South Carolina/Georgia/Florida

Charleston to St. Augustine: A Southern Coastal Journey

Program No. 20644RJ
From the charm of Charleston to the cuisine of Savannah, and from the glamour of Jekyll Island to the history of St. Augustine, come learn the story of these southern cities.

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At a Glance

Explore historic jewels in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida on a foray into history, culture and low country cuisine. Traverse 300-year-old Charleston from Marion Square to the battery, and discover the historic homes of the lovely seaside town of Beaufort. Enjoy Southern charm, city squares and local cuisine in Savannah, and encounter the likes of Morgan, Rockefeller and Vanderbilt during a stay at the exclusive Jekyll Island Club Hotel. Complete your journey in the vibrant city of St. Augustine to learn the story of America’s oldest city.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking up to one mile on some uneven terrain with cobblestones and sandy paths. In Charleston, walking up to 6 city blocks. Standing for lectures in museums. Stairs only in historic homes.
Independent City Discoveries
Independent City Discoveries
Learn with a Group Leader and enjoy educational programming while also getting substantial independent time to explore on your own. Most Independent City Discoveries include lectures, self-guided excursions and passes for public transit and museums.

What You'll Learn

  • Visit Middleton and Magnolia Plantations to learn about antebellum life and explore beautiful gardens.
  • Witness a Gullah “ring shout” performance and learn about the language and other traditions passed down from enslaved people.
  • Explore St. Augustine by trolley, marvel at the craftsmanship and engineering of an old Spanish fort and enjoy dinner at a Victorian-era restaurant.

General Notes

Select dates are designated for small groups and are limited to 24 participants or less. This is a Road Scholar INDEPENDENT program. It is designed for participants who want high-level Road Scholar instruction, a few group activities, and who are capable and comfortable setting out on their own for a significant part of the day/night. There will be several hours each day of educational content. Most meals will be on your own (excluded from the program cost) to have what you like, and there will be substantial free time for personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.
Featured Expert
All trip experts
Profile Image
Tom Murray
Tom Murray is a graduate of San Jose State University but is a Southerner by choice, having spent more than 45 years in the South absorbing the culture, customs and history of the region. Tom specializes in coastal history with an emphasis on the sea islands of Georgia. Few people know and love beautiful Cumberland and Amelia islands better than Tom. He has spent 25 years lecturing and leading Road Scholar groups to sites from the mountains to the sea.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

Profile Image of Tom Murray
Tom Murray View biography
Tom Murray is a graduate of San Jose State University but is a Southerner by choice, having spent more than 45 years in the South absorbing the culture, customs and history of the region. Tom specializes in coastal history with an emphasis on the sea islands of Georgia. Few people know and love beautiful Cumberland and Amelia islands better than Tom. He has spent 25 years lecturing and leading Road Scholar groups to sites from the mountains to the sea.
Profile Image of Ruth Miller
Ruth Miller View biography
Ruth Miller, a graduate of Duke University, has lived all over America and journeyed throughout the world. As a Charleston historian and excursion leader, she enjoys tying local history into the American story and worldwide events. Ruth is the author and co-author of numerous books, including “Charleston Charlie — A Family Activity Book for Kids of All Ages,” “Touring the Tombstones,” and “The Angel Oak Story.” She is a member of the South Carolina Historical Society and the National Trust.
Profile Image of Darryl Stoneworth
Darryl Stoneworth View biography
Darryl Stoneworth, along with wife Angela, has been selling home-crafted sweetgrass baskets in the Charleston City Market since May 2009. If you happen by his stand, you'll know Darryl by his omnipresent smile. The couple is also constructing their first roadside basket stand along Highway 17N in Mount Pleasant, N.C. The town has renamed and dedicated this stretch of the highway in tribute to the hamlet's sweetgrass basket makers.
Profile Image of Joyce Harvison
Joyce E Harvison View biography
Joyce Harvison epitomizes Southern hospitality. A native of Savannah, she has worked for the last 30+ years in Savannah's Historic District, first as an insurance agent, and the last 16 years as a Director of Groups/Charters with a local trolley company showing off the city’s best sights to visitors from near and far. She revels in treating family, friends, and visitors to the best possible time, including hidden gems when they visit her home town. Joyce has two daughters and three grandchildren.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
While we make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our published materials, programs are typically advertised more than a year prior to their start date. As a result, some program activities, schedules, accommodations, personnel, and other logistics occasionally change due to local conditions or circumstances. Should a major change occur, we will make every effort to alert you. For less significant changes, we will update you during orientation. Thank you for your understanding.
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12 days
11 nights
22 meals
11 B 4 L 7 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Charleston, South Carolina
D
Francis Marion Hotel

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m. Remember to bring your nametag (sent previously).

