By Aimee Serafin
By summer’s end, it will feel as if we have completed our first COVID-19 marathon and it will be time for a much-needed break.
While temperatures outside start to tease us with paltry dips into the low 90s, we will anticipate the challenges ahead in the academic year. Rest and rejuvenation are critical for maintaining endurance and energy to focus, so with this issue of Augusta Family we want to provide some getaway resources for readers. Listed in this feature are hand-picked excursions within driving distance from Augusta to help counter the “slow fade” or “crash-and-burn” reality you may find yourself in. Experts say it takes 20 minutes for the body to respond physiologically to the effects of a calming experience. Getting away for the day to enjoy a car ride through Eudora Farms Safari or walk below the cool sprays of Tallulah Falls or explore the literary whimsy of the Story Shop in Monroe will prove refreshing for the family. One of these short trips will get the family out of the house and boost your perspective and resiliency for the fall season. So, get relaxing by taking advantage of a Great Day Trip Getaway!
*Due to COVID-19 and other variables, it is advised that readers call locations ahead of time for venue schedule information/changes.
Eudora Farms Drive-Thru Safari
Salley, South Carolina (1 hour)
Only an hour from Augusta, this wild safari park adventure is experienced from within your vehicle. It is a safe and air-conditioned way to enjoy seeing the animals. The park offers buckets of feed for purchase so those up-close adventurers can achieve personal interaction. Very affordable and safe in terms of social distancing, this day trip is sure to steer your attitude in the right direction.
Wednesdays — Sundays, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. $20/per vehicle
Phinizy Nature Park, Trails and Nature Attractions
Augusta (20 minutes)
Only minutes from downtown Augusta, Phinizy Nature Park is a family favorite of the Savannah River Region. There is a collection of various wildlife such as the red-shouldered hawk, black-bellied whistling duck, sora, bald eagle and the great blue heron found in the visitor’s park. Visitor maps at the center point out key attractions like the beaver dam trail, the bridge through the woods, the floodplains boardwalk and observation deck, the mayor’s fishing hole, Pzifer pavilion, the pond trail and the rain garden deck and boardwalk.
Open daily 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Public Fishing, Antique Shopping and Lavender Farms
Thomson (35 minutes)
Only minutes away from Augusta, Thomson is a burgeoning southern city with unique offerings. Aunt Tique and Uncle Junk’s collectibles shop and The Saturday Market (don’t let the name fool you, it’s open Tuesday – Saturday) boast one-of-a-kind finds for the serious eclectic shopper. Fishing enthusiasts can take in the McDuffie Public Fishing Area where there are seven ponds, three trails, two archery ranges and a 12-acre dove field. White Hills’ lavender herb farm is open for tours, shopping, cooking classes and peaceful walks through the organic lavender fields. The historical sites of Hickory Hill, the Rock House, Thomas Memorial Cemetery and the Wrightsboro District offer self-guided tours explaining the history of the area. There is a little something for everyone in the charming city of Thomson!
The Story Shop and Revolutionaries Market
Monroe, GA (2 hours)
This whimsical shop is a treasure for the family with young readers. The store’s slogan is that they are “not just a bookstore, but a destination to explore!”. One online review from a New York visitor described the shop as “unlike anything I have ever seen before and is well worth going out of your way to visit. Collaborating with local artists, each room is thoughtfully and artfully decorated. The collection of books is rich, diverse and inspiring. While I visited, a class of school children was being read to by a professional storyteller and when it was over, they burst out of the wardrobe, and were herded into the “Where the Wild Things Are” room to work on a creative project. This should be a destination for anyone with children, a love for children’s literature and children’s authors, illustrators and librarians.” (TripAdvisor.com). They even offer professional photography sessions for taking family portraits in the shop during non-operating hours.
Revolutionaries Market joined with the local coffee shop, Coffee Camper Company, to create a partnership site where coffee and handmade market items of furniture, décor, art and accessories go together like Benny and Joon. Creative finds inside the café shop include honey, jewelry, graphic tees, cuffs, needlepoint art and ceramics.
Foodies’ Fun and Picnic
Madison, GA (2 hours)
Who knew that Madison, Georgia, had some great venues for the modern foodie? Crowe’s BBQ, Perk Avenue, Madison Produce are all local spots where you can grab some grub and head to the historic settings around town for a family picnic. A short drive outside the town center is Farmhouse Market Café where food lovers can experience grilled cheese with tart Granny Smith apples and Farmview bacon, Cobb Salad with local greens and deviled eggs, and fresh North Carolina catfish sandwiches served aside homestyle slaw. Several options and substitutions are available including keto and GF dining. After lunch, take a self-guided walking tour or rent a bike to explore Madison’s rich history on two wheels.
