Towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss, serene boardwalks crossing marshland, grassy utopias, and the shimmering Savannah River—it’s all there for your enjoyment at Skidaway Island State Park, about a 20-minute drive from the bustle of Downtown Savannah. The 588-acre park borders Savannah’s Intracoastal Waterway as well as the Skidaway Narrows, and many boardwalks bridge over the marshes for up-close exploration of these scenic waterways.
“Skidaway is a great destination for the beautiful Lowcountry trails, where you can see fiddler crabs at low tide and Spanish moss swaying from the trees,” says Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites. “Birding is excellent, and you can look for migrating painted buntings during season.”
All of the park’s six miles of hiking trails are flat. The most popular is the one-mile Sandpiper Trail Loop, where you’ll cross over salt flats, tidal creeks, and boardwalks, all under the shelter of Spanish moss-adorned oaks. At the salt flats, keep an eye out for fiddler crabs skittering across the surface. The biggest incline you’ll encounter is crossing the “island hammock,” a term that describes how land is raised higher above the marshes so that certain plants that can’t survive in the wetlands can grow.
Just before the boardwalk, stop and peer into the tidal pools. Depending on the time of day, you’ll be able to see an array of coastal creatures, such as minnows, shrimp, crabs, and oysters. The trail also offers a palpable air of history. The V-shaped Confederate Earthworks indicate areas where off-duty gun crews rested during the Civil War. And, in the last quarter-mile of the hike, before crossing the final boardwalk, look out for a hole that once held one of 33 liquor stills from the 1930s.
From the Sandpiper Loop Trail, you can connect to the Avian Trail loop, another one-mile loop. As its name suggests, it’s a great option for spotting feathered friends like osprey sailing across the waters. To the west is the Intracoastal Waterway, a system that stretches from Florida to Massachusetts.
The Connector Trail, meanwhile, is a one-mile inland trail that accesses the Big Ferry Trail loop, the park’s longest trail at three miles. At the intersection between these trails, explore the Alligator Pond, where sometimes the scaly giants bask in the sun. Take the side trail to climb the observation tower for a sprawling view of the coastal wetlands, whose marshes and waterways meld in a blue, white, and green palette.
For a longer visit than just a hike, make it an overnight excursion at one of the park’s 87 campsites, which offer privacy amidst moss-draped oaks. “The campground is especially pretty,” Hatcher says. “Yet Skidaway Island State Park is only 20 minutes from downtown Savannah’s history and restaurants. The trails are fairly easy, making them approachable for all visitors.”
Additional information: The park is open from 7 am to 10 pm daily, offering the chance for early morning bird-watching or late-night stargazing. Leashed pets are welcome. Parking is $5 per day, and campsite/cabin rentals are additional charges. Follow Harry S. Truman Parkway south from Savannah, and the park entrance is located off Diamond Causeway.