Afternoon: Program Registration: 5:00 p.m. After you check in and have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff, get any updated information, and confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please locate your Group Leader and let them know you have arrived.

Dinner: At the hotel, in a lovely private room for our group.

Evening: Orientation: 6:00 pm The Group Leader will greet everyone with a warm welcome and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule and any changes, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. We will review COVID-19 protocols and will adhere to local COVID-19 guidelines and requirements throughout the program. Program travel and transfers will be via private motorcoach unless noted otherwise. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local conditions/circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead. We are about to embark on a very special learning adventure, seeing firsthand how history lives on in the present, from stately homes in historic Charleston to extraordinary Lowcountry plantations. Charleston has always been a place of spectacular contradictions. Known as the “Holy City” because of its many houses of worship, this was one of the few places in colonial America to protect religious diversity. Yet it was also part of an antebellum society that benefited from slavery and became wealthy as a result. You’ll have opportunities to ponder these contradictions as we explore and learn about magnificent dwellings, often adorned with graceful gardens, and the lives of the people who lived and worked there.

DAY
2
Charleston History, Historic District Field Trip
Charleston, South Carolina
B,D
Francis Marion Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; city driving. Walking up to 2 miles daily over uneven paths and cobblestone streets. Dirt paths at plantations. The city offers free shuttle service at selected pickup points. Bike taxis are also available for hire.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll be joined by a local historian who will provide an introduction to Charleston and the Carolina Lowcountry. This introductory history of Charleston will set the stage for field trips with our historian.

Lunch: This meal has been excluded from the program cost and is on your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. There are numerous restaurants around the hotel.

Afternoon: We’ll get an orientation to the interior city of Charleston as we begin our exploration of great houses and gardens in the Charleston Historic District. This motorcoach field trip involves getting on and off and walking up to 3 blocks along the battery. Our field trip will also include a visit to the Citadel, one of six senior military colleges in the United States.

Dinner: We’ll walk from the hotel to a nearby popular restaurant on the Charleston Peninsula to savor some of Charleston’s distinctive coastal cuisine.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
3
Middleton & Magnolia Plantations, Sweetgrass Baskets
Charleston, South Carolina
B,L,D
Francis Marion Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 45 miles throughout the day, approximately 1.5 hours riding time with stops. Walking up to 3 miles total; about 1.5 miles each at Middleton Plantation and Magnolia Plantation; climbing 10-12 steps, getting on/off a tram.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our local expert will provide commentary en route to and at the plantations. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark situated on the Ashley River, a carefully preserved 18th-century plantation that has survived revolution, the Civil War, and an earthquake. During our field trip, we’ll learn that it was the home of four important generations of Middletons, beginning with Henry Middleton, President of the First Continental Congress; Arthur, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Henry, Governor of South Carolina and an American Minister to Russia; and William, a signer of the Ordinance of Secession. We’ll explore the gardens, and the plantation stable yards, as well as seeing rice fields.

Lunch: In the Middleton Place restaurant.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll ride to Magnolia Plantation. Founded in 1676 by the Drayton family, it has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation unfold from the American Revolution through the Civil War and beyond. It is the oldest public site open to visitors in the Lowcountry, with the oldest public gardens in America, opening its doors to visitors in 1872 to view the thousands of beautiful flowers and plants in its famous gardens. We’ll learn about Magnolia’s vivid and complex history as we experience the beauty of the house and gardens. While riding through the landscape on a tram, we’ll see sights that evoke the plantation’s past such as a row of slave cabins, 19th-century rice ponds, and a Native American ceremonial mound.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: We will be joined by a local expert and learn about the history of Gullah sweetgrass baskets, the materials used to make these works of art, and how they are made. Brought to the area by slaves who came from the west coast of Africa, basket making is an ancient African art form in this country, which has been passed on from generation to generation. Skilled craftsmanship and long hours are involved in making these baskets. Even for the most experienced basket maker, a simple design can take as long as 12 hours. A larger more complex design can take as long as two to three months.