Farmhouse Market: farmviewmarket.com
Self-guided tour info: www.exploregeorgia.org/madison/outdoors-nature/trails-tours/audio-walkingdriving-tour-of-madisons-historic-district
Kettle Creek Battlefield and Mary Willis Library
Washington, GA (1 hour)
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Kettle Creek is a revolutionary battlefield that features monuments dating as early as 1930. This site marks a pivotal battle where Patriots defeated Loyalists, exposing Britain’s inability to hold the interior of the state. Parking is free and on-site with self-guided tours and maps available. Family-friendly and open year-round.
Mary Willis Library was the first free library in the state of Georgia. The site boasts Tiffany stained-glass windows and a chest that is believed to have contained Confederate gold. Free parking on site. Free admission and family friendly.
Dorn Gold Mines
McCormick, SC (50 minutes)
Dorn Gold Mines are placer mining sites where mining is done in stream beds in the hopes of finding gems or gold that settles into the bottom sands. As a placer mine, Dorn Gold Mines are still yielding gold booty today. The mines are open for all ages May to October, the 1st and 3rd Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. And, in case any prospector should uncover a valuable shiny object in the riverbed, Dorn Gold Mines sticks with the traditional upstanding motto that “finders are keepers”!
Clarks Hill Boat Rental
Appling (25 minutes)
Booking and renting a boat on Clarks Hill Lake is made super easy through Clarks Hill Marina. Their booking instructions can be made online for ½ day, full day or overnight use of their boats and they start at $250. Boat rentals are Thursday through Mondays, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., with the rental department closed Tuesday – Wednesday. A 25-minute drive northwest of Augusta, the marina’s staff is young, friendly and professional. A few hours on the beautiful water will be a game changer for the family!
Stumphouse Park, Stumphouse Mountain Trail
Walhalla, SC (2 hours 30 minutes)
One of the most intriguing activities of Stumphouse Park is the Stumphouse Mountain Trail. Construction of the trail started before the Civil War using hand tools, but it was never completed. It was an attempt to link the port of Charleston to the cities of the Midwest by rail, however, the collapse of the state’s economy during the Civil War caused work to cease. Family-friendly, the ¼ mile walk deep underground is pleasant especially in the summer months— the tunnel maintains a consistent and cool 50 degrees. Nearby Issaqueena Falls borrowed its name from the Creek maiden who avoided capture by hiding on one of the creek’s ledges during an Indian attack. Other close attractions include the Passage to the Palmetto Trail, the Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park and the Blue Ridge Railroad Hiking Trail.
Heggie’s Rock Preserve
Appling (25 minutes)
Rising out the neighboring Benton Branch and Little Kiokee Creeks, Heggie’s Rock is a flat 130-acre Piedmont rock outcrop. It covers 101 acres in Columbia County and is under one half hour from Augusta. The exposed granite, lichen, moss, vernal pools and dish gardens earn the site the right to be called Stone Mountain’s smaller cousin. Yet, arriving at Heggie’s Rock takes a quarter of the time! Designated in 1980 as a National Nature Landmark, it is a hidden gem with sight-to-see dish gardens. This rock begs for the pitter-patter of small feet!
Travelers Rest, SC (2 hours 30 minutes)
Located on South Carolina Highway 11, this family-operated orchard offers more than 11 different types of fruits starting mid-June through late November. The 20-acre farm produces varieties of peaches, nectarines, apples, plums, prunes, pears, Asian pears, muscadines, apricots, figs, oriental persimmons and honey from MacGregor bees. They make their own fresh fruit preserves and fruit butters and raise Black Angus Beef available from Glass Mountain View Farms as part of the delectable pickings. Open Tuesdays – Sundays, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Visit the website for a downloadable fruit availability chart.
Tallulah Falls and Gorge
Tallulah Falls, GA (2 hours 45 minutes)
A lengthier drive but well worth the visit is Tallulah Falls and Gorge in Tallulah Falls, Georgia. The site is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia and its water drops 490 feet in one mile. Six separate cascading falls are part of the wonder that visitors experience while walking the shaded misty paths. The walkway meanders deep inside the cut rock and provides a respite from the hot weather since the temperature drop is detectable. It is perfect for strollers and bicyclists. The gorge has even welcomed some daredevil antics in the past as it was crossed twice by tightrope walkers, and visitors can still see towers from Karl Wallenda’s walk on July 17, 1970.
Keg Creek Watersports
Appling (25 minutes)
If your family loves water activities like jet skis, paddleboarding and kayaking, Keg Creek Watersports, located a short drive from Augusta, has you covered. They have weekly schedules of paddleboard yoga, bike rides, sunset kayaking and every Saturday at 8:30pm is free movie night. Jet ski rentals are available with weekday discounts through their Facebook site. Hours of operation are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., with weekday availability by reservation only.
This article appears in the August/September 2020 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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