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Take a day to discover Darien, Georgia’s second oldest city. Established as a port and outpost on the Altamaha River by Scottish Highlanders in 1736, this serene spot to our north is rich in history and current efforts to preserve and protect that history are evident at every turn. A walk along the waterfront offers the sight of docked shrimp boats that have been at the very core of life here and reveals the tabby ruins of the warehouses and other buildings that used to line the river.

Of particular note is the current restoration and revitalization of the Adam Strain Building on Broad Street. Currently surrounded by scaffolding, this former waterfront warehouse was built circa. 1815 and is one of the last intact tabby structures in coastal Georgia as well as one of the only buildings to survive the Burning of Darien during the Civil War. The building utilized a method of construction developed in McIntosh County by Thomas Spalding. Long abandoned and dilapidated to the point of danger, the Strain Building and the adjacent one-story building built circa. 1889 known as the Old Darien Bank were purchased in 2020 and restoration was begun by Ethos Preservation. Once restoration is complete the venue will serve as an event space and nanobrewery. Keep up with the remarkable progress being made on the building by following The Revitalization of the Adam Strain page on Facebook.

Just a few blocks away is the new kid in town, Oaks on the River Resort. This boutique resort stands as a testament to the dream of its founder, Art Lucas, to revitalize a portion of Darien’s historic riverfront bluff into a beacon of luxury and local economic potential. Since its inception, the resort has remained grounded in its roots while offering the best in modern hospitality. From a stunning bar top hewn from an aged oak on Lucas’ own property to an in-house gallery showcasing curated works of art from talented Coastal Georgia artists there is unity of past, present, and place. In addition to the exquisite accommodations at Oaks on the River, it also offers an indulgent, full-service spa menu in a luxurious facility dedicated to your heath and wellness. For an unparalleled dining experience, you’ll want to enjoy the captivating waterfront view and mouthwatering culinary creations of The Oaks Club & Cedar Bar. Make your day trip a day of pampering and book a Spa Day package at Oaks on the River to enjoy spa services and get a taste of what the restaurant has to offer. They’re offering 10% off the package to our readers if you call 833.550.OAKS and use the special phrase “day trip” when you book. To see other services, restaurant menus, and accommodations, visit oaksontheriverresort.com.

Another historic structure that has received a facelift and a new home in downtown Darien outside the Old Jail Art Center is the Kit Jones. “She is 60 feet long, 17 feet wide, 18 feet tall, and weighs 60,000lbs. She’s a historic, wood-hull vessel built on Sapelo Island, GA and launched March 1939 by island owner and tobacco company heir R.J. Reynolds, Jr. Her name is Kit Jones.” The Kit was uniquely constructed of native heart pine and live oak timbers which were harvested and milled on Sapelo and using blueprints by esteemed yacht designers, Sparkman & Stephens of New York. Assisting in the construction, under the direction of Danish shipwright Axel Sparre, were numerous Sapelo residents of Geechee Gullah heritage. Over her lifetime on the water, she served as a tugboat, a ferry that provided a lifeline to the mainland for the more than 500 residents of Sapelo Island, a freight hauler, a fireboat during her military service in World War II, and an important research vessel for the UGA Marine Institute and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. And she just happens to be named for Katherine Talbott Jones, wife of R.J. Reynolds, Jr.’s friend, Alfred W. (Bill) Jones.

If you haven’t been to Fort King George State Historic Site lately, not only do they offer regular guided tours of Georgia’s first fort on Sundays, but they have also been hosting some wonderful new living history programs on Saturdays that are both entertaining and educational. The Scottish Heritage Days event is open to the public with paid regular admission fee on Saturday, March 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This annual celebration of the heritage of Darien’s founders includes Scottish living history demonstrations, musket and cannon firings, blacksmithing, carpentry, cooking, music and more. Don your tartan and join the fun.

Another must-do during any day trip to Darien is a stop at Sugar Marsh Cottage. Open Monday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., this small batch artisan confectionary can be found in a circa. 1935 historic home at Franklin Steet on lovely Vernon Square. Their luxury artisan milk and dark chocolates and signature seashell shaped shortbread cookies have won awards, but they are only part of a collection that includes gourmet bon bons handcrafted in unique flavor combinations using regionally sourced ingredients like Richland Rum, divine buttery rich Fleur de Sel toffee, and other cottage specialties. Gift boxes are offered and can be customized. And the best part? You can taste samples while your browse!

If you feel a need to walk off any extra calories consumed with a nature walk, head a little further north to nearby Townsend to walk/hike the 20 miles of trails at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Spring is prime time for birdwatching as wintering species like ducks and bald eagles may linger and migratory birds and summer residents arrive. Commonly spotted are snowy egrets, great blue herons, red-winged blackbirds, ibis and wood storks will be beginning to nest as well. Other species of wildlife from alligators to armadillos and white-tailed deer to whiting all inhabit the refuge and there are excellent viewing opportunities year-round. For more information about Harris Neck, visit fws.gov/refuge/harris-neck.

For a day trip that captures a quintessentially Darien event, plan to visit during the 56th Annual Blessing of the Fleet. Festivities on the historic riverfront begin at 4:00 p.m. on April 5 and continue through 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 7. There will be arts, crafts, a vendor village, food trucks, car show, parade, and live music to enjoy while celebrating Darien’s heritage and its beloved shrimping fleet. Scheduled performers on Friday night are Derrick Flowers and The Pine Box Dwellers. On Saturday night Kyle Turner Band will open for SkynFolks, the Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute Band. The boat parade and blessing take place on Sunday afternoon. It’s a fun festival for all ages. For a detailed schedule of events, visit mcintoshchamber.com.

Darien originally posted on by Elegant Island Living magazine.

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Join us in raising a toast to the spirit of spring with this Peach Blossom Bellini. Let’s celebrate the blooming trees and effervescent life it brings with a light and bubbly sipper that embodies it all.
Take a day to discover Darien, Georgia’s second oldest city. Established as a port and outpost on the Altamaha River by Scottish Highlanders in 1736, this serene spot to our north is rich in history and natural beauty and charm.
Big Read Kick-Off at First Friday originally posted on March 1, 2024 9:47 am by Elegant Island Living magazine.
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