DAY
4
Aiken Rhett & Joseph Manigault Homes, Free Time
Charleston, South Carolina
B
Francis Marion Hotel

Activity note: Walking up to 1 mile to historic homes within the Marion Square area on mostly even terrain. The homes are within 0.7 miles of the hotel. The Sound of Charleston held at the Circular Church is a 7-block walk. Bike taxis are available at your own expense. The Group Leader will be happy to assist in calling. Extent and duration of walking and other free time activities according to personal choice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We will have vouchers provided for entry to the Aiken-Rhett and Joseph Manigault homes. You may go anytime during the day and at your own pace. The Aiken-Rhett House Museum, 48 Elizabeth Street, c. 1820, remained in the hands of family descendants for 142 years until it was sold to The Charleston Museum and opened as a museum house in 1975. The back lot of the Aiken-Rhett House is where the slaves worked and lived, and they probably took their meals communally in the kitchen. The Joseph Manigault home is one of Charleston's most exquisite antebellum structures. Built in 1803, the Manigault home reflects the urban lifestyle of a wealthy rice-planting family and the enslaved African Americans who lived there.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: Free time. This period of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Please note that the period scheduled for free time is subject to change depending on local circumstances and opportunities for independent exploration. The city offers free shuttle service at selected pickup points and bike taxis are available for hire.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
5
Beaufort By Carriage, Arrive Savannah
Savannah, Georgia
B,D
Embassy Suites by Hilton Savannah

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 110 miles throughout the day, approximately 2 hours riding time with stops. Getting in/out of carriages.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and ride from Charleston to Beaufort, South Carolina. Upon arrival, we’ll go on an expert-led field trip by carriages through the historic town. We’ll learn about history from the early 1500s to today, see many Antebellum and Victorian homes and other structures to appreciate their architecture, and hear about Beaufort folklore. Chartered in 1711, Beaufort is South Carolina’s second-oldest city after Charleston. It grew as a result of shipbuilding and then, with slavery, became a prosperous community of planters whose wealth derived from cotton, indigo, and rice plantations. Many of the lovely dwellings date from that era. After a series of devastating natural disasters that brought destruction and bad economic times, Beaufort made a comeback in the 20th century as a destination for vacationers. The entire downtown area is a designated National Historic Landmark.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. There are numerous options for renowned coastal cuisine.

Afternoon: We’ll have a short amount of time for independent exploration to stroll through this village beside the Intracoastal Waterway or sit and watch ships that come and go. We’ll then continue our journey to Savannah with expected mid-afternoon arrival at our hotel. We’ll check in and have some time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: We'll walk to a nearby popular restaurant.

Evening: At leisure. The evening is yours to unwind from the day of activities and look forward to your first day in Savannah. We are in the heart of Savannah within easy walking distance of its many lovely squares.

DAY
6
Savannah By Trolley, Andrew Low Home, Forsyth Park
Savannah, Georgia
B,L,D
Embassy Suites by Hilton Savannah

Activity note: Getting on/off a trolley; driving about 5 miles throughout the day, approximately 2 hours riding time with stops. Walking less than a mile; paved and cobblestone surfaces.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Boarding a trolley, we’ll set out on an expert-led field trip to see some of Savannah’s highlights. We’ll see and hear about aspects of its fascinating history, getting on and off the trolley for close up looks and entrances into historic sites.

Lunch: At a popular restaurant in the historic district.

