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American Boating Association....


For years, visitors have raved about the 'look' of historic Savannah. The southern city's gracious squares and architectural wonders--as well as its calm riverfront waters--have a look and feel unmatched anywhere else in the U.S.

Boaters have long been drawn to Savannah. Back in 1733, James Edward Oglethorpe and 114 colonists, having crossed the Atlantic from Gravesend, England, arrived at Yamacraw Bluff on the Savannah River to found America's thirteenth colony, called Georgia. Oglethorpe designed the basic layout for Savannah, with a system of 24 squares (22 still exist) for public use, making it "America's first planned city."

From the start, Savannah was an important seaport, sending the products of its agriculture and trade with Native Americans to England. Wet rice culture was prevalent early, but cotton soon became king. For nearly a century, trading in the Cotton Exchange on Savannah's waterfront set world cotton prices.

The marina (and marine) scene is--as expected--quite active, with many full-service marinas within a half-hour of historic Savannah. Several excellent options include: Bull River Marina (between Wilmington and Tybee Islands; www.bullrivermarina.com); Hogans’ Marina (Wilmington Island/Turner’s Creek; www.hogansmarina.com); Lazaretto Creek Marina (Tybee Island; www.tybeedolphins.com); and--the most convenient to downtown--Isle of Hope Marina (Skidaway River/ICW 590; www.isleofhopemarina.com).

The city of Savannah also operates convenient floating docks near downtown. They’re available to all visiting boaters on a first come-first serve basis at $1 per foot/day. Boaters can dock for up to four hours without charge and then pay if they decide to stay longer. Information is available by calling (912) 651-6451.

Today, boaters will find an active on-water scene, thanks to Savannah’s riverfront location and a number of bustling marinas. Along with the Savannah River, boaters can enjoy the Wilmington River, which flows into the Savannah three miles east of downtown. The Skidaway River, southeast of the city, is another excellent cruising choice.

Once back in Savannah proper, leave your dress shoes and high heels back on the boat, because this is a walking city. More than 1,200 varied restored structures rated historically and architecturally significant lie within a small 2.2-square-mile area. Your feet are your ticket to sightseeing, shopping, and history, whether you're strolling the Historic District, the cobblestone Riverfront area, or City Market. Of course, a sightseeing city like Savannah also offers tours by bike, carriage, trolley, bus, or boat.

Savannah boasts seven house museums, a maritime museum, two living history attractions, three area forts, the Intracoastal Waterway, nearby beaches, marshes, barrier islands, and more than 100 annual events, ranging from house and garden tours to food festivals. Obviously, you can't see Savannah in a day, so plan on docking for at least a few nights.

There are, however, a few 'must-do' items for Savannah visitors. Along with the excellent Visitors Center, background films and exhibits at the Savannah History Museum and the Massie Heritage Interpretation Center provide a strong introduction to what you'll see in the city.

A guided tour by trolley, bus, or carriage will give a good overview of the city. For a unique view from the water, enjoy a harbor cruise. Once you've seen Savannah in general, break out your walking shoes for an escorted or unescorted tour on foot of the Historic District. Then head over to River Street, a nine-block plaza facing Savannah River, where you will enjoy shops, galleries, restaurants, and pubs. More shopping can be found at City Market and City Market Arts Center, the home of more than 30 working artists. Along historic Bull Street, there are even more shops, galleries, museums, and beautiful squares.

Other museums, historic houses, and attractions of interest include the Old Cotton Exchange, the Andrew Low House, Davenport House, Green-Meldrim House, Ownes-Thomas House, Scarborough House, Ships of the Sea Museum, Savannah Science Museum, the Savannah Civil Rights Museum, King-Tisdell Cottage, Beach Institute, and the Trustees Garden. Further afield, the Civil War forts, the little beachfront colony of Tybee Island, and several other barrier islands and low country scenery provide a diversion (if you can break away from historic Savannah).

Green year-round and ablaze with color every spring, Savannah's gem-like squares provide landmarks for visitors and are virtual gardens to be explored by all. This garden-like city has many public gardens, but you can also take a peek through private garden gates to see why the annual spring Garden Tours are so popular.

But you should head to Savannah sooner than next spring. The Christmas holiday season, basically lasting all of December, is a great time to be in Savannah. With Christmas traditions dating back to 1733, Savannah knows how to celebrate the holidays.

Enjoyment and knowledge of Georgia's Colonial Capital increases by using information from trained personnel, various brochures, and publications at the Savannah Visitors Center. Open 8:30am-5pm weekdays and 9am-5pm on weekends and closed only on Christmas Day, the Visitor Center also offers a 10-minute video as an orientation to the area and the activities available. For information on boating Savannah call 877-SAVANNAH or visit www.savannah-visit.com.