flecked fingers with today's deal.
To tell the heroic tale of the Mighty Eighth Air Force requires more than a simple history book or channel can handle. At the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, displays of tangible, lovingly preserved relics preserve the harrowing and inspiring stories of the Eighth Air Force's greatest achievements, paying respect to those who risked, and often lost, their lives. The exhibits narrate how the Mighty Eighth earned its nickname as the all-time largest air armada for its role in World War II, and a combat gallery of scale models and authentic flying machines, including a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber that's now being painstakingly restored, allows visitors to nab up-close views of the planes that made it all happen. Other exhibits detail how the men and women of the Eighth helped repel the Nazi menace, while the memorial gardens and Chapel of the Fallen Eagles salute all of those in the armed forces from WWII through today.
Daufuskie Discoveries creates opportunities to explore Daufuskie Island's lush, historic habitat with customized guided or private outings. An enclosed or open-air water taxi quickly shuttles small groups from Hilton Head or Savannah to the island's three-mile stretch of sandy beach in 30 minutes, with captains tossing out facts about Calibogue Sound and Cooper River. Customers disembark and board their conveyance of choice—golf cart, boat, or shoes—before bursting through the tree line into specific isle regions, such as Bloody Point, which houses the Bloody Point Cemetery and Bloody Point Lighthouse & Silver Dew Winery. Three-hour private cruises skirt the coastline as a guide artfully describes the sun dipping beneath marshes as a hot air balloon deflated by a stampeding herd of storks.
The salty sea sprays behind Captain Michael’s boat as he veers into the ocean near Hilton Head with his trusty first mate—a great dane named Dozer—by his side. As captain and owner of On the Water Hilton Head, Michael guides kayak trips through Lowcountry salt marshes and tidal creeks, and leads boat trips to view dolphins and seabirds in the waters around Pinckney Island and Port Royal Sound. Michael also runs water-taxi rides, charters fishing trips, and encourages visitors to take to the water themselves with kayak, standup-paddleboard, and jet-ski rentals.