Afternoon: Enhanced by its original mid-19th-century garden, the Andrew Low home was built on a trust lot facing Lafayette Square. The house preserves one of the finest collections of period furnishings relating to the history of Savannah and the Low family. It includes examples of works by some of America’s most prestigious furniture makers. After our visit to the Low home, we’ll arrive at the Cathedral of St. John The Baptist, where an expert will lead our exploration. We’ll learn about the history of the parish that grew from immigrants fleeing turmoil in Haiti and France near the end of the 18th century, and the cathedral itself, originally established as a small frame building. A magnificent brick building in French Gothic style was completed in 1876. Nearly destroyed by fire in 1898, it was rebuilt according to the original design and has been restored since to preserve and maintain its architectural and aesthetic integrity. We’ll conclude the afternoon at 30-acre Forsyth Park. With a local expert, we’ll stroll through this picture postcard setting of classic Savannah where huge, moss-draped live oak trees form a tunnel that frames the park’s 1858 fountain, patterned after that in the Place de la Concord in Paris.

Dinner: At a popular local restaurant.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
7
Old Fort Jackson, Free Time
Savannah, Georgia
B
Embassy Suites by Hilton Savannah

Activity note: Walking at Old Fort Jackson; uneven surfaces. Extent and duration of walking and other free time activities according to personal choice.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Our field trip this morning will take us to historic Fort Jackson. It protected Savannah during the War of 1812 and served as the headquarters for the Savannah River defenses during the Civil War. It finally fell to Union forces in December 1864 when General William Tecumseh Sherman ended his famous “March to the Sea” in Savannah. A soldier reenactor will address the fort’s history. With a firing of the cannon, we’ll salute and pay honor to the memory of those who served here.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like. We will have a list of restaurants to choose from.

Afternoon: Free time. Take this opportunity to see and do what interests you most. Our hotel is conveniently located for exploring Historic River Street, City Market, Savannah Civic Center, Savannah College of Art and Design and the Savannah History Museum.

Dinner: On your own.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
8
To Jekyll Island, Jekyll Island Club Hotel & Village
Jekyll Island, Georgia
B,L
Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 70 miles, approximately 1.5 hours riding time. Walking through Jekyll Island Club Hotel property; paved and unpaved surfaces.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: After checking out of the hotel, we’ll board the motorcoach and head to Jekyll Island, Georgia, with commentary en route by our Group Leader. The drive will take us along marshes and estuaries that are a big part of Lowcountry ecology. Relax and enjoy the beauty of these surroundings. We’ll then ride to the historic Crane Cottage restaurant on Jekyll Island. This was the largest private residence built by Jekyll Island Club members. Richard Crane, its owner, founded the Crane Company that built fluid control equipment and plumbing fixtures. It was the first to make bathroom fixtures in color. The “cottage” has 18 bathrooms, practically unheard of in the early 1900s.

Lunch: At Crane Cottage restaurant.

Afternoon: Led by a naturalist, we’ll set out on a field trip to Boneyard Beach and the North End beaches where we’ll explore the shoreline to discover the longshore current and its movement of the sand along the coastline.

Dinner: On your own. There are restaurants in the hotel or nearby.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
9
Jekyll Island Museum and Millionaire Village, Performance
Jekyll Island, Georgia
B,D
Jekyll Island Club Hotel

Activity note: Getting on/off a tram. Walking on Jekyll Island Club Hotel property.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll set out on a walking field trip to the Jekyll Island Museum, where an expert will introduce exhibits that take us back to a bygone era. After watching an informative film and seeing photos of this time period, we’ll meet our historian who will provide background on the so-called “Millionaire’s Village.” Fifty-three prominent Jekyll Island Club members created an exclusive Gilded Age island retreat for family and friends on Georgia’s coast. These empire builders helped to shape our nation’s future. In 1910, a small group of financiers and powerful politicians gathered here to plan the Federal Reserve system. We’ll then hop aboard the tram that will take us through parts of this 240-acre historic district with entry into two of the homes. As we step into the past and into a world of wealth and exclusivity, learn all about Jekyll Island history from our historian.

Lunch: On your own.

Afternoon: Free Time. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You might like to explore independently, spend time with fellow Road Scholars, or just relax.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: We’ll be joined at the hotel by the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters, an extraordinary group whose performances feature the lyrical Gullah language, spiritual songs, stories, and redemptive shouts. It’s thought that the “ring shout” originated with African dance, passed down from slaves on Georgia’s southeastern coast. The Ring Shouters participated in the Obama Presidential Parade in January 2013. The remainder of the evening will be at leisure. Prepare for check out and transfer in the morning.

DAY
10
To St. Augustine, Cathedral Basilica, Trolley Field Trip
St. Augustine, FL
B,L
DoubleTree by Hilton St. Augustine Historic District

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach; driving about 77 miles, approximately 2 hours riding time. Walking less than a mile, places to sit. Getting on/off an open-air trolley with pulldown shades in case of rain.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll check out of the hotel and ride to St. Augustine, Florida, with an informative video en route. Upon arrival, we’ll meet a local expert who will provide background on some of the most significant historical sites including the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine, the oldest parish of a permanent European settlement in North America. Fights between rival colonial powers resulted in several fires that devastated early St. Augustine. After the Florida territory returned to Spanish hands in 1784, the King of Spain ordered a new Roman Catholic parish church. The cornerstone was laid in 1793. That church was designated as the cathedral in 1870, though the building was eventually destroyed by another fire. It was rebuilt on a grander scale and renovated in honor of St. Augustine’s 400th anniversary.

Lunch: At an historic restaurant — Florida’s oldest — in the heart of old St. Augustine. The cuisine is based on traditional Hispanic favorites with a local flair. The Columbia Restaurant was founded in 1905 by a Cuban immigrant, and has been operated by the same family ever since. During lunch, we’ll be joined by a local expert who will give us a presentation on Menorcan history and culture. Menorca (or Minorca) is one of the Balearic Islands off the coast of Spain. During the 1760s, some influential Europeans believed Florida’s climate would be suitable for crops such as grapes, olives, and oranges. They began recruiting colonists from among those they felt would be suited to both the climate and the crops, primarily Greeks and Italians. More than 1,400 people including Corsicans, French, and Menorcans, left the Mediterranean in 1768 and sailed for Florida. We’ll hear their story.

Afternoon: Next, we’ll go on a field trip by trolley with expert commentary to see and learn more about America’s oldest continually inhabited European settlement. From the original Native Americans to Spanish, British, and Americans, millionaire developers such as Henry Flagler, and on to foot soldiers of the Civil Rights movement, St. Augustine has a complex and colorful history. Remnants of each era are preserved in the city’s historical sites. We’ll then check in to our hotel with time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: On your own. You are in the historic district within easy walks to restaurants. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
11
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, Lightner Museum
St. Augustine, FL
B,D
DoubleTree by Hilton St. Augustine Historic District

Activity note: Getting on/off a motorcoach. At Castillo de San Marcos, walking less than a mile; uneven terrain; paved, crushed stone, and sand walkways; lower levels accessible. Gun Deck reached by stairs.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll set out with our Road Scholar local expert on a field trip to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S., situated on the shore of Matanzas Bay. As the National Park Service website states, “The fortress itself is both a product of and evidence to the multitude of forces both political and technological that created the competition for empire during the colonial era. But above all the Castillo is an enduring legacy of the craftsmanship and skill of the engineers, artisans and laborers who built it.” At the end of our field trip, the motorcoach will drop us off in the downtown area near restaurants.

Lunch: On your own to enjoy what you like.

Afternoon: We’ll regroup at a designated downtown location, which the Group Leader will announce. We’ll then walk to the Lightner Museum for a self-directed exploration. The museum is situated in what was once Henry Flagler’s 1888 Alcazar Hotel. The collection features 19th-century fine and decorative arts as well as rarities and oddities.

Dinner: At a restaurant in a restored Victorian era house. The century-old Victorian building is one of the last survivors of a period of development that began in this part of St. Augustine. A visual highlight is a replica of the yacht that brought its owners across the Atlantic Ocean to the U.S. in 1979.

Evening: At leisure. Prepare for check out and departure in the morning.

DAY
12
Program Concludes
St. Augustine, FL
B

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m. See “Getting There” information elsewhere in these preparatory materials regarding transfers.

Breakfast: At the hotel. This concludes our program.

Morning: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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